My Summer Prayer

Dear Lord, As You—and anyone who has ever talked to me for more than five minutes—know, summers are a struggle for me. I’m certain I sound like a terrible mom when I say that. And maybe I am a terrible mom. I don’t know. I’m just being real. I’m used to having some space to myself at home—a desk that I clear in the mornings and which remains clear unless I clutter it again. I’m used to being able to sit all day without turning on a TV so that I can work, to let my thoughts and ideas incubate in the silence. It’s not like I’m sitting on the couch eating bon-bons. But this quiet space is where I create. I’m used to juggling appointments and errands and the items on my to-do list with limited restrictions, which normally center on drop-off and pick-up times at school. But now there are bodies in my house. People talking, sitcoms on television, questions about what’s for lunch and can I go here and oh-no-I-forgot-I-need-to-be-there-in-five-minutes! My kids are older now: more self-sufficient, less demanding of my attention. So really, this summer is going to be different than those in the past. But this feeling of dread I associate with summer remains in me still. So, Lord, I am asking for Your help. With each drive to the school for basketball or soccer or conditioning or summer PE, let me not feel inconvenienced, but instead let me enjoy the time with my son while he’s still too young to drive himself. Let me marvel at his changes, enjoy his music, listen to...

10 ways to stay sane this summer

If you’re anything like me, the mere mention of the word summer induces stress-related hives. Honestly, my kids are old enough that summers now aren’t all that different for me than the rest of the year. But I think I suffer from PTSD, because summers have usually meant more appointments—camps, summer PE, drop-offs and pick-ups and practices and summer reading and complete chaos. Not to mention kids invading my space. (I work at home, so it’s a big change to go from everyone at school to everyone home, just one room away from me with the TV on, phones vibrating, snacks being consumed, Netflix shows eating up the internet bandwidth, and cars barreling in and out of the driveway.) Given all the craziness, what would you say if I told you that you also needed to find time to pray? It’s true, though. Prayer is the way our souls find peace. It is the one place we can find rest. We can take it with us. We can lean on it and allow it to help us stand strong and firm. We can let prayer soothe our anxieties, declutter our minds, and keep us focused on the big picture—keeping our eyes on Christ. Even if you can’t find the time you think you need to pray. Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated or involved or time-consuming. Think of it as a radio playing in the background. If you can keep the lines of communication open, you will discover that you feel calmer, you remain more centered, and life feels a little less crazy. Here are some tips to help you squeeze...

#honorallmoms on Mother’s Day (and a free gift for you)

Years ago, on a Sunday night, I sat in the back row of my church and watched a newly-pregnant woman walk by. Suddenly I knew: I was pregnant again. I wasn’t late. I wasn’t trying to have another baby. I didn’t have morning sickness, I hadn’t gained weight. I had no symptoms. And I’d given away our playpen and stroller. I thought I was done. This was not what I had in mind. But, still, I knew. I herded my 4- and 6-year-old daughters through CVS to buy a pregnancy test, shielding the box from the prying eyes of my avid reader, embarrassed by the imagined judgment of the teen boy working the register. I stuck the girls in front of the TV and locked myself in the bathroom. That stupid little plus sign practically leaped off the stick. Crap. I was pregnant. It didn’t matter that I was 33, happily married, reasonably financially stable. This wasn’t what I had planned for my life. Three kids was too many; I always said no more kids than hands to hold onto them. Being a mother of three didn’t make sense for someone who isn’t naturally nurturing, who doesn’t adore children, for someone who worked all the time, for someone who was educated and smart enough to not have an accident like this happen. I was devastated and not sure how to break the news to my husband when he got home at 2 am from work, but he didn’t even hesitate: “There’s enough love in this house for one more.” Seventeen years later, I see that he was right. I...

Behind The Makeup

Over the years I’ve been blessed to serve in ministry at the local church. Most of the time you hope and pray that what you are doing is making an impact, but truth be told you never fully know just what that impact is. A good friend of mine, Michelle Garrison, shared this with me a few weeks ago and I immediately knew that this was something that needed to be talked about with you as well. This is something that many of us wrestle with, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that I talk/write about more than anything else: Girlfriends, vulnerability and being real with each other. It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure, but something incredible happens when we start to get behind the makeup. I pray you are as encouraged by her words as I have been…she is not an author, speaker, or even someone that likes to be in the spotlight, she’s a real woman, doing real life and trying really hard to live out her faith and I just love that about Michelle. Her words are from the heart and I know that it will challenge you as much as it did me. As I assessed my face in the makeup mirror this morning, I was so thankful that I was able to hide my imperfections under the mask of makeup. The day before, I hung around the house and wore no makeup. It is amazing how good you feel when you look all put together. On that no makeup day, I wasn’t feeling at my best. Then, my thoughts...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Stepping Back From the Drama

Commercials present an idyllic view of the holidays, but for most of us, this is a fantasy.  We may wish we could attain it, even running ourselves ragged in our efforts to do so, but we never seem to hit the mark. When that happens, we are often left feeling defeated and saddened. Then there comes the dinner table with all those relatives we may or may not get along with: Crazy Aunt Bertha who’s convinced the world is going to end. Angry Uncle Wilbert who feels personally affronted when someone takes the last drumstick. Sassy Sally who rolls her eyes at every other statement, and of course, all the relational baggage that comes with living in a fallen, sin-cursed world–relational baggage that is magnified during the tense, stressful holiday season. Is it any wonder so many struggle with depression during November and December? And an even more important question–what can we do about? How can we make it through to January first without going completely insane and dragging our loved ones with us? Imagine hosting a dinner party for the most talked about personality of our day. Would that stress you out a little? Cause your stomach to convulse and sweat to build, quite glamorously, along your hairline and on your upper lip? Now imagine tossing sibling drama into the mix. I don’t know about you, but that’d about make me want to cry, and then I’d really have a mess on my hands–the mascara streaked tears kind. But what if I learned to step back and disengage? You may be familiar with the Mary and Martha story....

when kids are pushing your buttons (like, all of them)

I was about to flip out, and that’s the ugly truth of it. I was in front of a little dude who was pushing all my buttons, simultaneously, and we were dancing on the edge of a power-struggle, the kind that renders everyone a loser. For those of you who work with children and students “from hard places” (as Dr. Karyn Purvis describes), you get this scenario. Or, maybe I should just stop at “who work with children and students.” Period. Anyway, as flashes of angry words exploded in my mind, (ones I’d have momentarily enjoyed expressing, to be honest) I felt a strong sense of clarity. I’d like to think it was divine intervention. Two calming and gentle words doused my frustration: “Not today.” This child, broken up by early rejection and thus defensive beyond belief, was not going to trigger me – not today. Yes, I wanted respect and eye-contact and verbal responses and a host of other things that would satisfy me – the Self that commands rather than connects and that is authoritative rather than his advocate. But, I was making loving him about his behaviors, and it’s just not about that. It’s about relying daily on a Source for love that is beyond our feelings. It’s about getting ourselves, our tendencies, and our triggers under control so that healing, hope-filled, life-changing Love can get from the Father to His child, through us. It’s about not giving up or giving in – not today – and then claiming the same two words tomorrow and every day after. Yeah, maybe that sounds simplistic – but living...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

The Power of Agape Love in Marriage

He was late, again. No phone call. No “I’m sorry.” Nothing but me pacing the kitchen, glancing from the phone to the overcooked dinner crackling on the stove. At this point, I’d do better to throw it out, grab our daughter and head to a restaurant for a nice relaxing meal, just the two of us. Just the two of us. And now we get to the root of the issue, because it’s never just about burned dinners and unmade phone calls. Rather, it’s the dots we connect between each event, the interpretations we make of every statement and one line email. To my young, tired, and insecure mind, all of the inconsiderateness spoke a convincing and heartbreaking story—he doesn’t love you. My response? To fret and fume and work myself into the teary-eyed mess that met him at the door with harsh words and accusations. I effectively pushed my tired and defeated husband further away, adding crack after crack to his breaking heart. And yes, his heart was breaking, as much as mine was: I was just too caught up in my own emotional tsunami to notice. I was convinced he was the problem, and so, rather than turning to God for wisdom, rather than searching my heart for my part, I ranted. And complained. And begged God to change him, to make him into everything I needed. This went on for some time, each of us erecting stronger walls to hide behind, filtering every conversation through a mountain of hurt and distrust, while our marriage continued to disintegrate. Until one day, one sentence, spoken by a courageous...

Moms, Do You Ever Feel Locked in Instant Replay Mode

“How many times must I tell you …” Parenting would be so much easier if only we all had recording devices we could play back at will. When a behavior arises, simply fast forward to the appropriate statement, point the device at the infracting child, and hit play. Then walk away, problem solved. Imagine how peaceful our summers could be! Although I doubt that’d be effective. Shoes would still clutter the hallway and bedrooms would still look like someone swept through with a leaf blower. Because words by themselves are just that–words, and no child goes from toddler to adult overnight. In parenting, the key is to focus on progress not perfection, blanketed with equal amounts of patience, training, consistency, and accountability. Develop patience Children don’t learn overnight, and often, every step forward is accompanied with half a step, and sometimes an entire leap, backwards. But then again, isn’t that how it is with each of us? Habits, wisdom, and integrity take time to develop.  Our child may need to hear, “Put your plate away” twenty times before they begin to think of it on their own, then learn to follow through. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being defiant. It simply means they need to be reminded. A lot. Until that behavior becomes habit (then you can begin to tackle a new one). Train Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). In other words, don’t pester, nag, scream at, and belittle. Instead, train. 😉 When our daughter was young, I walked into her room...