To the Mother in the Time of ISIS

syrianwoman

I didn’t see you at Wal-Mart. We didn’t give each other a knowing glance as we shopped for groceries with our children. You weren’t in line behind me as I waited for my morning coffee. We didn’t have a moment or share encouraging words while our children played at the park.

But I see you.

I see you as a fellow mother whose world is full of horrors I hope to never experience.

This morning, while I complained about not having the right sugar for my coffee, you hid with your family.

When I tossed leftovers that we wasted into the trash, you dug for scraps to give your children and went hungry yourself.

As I looked online and daydreamed of a bigger home complete with a home office and Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom, I convinced myself that we do not have enough space in our home. You cried because you have been displaced and have nowhere to call home, no space at all that belongs to you, no inch of earth that is your own.

I came home and needed a minute to myself after a long day at the office. A job that I could only have due to my education and opportunities that have been afforded to me, a woman. You struggle to read because your desire for education has been thwarted at every turn.

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I kissed my boys goodnight and stroked their hair, taking for granted that they will sleep through the night without fear for their safety. Meanwhile, your son, who is the same age as mine, washed up on the shore lifeless and alone, never knowing what it meant to be safe as you tried to escape evil. Your heart is shattered into a million pieces as you did everything that you possibly could to save him.

My husband came home from work and sat on the couch beside me then hugged and kissed me. You received word yesterday that your husband was beheaded for his Christian beliefs.

I think of what it would be like to have a daughter and the things we could do together – paint our fingernails, buy dresses with headbands to match. You have an endless knot in your stomach for fear that your daughter will be kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery as she nears the age of nine.

I must admit that it is hard to see you. It is much easier to shelter my heart and to shield my eyes than to truly look at you. There are times when I find myself playing the martyr for no reason at all. You show me that I know nothing of hardship, nothing of persecution. You force me to be raw, real, and honest in my self-evaluation.

I realize that the designer purse I have been longing to buy is ridiculous.  While there is nothing wrong with buying a purse, I am hit with the reality that the amount I would spend on that one unnecessary item alone would most likely feed your family for the better part of a year. I am ashamed and embarrassed by my material arrogance.

You have shown me what it means to have unshakeable faith. All you have left is God and you cling to him every second of every day because you know that He is enough. This world has done nothing but take from you and you place no value in things of this earth. You have forced me to look full-on in the face of unspeakable terror – to look beyond myself and all of this material weighing me down. You have challenged me to embrace my faith at all costs. To love with reckless abandon and give freely of all that I have.

We may not have a mother-to-mother moment in the middle of Wal-Mart, but I am determined to reach you. There is so much that this world can learn from you.

I see you and I love you and I will not turn away.

For a list of ways you can make a difference, click here.

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Because it’s Winter and I Don’t Enjoy Every Moment

forweariness

I had every intention of writing something uplifting and flowery and everything-is-so-wonderful, but that’s not what came out.  Because that’s not how I feel right now.  I am weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.

Regardless of whether or not you are a parent, life is full of these stages – these hills and valleys.  Winter is always the hardest for me.  As silly as it sounds, things that I could brush off in the summer become big issues to me in the winter.  If we are having a hard day in the summer, we just go outside and literally run it off.  As I write, the thermometer reads zero – as in, zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Running it off is not an option, so we are stuck inside where we find ourselves keeping everything inside until the festering becomes too much and our behaviors show our true feelings.

On top of my winter weariness has been my disdain for the phrase ‘enjoy every moment.’  I just can’t stand to hear it because I don’t – I don’t enjoy every moment.  If I didn’t have kids I certainly wouldn’t enjoy every moment of my life.  So, why I am expected to enjoy every moment just because I am a parent?  This is what I am learning – I don’t need to enjoy every moment, I just need to be there through the moments.

What I’m saying is, I just have to be there to get us through to the times when we are less weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.  I just have to keep showing up.  By saying we should enjoy every moment, we imply that these seasons in our lives shouldn’t exist and perhaps we are doing something wrong if they do.  That’s just not the case.

This is the reality:

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my son clogged the toilet today with a roll of toilet paper.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my other child ran through a store like a wild man when I needed to get some things (like the aforementioned toilet paper) and we couldn’t just leave due to his poor behavior.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I worked and worked to cook dinner for my family only to have it met with rejection.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my kids ignored my request to clean up and instead made a bigger mess before throwing tantrums.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I had plans with my husband and was asked to stay late at work.

It’s reality and it’s life and it’s okay.  I am reminding myself of this more than anyone.  I serve a God who has overcome so much more than a clogged toilet and a temper tantrum.  That doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to feel frustrated, it just means that He understands what frustration feels like.

Just like the promise of spring, I also know that there are so many rejuvenating and wonderful times when I more than enjoy the moment.

This is the reality:

I enjoyed the moment when my children ran up to me for no other reason than to hug me and tell me they loved me.

I enjoyed the moment when my kid used such great manners that other people noticed.

I enjoyed the moment when my family raved about a new recipe I tried (cooking is neither fun nor easy for me).

I enjoyed the moment when the kids cleaned up their toys without being asked.

I enjoyed the moment when my boss thanked me for my hard work.

I know I don’t have to tell you that the good times far outweigh the bad, but sometimes that hope and that reminder is what pushes us to keep showing up.

Spring is right around the corner.

 

The Godly Legacy of a Simple Man

There are people that we know or people that we have heard of that have had an impact so profound on the lives of those around them that their absence leaves behind a legacy. One such person was my grandfather.

I was 11-years-old when he passed away on a cold winter’s day almost 18 years ago. I miss him just as much as I did then. What is amazing to me is the fact that every few weeks, someone still comes up to me and tells me a story about my grandfather and what a blessing he was to them. Nearly two decades after he went home to be with his Savior, the work he did for Christ while on this earth remains.

Growing up, my grandfather was painfully shy. He was 1 of 15 kids and I’ve heard stories of him getting his sisters to talk to people for him just so he wouldn’t have to. After serving his country in the Korean War, he came back to the states and married my grandmother and they began their family. While raising my aunts, uncle, and father, my grandfather worked for a local oil company. They never had much, but my father speaks fondly of his childhood and the way he was raised. During this time, my grandfather began to feel that God wanted his life to go in a different direction. He could not shake the fact that the Holy Spirit was leading him into the ministry. He loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him, but wasn’t sure how someone so shy could become a preacher. Finally, after years of prayer, my grandfather surrendered to God’s call on his life and went into the ministry full-time.

He began a church and, with no shortage of prayer and hard work, watched it grow. When I was younger, I knew my grandfather was a pastor, but to me he was just my Pap. Now that I look back on the things that I observed in his life, I have come to greatly appreciate him so much more.jessandpap

I remember staying the night at my grandparents’ house and waking up to find him reading his Bible in his worn out recliner in the living room. He diligently studied God’s Word and he applied it to every area of his life. I remember my grandparents kept kids at their house for a few weeks when they were going through a rough family situation. Their dinner table was always open and my grandfather would go anytime day or night to meet with a hurting family. Now, you could say that this was part of his job as a pastor, but I honestly believe he would have done these things regardless of his job title.

A new family came to our church and while introducing ourselves, we asked how they found out about the church and where they were from. It turns out that they had just moved to town and while my grandfather was driving home one day he saw them unloading their moving truck and pulled over to help. Of course, he began to talk to them while helping them unpack and they decided to check out the church on Sunday. They became an active and an integral part of our church family. That’s just the way my grandfather was – he didn’t hesitate to meet people exactly where they were at in life and that’s how he was able to have such an incredible impact on the lives of others.

Another day that sticks out was a Sunday that was entitled, “Friends Day.” My grandfather challenged our congregation to invite our friends and to make new friends. When Friends Day rolled around, many people had invited others to join us on this Sunday, but my grandfather had invited more people than I can count, and many of them showed up. In a day and age when so many are put off by the concept of faith and church, my grandfather had a way about him that was so genuine that you couldn’t help but consider him a friend. His faith and relationship with Christ was central to everything he did. He often would cry while preaching because he cared so much about others and wanted so badly for people to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. I love the quote that says “Let my heart break with the things that break the heart of God” – that was my Pap.

Shortly after Friends Day, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. His battle was short and difficult. People came in droves to pay their respects. As we all stood and sang his favorite song – Victory in Jesus – even I could tell that the eternal impact of this man would not be fully known this side of heaven. I’m sure his Savior greeted him with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

memories

There are times when I feel sad and bitter that I only had 11 years with him. I am sad that he didn’t get to watch me play basketball. I am sad that he didn’t hear my speech at graduation. I am sad that he never knew I graduated from college. I am sad that he was not celebrating with me on my wedding day. I am sad that he has never held my children.

He has missed out on so many important things in my life, but he was there for the biggest moment – the moment that changed all of eternity for me. My family and many others were decorating our church for our upcoming Vacation Bible School one evening and suddenly I just knew. I just knew that I needed to ask Christ into my heart and to be my Savior. I knew that I was a sinner who could only be saved through what Jesus did on the cross – He died for my sins so that I could have eternal life in heaven. I went to my Pap and told him that we needed to talk. He took me to his office and I told him that I knew I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior. We prayed together and my life was forever changed in that moment. I was only 5-years-old, but I knew exactly what I was doing and I remember that day vividly. Our VBS theme that year was ‘Camp Can Do’ and it was based off of Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’ It was my Pap’s favorite verse and it is mine as well.

Just a few weeks ago, I was visiting a woman in the hospital and she me told me how my Pap led her to her own faith in Christ. She said he was like a brother to her and she can’t wait to see him again in heaven. It made me think about the impact a single person can have. When we surrender our lives to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, anything is possible. A shy man can reach the souls of many with the gospel.

There is a song by Ray Boltz entitled “Thank You” that makes me cry every time I hear it. The song is about a man who makes such a difference while on earth, that people come up to him in heaven to say thank you. One line in the chorus states, “Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed.” My Pap changed my life and so many others. Who knows how long his legacy on earth will last, but the work he did for Christ will last for eternity.

If we all lived our lives surrendered to Christ and focused on eternity, what kind of an impact would we have on this world? What kind of legacy would we leave behind? It is the godly legacy of a simple man that challenges me to get to work, for there is much to be done for the cause of Christ.

An Apology to My Kids for Our Sexualized Culture

The three of us were all snuggled on the couch.  I had one of you tucked under each arm and we were watching some Duke Blue Devils basketball before bedtime.  This almost never happens: a) you never sit still this long, b) I never get to watch my team play.  I was more than enjoying this moment, and then there was a commercial break.

Suddenly there was before our eyes a man and a woman kissing quite passionately.  Things were taken further and the man took the woman’s shirt off and we could see her naked back.  They were (and I hate this term) heavily petting.  I searched frantically for the remote and could not find it anywhere.  I considered doing jumping jacks in front of the TV to distract you, but it didn’t matter – you were both locked in and had seen all of it.  Why is it that you never pay attention when I want you to, but the exact moment I would like you to be otherwise occupied, you are zoned in?

The questions started.  “What were they doing? Why did he take her shirt off? Why were they doing that?”  The fact that the commercial was for cologne was lost on all of us.  I really didn’t know what to say and so I found myself saying this: “I’m sorry, boys.  I’m so sorry that you saw that.”

The fact of the matter is, I am sorry.  We were enjoying a basketball game – at 7:15 in the evening – and sex was right in our faces.  You boys are not quite 2 and 4-years-old.  I have read the statistics, I have seen the reports – the number of sexual images you are projected to see before you reach adulthood is staggering and scary.

God made you, as boys and one day men, to be very visual beings and that’s a good thing.  I am sorry that Satan takes the fact that you are visual and uses it against you every chance he gets.  I am sorry that sex sells and it will be sold everywhere.  I am sorry that you will experience more peer pressure when it comes to sex than any other issue.  I am so sorry that holding on to your purity will be one of the biggest fights of your life.

As your mother, I am committed to do everything I can to help you grow from boys to men.  I want you to be men after God’s own heart.  The Bible talks repeatedly about fleeing from sexual immorality and lust.  There is a reason for this.  When I tell you not to touch the stove while I’m cooking, I do so because I know that you will be burnt if you do.  Likewise, when you are lost in lust aconsequencesnd sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage, pornography, etc.) you will get burned.  But beware, the world will tell you that there is nothing wrong with lust, they will encourage sexual immorality.  Our culture will tell you that you are not a man until you have lost your virginity and will applaud you when you do.  I am here to say that the world is wrong.  God does not warn us over and over again about the dangers of sexual immorality just because He doesn’t want us to have fun.  He mentions it throughout the Bible because He wants what is best for us and he wants to protect us.  I would be a horrible mother if I let you lay your hand down on a hot stove burner.  Would you trust God if He didn’t warn you about things that could have major consequences your life?

While I am sorry that this is a battle that you will have to fight over and over again, I am not sorry for doing all that I can to shelter you and protect you while you are being raised in my home.  I am not sorry that devices will be password protected and certain shows will not be watched on our TV.  I am not sorry that we will have uncomfortable conversations about sex because I always want you to feel that we can talk about these things.  I am not sorry that I will not let you off the hook when it comes to pornography and I refuse to succumb to the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality in this regard.  I am not sorry that you will be angry with me at times for not being as lenient as other parents.  I know that I will receive flak for having unrealistic expectations and being ‘out-of-touch’ or old-fashioned, but I am willing to handle all of that.  I love you and it is my job as your parent to build the strongest foundation that I can for you so that you will one day be able to make positive decisions on your own behalf.

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here, guys.  There are two big things that I want you to know.  First, this is not a new phenomenon.  I’ve already said that these issues were mentioned many times in the Bible.  That means that people have been dealing with lust from the beginning.  While technology has made things much more accessible, the issues remain the same.  Not only that, but Christ came to help us overcome all of this.  You can win this battle, but it is not going to be easy.

Secondly, this is not just an issue that affects boys and men.  It may not affect girls in quite the same way, but our sexualized culture absolutely damages them as well.  You see, I am a girl.  I have been and continue to go through this.  Girls are faced with feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth.  They ask themselves why they can’t look like that woman, why they can’t measure up to that level of sexuality.  The fact is, it is all a myth.  These advertisements are a myth, pornography is a myth.  No one will ever measure up to those standards because they themselves don’t exist.

Those girls that are dealing with this issue, they have Moms and Dads that are just as concerned about them as we are of you.  They have parents who are bound and determined to raise them and shelter them from our sexualized culture, who work night and day to make sure that their daughters do not buy in to the fake ideals the world projects.  Their parents are praying that there will be good men left in this world to one day marry their daughters – be those menworthit

This is good news, boys!  I know many of these parents. Like me, they pray constantly that their children will grow up and cling to God’s Word. Their commitment to raising godly sons and daughters is unwavering. You will find friends who are committed to leading a life of faith and you will one day find a girl who will make you realize why it was all worth it.  I promise you when this day comes, you will be thankful that God warned you not to put your hand on the hot stove.

Let me leave you with this: you will not be fighting our sexualized culture on your own.  No matter what happens, your father and I love you very much.  If you stumble and fall, we will be right here to pick you up.  More importantly, your Heavenly Father is always ready and willing to wrap you up in His grace and forgiveness.

Stay strong, boys.  Stay strong.

Linking up with Holly Gerth, Serving Joyfully, and Equipping Godly Women

Sorry, I’m Not Going to Compete With You

ballin

I am an athlete – a natural-born leader and competitor.  When I played basketball, I would size up my competition, know their weaknesses, and exploit them as much as I could.  I didn’t want to show any mercy and if I could beat a team to the ground, then that’s what I would do.  I never wanted anyone to say that they worked harder than me.  I wanted to be the best.  I wanted to win.  I wanted to intimidate my competition; hence, the picture.

In sports, there is a clear winner and loser.  At the end of a game, you always know which team or competitor was the best.  In life, things are not that cut-and-dry.  Given my personality, it can be very difficult for me to turn off my competitive nature.  But in the game of life, especially motherhood, no one wins when we compete with each other.

I had been struggling with that good, old-fashioned ‘less-than-perfect’ feeling that creeps up much too often.  Whether or not this woman knew it, I was trying to compete with her and I was losing.  She had just completed yet another DIY project, her house was immaculate, she was always the first to volunteer to make a wonderful meal for someone, her kids always seemed to be well-behaved, and she was darn-near a size two.  Meanwhile, I am the least crafty woman I know, my house is clean but lived-in, I will send someone a gift card to a restaurant rather than cook, my kids are often well-behaved yet they are still completely unpredictable, and I can’t even find size two in the rear-view mirror.

To be honest, I was beyond frustrated.  I don’t know why I felt like I had to compete with her, I just did.  It got to the point that the sight of her or the mention of her name began to irritate me.  At one point, I said to my husband something along the lines of, “She just thinks she’s so perfect.  Gag me.”  A few days after I said that, a mutual friend had called and asked me to pray for this woman.  As it turned out, she was struggling with something very real and difficult – something I can’t imagine going through.  I don’t believe this was a coincidence.  God knew my heart and my attitude needed to change and he knew that praying for this woman – that I insisted on competing with – was the way to do that.

By praying for her I realized several things.  First of all, competing was useless.  I was comparing apples and oranges.  Our lives and situations were not even close to the same.  It wasn’t a level playing field, but it never is no matter who we may be competing with.  This is real life, and real life is much more unpredictable and messy than a basketball game.

Secondly, what was I trying to accomplish?  Did I want to make myself feel better?  Did I want to make her feel badly?  Like I said, odds are she had and still has no clue that I felt this way.  Regardless of what my goal was, I suddenly realized that either outcome was flawed.  There will always be women out there that I can make feel pretty bad about themselves.  Likewise, there are tons of women who can make me feel just as badly.  Why in the world would I want to make someone feel horrible?  Didn’t this whole thing start because I was feeling lousy about myself?

competition

Finally, it occurred to me that God has equipped me to deal with my own life.  I will never be perfect, because if I were it would take away my reliance on God.  All that time, I had been trying to fit myself into this mold that didn’t match my life – it matched her life.  I am never going to make a bunch of DIY projects around my house, that’s just not what I’m into.  I am also not likely to make a bunch of meals for people, it doesn’t mean that I am not helping them out just because I go the gift card route (although, I have to watch that I am giving for the right reason and not just for the attention).  Also, God has called me to be the mother to my kids for a reason.  I am the one who is most well-equipped to raise them, which is why they are mine.  God will give me the strength I need to handle my life, not someone else’s life.

So from now on, I’m done competing.  I’ve decided that the ball player must become the cheerleader.  My new goal is to encourage and respect other women at all times, rather than try to beat them at the game of life.  If you accomplish something, I need to be right there cheering you on and congratulating you, even if I could never do what you did.  Do I need to be best friends with every woman I meet?  No.  But I am called to lift others up rather than tear them down.  By practicing this, I have felt more joy in my friendships and more peace with myself than I ever expected.  I might never get another MVP award, but I’m shooting for Best Sportsmanship these days.

Linking up with Equipping Godly Women

Christmas Carols Give Me the Good Kind of Chills

There is something special that happens when I sing Christmas carols that gives me more joy than anything else during the Christmas season.  I feel a little like Buddy the Elf – “The quickest way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loudly for all to hear.”

I am not a particularly strong singer, but for whatever reasons, my sons don’t realize that.  Every night, we sing, and sing, and sing.  A few nights ago, I was rocking my son and singing Christmas carols to him.  He was almost asleep as I brushed the hair off of his forehead and kissed his cheek.  I continued singing as silent tears slid down my face – the words of those songs were so amazing that I couldn’t contain my emotions.  In that moment, I was focused on the truest meaning of Christmas and I couldn’t help but be moved.

Here are some of the songs and lyrics that grip my heart and don’t let go:

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

Just Kidding.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

At one point in this song, there is a line that states, “God and sinners, reconciled.”  Sure, I had heard this line before, but I had never really paid much attention to it.  When I stopped to think about it, it is so powerful.  We often think of Christ’s death and resurrection as our reconciliation with God, but it truly started when God sent his son to the earth as a baby.  The process of reconciliation begins with the virgin birth.  There is no way that we as humans can fathom what it must have been like for Jesus to willingly leave the glory of Heaven knowing that he would live his life on earth as both God and man to one day die for all of our sins.

Silent Night, Holy Night

This whole song is calming and reminds me of the moment after my children were born when it was just me, my baby, and my husband in the room.  There was just this peace and sense of awe because the child that you had prayed for was finally here.  Your new reality was setting in and your life would never be the same.  I can’t help but wonder if Mary and Joseph felt the same way.marydidyouknow

O, Holy Night

This song is amazing. We sang it in church this past Sunday and the tears were a-flowin’. The words that stick out to me are as follows: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

I often get worked up over the state the world is in, but this reminds me that Christ came to conquer that. Our souls have always been worth it to Him and He came to earth to prove it. We have the thrill of hope because of what took place in Bethlehem and later on Calvary. Yes, we can feel weary, but we also have many reasons to rejoice.

Mary, Did You Know?

Regardless of Christmas, this is one of my all-time favorite songs. If you haven’t heard it, check out this chill-inducing rendition by Pentatonix.

So many thoughts run through my mind when I hear this song. I think of what it was like for me when I was pregnant for the first time. I was excited and scared – I had no idea the journey that was about to begin. I’m sure, like most women, Mary felt the same way. But, there are elements to Mary’s story that no one has ever experienced before. Whereas I was having a child that my husband and I created, Mary was about to give birth to a child that was placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Mary and Joseph displayed incredible amounts of faith, but I would be willing to bet that few people believed that this was not Joseph’s child. Not only that, but when it came time for Mary to deliver, the only person with her was Joseph. Scripture tells us that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. That means that a man who had never physically known her had to deliver her baby – in a stable, surrounded by animals, in a town foreign to her. I don’t know about you, but that would make me feel so vulnerable and uncomfortable. When I gave birth, I had every amenity possible and I still felt extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable.

After she delivered, what was Mary thinking? Did she know who she was holding? Was she thinking about what it would be like to raise the King of Kings? One line in the song says, “Did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?” Unbelievable. No other woman has ever or will ever be able to relate to that. That imagery is so powerful.

Did she know that Jesus would one day perform miracles, that he would walk on water, and save the world? Did she realize that this was Heaven’s perfect lamb, the Lord of all creation? Did she know that she would stand at the foot of the cross and watch her son die for her sins, and my sins, and your sins?

Just like I have no way of knowing what my children will become one day, I also think Mary did not fully grasp what was going to happen. While she was raising the Son of God, Mary was still fully human. Mary trusted God with everything she had and she knew that He was in control even if she didn’t understand all that was going on. Perhaps it was best that she didn’t know all that would occur during Jesus’ 33 years on earth. At the end of the day, she was a mother doing her best to raise her son to become a man.

To me, Christmas carols are some of the most well-written and powerful songs out there. Singing these songs honestly does give me chills. I think of all these things that I mentioned and so much more. Christmas is such a wonderful time to reflect on the gift of salvation. It will always be the greatest gift that I have ever received!

Linking up with Holly Gerth, Serving Joyfully

1,000 Second Chances

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No, no, no!  Not again.  This can’t be happening again!  I had just scrubbed the floors – on my hands and knees, no less – now there is food flung everywhere.  When I say everywhere, I mean it; yogurt is on the floor, the table, the walls, and even the ceiling.

We go through this over and over again.  Food is for eating, not for throwing.  My son is disciplined every time this happens – which is basically each time he eats – but nothing changes.  On this night, I should have known better than to give him yogurt.  It was supposed to be his post-bath, pre-bedtime snack but it turned into his post-first bath, pre-second bath snack.  I take a deep breath and tell myself that I have to give him the chance to learn, no matter how many chances it may take.  One day something will click and I will no longer have to scrub down our walls after each meal.

My husband comes home from work and I snap at him for not doing something that I thought should have been taken care of earlier in the day.  This can’t be happening again!  My snarky, sarcastic comments that come flying out of my mouth have once again hurt the person I love most.

We go through this over and over again.  Sarcasm is for humor, not for hurting.  I feel awful each time it happens, but nothing seems to change.  There are still way too many times that I say things with the intent to push buttons, only to immediately regret them as soon as they have been said.  I know better.  My husband takes a deep breath, expresses his hurt, yet gives me the chance to learn, no matter how many chances it may take.  One day something will click and I will no longer speak before thinking about my words.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:15-16

There are many things that I am thankful for, but I am particularly thankful for the grace and forgiveness bestowed on me by my Savior.  I need it each and every day.  His patience with me is unlike any other.  I can make the same mistakes over and over again, and He is always there to lift me back up and help me to start fresh.  However, there does need to come a time that I truly learn from my mistakes and no longer continue to make the same ones.  If I keep doing the same things over and over, then I need to reevaluate my heart and my life to see if I have been genuinely repentant or just going through the motions when I ask for forgiveness.  I am a sinner – I will always mess up – but true growth in my faith occurs when I learn from the second chances I have been given.

How wonderful it is when my son comes to me with tears in his eyes, ready to confess what has been done, but I am able to wrap him into a big hug, kiss his cheeks, and assure him of my love for him.  This is what Christ does for us when we go to the throne of grace.  Just as I may need to adjust my approach when disciplining my son, God can let us learn from the various consequences of our actions.  I often fool myself into thinking that God’s grace is only for the big mistakes, but it’s for our every day trip-ups as well.  He doesn’t give up on us, no matter how many chances it may take.

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Someone ‘Gets’ You

There are times in life when we feel like no one can relate.  We feel like we are on a life raft in the middle of the ocean with no help in sight.  Not only is it lonely, but it can be scary.

Personally, I have been struggling with loneliness as of late.  Motherhood can be very isolating at times.  Yes, at the end of the day, mothers and parents can all relate to each other in some form, but how often do we get to reach out and make those connections?

Similar to when I worry, when I feel lonely I love to throw pity parties.  The last few weeks have been tough – there are seasons like that.  I think to myself, stay-at-home mothers have other stay-at-home mothers to relate to.  Homeschooling moms have other homeschooling moms and working moms have other working moms.  While I am a working mom, there are periods where I feel that other working moms can’t even relate.  We’re not exactly breaking new ground here, but in the middle of Amish Country in central Pennsylvania, it is still pretty uncommon for the wife to be the breadwinner.  So there I am, hanging out in my life raft with no sign of dry land.

After a day of craziness at work, I come home to my sweet little ones while my husband heads to work.  The exhaustion has already set in, but dinner must be made, laundry must be washed, toys must be played with, and children must be rocked to sleep.  It’s that endless cycle of feeling like you have accomplished nothing with your day while simultaneously doing everything. I try – and fail -not give my husband my leftovers.  Yet, there is not much left of me when he gets home.  He rarely gets the best of me and it breaks my heart.

I know that others feel this way as well.  I know that I am not alone and I wouldn’t have to look far to find someone else who could grab me by the shoulders and say, “I get it!!!”  That’s what we long for, isn’t it?  Some sort of validation that we are not the only one out there treading water and to say it’s okay to tread water every once in a while because before we know it we will be swimming to shore.  We feel that if someone else can confirm the same feelings, then maybe we aren’t failing after all.  It doesn’t have to be loneliness – it can be anything.  Raising a child with special needs, working and going to school, moving to a new area and starting over – these are all things that can be incredibly isolating.

Thankfully, I have a Savior who can relate to everything.  Christ came to earth as a baby so that he could experience life from birth to death and literally walk in our shoes.  He ‘gets’ it.  In fact, I believe that no one has experienced loneliness on the same level that Jesus did.  He was and is the only man who has lived a perfect life – He never sinned.  That had to have been incredibly isolating at times.  His own disciples, who were closer to Him than anyone, didn’t even ‘get’ Him.  They didn’t fully understand who He was until after He was crucified and resurrected

.heknowsme

In my seasons of loneliness, nothing comforts me like the knowledge that my Savior gets me.  The One who holds my life in His hands, knows me like no other.  He knows you, too.  He knows the cry of your heart.  He knows what season of life you are going through.  He is waiting and willing to come along beside you so that you never have to feel alone and isolated. Give it all to the One who gets you.

The Myth of Greener Grass

green grass

I once heard it said that, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because it’s fertilized with poo.”  I don’t know where I read it or who to give credit to for that quote, but I love it because it’s usually true.

This week marks the one year anniversary of my job change and our big move.  I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around all that has happened.  I struggle with whether or not the right decision was made.  Throughout this year, I have made many discoveries about myself and about the things we tell ourselves when we are in pursuit of greener grass.

First of all, I have come to the conclusion that the decision to change jobs and move was neither right nor wrong.  It was just a decision we made and that’s that.  Did it have a huge impact on our lives?  Yes.  Would the decision to stay also have a huge impact on our lives? Yes.  I can’t say that our lives made a 180-degree turn for the better.  We basically have  the same situation, just in a different town.  Sure, I have a better shift and less off-the-clock things to deal with.  But, Jeff has to work more evenings now.  Our income didn’t wasn’t increased and our grass isn’t greener.

Secondly, we had to change churches.  This was very difficult for us.  We loved our church so much and had grown together in our faith and our marriage there.  Our best friends were found in that church.  Mentors and people that we looked up to were there as well.  We told ourselves that we would be back to visit often.  We have only been back twice in the past year.  Thankfully, the church we now attend is also great (but really, would we put up with attending a church we didn’t believe was great?).  We have made new friends and formed new bonds.  There are also people here who are encouraging us as we grow in our faith and in our marriage.  Again, our grass remains the same shade of green.

Thirdly – and this closely relates to my second point – we left family and friends behind.  We moved from one group of family and friends to be reunited with a different group of family and friends.  It was and is hard and we still find ourselves challenged with how to visit and stay in touch with everyone.  Frankly, it’s a challenge to work and have kids and find the time to visit people in the same town as us.  The good thing is, we have family and friends who understand the restraints on our time and resources and they don’t hold it against us when we aren’t able to stay in touch as much as we would like.  Here we are again with the same old grass.

The fourth discovery would be our home.  There are days that I miss our old home so much that it hurts.  I’ve cried because I want to go back.  I miss our house, our big bedroom, our neighbors, the basketball court that we used to walk to.  Everything.  In those moments, I question why we left it all behind.  I’ve learned that I struggle with an attachment to the material.  Our house was wonderful, but replaceable.  We took our belongings with us and were able to find a new home.  Our new home is also wonderful, but different.  I know that it will take time, but it doesn’t always feel like ‘home’ to me.  I often think that I could walk right into our old house and instantly feel at home, even though it’s been a year.  We brought our babies home from the hospital to that house.  It was our first home.  At the end of the day, I tell myself that the memories I have there are what I truly miss rather than the house itself.  Given time, we will build plenty of new memories in our new home.  Our grass is green.

We moved for my job and over the summer it became clear to me that my job might be in jeopardy.  Healthcare is rapidly changing and the direction that my hospital has to change in order to keep up with everything didn’t look like it was going to include my current position.  I was terrified.  Not only that, but I felt that our move had indeed been a huge mistake.  What were we thinking!?  Yet, God is faithful and a position came along at the end of the summer that I applied for, interviewed, and was offered.  I am able to stay at the hospital and provide for my family.  Just when I thought things were going to be settling down for us, I will have to learn a brand new function.  While it can be intimidating to start over, I am so thankful that this opportunity presented itself.  Going forward, this new job might be able to take my career in a direction I had never dreamed possible.

All in all, our grass may not be greener than it was a year ago, but it is, in fact, green.  The pursuit of something different, better, bigger, etc. is ultimately unsatisfying.  When you are in search of greener grass, you will never have enough – the grass will never be green enough.  The last year has taught me to look at the present and be happy in the moment.  I am a work-in-progress when it comes to the concept of contentment.  I constantly have to resist the urge to search for greener pastures, specifically when it comes to my career.  Looking back serves no purpose and looking forward only gives us unrealistic expectations.  Another quote I love says, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because it is watered and cared for.”  I can make my grass the greenest grass around if I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

God’s provisions for me and my family have been unbelieveable during this season of change in our lives.  I can see how clearly He has connected the dots and made things possible that otherwise seemed hopeless.  If all of this happened in order to strengthen my faith and trust in God, then the journey has been completely worth it.

Worry is My Best Friend

I have a friend named Worry.  She is closer to me than my own shadow and almost always stops by unannounced and without invitation.  In fact, if I let her, Worry would come with me everywhere I go.

I can’t exactly give our relationship a specific start date, but Worry and I have been close for years and years now.  I was very young when we met.  We really began hanging out together during my high school years.  There were times when we were pretty close in college, but we drifted apart for a while, too.  After graduation the real world came knocking, and Worry was right there beside me.

These last few years, Worry and I have been closer than ever.  We talk every day, multiple times a day.  She knows the deepest, darkest parts of me.  Our pity parties are – in a word – legendary.  There are nights when Worry wakes me up just so we can stay up together until my alarm sounds.  If I am relaxing on the couch, Worry is there.  If I am making dinner, Worry is there.  If I am playing with my kids, Worry is there, too.

At first, I thought our relationship was harmless, but lately I have noticed that Worry is a taker – she never gives.  She knows much more about me than I know about her.  She brings out the worst in me and is a terrible influence.  She’s disrespectful and often leaves me in tears.  She tries to ruin my relationships with other people and never wants me to have fun and enjoy the moment.

I think we need a break.

I have struggled with worry and anxiety for a long time.  Sometimes I feel as if my anxiety has a choke hold on me and my life.  If I look at the relationship I have with worry as an actual relationship, it’s completely ridiculous.  I would never put up with that type of behavior from a true friend – I know better than that.  For whatever reason, I justify these things when it comes to my anxiety.  Yes, some things that worry me are legitimate concerns; however, I cannot truly control much of what I worry about.  On the other hand, there are tons of things I spend my time worrying about that haven’t even happened or may never happen.  What a waste of time and energy!

Because of my faith in Christ, I know there is a better way to handle all of this.  Over and over again, God talks about his desire to help us through all of life’s situations and ease our fears.  I am not experiencing anxiety because God hasn’t kept his promises.  I am choosing to hang onto my worries by not allowing God to take over.

The best example I can think of is this: my kids never don’t always share.  When one of them decides to share their toy, they will often change their mind in a matter of minutes and rip it back out of the other’s hands and yell “Mine!”  This is exactly what I do to God with my worries.  Sure, I’ll pray about it and ask for help, but I want to start worrying again shortly thereafter.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Matthew 6:25-27

I know I have trust issues and I like to handle things on my own without asking for help (a nice way of saying this is, I’m ‘independent’).  I am a Type A personality and I do not procrastinate.  I have little patience and when things are not accomplished in a timely manner, it’s very hard for me to let it go.  Top this off with perfectionism and you have quite the little mixture of crazy.  While this has served me well in some areas of life, it’s been a hindrance in others.

I have been worrying about the same few issues for a decent length of time now.  It has weighed on me so much that it has begun to have physical and spiritual side effects.  I am positive that much of my never-ending exhaustion is due to my anxiety levels.  I have the useless ability to jump to the worst-case scenario for every situation and then dwell on that scenario for an inordinate amount of time.  I also know that this is Satan’s way to attack me.

anxietygirl
But then there’s hope:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.”

I Peter 5:7

How do I handle my worries?  I go straight to God through prayer and recommit to reading the Bible.  My struggles and inadequacies are not meant to defeat me – they are meant to highlight my need for a Savior and send me into the loving arms of Christ.  I cannot conquer my anxiety on my own.  I have to lean on God and let him carry my worries for me.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

It’s not easy for me to turn my worries over to God.  It’s something I have to do on a daily basis.  Depending on the day, I might have to submit worries to God on an hourly basis.  It’s not just a one-and-done process.  I am constantly learning and growing in my faith and it will be that way until the day that I die.  But I know that if I am ever going to find peace, contentment, and rest I have to trust in my Creator.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Please know that if you are struggling with worry and anxiety that you are not alone and there is certainly hope for you to find relief.  The verses I shared are just some of the many found in the Bible that talk about this issue.  Jesus himself addressed the problem of anxiety; that in and of itself provides a great deal of comfort.  I refuse to let the worries of life rob me of the joy I have in Christ.  He has given me so much to be thankful for and enjoy.

Linked to these great blogs: Serving Joyfully, Equipping Godly Women