An easier parenting solution to the try hard life

As is normal in most families, or at least this is what I tell myself, we face seasons where peace seems a lofty wish. Siblings bicker more than normal, and we see hints of deeper heart issues needing to be addressed.

I have a stack of index cards filled with verses for such occasions. I’ve been known to pull out a card, read the verse, discuss with the kids, even have them write it several times. But they are getting older, and these methods don’t have the same effect as they did when they were younger. And this leads to me seeking control in an area I have no control.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember I posted a picture of a verse I’d written on the chalkboard in our mudroom.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

We gathered for a family meeting recently to discuss any issues we each feel weighing on us. A theme I’ve seen is what feels like a lack of love, which creates fights and hurtful words to be tossed about. After we each shared our thoughts, we prayed and went about our day.

I felt discouraged honestly. God brought to mind my favorite parenting book by Paul David Tripp titled Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. In his book he reminds us that God never tasked parents with the job of heart change. That is God’s job and absolutely 100% impossible for us.

The harder we try to change a person’s heart, the more discouraged we find ourselves. Only God can change a heart. In his book, Tripp tells us our role is to reflect the Savior and point our kids to their need for a Savior over and over and over again. Not in a preachy, Bible-beating way, but in a way that shows our deep love for them.

As I remembered my role in the lives of my kids, I opened up my lesson for the day with Community Bible Study. This year I’m a core group leader for our local CBS. We are currently in the book of Philippians. In the commentary that day the theme was “Christ – The Supreme Model” from Philippians 2:1-11. This sentence jumped off the page, “The letter reflects Paul’s deep concern about their lack of love and unity, but instead of exhorting them to try harder to be more loving, he directs their attention to Christ as the perfect example of living.”

Well, about an hour prior Steve and I sat our kids down telling them how they needed to try harder to love each other better. Yet, here I sat at my kitchen table hearing the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of a better way. Not only was God showing me that telling my kids to try harder was useless, He was reminding me for myself as well.

Out of my love for Jesus and my kids, I was caught in a try hard cycle. Again. It’s a weakness of mine. I see a problem and want to fix it right away. So I get to work. But when it’s matters of the heart, I simply wear myself out until My Savior whispers me away and gently pulls me back into Him.

He’s so kind like that. He hears my cry, and He responds. He reminds me of how He loves my kids more than I do. They are His not mine. I’ve been tasked to steward this job well in Him, but I’m not responsible for the results.

There’s freedom in understanding this. When I walk in this understanding, fear can’t have its way in my parenting. Parenting from fear and frustration never ends well.

I’ll need this reminder again. But for today I’m grateful I can rest in my Savior. His grace is available in our hardest parenting moments. We simply need to reach out and accept what He’s offering us. He won’t force us. He’s too gentle for that.

 

 

 

 

 

When the tears flow and you don’t know why, but then, you do.

Have you ever begun to cry and you can’t explain why exactly? Maybe you see something in nature that creates awe-induced tears. Or maybe like me, you sing during worship and find tears streaming though nothing happened or even went through your head. Sometimes His glory alone is all it takes to set free the tears waiting for their release.

No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me.”

These words grip me. The first time I heard this song, I knew I wanted it sung at my funeral one day. I know, sounds a bit morbid to plan for death, but the reality is death comes to us all. And on that day, I don’t want people wondering what songs I wanted, what I would share. So I wrote it down for my family. I’m a planner to the extreme at times.

There is a line that produces tears every time I hear this song.

This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.

It’s that “scorned by the ones He came to save” that punches my gut. I’m the scorner. I’m not so special though. Many of us share a similar story.

I never understood grace. I heard Bible stories. I prayed. I “believed” in a Creator God. I even believed Jesus was God’s Son. But I didn’t understand grace.

So in my rebellious pride, I scorned Him. I lived life my way, on my own terms, doing all the good works to balance those scales in an effort to earn my way there. I stayed away from Him because deep in my heart, I knew. Yes, I knew. I knew no matter how “good” I tried to be, I wasn’t good all the time. So I told God I’d come back toward Him when I could get my act together.

On that day of salvation, I still didn’t understand His grace. Paul David Tripp says it well in his book, Parenting. He discusses God’s past grace, present grace, and future grace. You see I believed in the past and future grace. I didn’t understand that His present grace is what gave me the ability to grow and change moment by moment as I walked in His Spirit. It took me years after my salvation to begin to understand this.

Now when I hear lines about Jesus, sometimes the tears simply fall. I can’t explain why. All I know is He didn’t simply save me from hell, He continues to save me from myself every single day. His love overwhelms me.

“Here in the death of Christ I live.”

May grace never become commonplace.

No guilt in life because He’s washed me clean. Every single sin I’ve ever committed, He’s cleansed. I can live guilt free now. No fear in death because I know I will one day step through that paper thin veil that separates my physical life today with my eternal life.

I can live without proving my worth. I can stop trying. And so can you.

When the song begins this section, my heart begins to race. I feel the excitement shooting through my veins.

“There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ”
Here is where I land, on these words that cause my heart to ascend into my throat threatening to break right free.
“Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
Lord, tenderize our hearts. Give us a fresh heart, fresh eyes, a new appreciation for the depths you went for us. May we see it continues every second of every day. Shine through us so the whole world can see You. Lord, we love you so much. Help us love you more today than we did yesterday. Amen.

 

The value of both work and play – and why God told me to get back to work

We all love a good vacation, right? A staycation is perfect as well. Basically, anytime we can break from work and enjoy rest is good for the soul.

The boys and I have been on an extended break through the holidays, and I’ve found myself struggling through it a bit. So much so, I felt I was living in a bit of a funk I couldn’t seem to pull out of. It began as a dull feeling, like the winter blues, yet the weather has been lovely so I couldn’t blame it on the weather. I lacked desire and motivation to do anything productive or fun.

On Christmas Day we took the boys to the movies as part of their Christmas gift. They watched Star Wars while I enjoyed Little Women. I shared about this on Instagram so I won’t digress here. The movie inspired me to begin reading this childhood favorite again.

 

I’ve basically existed with my nose in some book or another over my Christmas break. Normally, this is something my soul needs. But in this current state of funk I found myself in, even reading didn’t do the trick. I fell asleep praying for God to give me insight into this foggy feeling and to give me healthy motivation and drive to do the things He’s called me to do.

The following morning I woke and began my quiet time with God. Again I prayed about this lack of desire and motivation. I even wrote out my prayer in my journal. After my quiet time, I still lacked motivation to get after the day, so I opened Little Women and got back to reading while the rest of my family slept. And I met God in the pages of Little Women. He brought me the answer I asked Him to bring.

Mrs. March played a little experiment with the March girls in order to teach them a valuable lesson about the importance of everyone working their fair share. In this little experiment, she leaves for the day, and the girls carry the full load themselves. When they all gathered together again, Mrs. March lovingly shares her words of wisdom with them.

“Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for every one; it keeps us from ennui and mischief; is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money and fashion.”

The girls respond that they’ll “work like bees” and never fuss again over their proper duties. Again Mrs. March offers wise counsel.

“Very good! Then I am quite satisfied with the experiment, and fancy that we shall not have to repeat it; only don’t go to the other extreme, and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty.”

I underlined and marked the pages, closed the book, and smiled at God. He truly does meet us wherever we are. He didn’t answer me as I sat quietly reading my Bible and praying. He listened to my plea, then He met me where I went next, in the pages of Little Women.

I looked up the word ennui. It’s French and pronounced ahn-wee. “A feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom.”

Yes, I suffered from ennui! Too much resting, too little purpose to my days, left me feeling restless, discontent, lacking motivation or drive, and downright bored. I needed to get back to work.

Then I paused again. Suddenly I had a wave of compassion wash over me as I thought how many people find themselves in this situation yet never connect the dots of the feeling of discontent and boredom with the state of living with too little work. I’m not saying this is always the case. But if I continued in my too much rest, too little work, my funk would only get deeper. How many people find themselves here without realizing it’s the lack of proper balance that is missing?

Today is supposed to be vacation still, but I knew what my soul needed. It needed purpose-driven work. It needed structure and a plan. And so I did get back to work. The funk lifted, my soul felt lighter, the world looked brighter, and I texted my husband with this message, “I’m back 🙂 ”

 

This is real love

I posted on Instagram over the weekend this:

“This is always what I envisioned when I wrote and created #seekingchristmas. Though my boys were ages 1-6 at the time, my desire was to have traditions centered around the true meaning of Christmas that they’d never outgrow. To have teens racing through the house seeking Jesus.

Today I saw it come to fruition.

Christmas magic doesn’t leave when they get older, it actually becomes sweeter. Well, maybe slightly more violent and wilder, but I treasure it all up in my heart still.

One of my favorite aspects of Seeking Christmas is its flexibility. It can be spread over 7 days. Or all in one day. Today we did ours as a scavenger hunt, all 7 days at once. We each took turns reading the scripture that tells the Christmas story. For the first time every member of our family could read aloud !! Praise Jesus and vision therapy!!”

After the race to find all 7 ornaments concluded, we lined up the ornaments and took turns reading the scriptures on the back. I typically read from the NIV or HCSB Bibles. But for this Steve’s Bible, which is an NLT version, was nearby. I had the final reading from 1 John 4:9-10.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

This is real love.

That line struck me. I wanted to continue revisiting it. I woke thinking of it. This is real love.

It’s what we want. To be known and loved. It’s what we fear. Never finding true love. Losing love. It’s what we want to hold onto. But until we grab onto Jesus, we’ve not tasted real love. And once we have, we know the difference in the love of this world and the love of a Father who sent His son on a death mission.

As we concluded Seeking Christmas as a family, I asked the boys, “Tell me why Jesus was born that Christmas day.”

“To die.”

Blunt. Doesn’t sound warm and Christmasy. Doesn’t sound full of cheer and joy. Doesn’t sound like a Hallmark movie and hot cocoa.

But it’s true. He was born to die. Until we understand that, we fail to see the power and fullness of the Christmas message.

If I had to tie up the entire story of the Bible in one word, that word would be love. From the beginning it was love and til the very end, it’s about love. His great love for us and His call for us to love Him back with our whole hearts. When we love Him, we are able to love others.

Real love.

Sit in those words and let it wash over you. You see, often the people in this world will fail us, they may not love us like we want. We may try and try and never hear the words we want from the people we think we should hear them from. But.

He gives us real love. No one can take it away. We will never lose His love. His love we keep at a distance at times because it’s so pure it frightens us. Run to His love. Let Him lavish it on you. Don’t be afraid. He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, & Prince of Peace. He is good always. His love is faithful. He will never leave us for forsake us.

His love is real.

Merry Christmas.

 

I’m giving myself permission to be unbusy

Get Unbusy

I made a decision, or a choice rather, to be unbusy. Not only to be unbusy, but to be unrushed as well. I can be less rushed when I’m less busy, to be sure. Something had to change. I needed more margin.

I watch our culture wear the busy badge with pride. And for what? To win the most exhausted award?

There are elements to busy we can’t control. But many, and you know it’s true, many we bring on ourselves. I know I do!

I don’t have to say yes to every invite. I don’t have to say yes to every request. I don’t have to fill up the calendar with all the “shoulds”. I am not a victim to the time monster. I don’t have to be slave to the obligations others think I should.

And I certainly don’t have to say yes to every request my children make.

Clear the calendar, leave margin

Part of homeschooling my 10th grader is teaching him how to be responsible for his time. High school for homeschool looks more like college than high school. He works during the day many times. His classes are once a week at various locations. He works independently through the week in preparation. But that means he must use his time wisely. He doesn’t always.

I find myself telling him to look forward first. What do you see in the week ahead? How can you plan now to execute that well? Similar to what I shared in the last post about starting with the ending. I tell him to do now what he can so he has margin for the pop-ups that are unplanned.

In the same way, I want to plan my life in this season to give God margin in my life to pop-up what He will.

I can fill up a calendar with the best of them. I can run until I can run no more. But I’m 43 now. I find I’m craving more simplicity than ever before.

Seasons exist for everything.

The people in front of me are greater than any task on my list. I’m finding that my 40s has brought less pressure than my 30s. I don’t care so much about what people think. I don’t have to be the best at everything I do.

I’ve sensed God drawing me back to my home. He’s been drawing me back into a quietness I can’t fully explain.

He quieted my businesses without much explanation. They didn’t stop, they simply hushed their haste.

Earlier this fall I had a week of extreme anxiety flare-ups. It had been over a year since I struggled with anxiety. My eyes opened to a racing heart. Through the day catching a breath grew more and more difficult. Only someone who struggles with anxiety can understand the physically scary feeling of your chest clamping down.

Much prayer later, it seemed quieter in my soul. Nothing changed in my circumstances, but a deeper peace took a position.

In the weeks that followed I can only say that I began sensing Him calling me to a season of rest. A season of simply being. A season of producing less, achieving less, consuming less.

I feel this call toward home. Simply living and living simply.

It reminds me of the first couple of years after I began staying at home after leaving my full time job. I began discovering the joy of being in my home, making a home, and creating a different kind of life. It was a brand new season and something I’d never had the ability to do before.

Do you ever sense God shifting your season? How does that make you feel? Uncomfortable? Nervous? Excited? A little of every feel?

For me I used to be someone who had to understand it all. I wanted to know all the whys. As I’m aging, I find myself needing less understanding from God. He’s God. He’s the Potter and I’m the clay. He’s careful with His children. When He shifts my seasons or calls me closer to home or to a less busy life, I can trust Him.

These days I’m working hard to keep my calendar mostly open. This is intentional. I’m leaving space for God to fill. I’m leaving space for my soul to breathe. I’m leaving space to say yes to anything God desires to bring my way. In the process I’m trusting in a season of rest. I don’t know what the future holds or what God has for me around the next turn, so when I sense Him inviting me to slowly rest, I say yes, Lord.

 

 

Why starting with the end matters

Biting our nails through life

The men in my family are passionate Georgia Bulldog fans. We nearly always have our home open to hosting friends and groups, but not when it comes to Georgia football. The emotions are too intense and raw, the tension can be felt. We’ve been known to lash out at each other in a weak moment of fear. So we choose to keep those moments as mostly family affairs.

Over the weekend, Georgia played Florida. This is a game we want to win. Badly. And we did. The rest of the evening was lovely.

Sunday after church, I grabbed my book and headed to my room to enjoy an afternoon of reading. Steve and Andrew were already on the bed fully engrossed in a football game. I was surprised to see it was the very game we watched with intent focus the night before. They’d recorded it and now watched play by play the entire game all over again.

To me it made no sense. We know how it turns out. We watched every play. Why are we watching this again?

When I asked Andrew about it, he responded, “But now I can watch it relaxed.” Not only was he relaxed, he watched with pure joy and excitement.

Knowing the end of the game changes how we engage with it.

The game itself required pain, sacrifice, and playing beyond limits. It required teamwork and vision. It required sweat and blood. The game was fought for. Knowing the ending, because we’ve seen it before, changed our disposition as we watched it play out.

In our daily lives, what if we focused on the end more than the middle? What if we kept our gaze on Jesus because He already won? What if we played the game of life with joy and rest because we know the battle is already won? How would our day to day change?

Imagine the joy.

Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12

How many times have I traveled through an intense season of life with fear and angst only to look back and realize God was with me all along? How many times have I struggled through situations with clenched fists only to look back and see God’s hand all over it?

Lord, give us look-back vision today. Restore to us the joy of your salvation. Keep us focused on You as the victor. You are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We can rest in You no matter what storms we walk through.

Start with the end in mind.

In many areas of my life, I remind myself to start with the end and work backwards. In parenting, when our kids were babies, we started with the end in mind. We visualized and discussed what types of relationship we wanted to have with our future adult kids. Then we mapped out a plan to live and parent intentionally.

When the parenting days are hard, I often have to go back to that end goal vision, remember the big picture, and release my grip on today.

In our walk with God, it’s quite similar. The days can grind us down, the people can wear us out, but when we keep our focus on the end game, knowing the ultimate ending, we can rest.

We are safe in His hands.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”’ John 10:27-30

One day we will step into eternity with our Lord. All will be well. Today, it is well too. He is here. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

What God Really Promises vs What We Think He Promises

A need for control

Confession: I have a control issue.

I want to know what’s ahead. I want to follow a well-laid plan with diligence. I want to live by checklists and benchmarks.

And quite honestly, I want life to be perfect. Put simply, I want Heaven on Earth.

As I wrote these words, God brought to mind this portion of scripture from Luke 17:21 “For you see, the kingdom of God is among you.” The kingdom is here and now, He is among us. We are called to live by faith.

A life lived by faith is unable to see all the steps ahead aligned just perfectly.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

When Fear Threatens My Faith

I live by systems and organization. In predictable areas of life, this serves me well. But in areas that require true faith, I find the more my fear grows, the tighter my cling to my ideals and desires.

Fear creates overreactions. Fear speaks lies. Fear uses language such as “what if”. And fear, at the end of the day, simply leads me down a path of attempting to control outcomes.

This is pointless, useless, and exhausting.

Fear never stops attempting to drive us. We don’t have to allow fear room in our lives. But we must recognize fear when it appears.

If we knew how everything worked out, would faith be required?

See, we don’t know how our futures will unfold. But we have our faith in a sure, steady God who gives us an entire book of promises.

Are we standing on His promises? Or are we holding hands with our fear?

What God does not promise.

  • life will be easy
  • life will be pain free
  • life will be look like IG
  • life won’t be filled with setbacks and heartbreaks
  • life won’t give us more than we have the strength to handle
  • life won’t break us
  • life won’t weary us

What does God actually promise?

  • when life is not easy, He’s holding us up with His righteous right hand.
    • “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • when life is painful, He is our Comforter.
    • He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1 Corinthians 1:4
  • when life isn’t perfect, we wait for the perfection He’s creating for us. It’s not here. It’s in eternity.
    • “And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”’ Revelation 21:5
  • when life sets us back or breaks our heart, He supplies fresh mercy every day.

    • “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
          great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
  • when life gives us more than we can handle, He gives us grace to handle it when we need it.
    • “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Cor. 12:19
  • when life breaks us, He heals us.
    • “But He was wounded for our transgressions,
      He was  bruised for our iniquities;
      The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
      And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
  • when life wears us out, He restores our souls. He carries our burdens.
    • “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3
    • “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Psalm 68:19

Listen the the right Source

Don’t listen to the enemy. He tries to tell you God’s not good. God is good always. We live in a fallen, broken world. Jesus told us we’d face many troubles. And He told us to take heart because He overcame the world. Our only job is to remain in Him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33


As you know, I am pretty passionate about keeping God’s Word before us. In a world filled with messages opposed to truth, it takes intention on our part to fix our eyes on Jesus. I’m adding a little at a time to my shop to offer you more ways to fill your home with truth, beauty, and goodness. On your next coffee break, take a moment to step inside and check out what we’ve been working on!

Here’s a tiny peek.