Giveaway & Review of “A Heart Set Free” & Tea!!

I have a really great giveaway for you girls and I’m really excited to offer one of you a free copy of

A Heart Set Free by Christina Fox

PLUS

a 12 Single Serving Tea Sampler Gift Pack from Blooming with Joy Tea! Sweet!!

Enter using the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post!

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A little about both prizes:

A Heart Set Free By Christina Fox

Christina came to Boston a few weeks back and we had the pleasure of meeting in person. We are both part of an online writing group, and it was neat to make the  “real live” connection after being “virtual friends” for several years. We got to talk about her book a bit as we toured Boston.

On the site of the Boston Massacre

On the site of the Boston Massacre

If you have teen daughters, you’ll want to read A Heart Set Free and discuss it with them. I’m using certain aspects of it as I teach the Junior and Senior High girls in our church youth group, because, let’s face it, emotions are a huge part of our lives, and dealing with them in a godly way is something that we need to learn.

Emotions will rule you if you let them, and Christina talks about her own struggle with despair and depression, and likens them to house guests who show up unannounced and un-invited, who’ll make themselves at home and never leave if given the chance.

She walks through several Psalms and discusses how commonly we see negative emotions on display in them: anger, fear, loneliness, abandonment, despair, depression, betrayal, you name it…these negative emotions are in these “laments.” (Side note: There are more “laments” than any other type of Psalm!)

She shows us how the Psalms are helpful and instructive to us today, as we observe the way the psalmist confesses his struggles in his raw, honest prayers to God.

Christina shows us a three step pattern in the Laments that will help us when we struggle. She walks us through honestly telling God what’s going on in our heart (He already knows anyway!), encouraging us to go to Him for help, then engaging the mind to recall what we do know about God.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“One of the greatest lessons we can learn from the Psalms is the importance of expressing our feelings to God. We learn not only of its importance but also the fact that we are free to do so and God wants us to.” pg. 94

“God’s love for us is immeasurable and limitless. It is not dependent on anything we have done. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or love us any less….It is this love that the Psalmist looked to as he waited for God’s response to his lament. Focusing on God’s love helped reshape his emotions. It restored his trust.” pg 128

“Often we allow our emotions to lead us and take precedence over our minds. The laments show us that both the mind and heart can meet together. They show us that the truth of God’s Word we have stored in our minds can lead the heart to rejoice in that truth.” p.135

“Too often our emotions tell us half-truths and sometimes even downright lies. Our emotions can exaggerate our circumstances to the point that we feel like our entire world has been flipped upside down. When we feel emotions like fear, sorrow, despair, abandonment, or worry, we need to be prepared to draw for the deep wells of God’s Word, saturating our heart with the Truth. We need to compare what we are telling ourselves with what God’s Word says.” p. 164

I really liked that this book was not super emotional and feelings driven, and not overly Spartanish either. I love Christina’s high view of God’s Word as the truth that will keep us anchored when life gets tumultuous! A great read!

About Blooming With Joy Tea Sampler Pack

Michelle from Blooming with Joy Tea has graciously offered her “12 Single Serve Sampler Pack” for this giveaway. Best thing about this prize– you get to choose the 12 tea flavors you’d like to try! Each one makes a 10 ounce cup of tea, and comes attractively wrapped in brown card stock and hand tied with jute. The winner will be given a free code where they can head over to Blooming With Joy and choose their flavors! (I love her Earl Grey Creme but you already know that!)

Side note: I am a huge believer in tucking tea into my letters and I have done so for years. (And pretty stickers and bookmarks!) These single serving teas are perfect for this!

Also, Michelle offered this coupon code to any reader who’d like to take advantage of it. Use code JOYFILLEDDAYS to receive 10% off any $30 purchase.

Contest ends Wednesday (4/27) night at Midnight!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fine Print: Contest and shipping limited to the Continental US. You must provide an address within 48 hours of winning or another winner will be chosen.

This post contains affiliate links.

Homeschooling Mom, You Are in Charge of Your Happiness.

I spoke to a younger homeschooling mom this week who was clearly exhausted and suffering from burn-out.

After telling me why she was dreading the next two months of “school” , I asked her if she’d ever considered this:

“You are completely in charge of your own happiness. You don’t need permission to make changes for your own sanity. If you are discouraged, change something or nothing will change.”

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She needed to look for creative ways to make room for things that bring her joy. She was suffocating and needed some soul-oxygen.

I have been in her shoes too many times to count. We don’t have time so we don’t take time. It’s a vicious cycle.

Sometimes we get so stuck in the same old rut, that we don’t even know we are spinning our tires and headed nowhere. Spinning our tires requires movement and energy, so we equate that with productivity. Fast paced, multi-tasking, non-stop activity does not guaranteed progress. In fact, I’ve found that it almost guarantees burnout.

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The great amount of work that is truly on the shoulders of a homeschooling mom can scare us into a life of hurry and worry.

We begin pushing our kids to perform with a “standardized expectation” where kids can’t be themselves or excel in their own strengths. No, come end of the year, we must all perform for the test. Proficiency in every subject. Just call me Drill Sargent Mom.

Maybe we forget that education is not simply about gaining knowledge to pass tests.

It’s about relationships, training, direction, discipleship, character, and the atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of the “The Atmosphere” of education, that sense of well-being, connection, and joy that you share with your child that assures them that you are glad that you are together today!

We are training for real life situations.

Grandma is sick. We’re packing it up to get her some ginger ale and make some soup.

Mrs. Jones lost her baby. We’re headed there to watch her kids so she can rest.

Mrs. Smith is really struggling this week. She’s coming here for coffee and we’re going to cheer up her kids. 

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Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s real life training. And we have to plan time for small things that will yield big results in our happiness. (This will be different for every person, depending on your interests!)

If you are dreading the end of your school year and you find yourself less than enthusiastic about it, evaluate why.

  • What has zapped all your energy?
  • Where are you stretched too thin?
  • Have you become the “do everything” mom, so that the kids aren’t carrying their weight?
  • Have you let behavior slide so that your days are filled with a constant chorus of whining?
  • Have you taken time to refresh your own soul?
  • Have you purposely pursued time away from the kids/classroom to nurture life-giving friendships?
  • What inspiring friend can you plan to spend time with this week?
  • Are you looking for ways to serve others outside of your own home?
  • How can you provide moments of beauty in your daily routine?
  • Are you over-committed somewhere? What can you cut?
  • Have you under-nourished your own interests? What can you add?

Being a homeschool mom should not mean that you are now cloistered into your locked house, only to emerge for necessities like groceries and doctor’s appointments. You don’t stop being a sister, daughter, friend, neighbor when you teach at home. In fact, this role almost requires you that intentionally pursue a connected lifestyle to spark imagination and inspiration.

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If you are suffering from burnout, and you still have a way to go in the semester, it’s time to change something. Write down two things you can do this week to plan for moments of beauty and inspiration.

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Oh, I know. It’ll slow down your pace. You may only finish 130 lessons, rather than 140, but I think your kids’ experiences will be richer. (Don’t worry. The traditionally schooled kids rarely finish all their textbooks either.)

  • Make tea time a daily thing.
  • Take an afternoon to shut off all electronic devices and spend some serious time in the sun and fresh air.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Arrange a small display of flowers for the table.
  • Notice the beauty around you in nature.
  • Notice the negative self talk in your own mind. Maybe your own words rolling round and round in your head–words or failure, or bitterness, regret, or disappointment–are the reason you are so sour and drained. Dwelling on the negatives will always do that to you.
  • Take a walk.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Head to the library and find books that inspire you to learn something new.
  • Paint outside with the kids.
  • Laugh with a friend.
  • Make a bon fire.
  • Read aloud to the kids.
  • Enjoy a treat together.
  • Invite people over. Connect in meaningful ways. Live. Enjoy your life and the people in it.

If you are dreading the homestretch, change it up. You’re on your own schedule. And you don’t need anyone’s permission to care for your self. You are in charge of your own happiness!

What are you going to do this week to plan for happy and inspiring moments? Share in the comments!

 

Getting Help {Ministry Wives Series}

We’re continuing our Ministry Wives (MW) series where I try to answer your questions about ministry life. Last week we talked about difficult friendships. This week, we’re answering a frequent question: “Where do I go for help? Who’ll mentor me when I struggle?”

I’ll tell you what I’ve done and hopefully it will give you some ideas.

It’s pretty much a universal truth that none of us feels like we completely know what we are doing. When we struggle with sin, embarrassment can keep us from getting help. See, we know the right answers, but sin has a way of deceiving and entangling everyone. We can either fake it and take the bull by the horns not knowing the damage to us or others, or we can admit we don’t know and ask for help.

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We are all just all sinners at different stages of sanctification. Pretending to have all the answers or living like we are “above” getting help is not only proud, but it puts people off—the same people who can see clearly that you don’t have all the answers and the same people you try to encourage to get accountability for their struggles. Integrity and truth are your bff’s in ministry.

We are all just beggars at God’s grace table along with everyone else. We’re all dependent creatures, held together and breathing the air of our Sustainer God. Any time we take ourselves out from under that place of dependence, and place ourselves in a position where we believe we have no need, or worse, where we think we have it all together, we are in trouble.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard from the MWs I talk to. We avoid going to people who could judge us for help. We head to self-help books or commentaries, our spouse, or our mother. Although these all have their place and can be good things, I do think they have drawbacks.

  1. Books allow us to hide. They never look you in the eye and ask heart-probing questions about our sin or blind spots. A book doesn’t gently tell you that your attitude is wrong and your spirit, sour. Books let us skirt the issues reading what we think we need. There’s no uncomfortable confrontation with a book.
  2. Spouse. Until death do us part. For better or for worse. Our spouse is safe and isn’t going anywhere and we know this, so we ask him. Our spouse is resigned to our quirks–sometimes even our sin. He may, for the sake of peace, avoid confrontation and just listen to you vent. It’s almost hard to gauge whether he can see clearly through the situation because he’s so close to it.
  3. Mother. “Mother love” blinds us to our own kids’ bad behavior, therefore, when we need help with a struggle against sin, Mother is probably going to be too soft with us.

Taking advantage of a variety of counselors helps us to see our potential, and brings us face to face with our failures so we can deal with them. Though painful, it’s good because we don’t want our testimony to be a stumbling block to others.

One of the biggest challenges is finding “the woman” to mentor us.

It’s like we’re looking for superwoman–the one person who has it all together in all areas of life. Mary Poppins would be nice. Obviously, that person doesn’t exist.

Instead, look around and notice excellence. I look for a woman who has ONE excellent quality that I want to emulate. If she also has the character qualities I mentioned in the last post, namely the ability to keep her mouth shut…keep her counsel and not gossip, I’ll ask her to help me out. :)

I’ve sought counsel for writing, bible study, counseling, organization, health, parenting, marriage, etc…

Most recently I asked for help for weight loss.

A few months back I had a physical and the doctor told me I had gained 15 pounds in the last 8 years. Disturbed, I called my friend, Toni, who is a health coach. You might remember her from this post, Missionary Wives Speak: Have We Lost Something?

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In her sweet, unassuming way, she asked me a battery of questions about my eating, sleeping, and exercise habits and I have to tell you, my eyes were opened to several glaring problems with my weight loss struggles. For one thing, I don’t get enough sleep. I also skip meals when I am busy with the kids, reeking havoc to my metabolism. Just these probing questions were enough to help me correct several issues. (If you want to contact her, her email is tonihealthcoach@gmail.com . She’s super helpful and just a lovely person!)

All this to say, don’t be afraid to ask help from the people who really can help you and won’t be too soft on you.

Side note:

I think it’s very interesting that “Life Coaching” is an exploding, trendy industry in 2016. If you’ve not heard of life coaching, it’s a wonderful blend of consulting, mentoring, and therapy that focuses on practical, everyday stuff.  The Harvard Business Review reports that Life Coaching is a $1 Billion/year industry. The three most popular reasons people hired a life coach:

  1. to develop higher potential in their personal life
  2. for a sounding board
  3. address their negative behavior/habits

In our isolated world where a blue screen frequently replaces face to face friendship and interaction, people are going back to what they know works: mentoring and discipleship in all areas of life.

This is exactly what Titus 2 prescribes! Women, helping women. The older, helping the younger. The more experienced and excellent helping those who want to learn. Walking life with others. Isn’t it great that God knows exactly what we need and tells us how we work best? Life Coaching is a Biblical concept that works!

I know you’ve probably had bad experiences with people who shared your struggles or who talked about you behind your back. Don’t let that stop you from getting help to better yourself, and don’t let a negative experience push you into a life of isolation and fear. We really need to let go of the fear of man, and instead live for an Audience of One who calls us to a holy lifestyle. Maybe your humble desire to grow and change will be the catayst for change and growth in your church? Maybe your life will encourage others to seek God more passionately.

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning. And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Prov. 1:5

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Prov. 15:22

“Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Ps. 119:24

If you are still struggling to find help, pray. I’d be happy to pray for you, too. Ask God to guide you. I know He’ll guide you to the people and resources you need.

Weekend Edition and A Little News

Wanted to share a few exciting things going on in our lives right now.

First, PETER TOTALLY SURPRISED ME and is taking me to London for our 25th Wedding Anniversary for 8 days. I had NO idea. Honestly. None. I figured between college bills and an upcoming wedding that we’d be celebrating locally, like dinner on Cape Cod or something.

It was the sweetest thing. While the kids were all home on Spring break, he sat us all down and gave me this box. (Excuse the iPhone pics!)

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I opened it to find an Anne Hathaway teapot that I had been eyeing and four lovely tins of my favorite tea and a sweet card. Of course, I thought it was a sweet gift, because it was so out of the blue.

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Then he pointed to the bottom of the box, which was a false bottom he had made. There was another layer underneath.

You guys, he MADE these beautiful wooden transfers (Crafty Man!) of all the places we’d gone on our previous anniversaries.

imageThey were so beautiful and right up my ally. The card in that layer had a bunch of British pounds inside. (Yes, that is me in high school with big hair and a long red gown. I was 17 here.)

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He motioned that there was another layer. Underneath this one was our plane tickets and hotel reservations and a few travel guides, plus two more wooden transfers with the names of the hotels we are staying at in London.

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He is a keeper!! If you’ve read here for any length of time, you know that Pemberly is on our list of places to see! image

Also, in other news, Friday was our one year anniversary with Little Brayden. It’s amazing how much we’ve grown to love this little guy! We’re loving every day that we have with him!

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Boston's Make Way for the Ducklings statues

Boston’s Make Way for the Ducklings statues

I had the joy of meeting up with Christina Fox in Boston this week. We walked the Freedom Trail in sun, rain, sleet, and yes–hail. We are in a writing group together so it was fun to connect in real life.

On the site of the Boston Massacre

On the site of the Boston Massacre

I am reading her soon-to-be released book “A Heart Set Free” to my girls. (You can pre-order it here.)It’s about emotions ya’ll. Enough said. 😉 If you have teen girls, read it to them!

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I also received this lovely Earl Grey Creme tea from Blooming with Joy Tea Co.

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Now you all know I love Harney & Sons Tea but honestly, this tea is so delicious that I found myself choosing it over the Harney today. Michelle, the founder of this lovely shop has offered my readers a 10% discount on orders of $25 using the code JOYFILLED. If you need a gift for Mother’s Day, consider the Early Grey Creme Tea. You won’t be disappointed!

Also, I love, love this watercolor by Ruth from Gracelaced.com. It can be personalized with the names of your children for Mother’s Day. She also has a sweet sale going on to boot. All the details and sale info here: Gracelaced 

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Watercolor by Ruth @Gracelaced. com

Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed lately:

The Cultivating the Lovely podcast. Makenzie Monroe is fun, real, and all about adding care and loveliness to the Christian home. I listen at the gym while on the treadmill whenever I can.

CodeNames. It’s fun for family game night. We’ve also played it with our teens as a youth group activity and it works great for that, too.

This article about feeling ordinary but actually living a life that’s approved by God. SO GOOD. We’ve also been talking about Grace for the Mom Who’s Not Enough here.

In case you missed it, we’re talking about Ministry Wives issues on the blog this month, and I’m answering a few questions from my inbox slowly but surely.

For the lonely ministry wife: Seeking Friendship

For the ministry wife going through trials: Hard Times and Unfair Ministry.

Thanks for stopping by. Let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading and enjoying this week.

 

 

 

Homemade Fried Rice and New England Style Duck Sauce

My friend, Ruth, had the greatest recipe for fried rice on her website, but the flipgram is now disabled!! (Ruth, we need another tutorial!!) I’ve made her recipe so many times because my kids love Chinese Rice and this recipe is quick, easy, and inexpensive.

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I’m going to summarize Ruth’s recipe for you the best I can and I think we should peer pressure her into doing another video. Mkay?

Per Ruth’s FB, you need “day old rice, lunch meat, frozen veggies or whatever you have, and eggs.”

I usually cook up jasmine rice the day before and stick it in the fridge for the next day.

To start, I cut up a boneless, skinless chicken breast into small cubes and fry them up in a little oil in my largest non-stick pan. ( I still don’t have a wok!)  When they are almost cooked through, I add green and red peppers and sugar snap peas, cubed, and I fry until slightly softened.

I scramble three eggs and add that into the meat and veggies, making a big scrambled “mess.” I add a little more oil, and then add my cold, day old rice (about 4 cups or so) and fry it until it sizzles a little and browns slightly on the bottom.

When the rice is fried, I added some soy sauce to add color. I just sprinkled it around until I got a nice brown color. Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup max for a large pan of rice. I also threw in a few Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp Sesame oil, and black pepper. Right before it’s done, I add a cup of frozen peas and cover loosely, stirring until they are soft.

This recipe is so easy to tweak. I’ve made it with leftover ham lunch meat that I cut into cubes. (Also, I’ve made it without lunch meat. It does have eggs in it as protein.)

I always serve fried rice with duck sauce. Apparently our area of New England has their own version of duck sauce because the grocery store version is a sicky-sweet-gloppy-orange impostor and is nothing like our restaurants serve. The duck sauce in New England is thin, almost watery, and applesauce based.

It’s easy to make at home for those of you who can’t stand the store bought version.

New England Style Chinese Duck Sauce

In a saucepan, simmer until flavors meld:

1 cup sweetened applesauce (not the kind with cinnamon)

and 1 Tablespoon each: apple cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce.

That’s it! Enjoy.

 

Seeking Friendship {Ministry Wives Edition}

For the next few posts I’ll be answering a few ministry related questions I’ve received over the last few months. Hopefully, by reading someone else’s perspective, it’ll help you make sense of your situation. I know every ministry situation is different and has its own nuances. Please feel free to take what helps and leave what doesn’t. Okay, then?

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I frequently get asked about friendships in ministry–specifically the lack of forming close friendships in your own congregation.

It’s no secret that friendships in ministry can be tricky.

No matter where you serve,

whether full-time, part-time, or layman, missionary, youth pastor’s wife, musician, or church planter’s wife, we all need someone to love us enough to speak truth into our lives. But we all know that sometimes transparency backfires in a leadership position. This is certainly the ministry wife’s catch-22.

“Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” Although this saying from Rachel Lynde is laughable, there’s wisdom in realizing that we are all just people walking through various stages of life at different stages of sanctification. Since we are flawed people serving with other flawed people, wisdom is necessary when sharing our heart.

You don’t share your heart with someone who gossips about others.

You don’t share your heart to someone who is critical or outspoken about every little thing.

And repeat after me:”Transparency is not spilling your gut and sharing every thought. That’s venting.”

You simply don’t share with people who have proved themselves untrustworthy.

  • I know of one friend who was co-laboring with another couple and who shared some deep troubles they were having in their marriage, desperate for help, and they were basically disciplined out of the church after a slow death of the relationship, and told they would not be recommended for another ministry because of their marriage issues. (For the record, their marriage is thriving.)
  • In another instance, a ministry friend was punished by a bitter pastor’s wife after sharing concerns about ministry practice to her.
  • In yet another instance, a pastor’s wife and family were raked over the coals for asking, through a broken heart, for prayer for a struggling teen.

So what do you do about forming close friendships as a ministry wife?

Well, the Lord initiates friendship with us and the Bible warns about how vulnerable the “loner” is, and how there is strength in numbers, so we know avoiding friendship is not the answer.

The pat answer seems to be to have friends in other ministries because sometimes you do need to “talk shop.”

There’s a problem with this, though. Friends in other ministries don’t know our “blind spots” and we’re certainly not going to tell them because–wait for it–we are completely blind to them, so our version of the “truth” might be skewed and we might not get the help we need.

And God does PUT us with people to humble us and chisel away our ungodly characteristics, so total avoidance is really short changing yourself.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my limited experience:

Be in your Bible.  God’s word is there to convict you and change you. Go into each reading assuming that God wants to humble you in some area. Then read to change. God also offers you friendship and only when you love God supremely will you actually have the ability to love others well, warts and all.

Know your church culture. If you’re in a church culture where truth is valued and transparency is safe, then by all means, feel free to share with your fellow leadership wives or trusted friends. If you’re not sure about the culture, listen, listen, listen to the way people talk about others when they fail. You can tell a lot about the humility of a leader by how well or ill they speak of others.

Accept what God gives you. You might really want a close friend and deep conversations but God keeps giving you younger moms who are really needy for advice and play dates. God always gives us what we need. He promises to. Perhaps our desire is stronger than it should be and God wants us to serve others at a play date at the park or beach.

Keep friendship in perspective. We sometimes imagine that there is that one person out there who will always be there for us, be completely loyal, never let us down, always know just what to say. There is only one person who can do all this and it’s God. That kind of pressure on any friend will kill it from the start. Friendships are good gifts, but not the ultimate thing: God is!

Pray for a wise woman. She doesn’t have to be in your congregation, but pray for an older woman to talk to. You don’t have to bear your soul. You might just really listen and learn as she talks about God’s faithfulness through years of marriage and child raising and widowhood.

Look for a woman who has these qualities:

  1. She doesn’t feel the need to gossip to gain acceptance or to seem like she’s in the know. This quality assures you she’ll keep your confidence.
  2. She speaks well of others.
  3. She’s self-controlled in her life and emotions.
  4. She’s Word-filled. Enough said.
  5. She’s faithful. Her yes means yes and her no means no.

Realize that God appoints your place and time and makes no mistakes. You don’t have to be best friends with someone in order to work with them. Your personalities don’t even have to mesh. Because in the end, love for God will smooth the way.

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.

Notice that Paul doesn’t give relationship strategies or personality profiles to help fix whatever was troubling Euodia and Synthche, two New Testament women who seemed to clash. He tells them to recognize their place “in the Lord.” He emphasizes their mutual submission to the Lord. He was saying, “Hey, girls, it’s not all about you! It’s all about the Lord!”

Realizing that we are “in the Lord” does eliminate any temptation for one-upmanship or insisting on your own way. This brings humility. Serving in unity rises and falls on our willingness to see ourselves in Him.

Initiate friendships. If God brings someone to mind, you initiate. If you’re lonely, they might be, too. Make the first call. Invite them over. Ask to meet for coffee. Contact them online. Tell them you’d like to get to know them better. This is always a blessing.

Don’t demand that friendship look a certain way. Maybe for a season, your friendships will be with older women or with women walking through a sorrowful season. You be the friend that you’d want to have.

Don’t waste your loneliness. Read good books. Do an online Bible study. Encourage others. Visit a nursing home. Babysit for a younger mom. When one of my girls struggled with loneliness in her teens, I told her that maybe God was preparing her to depend heavily on Him for some mission work in her future or season of isolation.

“Be not weary in well doing. For in due season, you will reap if you faint not.”

I’ve learned that God uses every trial to direct and lead me. When I’ve lacked close friendship, He’s used unpleasant circumstances to lead me to the people and the opportunities where He wants me to minister. And in obedience and joy, there’s so much hopeful anticipation about what God is doing and how He’ll provide for each of our needs, just like He’s promised He will.

 

 

 

 

Grace for the Mom Who Isn’t Enough

Wipe the counters. Empty the trash. Vacuum the rug. Make the coffee. Wash the cups. Fill the dishwasher. Empty the dishwasher. Change the laundry. Pick up Cheerios. Pick up Legos. Swiffer the floor. Change the diaper. Answer the phone. Fill the sippy cup. Check the mail. Write the check. Fold the laundry. Brush the teeth. Feed the cat.

Dizzying, this mother-life. Constant. Always moving, never seemingly making progress.

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Nothing will hit you with the stark reality that you are not enough like motherhood will. You quickly realize that you don’t have enough of anything–energy, time, organizational skills, wit, wisdom, patience, or maternal instinct– to parent these kids like you dreamed you would.

Our suspicions seem to be confirmed when we check social media and notice that our friend’s kids are wearing matching outfits and hairbows and they’re all “off” to ballet lessons. You notice your smiling friend seems to have the Kate Middleton blowout, and she’s clutching her coffee in neatly-manicured-hands.

And with every click, we are measuring ourselves and mentally keeping track of our deficiencies.

Click. Oh, she’s on a missions trip with her kids! Wow.

Click. Oh wow, they’re on vacation at that beautiful resort.

Click. What a sweet husband she has. He’s always sending her flowers and wisking her off for dinner. 

Click. Look at how amazing her decorating is. That house looks like it should be in a magazine!

Click. Oh, look at her surrounded by all her friends. They always have so much fun. I wish I had just one close friend like that.

Doesn’t social media feed the notion that everyone’s enough but you?

I had a day like this recently. I was going on day three of barely any sleep because my little guy was suddenly crying at night and needed to be rocked. I was also fighting sickness.

I pulled myself out of bed earlier than normal because my to-do list was long, poured myself an extra-large cup of coffee, plopped down on the couch and admitted to God, “Well, here I am. Completely overwhelmed before the day even begins, exhausted, moody, and ridiculous, but here for whatever I can get today.”

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I’ll admit to you right now that my flesh hates to come to God. I hate to admit that I’m needy. I feel like a beggar and who wants that? I want to be like my friends in the pictures who have it all together! But I’ve learned that my feelings are rarely truth. God tells us to come. He implores us to come! Because he wants to satisfy. He tells us to come with nothing in hand and be filled.

I love this paraphrase/commentary of Matt. 11:28-30

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Bleary eyed and half-heartedly I read:

“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.”

God’s power made perfect in the midst of my weakness.

Yes, please. That’s what I need.

When I agree with the Bible and admit that self-dependence is NOT a Christian virtue, nor the trait of a Spirit controlled woman, I can embrace these truths when I am depleted that give me hope:

I am never left to fend for myself and I am not parenting these kids alone.

God gives me exactly what I need in the moment. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” He takes care of every one of my needs.

I do not need to conjure up the strength to do this thing right. I have God’s strength to cover my weakness.

God promises grace for today. I don’t need to worry about the tomorrows, because God doesn’t dole out grace for all.of.the.things I could ever worry about tomorrow. He deals in today.

No matter what I feel, God called me to parent these kids. This wasn’t a freak lottery. God is sovereign and in His wisdom, you are “it”, dear mother! Yes, you have inadequacies like we all do. Yes, you’ll struggle with issues your friends may seem to conquer with ease. But God does not call you to do something that He doesn’t equip you to do. While parenting is hard, we are not left comfortless. We have the Holy Spirit to cheer and guide our daily work.

My life doesn’t have to look like my friend’s life. God called me to this. He ordained my place and time. He wants me to rejoice and live it out!

Could it be that weakness is a gift? On those days when we are most aware of our own frailty and feel like a failure before we begin,

on the days when we are most vulnerable, is it then in those moments that Christ can work in us and through us in visible ways by the power of His might?

And isn’t it when we are the frailest that we’re also hyper-aware of His work in us and through us and we’re most prone to thank Him and give Him the glory?

So instead of beating yourself up for having limitations or for lacking ability, let’s give thanks for anything that causes us to press in to God and to rest in His sufficiency.

What is lacking in your life? Could it be that God will use that deficiency to keep you close to Him? Praise Him for it and rest in Him.

My Latest Stitch Fix {Which Led to the Salvation Army Fix}

Today I’m sharing what was in my latest Stitch Fix box.

I needed a few items for an upcoming trip and decided to give Stitch Fix another whirl, which is easier than shopping for clothes with a toddler.

I made the video below and I apologize for the quality in advance. I guess I didn’t save it in HD. Anyway, I tell you about the pieces and then my plan B which was a trip to the Salvation Army.

If you are new to Stitch Fix, it’s basically a styling company that sends you items based on a thorough style guide profile that you create.

Liked this but didn’t love it.

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At $68, I wasn’t sure this front would look flattering if the flaps weren’t just so.

From my limited experience, here are some of the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You don’t have to shop.
  • A stylist picks out items you might not have chosen for yourself. (sometimes we get into a rut or stuck in an era!)
  • You can pick your modesty level from “flaunt it” to “cover it” for every area of your body.
  • You can choose what you want to spend from least expensive to most expensive. Great for those of us on a budget.
  • If you refer a friend and they sign up, you get a credit towards Stitch Fix items. I had some credit, which is why I decided to do this before our trip.
  • The stylists really do read your comments and are super helpful. It’s like having a life coach for style.

Cons:

  • If you don’t like anything in your box, you pay a $20 styling fee anyway which seems risky. If you keep any items, the styling fee goes toward your items.
  • Even after choosing the “least expensive” option my items seem to land around $48 a piece which is more than I want to spend per piece.

In the end, I am sending everything back. Here’s why: The necklace was $46 which was too much and not my style. The blue and white striped shirt ($48) was a little too baggy and not very flattering on, although I loved the pattern. The green cargo shorts were just too short. I do love the color and will probably find a pair that color elsewhere for the trip. They were $58! I’m too cheap to spend that on any shorts. The jean shorts were nothing special and had rips, which isn’t my thing. The grey asymmetrical cardigan was the most gorgeous cotton and if I were going to pick one thing to keep, it would have been that. I didn’t keep it because I was afraid that the front would just look messy if it wasn’t folded just right. Here’s the video. I look exhausted and in fact, I actually am. 😉

 

You’ll see in the video what I decided to do instead. Emily and I hit the Salvation Army 50% off sale and found pants to hem for shorts. They were each $2.50 each. (A red pair and a navy mattress ticking pair.) I found an accent piece for a dinner we need to go to at Ocean State Job Lot for $2. Maybe the real lesson I need to learn is that I am too cheap for Stitch Fix! lol

I am going to try it one more time, this time with my Pinterest board connected with my account!

What do you think? Have you tried Stitch Fix and had better luck than I had?

Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

We don’t need Valentine’s Day to show us how needy/clingy we are.

We don’t need Valentine’s Day to show us how needy and clingy we can be. All we need is a day when we feel lonely, overlooked, pushed aside, or under appreciated, and the inner rumblings of our hearts and mind reveal that we’re looking for love in all the wrong places.

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We look to people to fill the heart needs that can only EVER be met in a relationship with God.

But we ask people to be things they can never be to us and make these impossible demands on flawed, human people.

Did you ever expect your husband to do more than he did and feel disappointed and unloved when he didn’t?

Or a friend? Ever expect a friend to always be there for you? Always support you, say the right things, do the right things, remember special days, keep up with you?

We ask people to meet needs that only God can ever meet, and we are frustrated when they don’t deliver.

Whenever we are in despair over a failed relationship, or find ourselves feeling hopeless when people don’t love us the way they should, we’ve allowed these things to morph our small g-gods.

“Whatever you cling to or confide in, that is really your god.” Martin Luther

To whom do you cling to? When things get tough, do you head for the phone? A gallon of ice cream? Sleep? Hours of TV? Shopping?

What are you banking on for happiness? Respect, kindness, great relationships? A fulfilling career? A doting husband?

Where do you place your hope? What elates you? Excites you? Makes you want to spring out of bed in the morning when you have it?

These needs are supposed to be found in Christ. In Him we have all the things we ever looked for in a friend or husband:

  • a best friend,
  • someone to listen to us,
  • someone to be there for us,
  • someone to love us unconditionally,
  • someone to be faithful to us.

Knowing this lets our friends, husband, family, and expectations off of our happiness-hook. It allows them to be human. It allows us to accept their limits. And it helps us to see the Awesomeness of Christ.

Valentine’s Day is simply a catalyst that exposes that in our heart of hearts, we need Jesus.

But we aren’t quick learners, are we? We tend to straddle the fence between God and other “lovers”: career, perfect children, romance, a Pinterest home, a perfect body, experiences, food, drink, fun, best friends, fulfilling work, respect.  When they fail us and leave us disappointed and disillusioned, we move back towards the God-side of the fence.

Straddling is no way to live. God wants your heart. All of it. And He is jealous for it. He wants you and I to love Him first and best and most. 

Let’s stop with the spiritual adultery and idolatry. Let’s call out and dethrone any idols that challenge the Lordship of Christ in our life.

Still not sure where your idols are lurking? Here’s the surefire way to know: How do you react when it’s taken from you or withheld? What gets an unrighteous rise out of you?

  • When your husband is unloving and you believe you deserve love, do you go all.the.crazy? A loving husband, though a good gift from God, has morphed into an idol for you. Something you believe you can’t live without.
  • When your “supposed” friend says hurtful things, do you find yourself self devastated or holding a grudge? Trying to hurt them in return? An understanding friend has become your idol. God calls us to love anyway, and when He is our God, we’ll do this whether they deserve it or not.
  • When your co-worker gets recognition you desired, do you sulk and envy? Respect and self-love are your idols.
  • When a friend gets an opportunity or an honor you wished you had been given, do you resent her and belittle it? Honor is an idol for you. God calls you to rejoice with those who rejoice and to refrain from envy, and if He is your God, you’ll happily obey.
  • When God answers someone’s prayers for good, can you rejoice with them when you’ve been praying for the same thing and God seems to be withholding it from you? That
    “prayer request” has become a demand and an idol.

 

Let’s let God be God and fill our hearts with the abundant love He’s offered. Let’s let our husband (and friends and positions) be put into proper perspective. They are blessings from God that we can enjoy. They are wonderful gifts but not rights. We are free to love them because we don’t expect them to bring happiness that only God provides. We can thank God when we have them, and praise Him– that He’s our all in all– when we don’t.

What about you? Is your happiness dependent on people or circumstances? Have you determined to seek God first to put Him in proper perspective?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or on FB. 

The Grace Table

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite topics, hospitality, and the concept of stewarding our homes as grace-giving spaces where others find favor and kindness under our roof (or in our presence) whether they deserve it or not. I want us to envision our kitchen tables as little hospitals, thus hospitality, dispensing grace like medicine to anyone God sends our way.

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I know that concept of hospitality can trigger stress. I know that. We immediately begin comparing and think of Martha Stewart. Though hospitality does include meeting the needs of others through work in a physical way, I want to assure you that a hospitable spirit is not something that we conjure up on our own. Rather, it’s the result of and the out-flowing of the unmerited gift of God’s abundant grace towards us. The word grace comes from the Greek charis, hence your kitchen table can become the grace table— the chari-table place for many acts of worship and service.

Here’s how it works: 

God —->freely gives us His unmerited grace—->we receive grace—->we respond to that grace—-> by freely give grace to others.

Grace begets grace.

I found it interesting in my study that another word stems from the Greek word for grace (charis)–the word gratitude. Have you ever noticed that the more alive to grace you are, the more humble you become and the more gratitude becomes your norm?

How can you do anything but PRAISE when you deserve death and hell by choice and action and instead get joint-heir status with the perfect, beloved Son of God? Completely justified. Just as if I’d never sinned. Just as if I’d always obeyed. Mind blowing and praise producing (gratitude!!) all wrapped up in one.

And when we forget what God has done, when we forget that we were the debtor who needed forgiveness, we set out to make our debtors pay. We set out to punish. We are blind, forgetting what kind of person we were. Complaining follows because ingratitude is always the response of someone who thinks they deserve more than they were doled out.

As Christians, God’s grace transforms our hearts, which transforms our speech, which gives us something worthwhile to say–words of gratitude to God– thanksgiving, praise, and glory-words that point others straight to Christ.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

The sacrifice of thanksgiving—gratitude—the fruit of our lips.

Obviously, we are not under the Old Testament law, but this is a reference back to the OT sacrificial system, to what were known as “thank offerings”–purely voluntary offerings that could be made to show your heart felt gratitude for all the Lord has done in our lives. And this is what our praise is–voluntary acknowledgement of our great God.

Are you looking for opportunities to serve? Have you considered that you can become a conduits by which God’s grace flows through you to others who:

  • desperately need to see His goodness in an unkind world
  • don’t necessarily deserve or want our favor
  • oppose us
  • despite-fully use us
  • are unlovely and overlooked

Do you see people as sinners made in the image of God? Or do you judge them and categorize them, putting yourself on a little pedestal as you look down your nose at this different breed of sinner than you?

Do you see that heroine addict as a person made in the image of God who doesn’t know His love yet? Someone you might reach?

How about that homeless person? Do you assume all the worst about why he is where he is, or do you try to love him into the Kingdom of God, leading him by the hand?

As women, we have the unique opportunity to speak truth into the lives of other women who need hope and help. This can’t be done if God’s grace is not pulsing through your own spirit.

Our homes can have an impact, and they are one of the most underutilized tools in evangelism today. Invite someone in today.

If you have a kitchen table, or a coffee table, or a dorm room for that matter, I want to encourage you to use these things for the sake of the gospel. Your home can be a little chari-table spot, a bright light in this dark world where you can make a difference for Christ.