When Motherhood Doesn’t Make Sense

It’s a very interesting thing, Motherhood.

It’s the ultimate battle of wills between selfishness and selflessness. I remember the first time I every truly pondered this struggle over several nights as I, nursing my own cold, had been nursing my then youngest as she dealt with her own ear infection—up all night crying, unconsolable, not wanting to be with anyone but Mommy.

Yes, it’s an odd place to be…being a Mom. Constantly being torn between equally strong desires to snuggle down in your own warm covers and sleep for 2 days, and wanting desperately to do anything necessary to bring some measure of comfort to your child.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

 

 

The Miracle of Grown-Up Friendship

Friendship.

That word has been rolling around in my mind for months now.

Who is your best friend?

Hopefully, someone (or a few someones) immediately popped into your mind, along with flashes of all the amazing memories you’ve made together.

However, if you’re over the age of 30, I’d venture to guess you had to think for a minute. Maybe you’re still thinking.

Granted, I believe friendship changes as we get older; as we mature. Perhaps with age comes the diminished need for a large pool of friends, and possibly even distinguishing a BFF. Perhaps our needs and interests shift to cherishing deeper, more meaningful relationships, even if that means we enjoy fewer of them. Quality over quantity and all that.

I’m turning 40 later this year, and in so many ways I’m more comfortable in my own skin—in who I am as a person and a woman—than I ever have been. However, in the area of friendship, I find myself increasingly self-conscious and unconfident.

In chatting with a gal I consider my closest friend after my husband (incidentally, this friend lives several states over, and we’ve never enjoyed our friendship living in close proximity to one another), I realized that the last time I had a really close, deep friendship with someone in person was five years ago. Five. Years.

Now, I’ve had wonderful friendships during that five year span. Just nothing as deep, personal, and intimate as the friendships I enjoyed previously.

I’ve also come to realize, much to my chagrin, that I am far lonelier living here in America than I ever was as an ex-pat. A fact that shocks and saddens me.

I was beginning to wonder what in the world was wrong with me. Why was I no longer able to start and build deep, intimate friendships with the women in my life? Then I came across a tweet that stopped me in my tracks:

I mean.

I literally laughed out loud, nodded my head, and then sobered. With 112,000 retweets and 440,000 likes, this thought clearly struck a cord.

So, why is it so many of us in the 30+ demographic suffer such a severe lack of true relationships outside of family?

To answer that, I think we must look at the source of the miracle itself: Jesus.

When I look at those 12 close friendships Jesus enjoyed, I see what true friendship takes. I also discover clues as to why I think we are lacking in this area—particularly here in America.

Jesus initiated the friendship. Jesus was the ultimate extrovert. I mean, other than in kindergarten, when was the last time you walked up to a person who looked somewhat interesting and asked, “Hey, wanna play?” Of course, Jesus was calling men to follow Him, but it’s basically the same thing. Jesus and those twelve men were practically strangers, but Jesus saw something in each one that He wanted to cultivate, to get to know. Jesus initiated the friendship, which is the very hardest part, in my opinion.What if they don’t want any more friends? What if they think I’m weird? What if I’m annoying? I think fear of rejection is what hold many of us back from reaching out to people we are truly interested in getting to know better.

Jesus let His friends interrupt His life and plans. Friendship is costly. It takes time, energy, emotion, brain-space. Jesus let his friends interrupt Him, and not allow it to strain the relationship. My favorite instance of this is found in all of the Gospels (The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), but my favorite account is found in Mark. See, Jesus and His friends were on a boat at night when a huge storm came up. The Bible calls it a “furious squall.” Jesus, being Jesus, was asleep on a cushion in the stern. His friends started freaking out (as I’m certain I would’ve done) and wake Him up. Here’s the best part. They don’t just wake Jesus and ask for help. They wake Him and say, “Don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38b, NIV). Ha! Yeah. First of all, they interrupt His sleep. Jesus doesn’t get mad, He’s not cranky that they woke Him from a nap. That’s real friendship right there. Secondly, He helped them. They insulted Him, and He still helped them without snark. He calmed the storm, and then He did something else.

Jesus called His friends out when it counted. After He calmed the storm, He called them out for their lack of faith. I mean, God of the Universe was there in the boat with them. That should’ve been enough. True friends call each other out on their bologna. My dad always says, “A true friend is someone who makes you better.” If you and your friends agree 100% of the time, something’s wrong. Real friends don’t let each other get away with things that will hurt them spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Jesus called His friends out on their bull, and that is no easy task. It’s so much more comfortable to put some sort of twist on the behavior/thoughts/words that make them seem ok, or at the least excusable. Jesus loved His friends too much to do that. I think this is another reason true, intimate friendship is disappearing from the American adult experience—it’s easier to just keep to ourselves and not call a spade a spade when need be.

Jesus put the needs of His friends above His own. I’m sure we can all agree, just about everything we do, we do with one goal in mind—to stay alive. Jesus, on the other hand, knew His death was the one thing His friends needed most. He didn’t want to do it. We see that in the Bible when He, not once but but twice, asks God if there’s anyway to accomplish His Plan without Jesus having to go to the cross (Matthew 26:36-45). Real friendship takes sacrifice. Of course, I’d venture to guess the vast majority of us won’t have to actually die for our friends, but real friendship calls us to die to ourselves day after day. To lose sleep while they talk through the loss of their job; to spend a few bucks of a cup of coffee or cook an extra meal when their life is in chaos. Even in times of relative calm, it takes a sacrifice of time, energy, and sometimes even money to maintain a deep, quality, vivacious friendship.

The more I examine the friendships of Jesus, the more I understand why we may struggle with it so much. It’s costly. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unpredictable. Three of my least favorite things.

But, just like anything of value in this life, the rewards far outweigh the costs.

How about you, dear reader? How are your friendships? Do you need to invest more? Is there someone you need to reach out and initiate a conversation with? Is there someone who has been pursuing friendship with you that you’ve been avoiding because you “just can’t?”

Of course, we must proceed with wisdom as we build those friendships that will speak most deeply into our lives. There are toxic people and toxic relationships. I’m not arguing that we should stay in dangerous or unhealthy relationships.

But, I would argue, most of us could afford the cost of a true, lasting friendship. Could you?

My Newest Travel Obsession

This post contains affiliate links

It’s summertime, and that means lots of us are on the road — a LOT!

Admittedly, we don’t travel nearly as much as we did when we lived overseas, but with my husband’s family 2 hours away, and my family 3 states away, we still have our fair share of road time.

So, I was so excited when I got the opportunity to try out the latest and greatest from The BeLOVED Life. Their new plush travel pillows are seriously my latest obsession when it comes to anything remotely related to travel. 

We got to try out the For God So Loved the World plush travel pillow recently, and I cannot say enough great things about it!

Photo courtesy of Dayspring

My 13 year old daughter used it on her school choir trip to Disneyland recently. The over-the-shoulder strap made it so easy to carry her suitcase, paperwork, and everything else, while still being able to bring a comfortable and stylish pillow along for the ride.

The phone pouch on the strap was amazing. It was the perfect size for her phone, and allowed her to keep it close by without risking it falling out of her pants pocket — not to mention it was much more comfortable for the 6 hour bus ride to not have a phone in her pocket!

There’s also a pocket/pouch on the backside of the pillow where she could slip a couple of snacks and a blanket.

When we got all settled in, she laid her head on it and said, “Oh my gosh, mom! This thing is so soft, I want to stuff my whole body inside the pocket!”

All in all, the pillow was a huge hit. Her friends all wanted one by the end of the trip.

Of course, as a mom, I love the positive messaging on the pillow itself, as well as the opportunity for my daughter to share the Bible with her friends and classmates in a non-threatening way. I also love that there are several different options of styles of pillows. Each has a unique positive message, and there are even ones the boys will love!

I mean, just look at this:

But even more than the adorable designs and positive, faith-filled messages, I love what Mimi and The BeLOVED Life are all about. Mimi says, “I felt like there was a void in the Christian market for colorful, trendy products that pre-teens could be proud to have and share with their friends.”

Mimi’s designs have been featured in Seventeen Magazine’s “Top 10 Back to School Products,” and reviewed by the TODAY Show.

“This new product,” Mimi continues, “was designed to bring life and energy and vibrance back into the pre-teen product market, and to get the kids excited about learning God’s Word, and growing in their faith.” How can you beat that, right?

Well, Mimi takes her faith and messaging to heart. That’s why The BeLOVED Life has “committed to joining the fight against physical, emotional, and cyber bully attacks” by pledging to donate 10% of each sale towards anti-bullying programs and non-profits for children.

Can you guys see why this product, company, and entrepreneur tick all the boxes for me?

Click here to get one of these adorable pillows, and know that you’re not only investing in your child’s spiritual well-being and growth, but also making a difference in the life of a child affected by bullying. Win-win if you ask me!

Pregnant With Hope

Pregnancy, by and large, is a phenomenon that happens to a woman.

The moment of conception, gender, hair color, and even moment of birth are completely out of the mother’s control.

The mother who is expecting a child wields very little – if any – control over the pregnancy, yet a tremendous amount of influence over it.

The choices she makes in a myriad of little things yield drastic differences. It seems nearly everything she does makes a difference in the health of her own body as well as that of the child within.

A baby can be born perfectly healthy with the mother living through pregnancy with a “life as usual” attitude; a baby can survive even when the mother makes catastrophic choices. But a baby and mother can thrive and enjoy an even higher quality of life and bonding when she takes steps to nurture herself and her unborn child – even in less than ideal circumstances.

Several years ago I came across the phrase “pregnant with hope” while reading. I don’t remember the context or in what I read it. But I do know the image that conjured in my mind.

I pictured someone so full of hope welling up inside them that they nearly burst with it – with no effort of their own. An incessantly, almost sickeningly, happy person with more naïveté than wisdom or desire for a real view of the world.

We live in a dark world. A dark world full of dark people capable of unthinkable evil. And hope, like a newly conceived baby, is fragile and can be easily trampled by the realities we face everyday in our neighborhoods, cities and on the television.

It’s easy to let the darkness reign and fill in the cracks where faith can’t provide a tidy answer or wrap life up into a pretty little object lesson with a perfectly packaged solution at the end of the puzzle. Hope gets buried among the grief, disgust and confusion of it all.

Yet hope, like that tender growing babe, while fragile and delicate is also strangely resilient; shockingly strong with a penchant for life.

Hope can survive throughout unimaginably difficult circumstances. Hope can grow and thrive and multiply without any outside effort on our part. The Author and Creator of our hope can do amazingly magnificent things through the medium of hope; and, lets face it, He needs no help from us just as a babe needs no concrete help from his mother to develop a heart, hands, fuzzy hair on his head.

Yet if we take time to nurture hope…

To feast on Food that nourishes and strengthens; to drink deep the Water of Life; to dream and plan and dream some more about what this hope might become. To take intentional steps to protect hope at all costs from the pollutants of this world… Oh how much deeper and stronger would that hope be that lays dormant within us so many days? How much more bonded would we become to the idea that hope can endure?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

So if we think happy thoughts all will be well? No, not even close. Yet if we fight against the darkness, beginning with our own thoughts – the ones so dark and misty it scares us to even acknowledge them – and consciously transform them to things of light, things of life, things of hope… Imagine the rebirth of spiritual brightness that would return to your heart. And then I do it and he does it and she does it… Oh I can see the hope blooming even now.

It seems to me, the more hope in this world that is set in things that are noble, honorable and lovely; nurtured in excellent, commendable things, the better off this world would be. Agreed?

You see, a hope nurtured does not remain merely hope. Hope spurs one on to action, to enforce change, to be the impetus of tangible deeds that plant a seed of hope in another. A hope nurtured grows and matures and transforms from unseen to seen. A hope nurtured and birthed into tangibility, by nature, breeds hope in those with whom it interacts. Hope begets hope; kindness begets kindness; honor begets honor. The hope you nurture within your own soul can become life-changing hope to someone else. Someone that might not have anyone else who can implant that first seedling other than you – and you might be completely unaware of it happening at all yet it is dependent upon the hope birthed from you.

So whether hope is but a tiny seed in your own heart or a burgeoning bloom nigh to tangible for those around you, can I encourage you to take time to nurture it? To protect it? To feed and encourage it to grow?

Tell me, what is something true, noble, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable or excellent to which you can turn your thoughts when the darkness threatens to crush your hope? Share it in the comments and let’s nurture a bit more hope in the world together. Who knows, what you say may be the very thing someone else needs to hear to pull them from the pit.

 

What Little League Taught Me About Faith

A soft breeze, warm with the heat of an Arizona October, brushes my face. The scent of stale popcorn, bubble gum, and dust hangs in the air. I squint against the bright sunlight and scan the field.

Ah! There he is.

My 6-year-old-the-size-of-a-9-year-old has assumed the ready position way out in left field. Again.

Never mind the pitcher hasn’t even made it to the mound yet, and that this is his third time in left field this game. He’s ready.

At last, the pitcher saunters to the mound, a wad of gum bulging his cheek.

“Alright, c’mon, kiddo. Just like we practiced!” A man’s voice rings louder than the din.

The kid, with scruffy hair hanging out the sides of his cap and his shirttail untucked nods decidedly as his dad. He stands tall and raises his gloved had in front of his chest. He squints at the catcher. Shakes off an imaginary call, checks the bases for stealing runners—never mind the fact that this is the first batter—and his shoulders rise and fall with a large sigh. He winds up and fires the ball. It sails far over the catcher’s head, clanks into the backstop, and a mad scramble ensues. Pitcher, catcher, and third baseman scramble for the ball. Dust and limbs flying everywhere.

“What was that, son? Don’t try to be Randy Johnson out there. Just. Play. Catch!”

The ball finally recovered, all the players return to their posts and in unison my son’s team assumes the ready position.

I smiled at the scene now so familiar. Every game was the same. Sure, the players rotated positions and a different pitcher took the mound every few innings, but the basic play was the same.

And it reminded me, oddly enough, of me.

It’s funny the things you ponder sitting in dusty camp chairs every Saturday for weeks on end, watching little boys and girls strive to be like their big league heroes.

And one thing I’ve realized over the weeks is that Little League baseball is a lot like my spiritual walk. And I’d venture to guess, it’s a lot like yours, too.

So, I wanted to share with you a few things Little League taught me about faith.

1. The game rarely ever goes like practice. So many times, I sat at practice and watched my son nail hit after hit. Or make stellar throws and speed around the bases, a wide grin splitting his face. But on game day. Oh, things were always different on game day. It was serious. He was nervous. He struck out far more often than he did in practice. And those throws? They never seemed to hit their mark. Sound familiar? Sitting in my cozy spot on the couch, dog in my lap, Bible in hand, my “practice” time is a joy. God’s word sings in my soul, profound insights burst in my mind and renewed purpose steels deep in my soul. Then comes Game Day. My kids wake up, the dog pukes on the rug, and my perfectly engaging lesson falls flat for my middle schools students. Suddenly those insights are a lead chain around my neck. The joy from my morning practice shoved aside by annoyance and frustration. Then comes The Big Game. You know, Game 7 of the World Series big. The notice of layoffs comes. Or the doctor calls. Or another bill arrives. Yes, it’s true. The game rarely ever goes like practice.

2. Ready Position is a big deal. It never failed to amuse me. One kid building sand castles at short stop. Another crawling around, tracing the path of a beetle. Yet another is picking his nose, confident he’s far enough in the outfield no one will notice. Suddenly, a voice splits the air. Coach. “Ready position, boys!” Obediently, they snap to Ready Position: forearms rested on thighs, knees bent ready to spring into action, eyes on the pitcher. After every play, they return to ready position. From this position, they can spring into action in any direction at any given moment. It’s designed for maximum speed and efficiency so they can pounce on the ball or lunge to make a catch. We have a ready position, too. Sometimes we need reminding. That’s why we tape Bible verses on mirrors and save them as lock screens on our devices. We listen to worship music in the car and start our day with prayer and Bible study. We need our hearts and minds in ready position. Postured with ears open, eyes wide, hearts softened, ready to spring into action at the slightest nudge of the Spirit. And if we get shaken, or after the action, we return. Ready for action. Ready to listen. Ready to jump when the ball comes our way.

3. Listen to the coach. Little boys like to run. Better yet, they like to run in dirt. I lost count of how many times a little leaguer sprinted around the bases, slid into home, only to be met by serious eyes. “I told you to hold off at second base. That is the fourth run, and now we have to change sides. If you had stopped when I asked, more people would have had the chance to bat.” Oh. Sometimes, we’re running full steam ahead, goal in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned on. We can see our destination. We’re so close we can taste it. And then we hear that Still Small Voice imploring us. Slow down. Stop. Not yet. The tug-o-war of the heart ensues. But, it’s right there. I’m so close. “Stop.” We need to listen to our Coach. We were given the Holy Spirit as a gift. A guide. A coach. He knows what is best for us, and the best way for us to get there. He doesn’t tell us what to do just for the joy of hearing the sound of His own voice. No. There’s a game plan. A strategy. If we barrel ahead, we may interfere with what He has for us. Or for someone else. We may risk the entire game thinking we know better. We need to listen to the Coach.

4. Have fun! Many’s the time we had to remind our little baller that it was just a game. And while, yes, there are winners and losers…well, not in this age of Little League, but still. Work hard? Yes. Try your best? Absolutely. Take it seriously? For sure! But taking it seriously doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it! Sometimes we make following Christ look about as enjoyable as latrene duty or grave digging. Yes, it’s serious business. Eternity is on the line. But Christ himself said He came to give us life—abundant life! It’s ok to enjoy this life. This world. Our families. Our jobs. Our churches. There is great joy and freedom found in Christ and we would be well served to allow ourselves to fully embrace and experience that joy.

5. Cheer on your teammates. Our son’s coaches did a great job trying to instill the character of sportsmanship into the members of the team. They celebrated one another well. It can be all too easy to view others as competition. Especially when they are playing the position we wanted to play, better than we know we could play it. We need to support one another. Cheer one another one. Dust each other off when we fall, and celebrate the successes of those on our team. By the way, our team is humanity.

So, what do you think? Do you see yourself in these Little Leaguers? Which one do you sense the tug to work on? What other lessons have you found in the ordinary things of life?

My New Year’s Non-Resolution Lifesaver!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve been following me on Instagram for any amount of time, you’ll know that before Christmas, I started a new workout program. Just…don’t ask me how it’s going, mmmkay? Ha!

Well, I’ve been feeling the pull for a long time to get back to taking better care of myself — moving my body in ways that foster strength, energy, and joy — and feeding myself with food that not only tastes great, but fuels me and leaves me feeling empowered rather than guilty.

However, when it comes to getting meals on the table, I’m tired of:

  • scrambling to make something decent out of what’s in my fridge
  • resorting to compromise or convenience foods because I’m short on time and energy
  • battling weight gain and feeling discouraged that the family isn’t eating better
  • wasting money on restaurants, food that goes bad, and too many last-minute grocery runs
  • and feeling like cooking is a burden instead of a joy.

    Can you relate?

But 2018 can be the year we take control of what your family is eating once and for all.

I’ve discovered a plan that makes it easier to get homemade food on the table, eat in a way that supports your weight-loss goals, make dinner time less stressful (even on those busy days and weeks) and save money by eating at home more (and wasting less).

Here’s the solution you’ve been waiting for…

It’s the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle and it’s the busy cook’s answer to eating healthier this year.

This bundle has everything we need to make meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and eating great food easy as pie.

This is how it works:

If you want recipes & meal plans created specifically for the way you eat (Paleo, Keto, vegan, gluten free, budget-friendly, just to name a few), you can pick the mini-bundle that suits you best and pay just $27. Personally, I’m excited about the Quick and Healthy mini-bundle.

If you’d prefer to have the whole collection of made-for-you meal plans, organized shopping lists, no-brainer tips, PLUS over 3,800 recipes for today’s most popular ways of cooking and eating, pay just $20 more and you’ll get every single thing in this bundle.

I’m telling you, this makes meal planning so much easier!

Some of my favorite food bloggers contributed, so I really can’t speak highly enough about the quality and value of what’s inside, for less than the price of a single meal out!

Trust me, this is one investment that will pay for itself multiple times over.

Want to check it out and get your own Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle?

This is how it works:

  • Visit the website https://us154.isrefer.com/go/HMPB2018/a10578/, take a quick look at all the yummy food you’ll be making with this package, then click the “Get my bundle now!”button to go through their simple and secure 3-step checkout process. 
  • You’ll receive an email with a login to their online access portal, where you’ll begin downloading all your eCookbooks and printable meal plans.
  • Use their Getting Started Guide to choose your first meals or find the ready-made plan that’s perfect for you! 

The most important detail, though, is that this bundle is available for just 8 days!

After Friday night, January 5th, the sale ends and you’d have to buy all of these products individually.

It’s even backed by a 30 day full money-back happiness guarantee, so you can make sure it’s right for you.

Their customer service is amazing, and they truly want to make sure you’re taken care of and that you love your bundle.

Simplify mealtimes & eat better in 2018 with the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle.

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Healthy Meal Planning

Does Your Heart need a Total Christmas Makeover?

I absolutely love Christmas. I always have.

This year, however, as the blessed day draws nearer, I feel a tightening in my chest. A heaviness settling on my shoulders and my teeth grind just a bit harder. I feel it…the suffocating pressure for a solid Christmas “performance” in my home.

I don’t usually feel this way, but I think the year of working full time outside the home for the first time in over a decade, combined with re-acclimating to the American culture and mindset to Perfect-All-The-Things has left me feeling a bit drained and, if I’m totally honest, a bit on-guard.

And then, I received a copy of Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra in the mail.

You guys.

I may have cried my way through the first chapter because it was such a freeing reminder.

A reminder to remember.

To recall and ponder and mull over what Christmas is really all about.

This book of 31 short devotions starts each day off with a Scripture, and then Melissa walks through an encouraging, inspiring (and even somewhat convicting) devotional thought. She also includes a few questions for reflection.

But my favorite part—aside from the Scriptures—are the A Practical Approach sections at the end of each day. Melissa offers practical, hands-on, and simple ideas for incorporating meaningful traditions into your family’s holiday season. And, no, it’s not a bunch of Pinterest-perfect crafts, and activities that will make you want to pull your hair out. Some of them even call for removing some of the traditions that are no longer working for your family, or have lost some of their meaning.

Total Christmas Makeover is freeing, uplifting, and just the breath of Holiday fresh air this frazzled mama needed. Especially since my kids have all but outgrown the Advent activities we’ve used the past several years (which I still love, by the way), Melissa’s practical and easy ideas for making meaningful memories and traditions are particularly welcome.

I received a copy of Total Christmas Makeover for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

Why I’m Doing the Job I Didn’t Want to Do

I recently accepted a job. This job was an answer to prayer in so many ways—and it’s a job I said I’d never do again.

Before we ever went overseas, I taught first grade for a year. That was one tough year. First year teacher, mid-year created class, and a group of students who hadn’t been told why they had been moved made for a deadly combination and one defeated teacher when the end of the year rolled around.

When we moved back from Ireland the first time, the plan was that I would teach while my husband went to graduate school.

Well, you know how to make God laugh, right? Make a plan.

It wasn’t in His plan for me to teach that year…or any of the following ten years. As time went on, the realization grew stronger and stronger within my heart. I never wanted to teach again.

I love kids, and I love learning, but the farther removed I was from the classroom, the happier I became.

When we returned to the states and knew we would be staying, we had no idea what we would do for jobs. I really did not want to teach. As in, I would feel physically ill thinking about it.

“I told you, I never want to teach again!”

I said that to my husband, to anyone who asked about if I would return to the classroom, and I said it to God. A lot. And it was true!

However, I now find myself planning curriculum and activities for a middle creative writing class this fall. And you know what? I’m excited.

It all started when I renewed my teaching certificate when we returned to the states. You know, “just in case.” I wanted to be willing to do whatever it was He wanted/asked me to do, including teaching. And I really thought I was willing.

However, when I landed a different job, I was overjoyed and quite proud that I had been willing to “sacrifice” and God had allowed me to do something else.

Then, towards the end of that year, we needed a little extra income. My husband was already working long hours and I felt it wasn’t fair to ask him to be away from home even more—nor was it fair to our kids. So, after talking with him about it, and praying about it, we decided to explore me tutoring for a company just down the road from our home.

It was just a couple of hours a week, but the money helped and I noticed something changing in me.

My heart was softening towards the kids, and my mind was beginning to spin with ideas and possibilities for lessons that would help the concepts finally click.

Over the course of the last eight months, God has been working in my heart and changing me from the inside out. I had asked Him to change my heart if He was going to have me teaching again. And friends, He is doing just that.

So, when I accepted this middle school position, it wasn’t with dread and clenched fists. It was will a heart full of joy and hands open wide and lifted in gratitude for His faithfulness and provision.

Friends, I learned a long time ago never to tell God never. He has a funny way of working around our demands and ultimatums. Is there something you’re saying never to? Is it something you sense He is actually leading you to do, and you just flat don’t want to?

You’re in good company! The Bible is chalk full of folks who felt the same way. Noah. Moses. Jonah. And Saul, who eventually became Paul and wrote a good chunk of the New Testament, just to name a few.

However, those folks also discovered the key to spiritual happiness and growth. They were honest with God, and then let Him change their hearts and equip them for the job.

Is there something you’re white-knuckling, terrified or too exhausted to consider?

1. Pray. Be honest with God about how you are feeling. Explore why you feel so strongly, and let Him hear all the reasons, excuses, fears, and fatigue fueling those thoughts. Then, ask Him to help you be willing should he ask it of you. Ask Him to change your heart so that you can step out in obedience when He asks.

2. Seek wise advice. Talk with your spouse, pastor, counselor, or trusted friend. Talk through the same things you’ve been praying about. Ask them to pray with you for heart-change. Even if God never asks you to do that thing, the freedom you enjoy from releasing your never is worth the work.

3. Decide your yes. This is where the rubber meets the road. We have to decide if God has our ultimate and eternal yes. Will our answer always be yes, no matter what He asks? Choose now and it makes obedience down the road much easier.

4. Stay close to God. Nothing is more spiritually draining or frustrating than wondering whether or not a certain tug you feel in your heart is from God. Keep your relationship with God close through talking with Him daily, listening to Him, reading His Word and gathering with others who follow Him. The closer your relationship, the easier it will be to discern His voice when He speaks.

So, yes, I’m doing a job a never wanted to do again. But do you know what? It’s no longer drudgery. There is joy, excitement, anticipation. So don’t fear, dear one. He can do a mighty work in you and grow love where you never thought it possible.

So, friend. Are you clinging to a never? Do you need to put your yes on the table? Share in the comments and let’s lift each other up.

How I Curl My Hair: Beachy Waves

Ok, guys. Yes, I’m about to do a post about my hair. I don’t normally do “beauty” posts, and certainly not tutorials on it, but when I posted this pic on Instagram:

Jen's Beachy Curls

You all went crazy for it (thank you, by the way!!) and kept asking how I did it.

I came across this style sort of by fluke. I was searching YouTube for easy ways to curl hair (I’m a child of the 70’s/80’s and I LOVE curly hair and was bored with my usual methods). So, when you guys asked how I did it, I searched high and low for the tutorial, but to no avail.

I was beginning to worry that I was going to have a film a tutorial myself but, believe me, nobody wants that. Ha! Finally, today, I decided to give it one more good ole’ college try. And I found it!!

I love this video because it’s easy, Kayley Melissa is super relatable and totally adorable.

I will say, there are a few things I did differently than Kayley.

  1. I didn’t use any product before styling. Mostly because…I don’t have any. I might spray a fine mist of hairspray afterwards, but that’s it.

2. I use a normal curling iron, I just leave the clamp closed. I suppose you could remove the clamp but since I use my curling iron for more than just this method I leave it on and it works great! I’m using a Remington, that I believe is 1″. If your hair is resistant to holding curl like mine is, you want to keep the wand size 1″ or under. However, I wouldn’t go below 3/4″ or you might get way tighter than you’re hoping.

Remington

3. I didn’t pin the curls like she does. I just don’t have time, and it works fine for me without it.

4. I don’t do the head flip. I just let the curls cool completely. Usually I will curl it, then put my makeup on while they cool. The key for me is don’t touch/tussle the curls while they’re warm. That is just asking for curls to immediately fall out. I just let them cool while I do my makeup and then gently tussle my hair at the roots with my fingertips.

So, I hope you enjoy this, and if you try it post a pic and let us see!!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT0H4aLpyIY]

 

Would I Have Really Known? {Thoughts on ‘Mary, Did You Know?’}

I close my eyes and in an instant I’m back in time. Back to that glider-rocker in the perfect shade of cream to tie the nursery together. Back to when I would sit and rock, absently rubbing my burgeoning belly and treasuring all the precious thoughts I had towards that sweet baby growing and wriggling within.

It was such a sweet time for me, that pregnancy. Not only was it my first, but she was due December 29. I remember finally relating to Mary in a more tangible way, expecting a baby so close to Christmas. I would rock and wonder what it would’ve really been like in her hometown. In her marriage. On the donkey. In the stable.

I sat and wondered if Mary felt a fraction of the fear, excitement and awe that I felt. Or did I even feel a fraction of what she felt?

I knew I was having a baby.

I knew it was a girl.

I knew it would be exhausting. And wonderful.

But, I didn’t really know. I didn’t fully understand.

I couldn’t possibly fully understand, until time and experience allowed me the luxury of understanding.

Photo by Miguel Ugalde

Photo by Miguel Ugalde

I think of the lyrics of the popular Christmas tune, Mary, Did You Know?:

“Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know,
That your baby boy
Has come to make you new?

This child that you delivered,
Will soon delivery you!”

We know from Luke 1 that Mary knew the child she was carrying was God’s Son. She knew there was a greater purpose than she could have ever dreamed for God to find favor in her, and to choose her to be the mother of The Messiah.

Yes, Mary knew that when she “kissed her little baby, [she] kissed the face of God.”

But I have to wonder, did she really know?

Could she have fathomed the depth of what that truly meant?

As she sat on the dirty floor of that filthy, muck-ridden stable, staring into the face of her precious newborn son, did she fully grasp the magnitude of the task that lay before Him? Before her?

I don’t know.

Just like there was no way to fully grasp the beauty, love, greatness and pain of bringing my own firstborn child into this world, I can’t help but think it was the same for her.

Even if she did know – really know – there’s no way in our finite minds and fogged-up hearts to fully know. The Bible also tells us that even though we think we understand the things of God, we only partially understand. It’s like we’re looking through a dim, foggy, mirror – seeing only fragments and distorted images. So it’s only natural that we wonder if it was the same for someone like Mary, whom we hold in very high regard, and tend to put on a spiritual pedestal. Was she able to get it?, we think. Because I certainly struggle with really, truly getting it.

I know there are some who really struggle with the theology behind a song like Mary, Did You Know?. However, here’s what I believe to be the truth:

Mary, Did You Know? is for us, not Mary. It’s to get us to stop, think and ask ourselves – “Wow, do I really grasp this? This is huge!”

The mental image of kissing the very face of God? It’s ironically and simultaneously terrifying and deeply intimate. Moving. Unfathomable.

Yet it’s true: the God of the burning bush, the God of the parted Red Sea, the God who brought countless dead back to life wants intimacy with us. He wants a real, personal, all-the-mess-of-family relationship with us.

And that’s what Mary, Did You Know? does for me.

It brings back the intimacy. It brings back the wonder. And it brings back the reality of just how crazy, how confusing and how miraculous the Christmas season truly is.