Struggling to Surrender

I’ve been working on this post for awhile, sure that God is wanting me to share this, but not quite knowing exactly what to communicate. I realized this morning as I was rereading my drafts, that maybe the reason I haven’t been ready to share it yet is because I’m not on the other side. I haven’t figured out the neat and tidy solution. I’m not sharing an inspiring “what I’ve learned” lesson. But this is where I’m at, and maybe some of us can encourage each other in this struggle together.

Surrendering control is not my strong suit. That probably does not come as a surprise to most of you, especially those who know me well. I like to know exactly what is going to happen, plan what is going to happen, and have a thorough check-list prepared to ensure that it happens with all details accounted for. (Bonus points if it’s color coded).

But in life, as we know, things do not always go as we plan or imagine. Young adult me was sure that after marriage I would work for a few years and then have babies. I would stay home while I raised my always obedient children in a peaceful environment that cultivated each child to be their very best.

As I write this, my 21-month-old is on the back porch, sitting in her Little Tikes car wearing only a diaper and shoving a donut in her mouth, which I’m pretty sure has been licked by at least one dog. So, the reality is, obviously, slightly different. I’m a full-time working mom and I’ve had to let go of control of a lot of things. For four days a week, eight hours a day, other adults are loving on my kids–teaching them, singing to them, and hugging them if they’re sad. I don’t see every milestone or know everything that has happened in their days and that is sometimes a hard truth to swallow.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love my reality and all of its messiness. I am so grateful for where God has called me. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am where He wants me to be. I love that my girls see me pursuing God’s purpose in my life. I love the daily challenge to increase my leadership capacity and reach families for Christ. And I have had this conversation – this argument – with God many times, and always hear the same answer. You are where you need to be. Trust me. Most days, I’m good with that.

Then, I hear phrases like these:

“You work full time and have kids? I don’t know how you do it! ”

“That’s so great she’s staying home with her kids. That’s the best thing for them.”

“They grow so fast. You’ll never get this time back.”

My heart sinks. I spiral into my head and start doubting all of the choices and decisions we have made about our family. Should I be staying home with our kids? Am I robbing them of a childhood they deserve? Are they suffering without having access to me 24/7? Are they deprived of love? Are they not getting enough one-on-one attention? Do they doubt how much I love them? Did they even eat any vegetables this week?

Just like that, I take back the burden.

God has been challenging me on this a lot lately. I have laid this burden, this guilt about not being at home, at His feet a hundred times. Each time I revisit something that God has so clearly given me an answer on, I’m essentially saying, “I don’t trust you.” Each time I give it any mental or emotional space, or spend any time worrying or plotting to change the situation, I’m saying, “I think I could do a better job of this than you.”

But, why would I want to put my trust in someone who thinks like I do? God has an eternal perspective and a never-ending, reckless love for me, my kids, and my family. He knows what He’s doing! I love these verses from Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

Like I said, I don’t have the answer. I just know that I’m choosing to surrender daily. I am holding my life, my girls, and our family with open hands. I’m asking God to do his Holy work here, and resisting the urge to control with every type-A bone in my body. Who’s with me?

Chats with Charlee – Part 2

Another little listen into our family..

Convo #1

Charlee: Do you remember when I was at Ms. Shelly’s house and she made me sleep in my crib?

Me: You mean when you were a baby?

Charlee: Yes, in the olden days.

Convo #2

As I’m getting dressed for work…

Charlee: You look like a man.

I change shirts.

Charlee: Now you look like a human.

Convo #3

C: Who’s coming to my Christmas show?

M: Grammy & Poppy and Grandma & Grandpa Alan

C: Oh great, all my customers.


And a few more one-liners for your enjoyment!


In school we learned we shouldn’t talk to strangers. That’s why I don’t talk to turtles.


Remember the time we went to Grandma’s house and we clinked our glasses and had chicken parade lunch?

(Eventually we realized this was in reference to Thanksgiving!)


What’s dilly bread?

(After we have been saying our meal-time prayer for months — “daily bread.”)



A Letter to My Five-Year-Old

My sweet Charlee girl,

I cannot believe that you are five. It seems just yesterday that we brought you home in newborn clothes that you were absolutely swimming in. I feel like I was just doing the rock/swing/bounce/shush dance of new mothers, pacing the halls and begging you to sleep. Surely it was only a day ago that you were army crawling around the house, and then taking wobbly steps into my arms.

In the midst of sleepless nights, endless nursing sessions, countless diaper changes, and exhausting toddler tantrums, I blinked, and here we are. Now you are a little girl. You sit next to me on the bar stool at the counter (your feet still swing above the ground), and ask me for a cup of “warm tea”. You tell me about your friends at school, and how you’re going to be a “rock star at church” when you grow up.

My sweet girl, you want to go everywhere with me, dress like me, act like me, talk like me, and oh boy! that’s a lot of pressure. I hope that I don’t let you down too often. And when I do? I pray that I apologize to you quickly, and point you to Jesus as your true role model.

You want to marry daddy, and have told me that I just need to share him with you. You have told us multiple times that you are going to live in our house when you grow up. You hold your little hand up and tap each finger as you name all of the people who will live in our house — Mommy, Daddy, Charlee, Evie, and Charlee’s two girl babies.

You are so imaginative and creative. You sit for hours at your desk and paint, draw, cut, paste, color, tape, and use any other office supply you can get your hands on. (We have to hide the scotch tape from you!) Then, you present each proudly to us to be displayed on the wall or the fridge. You dance around the house and belt out songs of your own creation, and tell us when it is the appropriate time to clap.

You are a sweet big sister and friend. When Evie is upset, you rub her back and sing to her. You go find her lovey, or blanket, or paci, to try and make her feel better. You read books to her, share your favorite toys, and try to teach her to do what you are doing. You draw pictures and write notes for your friends, and are always asking to invite someone to come play with you.

You have such a sensitive, caring heart. You think deeply about everything you are told, and remember details of events that even I have forgotten. You get so invested in books and movies, and cover your ears (eyes still open) when you are worried about a character. You are intense and intelligent, and I know that God has huge plans for you, my little one.

Charlee, on your 5th birthday, I have two simple prayers for you:

I pray that you always know that you are loved, no matter what. Mommy, Daddy, Evie, your grandparents, your friends, your church family, and above all, your Heavenly Father, love you. That love doesn’t hinge on anything. We love you because you are you.

I pray that you learn that God has created you for an adventure. He did not make you the way you are by accident. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and He has big plans for you! I can tell you this: a life spent following Christ is never boring!

I love you, Charlee Jo, and I am so thankful for all you bring to our family.



Gifts that Give Back

I know, I know. We haven’t even eaten the turkey yet. Santa has not yet come in the Macy’s Day parade, which we all know is the official start of the Christmas season. However, I wanted to stop in before all of the craziness of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. Have I forgotten any other days that are created for spending money and buying things?

I have always loved buying gifts for people. As I’ve learned more about fair trade and working conditions around the world, I’ve realized that where I spend my money can actually have a big impact. I have started to make a conscious effort to buy gifts that are unique and special, and that also do good around the world. Here are a few of my favorite places to shop! Hope these make completing your Christmas lists a little easier!


Preemptive Love Coalition  

The Preemptive Love Coalition works in Iraq, Syria, and the United States, to “unmake violence and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” They provide relief for refugees on the frontlines of conflict including food, water, and medical care. Then, they go into refugee camps and provide jobs through small business grants and coaching, to empower these families for a better future.

You can purchase items made by refugee women in Iraq and Syria. They get paid for their work and can provide food for their family, and you get a beautiful gift for a loved one! I gave my grandma this soap and washcloth set last year.


And I’m eyeing these blue mosaic candles for someone on my list this year.


Prodigal Pottery

Prodigal Pottery is a ministry of King’s Home, an organization with over twenty group homes across the state of Alabama. These homes provide housing and restoration to women and children who are fleeing domestic abuse, homelessness, or other difficult circumstances. Prodigal Pottery employs these women and teaches them job skills, but more importantly, gives them a sense of worth and a place to heal.

I bought my sister-in-law a mug similar to this beautiful one for her birthday this year and she loved it.

How sweet are these little ring dishes for only $10?

I love that you can customize most of these pieces by choosing the color of the paint, and the glaze on the top! Check out their shop for a wide assortment of Christmas ornaments, plates and platters, mugs and more.

COUPON CODE: FAIRTRADE for 10% off any website purchase


Noonday Collection

Noonday Collection partners with Artisan Businesses in vulnerable communities around the world. They help develop these businesses through fair trade, and create dignified jobs for those who need them. They also support families pursuing adoption through “Adoption Trunk Shows,” in which 10% of the profits are donated to the adopting family.

I love their wide variety of jewelry and accessories. I’ve purchased necklaces and earrings as gifts from Noonday before, and when they came, wished I could keep them for myself! I am loving this Sea Change necklace.

And I think these braided tear drop earrings would go with everything!


If you can’t make a decision, grab a few gift certificates so your people can shop for themselves!


Mercy House Global

Mercy House exists to engage, empower, and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name. They empower women and teenage mothers around the world through partnerships and sustainable fair trade product development. Mercy House also entirely funds Rehema House — an organization with two maternity homes in Kenya. They rescue pregnant teen girls and teach them life skills to create a better future for them and their children.

I love the mission of Mercy House and have been keeping up with their work for a few years now. I purchase from their store whenever I can. I love their jewelry, but I also love that they offer a wide variety of products including home decor, seasonal, gift boxes for teachers, new mommas, and more.

Check out their guys’ fair trade options (men’s stuff is always harder to find!)

There are sweet options for kiddos, too.

Still not finding the perfect thing? Purchase a membership to an earring or bracelet of the month club, or a gift certificate!

COUPON CODE: FTF15 for 15% off the winter collection (valid until November 26)


More Great Gift Guides

If you haven’t found the perfect gift yet check out these two extra resources:

  • Mercy House’s Fair Trade Gift Guide with 26 companies to shop at and a coupon code for each one. 
  • Jamie Ivey’s gift guide on the Happy Hour podcast, also with coupon codes! 


Merry Christmas shopping, friends!


What I Learned Playing “Hooky”

Last weekend, I looked at my calendar for the coming week and saw something that is very rare. A weekday off! The girls could go to school, or I could choose to keep them home. I weighed my options carefully. Eight hours of a quiet house to myself? It sounded blissful. Oh the Netflix I could binge on! Oh the food I could eat without having to share! As tempting as that sounded (and still does), I realized that what we really needed was a day off together with nowhere to be and nothing to do. So, we played hooky.

Charlee, of course, was beside herself when I told her we were going to have a special “Girls’ Day!” (Pro Tip: Do not call a day off from school a ‘vacation day’ unless you want to begin said day off arguing with a four year old about why you are not going to Disney World.) Once we got past the technicalities, our day was off to a great start.

We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and lounged in our PJs while we watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I let Charlee direct most of the agenda. We played at the mall playground, rolled around in the fake snow at the Santa spot, and got smoothies. We got the race-car cart at Publix, and Charlee got to choose her own lunch — a lunchable with oreos, obviously. Pre-schooler heaven. Then, Evie went down for a nap and Charlee and I watched Christmas movies in bed.

You guys. Charlee was like a different child. The last few weeks (months?) have been trying. Lots of arguing. Talking back. Fighting with her sister. Deliberately not listening. It felt like 80% of what I said to her was a reprimand. But on Monday? We laughed, we played, she listened quickly, and I genuinely enjoyed all of our time together. I saw how she belly-laughed at Donald Duck’s mishaps, how she made sure Evelyn was safe at the playground, how she looked to me for approval, and how she smiled so much wider when she saw me smiling at her.

Here’s the hard thing I’m realizing. It wasn’t Charlee that was different. She didn’t miraculously change into an obedient, compliant child over night. But you know what was different? Me. I made a decision that morning to spend the day making her feel happy, valued, and loved.

Why don’t I just do that every day? Isn’t that how I always want her to feel? Of course, but life gets in the way. I get caught up in the tasks I need to complete, the e-mails I need to answer, the dishes I need to do, the meeting I need to get to in time, the meals I need to plan, and more often than I’d like to admit, my kids can get pushed to the back burner.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I need to take them out of school and spend every day letting them direct what we do. Obviously that’s not how life works. Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a working mom, we all have stuff that actually does need to get done if we want to live in a functioning household. But, there are a few things that I learned from playing ‘hooky,’ that I’m going to try and start implementing on a daily basis.

Say yes more than no. I decided on Monday morning that I was going to try and say ‘yes’ to as many requests as possible. Does anyone else feel like you just say ‘no’ all the time? For me I think it’s become a reflex. I say no, sometimes before I even think about the question.

Charlee: Can I feed the dogs?    Me: No, I’ll do it. (Why did I just say no? I would love for her to start feeding the dogs!)

I’m not suggesting that we say yes to everything, or give our kids everything they ask for. But, I’m going to start actually listening to the question, and I’ll say yes if it’s reasonable. There are enough people in this world who are going to tell our kids no. I want to be on the yes team! (In case you were wondering, this explains why Charlee has four different colors of nail polish on her finger nails and toe nails. Because what is it hurting if she has four colors instead of one?)

Fully engage. We live in a world where multitasking is a necessity. As moms, we are never doing less than three things at any one time. But when I decided to slow down and spend the day focusing on my kids, I realized how often I am half-listening and “uh-huh”-ing instead of fully engaging. I even realized how infrequently I actually look Charlee in the eyes while she’s talking. Generally, she’s narrating some elaborate story and following me around the house while I get stuff done. How am I showing her that what she has to say is valuable? I want to slow down, sit down, and listen to her. Most of the time, anyway. She’s pretty talkative. I would never get anything done if I fully listened all the time. Just sayin’.

Be aware of my own emotions. I know it was not any coincidence that Charlee was pleasant and happier on the day that I focused on being positive with her. She generally reflects my emotions back at me. So when I get snippy to her, and she gets snippy back, we enter a cycle that neither of us enjoys. The thing is, I’m an adult (at least that’s what I’ve been told) and she is four. I need to be aware of how I am feeling, so that I can teach her how to manage her emotions in a healthy way, and not add my emotions to hers. One of my favorite thoughts about this is from parenting expert and author L.R. Knost, “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join the chaos.”


We’re back to real life now. Playing hooky is not for every day, but these little lessons are helping our everydays be a little more enjoyable. And when you have a rough day? A rough week? Nothing a little day off hooky can’t fix.

Six Things to Start Saying in your Family

Language is a huge part of our world and of our daily experience. We encounter words all day long: in early morning talk shows, podcasts, books, newspapers, social media, conversations around the dinner table, and especially in 4 year old girls who don’t take breaths in between sentences or talk about topics that are linked together in any logical way. But I digress.

Words are powerful. As parents, we have often heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Our examples matter greatly to our kids, absolutely, but that doesn’t mean we can discount the impact of our words. Especially when we are intentional about them. I love this reminder from author Peggy O’Mara: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”

Here are six phrases that we strive to use intentionally in our family.

1) Everyone makes mistakes.

This one’s a no-brainer, for adults. Obviously we all make mistakes. To kids, however, mistakes can be a huge deal and can trigger frustration, anger, and embarrassment. Right now most of the mistakes in my house require paper towels and some sort of cleaning solution. However, there will come a day where the mistakes are bigger than crayons on the wall and milk splattered on the floor. When those ‘big’ mistakes happen, I want this phrase to be ingrained in our family’s DNA so that my kids know they always have a safe place to make, and share, their mistakes.

We also make a point to name our own mistakes, so that our kids learn that we are not perfect (duh) and don’t need to try to be, either. Proof that using this phrase is becoming a part of our family’s narrative? When my mom was visiting last weekend, she spilled barbecue sauce on the floor. She started to apologize and Charlee immediately said, “It’s okay, Grandma! Everyone makes mistakes!”

2) I’m sorry because…

This one goes in all directions in our family: grown-ups to grown-ups, kids to grown-ups, grown-ups to kids, kids to kids…you get the idea. There is no question of if we are going to do something that requires an apology; it’s simply when and how often. (See above!) And when those things happen, we apologize. We all expect our kids to say sorry to us, and to each other. How are they going to learn to do that if they don’t see it modeled first?

We also make a point to say more than the cursory “I’m sorry” which can be said so easily (and often without sincere emotion). When Charlee apologizes to Evelyn, or to us, we have her say, “I’m sorry because I didn’t use nice words” so that she actually links her action with the apology, and we do the same for her.

3) I love watching you __________________.

I read an article suggesting parents use this phrase with their kids a few years ago, and I have found it very valuable. We can inadvertently put a lot of pressure on our kids to perform in a certain way, simply with the language we use. For example, if your child plays soccer and they score a goal, you naturally want to focus on their great accomplishment. “That was an amazing kick! You scored a goal for your team! I’m so proud of you!” While this is absolutely positive and will make your child feel good in the moment, it can also convey the message that you are happy because of what the child did.

Using the phrase “I love watching you ______” takes the pressure off of the kids. A simple “I love watching you play soccer!” makes your child feel affirmed whether they kicked the game-winning goal, or spent the game picking dandelions in the field. We say this to Charlee and Evelyn often. “I love watching you sing/dance/dress-up/draw/ride your bike!” tells them that we enjoy seeing them do what they enjoy, whether or not they are “good” at it. (::cough:: singing ::cough::)

4) You worked really hard.

I love using this phrase because it praises effort instead of a fixed attribute such as intelligence. For example, when Charlee completes a task such as a difficult puzzle, I would say “Wow! You worked so hard on that puzzle, and kept going even when it was tricky!” instead of saying, “Wow! You’re so smart!” (Of course, I only say this if she actually was trying hard, so that it’s not empty praise.)

When we focus on effort, kids realize that they can affect their outcomes by how hard they try, and the strategies they use. If intelligence is praised, they just think they are smart; which means if they fail, they believe they are not smart. There is a lot of research and buzz around this concept of “growth mindset” right now, and it’s being implemented in many schools. Here’s some more info about how parents can help their kids develop a growth mindset.

5) I love you when ________ …..and God loves you MOST!

Whenever we are having a discipline conversation, this is the phrase we start with. (Try to start with. Discipline is always a work in progress.) More than anything else, I want my girls to always know that they are loved, regardless of their actions. This does not mean that I always love the way they act, or that they will not have consequences. In fact, giving consequences is actually a really important way that we love our kids, but that’s another post.

So if, hypothetically, Charlee were to be sent to her room after not sharing with her sister (purely hypothetical), our conversation would start like this. “Charlee, I love you when I’m frustrated. I love you when you’re upset. I love you when you don’t share. I love you even when you’re not being kind to your sister.” We’ve done this enough times in our house that at this point she usually chimes in. “And God loves me most!” Then we discuss the issue and the consequences.

6) In this family we ________

Okay, this one is not just a shameless plug for the name of this blog, we actually use this phrase often! Having a strong family identity helps kids to be confident in who they are and lets them discover their own place in the world, from the safety and security of their families. This is the base level of beginning to develop a family identity, as we name for our kids what we do, or do not do, in our families.

We use this in many different contexts. In this family, we use kind words. In this family, we help each other. In this family, we don’t say “_____.” This is the first way that we, as Christian parents, start to teach our kids that our families are going to be different from others they observe or interact with, without pronouncing judgement. As a bonus, it’s also a great way to remind a kiddo of appropriate behavior, without engaging in the power struggle of a direct command. Try “In our family, we sit in our chairs at the dinner table,” instead of, “You need to sit down in your chair!”

What else do you say in your family?

Allowed to Grieve

Just a few days ago, on October 15, people across the nation lit candles in remembrance of babies that were lost too soon. There was a candle flickering at our house, too. I haven’t shared this part of our lives with many people, but I have since learned the great power there is in sharing our journeys with each other.

In February 2015, we found out that we were expecting and we were so excited! Charlee and the new baby would be almost exactly three years apart. I had just officially been offered my current position as Children’s Ministry Director at Community of Hope, and the baby would be due before our crazy month of December (Charlee’s birthday, our anniversary, AND Christmas). I felt like God was showing off and had handed me the perfect little package of answered prayer requests.

Then, a miscarriage in the first trimester. We hadn’t even told people that we were pregnant, so it felt even weirder to share that we were no longer. And yet, how could our lives continue as they were when we had just lost a child?

The ob/gyn dismissed it: “Well, it’s not like you were trying for too long. You’ll be fine in a few months.” The statistics that were meant to comfort (15-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage) only made me feel like I shouldn’t be upset. It happens to lots of people. You’re fine! I already had a healthy daughter. I had only known I was pregnant for a short time anyway.

I felt like I wasn’t entitled to grieve.

Here’s what God taught me through friends who showed up on my doorstep and cried with me, through family who showed up with bags of groceries and tight hugs, through scripture that does not contain empty promises, and through prayer that didn’t change my circumstances, but changed me.

I am allowed to grieve.

I grieve because that life growing inside of me was made by God and known by our family.

I grieve because we bought a sweet, soft blanket that will never be wrapped around the child we lost.

I grieve because we will never know who that baby may have grown up to be.

I grieve because our family will never be whole this side of heaven.

I am allowed to grieve, and you are too.

If you have been affected by miscarriage, or have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, I grieve with you. But here’s the good news. God meets us in our grief. He is not scared by sadness, or anger. He never tells us that something is not worth grieving over and He never says, “Get over it.” Instead, he comes near to us. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV). Jesus weeps with us, and then wipes away our tears. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3, NIV)

There’s no neat, tidy ending to this story. We have since been blessed with our sweet Evelyn, but grief never truly goes away. I do know that my God is in the business of redeeming broken things, and He is continuing that work in my life daily. And so I continue to cling to this truth from one of my spiritual mentors and favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot. “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends in ashes.”

Your story won’t end in ashes either. God is at work.


A few extra things:

No Longer Slaves by Bethel Music – I had this song on repeat during this time

Bottle of Tears – A company I’ve just discovered that offers meaningful gifts to tell a friend you’re grieving with them

Chats with Charlee

Because sometimes parenting is equal parts frustration and hilarity….


Convo #1

Charlee (counting to 20 in the car): ….10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20!

Me: Oops! Don’t forget 16!

Charlee: I don’t count with 16, Mommy.


Convo #2

In the morning before school, I’m filling up Charlee’s white water bottle.

Charlee: I don’t want that water bottle! I want the green one!!

10 minutes later

Charlee: Why is the green water bottle in my lunch box?


Convo #3

Charlee: Mommy, kite starts with C! K-K-kite!

Me: You’re right, it sounds just like a C!

Charlee: It is a C! That’s how you spell kite!

Me: It’s actually a K, but it sounds just the same.

Charlee: No, Mommy, I already told you, it’s a C.

::leaves the room::


Convo #4

Charlee: Evelyn is not allowed to come to my birthday party because she is not being nice.

Me: Well, Evie is your sister, so she will be coming to your party.

Charlee: Fine. She can come. But she CANNOT have a goody bag.


Convo #5

Charlee (sitting on the floor with Evie looking at books, looks up at me and shakes her head): They just grow up so fast, don’t they?



Before this whole parenting thing became a reality, I was pretty sure that I was going to be awesome at being a mom. After all, I had the credentials for it. Babysitting was my main gig throughout all of middle school and high school. Almost every volunteer position and summer job I ever had was wrangling kids. I received two degrees in elementary education and worked at a daycare while doing so. I taught for 6 years: 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 5th grade. I even spent time training with a behavioral psychologist on handling challenging behaviors at one of my schools. Raising one or two kids? My own kids? How hard could it be?

Fast forward. (And stop laughing).

Yesterday morning, a child-who-shall-not-be-named lost her ever-loving mind. It all started in the car with a forgotten lunchbox that mommy wouldn’t go back home for. It evolved quickly into chair kicking, screaming “But I WANT it!” repeatedly, and taking shoes off so they could be thrown as projectile missiles. We got to school and we sat in the parking lot and battled it out. For t.w.e.n.t.y. minutes.

One would think, that because I have had so much “experience” and “training,” that I could handle a simple temper tantrum. That I would not, in a moment of insanity, imitate the child-who-shall-not-be-named’s whiny/screaming voice back at them. That I would not threaten to take away every toy she has in her room. That I would not be crying in the front of the car while my kid is raging in the back because NOTHING I SAY OR DO IS MAKING IT ANY BETTER AND I FEEL LIKE A TERRIBLE MOM.

So then I did what any reasonable mom would do…called dad. At first, he couldn’t even hear me on the phone because of the volume level of screaming. I put him on speaker and he told the child-who-shall-not-be-named to take deep breaths. He calmly told her that he loved her no matter what, and miraculously, she snapped out of it. (Note: although this is completely illogical and immature, this made me even more mad that she listened to her dad AND NOT TO ME).

Finally, I dropped the girls off at their classrooms, ran back to the car through the now-pouring-down-rain, and laid my head on the steering wheel. As I drove, I beat myself up about what I had said and how I had handled the morning. The rain and general gloominess of the day was not doing anything to improve my mood (although it was great weather for my giant pity party).

We’ve been having these sorts of outbursts every few days and I am worn out. I keep asking: am I not patient enough? not grace-giving enough? not consistent enough? not, not, not, not enough?

As these questions spun through my mind, I turned the corner and saw a huge, bright, completely perfect rainbow spanning across the sky. And in that moment, I heard God answer my question very clearly.

No. You are not enough.

Wait. What? I’m pretty sure that’s not what the inside of the hallmark card says.

You are not enough. But I am.

Truthfully, I was kind of hoping for more of a pep talk.

You are not enough. But I am.

I mulled those two phrases over all day long. The more I thought about them, the more I realized that they were exactly what I needed to hear.

I am not enough. I do not have all the answers, strategies, practices, or ideas. I am not forgiving enough, graceful enough, patient enough, or creative enough. I mess up. Daily. I am not a perfect wife, mother, daughter, or friend. I cannot read enough blogs, articles, books, and studies to figure this all out on my own.

I am not enough. But He is.

This truth is so freeing! I serve a God who does not expect me to be enough. Instead, he promises to use my weaknesses. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I am not enough, but I do not need to be, because I place my trust in the one who is. And the better news? He loves my kids even more than I do. I don’t need to keep striving and stressing about doing everything the right way all the time. 

Yesterday afternoon, after my ginormous mom fail of a morning, I picked up my child-who-shall-not-be-named from school and took her to get some frozen yogurt. I asked her to forgive me for not acting nicely. She apologized for “yelling so loud” and we talked about how everyone makes mistakes sometimes. We ate our pumpkin and chocolate yogurt and discussed important pre-school gossip like who is going to be what for Halloween.

Parenting is a bumpy ride and I know there will be many, many, many more of these moments to come. They look like temper tantrums now, but as my littles grow into mediums and bigs, the obstacles will grow, too. I’m praying now that this lesson stays close to my heart. Because when I embrace the truth that I am not enough? Then I lean wholly on a God who is.


Beauty In the Weeds

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. Honestly? It’s been a rough month. Since school started 5 weeks ago, at least one child has been home sick one or more days each week. First, there was the stomach bug (on the third day of school), then, both girls had eye and ear infections, and the next week they both had RSV and one also had strep. We were at the pediatrician’s office seven times in two weeks. Oh and did I mention that my hubby was also out of town for work one of those weeks? Then that brings us to Hurricane Irma. So, yeah, it’s been a month.

When stuff like this happens, my first reaction is to turn inward and close myself off from the world. I didn’t want to write here because I had nothing positive or inspirational to say. I was snappy with my kids, frustrated with taking days off of work, tired of a messy house, sick of figuring out what was for dinner, and wanted to put everything on hold until our lives were “normal” again. I wanted to be out of the weeds, then I could get back to my regularly programmed life.

Now, I’ve only been a parent for 4 years (4 and a half! as Charlee reminds me), and I know that raising a child is a long, often difficult journey. There are parts of the path that are delightful and easy to walk on. My kid came out of her room dressed for school this morning and I didn’t even have to ask her! My other kid can’t talk back yet! It’s lovely! However, I would venture to say that most portions of the path are covered with varying degrees of thorny weeds.

The telltale sign that you’re in the weeds is when you start using statements like this, “If this would just ____________, then I could ___________” or “Once  ________, then life will be good.” For new parents, at first it’s sleep. Right? If my baby would just sleep through the night, then I could plan meals // go to work // not drink inordinate amounts of caffeine // function like a normal human being. We trudge through lack of sleep, breast feeding, bottle feeding, diapers, reflux, tantrums, potty training, sleep training, etc. Then it’s school, making friends, bullying, attitudes, technology issues, self-esteem, and it goes on and on. Weeds look different at every stage of parenting, and are different with every child. (Some kids are even ‘weedier’ than others).

There are patches of weeds in life that are sunk so deep, you can barely see above them to keep your eyes on the path. I don’t know what it is for you right now. It might be cancer, addiction, a broken relationship, infertility, grief, or something else. But if it feels like you are stuck in the middle and can’t see a way out, know Jesus is there with you. We are not promised an easy life. In John 16:33 He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

For most of us, when we are in the weeds, we just want to get through to the other side. Push through. We might get some scratches and it’s not going to be pleasant, but we just want to make it to the next part of the path. But here’s what God’s been teaching me during this time. There are valuable lessons to be learned in the weeds.

This is where I learn that sometimes it’s okay to eat pancakes for dinner three nights in a row.

This is where I learn to apologize to my kids and to my husband when I am acting like a crazy person.

This is where I learn that this too, shall pass.

This is where I learn to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of humility.

This is where I learn that I have to make time for me and Jesus, even if that means breaking my own “no TV for kids in the daytime” rule.

This is where I learn, and relearn, and relearn, that I can not do it on my own. I need my God, my husband, my friends, my circle.

And this is what God has really been impressing on my heart. If I slow down and quit rushing to fix it and get out of the weeds, there is beauty. There are moments that happen when things are broken, that are beautiful. If I duck my head and close my eyes every time we get into the weeds, I am going to miss a lot of important moments.

When Evie was so sick a few weeks ago, I just wanted Charlee to leave her alone, and honestly, to leave me alone. Go play with your dolls, stop touching her, go draw or color, stop messing with her, I can’t play with you, I’m busy with Evie, let me help her get better so we can be done with this. Then I came out into the family room one day and Evie was laying on a pillow on the floor. Charlee had given Evelyn her lovey (Charlee’s most prized possession in the entire world — a pink bunny), and covered her up with her binka (her second most prized possession–a polka dot blanket). She was sitting beside her, rubbing her head and her back and singing softly to her.

I know that moments like this happen all of the time in the weeds, even in the deepest, thickest patches. So I’m going to try to stop always pushing through, and looking anxiously for the end, for the clear path. Instead, I’m working on lifting my head and opening my eyes.

I’m working on seeing the beauty in the weeds.