Why I Loved 2016

Despite public opinion of the year 2016, for me the year could have been much worse. About this time last year I was anxious to start a new year and put 2015 behind me. I had plans to write up a post about 2015, because it was one of my hardest years yet. I know time has a way of making things seem not as bad as they were, so I like to write stuff down to try to capture the reality of it all. But here we are, just hours away from 2017…and I never did write that post.

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2016 was not without challenges for sure. More job changes, financial strain, marriage strain, being home alone with the boys all week while my husband works 3 hours away – it hasn’t been the easiest year. So, this isn’t a post about how 2016 was the best year ever. It wasn’t. But it’s about the good parts. The things I did, by God’s grace, that I am so, so thankful for. Challenges and all, 2016 has been a sweet year for me. The Lord has shown us so much kindness, as He always does, but He has made His blessings really evident this year, and has shown me that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).

D-GROUP
I joined a D-Group (discipleship group) in the Fall of 2015, and started leading a group in February of this year. I can’t say enough about this. This is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m thankful I don’t even have to think about what this year would have looked like without it. The accountability that D-group has provided has helped me to create good habits in spending time in the Word, memorizing Scripture, and applying what I am learning through study each week. I have developed deep, meaningful friendships and beautiful community as I have studied, been stretched, and wrestled with Scripture alongside others. I have gained a deeper understanding of the God of the Bible, and a deeper love for Him, because of my time in D-group, and have constantly been challenged to live out the faith that I profess. D-Group helps me to remain focused on eternal things. Everyone has seasons where they are slack in their relationship with the Lord, where we don’t spend as much time with Him. Those times will inevitably come, but those periods definitely don’t last as long, or have as detrimental an impact when we are walking in community with other believers.
#ilovemydgroup so much, and think every believer should be involved in this type of study. I’m learning that it isn’t entirely normal for churches to provide this type of discipleship, so if you’re looking for something like this there are D-Groups all over. Check out the website and join a group near you, or START ONE!

WE JOINED A CHURCH
This is, hands down, my favorite thing we did this year. The last time we were members at a church was in 2012. We moved away from that church family, had 2 babies, and were very unsettled over the next several years in terms of location. We struggled to find a church, and just when we thought we had found somewhere to call home we moved again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This drained me. This was hard and heavy on my soul. The local church is my heart. Not being committed somewhere and serving somewhere left me restless and uneasy. When we moved to Florence, we were sure the struggle would continue. Thankfully, God was so kind to quickly lead us to our new church and we joined this past May. It is far from perfect, but it is our home and our family now. My soul is at rest. It brings me to tears when I think of it. And maybe if you’ve never felt homeless, you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal, but I cannot think of the Church at Sandhurst without thanking the Lord for bringing us here. Not only do we love it, but our kids love it, too. I have been very intentional about teaching our kids the gospel in our home since the day they were born. Interestingly enough, one of my kids seemed to harbor some sort of animosity toward God. He was not only uninterested, but seemed to not really like God. I wouldn’t have believed a kid (who was 2, 3 years old, mind you) was capable of this if I hadn’t seen it. But since we’ve been at our church, all that hostility has disappeared. I’ve been amazed how much both of my boys have grown in knowledge of God and the Bible. It’s been so sweet to see how much our kids need community, too, how it actually takes a village. Consistently having what we teach them at home reinforced by others has made all the difference. Now, I work part-time with the children’s ministry, and we are partnering with D-Group as one way to get the church body involved in discipleship. I’m sure I’ve leaving some other great things out, but anyway, finding a good church home is so important, and I’m so grateful for God’s kindness in providing us a place to settle down, for now.

MOPS
I’ve been in MOPS (mothers of pre-schoolers) for several years now. There have been times I’ve loved it, and times I haven’t, but the past year has been really sweet. Having two young kids is really hard. Having a group of people that know what I’m going through and are in the trenches with me has been like a life-line. The struggles of motherhood are unique and universal all at once, and the support and encouragement that these ladies have offered me and each other is a breath of fresh air. To be surrounded by women that are truly for each other (instead of busy judging each other) is something special.

I CUT OUT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WEEK
A week isn’t a long time, but that week was easily one of my most productive weeks of 2016. I used to feel bad for people who couldn’t keep their social media lives in check…then I became one of those people. Picking up my phone and checking feeds has become so impulsive, and I waste so much time on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love social media. I have learned so much from others, and consistently enjoy seeing other peoples’ lives and hearing others’ perspectives. My world-view has been stretched and challenged thanks to social media. I don’t see myself ever cutting it out completely. At this point, it isn’t necessarily a struggle with jealousy or comparison, or that it makes me cynical, but it is a major distraction from what is going on in front of me. I am going to cut out social media again, this time for one month at the beginning of 2017, with hopes of entering back in with clearer boundaries, and more clarity about the effect it has on me.

Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive. We did some fun stuff with the boys, they grew some more, we saw some victories in our marriage, there’s more I’m sure. But these are some of the things that have had the largest impact on the year.

I used to not be one for resolutions, but this year I’m actually excited about some of the goals I’ve made. Among them my temporary leave of social media, working out (somewhat) regularly, trying out Whole30. I’ve been able to tell this year more than ever how unhealthy I am getting, how much my lack of healthy eating and exercise has been affecting me. I’ve felt more tired and sluggish than ever, so hopefully this time next year I won’t be saying the same thing. I’m also planning to read through the Bible again, and fast once a month, a goal I set for myself this year – but failed miserably, so it’s going back on the list.

I used to be rather thoughtless about the new year, but I’ve learned that I literally have no idea what the next year may hold. My plans are always changing. But my highest hope for 2017, is that I would love the Lord more, love His people more, and serve them both well.

A Letter to College Students: This Is The Real World

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After graduation, there’s a lot of talk about “living in the real world”. I think this is really referring to the world of 9-5 jobs and professional attire. The world of going to bed at a reasonable hour. I understand these things may be different from the life one typically leads as a college student, but the references to post-college life equaling the real world leave us to infer that college, indeed, does not qualify as the real world. Now, there are some major differences in schedule and responsibility as a college student, as opposed to someone working a full-time job. Most college courses are set up so that only you will suffer if you decide not to show for class. In some cases, there is no accountability at all. Many college students don’t have anyone depending on them for anything, and you have more free-time and flexibility than pretty much everyone else. There are certainly some big differences between the two.

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I went to college alone. My mom helped me move in to my dorm room, but after that it was just me. Most of my friends from high school had gone off to Clemson. You would think when you go to school only an hour from your hometown, that surely there would be some built-in friends on campus. Of course, several people from my high school had also come to the wonderful University of South Carolina, but none of them were people I would spend time with.

On top of not knowing anyone, I’d spent my whole life being shy, and didn’t know how to introduce myself to anyone without the help of a more outgoing mediator. I’d spent all of high school with an “I can’t wait to get out of this town” attitude, only to flip the switch half-way through senior year, when it started to sink in that my time at West Florence was coming to an end. I was nervous all summer about leaving behind all I’d known, but it hit me like a ton of bricks when my mom drove off. I was scared, overwhelmed, and alone.

I did not feel like I was hidden away on some college campus, oblivious to the stresses of “real life”, real responsibility, real burdens. I didn’t feel like I had just landed myself in one four-year-long party. No. Sitting on the 4th floor of Patterson Hall in the heart of a city much bigger than the one I came from, away from the comforts of home and familiar faces, roads, places to shop and eat, I felt like I was in the real world for the first time in my life. Unprotected, exposed, on my own.

That first week was rough. I later realized I understood college to be the place where you meet the people who will be your best friends for the rest of your life. I somehow believed this would happen right away, that they would just happen to come introduce themselves to me the moment I arrived. I spent a good chunk of the first semester of my freshman year contemplating whether I should transfer back home, or to Clemson. Not that I was bored, I wasn’t. I managed to make some friends and spent most of my time with other people. I was still lonely, though. I was craving real, meaningful friendships. I didn’t know that it would take time, that it would get much, much better.

I spent the next 4 years meeting and getting to know a very diverse group of people. Rich, poor, homeless, gay, religious, depressed. I knew people who had been raped, abused, dealt with eating disorders, lost loved ones. The people I came to know during my time at South Carolina didn’t get to press pause on life. We didn’t get to ignore reality. Life still happens, no matter where you go to school, no matter whether your campus is on a hillside or in the city.

Despite what our culture would tell you, this is not the time to “get it out of your system” and do whatever the heck you want (unless whatever the heck you want is honoring to the Lord). These aren’t years that should be wasted, and these years aren’t just about your education. These years can be so full if you handle them well. College is a gift, a unique experience and time in your life. No other period in life will look the same.

For Christians, it may be tempting to jump into whatever community you find first (which can be good or bad). So many of my friends spent their first semester (or longer) making decisions they would go on to regret. And thankfully, grace was there to meet them then. But what if we recognized the importance of these years? What if we treated them as though they matter? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we used our college years for glorifying God and furthering His kingdom? These years will be a part of your life forever. You can fill them with whatever you want. But if there is one thing I learned in college and in the years since, it’s that living for the Lord is the best, most satisfying use of our time. How you spend your days matters, so let’s not let the world convince us that it’s okay if our lives look a little meaningless for a few years. This is special. Different? Yes. But, this is the real world, with real people, real souls. You can use this time in a million different ways, but there is true, full life in Christ, and using these years to seek Him, love Him, and live for Him will be one of the best decisions you ever make.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39

Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

What Do You Mean By Self-Care?

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I’m not totally sure whether it’s a good idea to make blog posts out of my personal preferences, but I’m going to do it anyway. We’ll see if I regret it later.

I’ll be honest. I cringe a little when I hear the words self-care. Have you ever sat around and done absolutely nothing on a Saturday? Or even just an evening after work, maybe watched a few shows, scrolled mindlessly through social media? Or gone on a vacation? If you’re anything like me, these things in and of themselves don’t leave you feeling refreshed.

The term self-care implies that we care for ourselves, clearly. But further than that, that we sustain ourselves, that we are self-reliant, that we know what is best for us, and that we provide for our own needs. But we know this isn’t how the Christian life works. We know we are to be dependent on our Heavenly Father, to rely on Him to get us from day to day, to sustain our souls. We know that He is the One who gives every breath, much less every physical provision. I think deep beneath the surface of “self-care” the real meaning behind it, is rest, or Sabbath, if you will.

Truthfully, we spend our lives working towards something. Most of what we do is work. Raising kids, pleasing clients, or friends, or bosses, pursuing relationships and the list could go on forever. We are stressed because of this work.  We feel the need to rest from this work, but the cure to our stress and tiredness is not self-care. It is true rest.

This has nothing to do with the activities that encompass self-care and rest. They can look quite similar. Rest for one person isn’t rest for another. The issue is the mindset behind it; where we are turning in those moments that we want to feel refreshed. The problem is the source.

The whole idea of the Sabbath is to remind ourselves that nothing depends on us. That God is the One who holds everything together. Not pointless rest, or resting for the sake of rest, but God-focused rest. I am bent towards independence and self-reliance, as I think many of us are. But as Christians, we know we don’t take care of ourselves. We can try, of course, but over time this won’t be enough.

In our culture it’s totally acceptable that “there’s a time to be selfish”, a time to lookout for yourself. Like we take turns caring for other people and then caring for ourselves, and I so easily buy into this. I think that’s where this whole idea comes from.

Just after Jesus was nailed to the cross, John 19:26-27 says “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

In the midst of His suffering on the cross, hanging on a tree, He notices these two people he loves, and cares for them. In my own suffering, I tend to turn inward, to even allow myself to think it’s my turn to be served. But we don’t get this idea from Scripture. This isn’t the life that Jesus models. He constantly pours Himself out throughout Scripture. Retreating to pray and spend time alone with His Father is not the same thing as self-care. It’s the opposite. It is coming to the True Source for rest, counsel, intimacy. Our time alone with the Father is not self-care, it is looking outside of ourselves for true care. And when we come to Him as our source for rest, He can give us wisdom and peace that enables us to face our lives with an appropriate, eternal perspective. He reminds us that He is good, and that He is sovereign.

There’s a Charlie Hall song with the lyrics “Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity, sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity.” And those words are perfect; exactly true. HE is my sanity, my calm, my peace of mind. No amount of pampering, of bubble baths, or running, or wine or chocolate could give me the true rest that He provides. Sure, some of these things can point us to Him, but we have to remember that HE is the wellspring that satisfies every need.

So I motion that we move from calling “self-care” to rest, or better yet, Sabbath. I know myself well enough to know that I am easily tempted to believe I can do things on my own. This is just one way I can remind myself that’s not true. We can keep the focus where it should be, on the Provider of rest. We, as Christians, can claim to the world, each time we say we are going to Sabbath, that we are turning to the One who knows how to care for us, not mustering anything up on our own.

We wouldn’t have had to come up with this whole self-care thing if we knew how to properly rest. It’s something I’m working on this year, and I am praying that the Lord would teach me what it means to come to Him as my source and my Sustainer. Because I can’t even do that on my own.

When Thriving Feels Far Off

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As a mom to 2 little boys, I read a lot of blogs and things that seem relative to my life. I think that’s normal? I’m attracted to headlines that 1) offer me help, 2) commiserate with me (just being real here), or 3) encourage me. I’m not sure if it’s a new trend, or what, but it seems there’s a lot of talk lately about how we as moms of little children should thrive, or flourish. Those two words, I’ve heard a lot recently. And it seems to me like all of a sudden moms everywhere woke up and realized we’ve been doing things all wrong. All these moms are experiencing this unanimous epiphany about how merely surviving is not enough, while I’m still over here sleeping. I’ll be the first to admit parenting is HARD, I’m probably doing it all wrong, and I need all the help I can get, but it somehow feels like an added burden, a reminder of another area in which I fall short.

Making it through the day with just enough energy after laying the kids down to throw yourself onto your own bed? That’s not good enough. Barely getting through that conversation with your 3 year old without screaming your head off? Nope, not good enough.  You may only be getting a few hours of sleep per night, you may not have eaten a real meal in a week, you might be trying to balance mom, wife, and career duties, but you better be kicking tail while you’re doing it!

Initially, when I think of what it looks like to be a thriving mom, I think of someone who shows up everywhere on time, hair and make-up done, with kids who don’t have snot all over their face or dirt under their fingernails. Someone who has time and energy to cook dinner for other people, host parties, volunteer in ministry. I think of someone who has it all together. And y’all. That ain’t me.

Isn’t it funny how we can twist something that’s meant completely for good, and find fault in it? Take something that’s meant to offer freedom and grace, and allow it to hold us captive? The thing is, this call to thrive, to flourish, it’s not meant to be a burden.

Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In the very offer of abundant life, the thief is busy trying to rob us. The enemy loves when we’re tired, worn down, defeated. He wants me to believe that thriving is out of reach, that life to the full is unattainable, to settle for less than.

This year has been a little hectic for my family. My husband changed jobs, and then changed careers. We’ve moved 3 times, living in someone else’s space for the past 7 months, 3 of those consisting of me and the boys living in one city and my husband in another. Let me say, we have some AMAZING friends and family that have housed us over this time. Hospitable, gracious, selfless people. We are so, so, so thankful to have such wonderful people in our lives. But the year has been full of transitions and unknowns. I wouldn’t for a second try to convince anyone that I’ve been soaking up every precious moment, cherishing each day, relishing the season we’ve been in. It has been hard, and really, really unpleasant at times.

Most moms will tell you, we are tired. This season of raising little kids is tough. Exhausting on many levels. And life has a way of forgetting that you’ve got little kids and you’re already tired from keeping these little humans alive, all the while trying to nourish their little brains and spirits, and sometimes it tosses something else your way when you’re already at the end of your rope. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours, you know? To be honest, surviving is just about my only goal some days. Thriving? Maximizing opportunities and delighting in every experience offered to me? Not so much.

So, how do I experience abundant life, when my circumstances are undesirable? How do I live life to the full, when it feels like life is throwing punches?

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that “life to the full” is lived out in the form of nice vacations, lots of friends, a good reputation, comfort, ease, fun. But a quick look around, and I know that’s not true. I have seen people with much less than I living rich lives. I have been in houses made of mud and witnessed life to the full within those very walls. Everywhere you look there are people going through really hard things. And I know that Jesus’ offer for them is the same.  Abundant life is attainable. It isn’t limited to those with favorable circumstances, or money in the bank. It is for the broken, the lowly, the hurting, the sick. It’s for the beggar, the blind man, the woman at the well, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the single mom, the outcast. This offer is there for the taking, despite where we find ourselves. And it is found in relationship with Jesus. It is in those quiet moments when He speaks straight to my heart. It is in the encouragement and prayers of dear friends. It is in soul-filling conversations. It’s in communion and intimacy with the Father, that transcends circumstance, and in the truth that HE is so, so much better than anything this world has to offer.  It is not something so fleeting as happiness, success, financial security. It is HIM. Getting to walk through this life here and now, with Him, and the promise of eternity, with Him.

So often, I believe the lie that life to the full is somewhere off in the future. When we get out of debt, or finally own a home, when my marriage is better, or my kids are older. But I’m so thankful that the Lord’s promises are not dependent on me having my crap together or what stage of life I’m in.  I’m also thankful that on those days when it is all I can do to make it through, those days that I’m already completely spent by 8 am, those days when surviving is all I can muster up, He will meet me there with his big, deep grace, and love me through. That He is faithful through it all, in times of plenty and of want, joy and sorrow, good times and bad.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

To Engaged And Newly Married Couples Everywhere

My husband and I recently celebrated 4 years of marriage, and by celebrated I mean said “Happy Anniversary” over the phone from different cities. With just a few years under my belt, I am hardly an expert on the topic.

There’s something I’ve noticed recently. I’ve seen and heard it a lot from engaged/newly married couples. The complaints about people complaining about marriage. I know exactly what they are talking about. I felt that way once, too. I even added to the noise. The warnings grow old, you get annoyed. Everyone hears it at some point. If you’re engaged or happily married, undoubtedly, someone will warn you about the doom you are facing. Many will talk about marriage as though it’s a death sentence. Talk about “the ol’ ball and chain” or signing your life away, or all the freedoms you are giving up. And it makes you want to scream about how your marriage will never be like that. How you will always be happy and you will love and cherish your spouse forever. I get it.

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I’m at the age where a lot of my friends are married, and a lot of them aren’t. With a million articles running across my Facebook news feed each day about “Mr. Right” or “How You Know You’ve Found The One” I think it’s obvious that many people are really confused about the realities of marriage. The way people post on social media makes it sound like marriage is one long romantic date. Or that even the mundane “sittin’ at home watching a movie” is always awesome when you have the one you love by your side. Don’t get me wrong, I mean I would much rather wash the dishes with Johnathan in the room…or even in the other room for that matter…than not at home at all. But that idea that everything is wonderful all the time when you’re in love paints a pretty incomplete picture.

There’s this idea that the emotional high you’re on when you’re dating/engaged/newly married should never die. Which is appealing enough when everywhere you turn there are married couples that don’t even seem to like each other. But I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that kind of emotion is sustainable between work and laundry and taking out the trash. Throw kids in the mix, and there is nothing exhilarating about dirty diapers. Some people say the first year is the hardest, but in my experience, the first year was the easiest. Not without it’s challenges, for sure, but in comparison, the old expression “the Honeymoon Stage” sure fits. The euphoria fades. But love, like people, evolves. It changes over time. It grows deeper than emotion and much more intentional. After a while, it’s less of something you’re in, but more something you choose.

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For myself, I thought the easy times would outweigh the hard times, but when the hard times came…because I knew there would be some…that I would be prepared, that I would know how to work through it. For Christians, I think as young, passionate, college kids, we romanticize what our marriages will be like. How we’ll pray together all the time, always communicate well, put our phones down and spend time together, how we’ll do ministry together, and “keep dating your spouse”, and always give grace when it’s needed, always putting each other before ourselves. It’s like before I got married I imagined this heroic version of myself. I knew in my head what it would take to be a good wife, and therefore thought I would have the…I don’t know…willpower to apply my knowledge. For me, in dating, it was always pretty easy to be gracious and selfless. As a friend said the other day, “I was a real good Christian before I got married.” But something I’ve found now, is that marriage forges a much deeper connection. Sure, when your boyfriend or girlfriend does something crappy when you’re dating, it feels personal and it hurts. But when you’re married, it is a whole other level. Something about the oneness of marriage makes everything more personal, makes everything feel more. The good and the bad. And when everything feels so personal and so painful, being gracious isn’t as easy as it sounds. Of course, the Holy Spirit is powerful and fully capable of equipping me in the tough moments, the problem is I get in the way. That’s how being human works. A LOT of the time, I fail. Hero Me doesn’t show grace, love, patience, or whatever is needed in that moment, and things get messy. Oh, and not to mention, my husband fails, too. He isn’t always patient. He isn’t always kind. Even though “Mr. Right” is always patient and kind, and tells me I’m beautiful in my sweatpants.

So I empathize with those who make these complaints. Those who don’t understand where the old(er) married couples are coming from. I had no clue.

The truth is marriage should be wonderful. It should be God honoring. It should be deep connection and intimacy. It should be a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church. It should be iron sharpening iron, mutual encouragement, pressing on toward the goal, together, for the rest of your lives. But for a lot of people, it isn’t. And yes, it happens to Christians, too. And for others, it just isn’t like that all the time. At this point, I wouldn’t be one of those people to discourage you and warn you about how your life is about to end. But, I also wouldn’t be all marriage is love and bliss and we’re best friends all the time and everything is great. Because, it is not. I would tell you that some conflicts never get resolved, that my husband and I don’t see eye to eye on so.many.things. That there will be moments that leave one or both of you ready to get a divorce right then and there. That there will be times you will look at the person you love more than anyone else, and be more angry than you have ever been before. There will be times when you can’t express what you need to, and there will be times of deep pain, and times when you’re at a loss for how to move forward. Maybe I sound negative, but I don’t think I need to convince anyone that there are tons of amazing things about marriage, too. If you don’t already believe that, then you probably aren’t getting married anytime soon.

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I’ve learned over the past 4 years that Johnathan and I aren’t nearly as alike as I originally thought. We have some similarities, but we have some huge differences. Really, if we’re honest, we aren’t all that compatible, something that’s seen as a necessity in our culture. As we begin year 5, there is still a lot about our marriage that is really hard. We haven’t overcome all of our struggles, and most days it seems like we haven’t moved an inch. It doesn’t make marriage a death sentence, but it does make it hard lots of days.

So when someone is negative about your engagement or marriage, you don’t have to get angry and self-righteous. Again, believe me, I really do know what it’s like to feel the way you do, and I say this with the most care. Try to see through their warnings, and recognize that marriage is truly hard. That it takes a lot of work. That if you don’t fight for your marriage when it gets tough, it will go to crap. Those people who get to the place where they say “oh, just give it a couple years” got there because they are human. They were in your shoes once. So, you may think you are better than them, because in your inexperience you think you know what it takes to have a good marriage, but you aren’t. You’re human, too. And if you don’t take serious consideration to the fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce, and many of the people who remain married are miserable, then it’s possible you will find yourself in their shoes one day. You should resolve to not end up like them. But know that it takes a tremendous amount of grace, patience, love (the action kind), self-control. It takes A LOT of dying to yourself, A LOT of laying down your pride, your need to be right, your everything. It takes a lot more than affection, compromise, compatibility. Those things aren’t enough. But thankfully, Jesus is. Even in marriage, He is our only hope, the only thing that is ever truly enough. Cling to Him, and He will give you what you need.

“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.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Photos by Erin Drago Photography

I’m Becoming A Morning Person

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time is thinking right now that I’ve lost my mind and seriously forgotten who I am. Maybe they’re right. I am the epitome of a night owl. I am most alert and energized around 8:00-11:30pm. If I go to bed “early” it could take me hours to wind down and just.stop.thinking. And eventually fall asleep. It takes me a looong time to feel awake in the morning. Getting out of bed in the morning has been a lifelong struggle. I can’t recall a day in my life, ever, where I felt rested when I woke up. Each and every single morning, the only thing I want to do is close my eyes again. I sleep most soundly in the early morning hours. I’m not exaggerating. It is very difficult to put my feet on the floor at any time of day, 6am, 10am, 12pm (those college days, though…). It doesn’t matter whether I slept 7, 8, or 12 hours. It never feels like enough.

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Most of my life I’ve had to wake up relatively early. Starting with elementary school, walking to the bus stop before the sun came up (literally), through working early mornings at hotels and restaurants, to having 2 babies that are the worst of the early-birds. I mean wide awake, chipper, ready-to-take-on-the-world kind of early-birds. 5am early-birds. You would think at some point I would get a little used to it. I’ve told myself a million times I would change my ways, been jealous of every “morning person” out there, and resigned myself to the idea that I am cursed and it will never get any easier. I’ve tried a couple tricks, none of which have worked. For the past 9 months or so, except for the brief stint where my husband and I lived in different cities for 3 months, Johnathan has been very gracious to let me sleep-in in the mornings, until he leaves to go to work. He will never understand what it means to me (because he’s one of those morning people, and couldn’t possibly understand the torture I endure every morning between opening my eyes and….I don’t know, 9am), but I will forever be grateful for the extra minutes of sleep he’s provided in the most tired season of my life.

I wish I could say I’m good once I’m up, but no. I’m not. I will crawl back into that bed in a heartbeat. Say I am somewhere that for some reason I have to get dressed before walking out of the bedroom, I have no shame in going back to said bedroom, getting back into my pj’s, and laying right back down under comfy covers. That whole “put the alarm clock on the other side of the room” thing? Yeah, it’s never done a thing for me.

I explain all this to say, it feels pretty impossible to me. Unimaginable that I could change, that I could enjoy mornings, or even get out of the bed with ease. But y’all, I’m gonna do it. I am putting it out there, for the world to see. Maybe I’ll fail, but maybe I won’t. And I wholeheartedly believe, if I can become a morning person, anyone can.

Usually whenever I resolve to change something, or take on something new, I don’t talk about it, and I definitely don’t tell my husband (anyone else?!?). That way, if I change my mind about changing my ways, I can just go back to whatever I was doing before and no one will give me a hard time about it. I mean, I can’t have anyone pointing out how awful I’m doing at something I thought up myself, right? “Setting Yourself Up For Failure” should be the official name of this practice.

So….I’m enlisting Johnathan’s help, and the help of anyone else who is interested in holding me accountable. I don’t have a real plan yet, so I’ll need to figure that out quick. I would love any tips from lifelong morning persons, or night owl converts. I’m also happy to have anyone join me on my quest to not hate mornings (maybe one day I’ll love them, but baby steps). Please, feel free to ask me how it’s going!

Photo credit: matsuyuki / Foter / CC BY-SA

Don’t Judge Me

Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: miss pupik / Foter / CC BY

I read this Ann Voskamp blog the other day on “how women can stop judging each other: a movement of key women“. It was exactly as it sounds, encouraging us to be women that allow others the freedom not to be perfect. It was good. You should check out the link and read the whole thing, because everything sounds better coming from Ann Voskamp…but here’s an excerpt that sums it up, I think:

“There could be Key Women who turn to their sisters and unlock everything with their own anthem coming like a freedom song:

I won’t judge you for dishes in your sink and shoes over your floor and laundry on your couch.

I won’t judge you for choosing not to spend your one life weeding the garden or washing the windows or working on organizing the pantry.

I won’t judge you for the size of your waist, the flatness, bigness, cut or color of your hair, the hipness or the matronliness of your clothes, and I won’t judge whether you work at a stove, a screen, a store, a steering wheel, a sink or a stage.

I won’t judge you for where you are on your road, won’t belittle your offering, your creativity, your battle, your work.

The key to the future of our communities, our culture, the church is whether there are Key People — people who will not imprison with labels and boxes but will unlock with key words, with key acts of freeing.

There could be Key Women who link arms with their sisters and say we will be the few Key Women: Key Women release you by not judging your mothering, your cooking, your cleaning, your clothing, your kids.

It’s a beautiful picture, this ceasing of judgement. I think a lot of us need to hear her words and resolve to be the kind of person she is talking about. Although, I think the solution is twofold. I’m not taking anything away from what she is saying. I’m just continuing the conversation.

It seems to me like we women feel judged by just about everyone concerning everything, and often times, we want to place the blame on them. The judges. Maybe my perception is off, but I’m going to say that I think (we) the offended are equally at fault.

In certain areas I fit the “judgy mom” bill. I had 2 natural births, we don’t vaccinate, we don’t give our kids sweets, we are very particular about the products we use in our home and on our bodies. I have heard moms that don’t do any of those things I just mentioned say a million and one times that they felt judged by someone who does do those things. I know that those people exist, the people that think others are beneath them when they make a different choice, the people who are all self-righteous and think everything they do is what makes them a good mom. But I am here to tell you, I am not one of them. Of course, we use natural sunscreen because we don’t think the chemical filled stuff is good for you. Obviously. But just because we use natural sunscreen doesn’t mean I think those who don’t are crappy people. I’m not assuming that the mom on Instagram doesn’t care about what’s best for her child because she let them eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not.

But all my not being judgmental doesn’t do any good when others assume I’m judging them anyway.

The fact that I am picky about what kind of shampoo we use on our kids does not mean I have a problem with someone else’s anything-goes attitude. The mere mentioning of “my midwife” doesn’t mean I think those who have a doctor are weird (I had one, too). Will any of us ever be able to talk about the choices we make without coming off as judgmental? Can I say that I breastfed my children without someone assuming that means I am elevating myself above those that use formula? Since when did simply talking about things become looking down on everyone, everywhere, for everything?

I’m guilty, too. I know the feeling. Because let me tell you where I don’t fit the judgy mom bill…is in the clean house arena. If you have ever been in my house, you know it looks like crap 99% of the time. I know that some people do actually keep clean houses. For some people it’s easy, or they like cleaning, or messiness drives them crazy or whatever. Apparently, I can live with the mess. I don’t like it…but it’s not the highest thing on my priority list, every day. Some days it is. But my point is that most of the time my house looks like a tornado went through it, and I know plenty of people that can vouch for me here. I have done my share of explaining and apologizing for the dishes in the sink, the crusty pots left on the stove, the crumbs on the floor…I could go on. But I know, when I let someone in my messy house, it is not the look on their horrified face that makes me feel judged. Because there is no look of horror. It is simply me. Me feeling like I should have a clean house, that makes me assume they think less of me because I don’t. I’m sure somewhere along the way there’s been a few people that actually did care. But I’m going to bet that most of them don’t. Because there are probably dishes in their sink, too. They get it. I get it.

In some ways I’m a bit impervious to judgment. Sometimes I honestly don’t care if someone else doesn’t like what I’m doing. But there are those times when a friend shows up and I haven’t showered in days, or my kid is screaming bloody murder in the middle of Target, or the zoo, or the restaurant, or anywhere and everywhere we go, that get me feeling all sheepish and wishing I could disappear.

But I think it’s time that we start accepting some of the responsibility for the judgment we feel. Because it really isn’t about the decisions we make. It’s not about how much TV our kids watch, or whether we work inside or outside the home. At the heart of it, it’s about how others view us in light of those things. It’s the idea that someone else thinks little of us, looks down on us, that we find offensive.

When faced with our shortcomings, the problem is not always the judgement from others. It is the judgement of ourselves. We are the ones holding ourselves captive. We are the ones making ourselves feel like we don’t measure up. It’s not the mom across the playground, it’s us.

What if we found our identity in Christ and who He says we are? What if we allowed the grace of God to change us into women that are satisfied with our own quirks and idiosyncrasies, our own personalities and preferences (when they aren’t sinful, of course)? What if we started to identify the shame we feel over our dirty dishes for what it often is, an internal war with ourselves and who we hope to be? NOT who others hope us to be.

Yes, let’s be key women, but let’s realize we have to start with ourselves. Let’s stop blaming others for the pressure we feel to be perfect, when we haven’t dealt with the pressure we put on ourselves. We have to give ourselves freedom and space to be who we are, unapologetically, if we want to allow others that same freedom.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17