Comment

When You Have Something and Nothing at all to Say

There is often little room for my words when I am with my children. The words, songs, and constant chatter never quits. Sun up to sundown, I am surrounded by noise and laughter, banter and sometimes fights.

The world spins and for a mama, time marches on to the beat of breakfast time, nap times, clean up time, lesson time, supper time, bed time.

The days can blur together and I have to be intentional at times to stop and listen. To take in the small moments and successes as they come (my youngest went potty on the toilet TWICE today! Is a diaper less home in my near future??! One can hope…).

And as I sit in the evening and listen to my oldest, already fifteen, share about his recent sporting adventures and plans for taking drivers education this summer (eek!), thoughts swirl through my mind, ready to tumble out, but instead I just sit and listen.

When it comes to communication, I’ve learned that being a mom means I walk a fine line between having something and nothing to say all of the time. Carefully trying to measure my words, speak truth, but not dominate my kids, and allow room for them to be and share all of who they are with me.

I’ve been reading lately about guarding my thoughts and my tongue. I find this most challenging when it comes to my children. So often I want to come in with an answer or instruction—and although there is certainly space for that—God is most often teaching me in this season to be quiet. To listen. To hear my kids and respond only after I’ve allowed them to finish.

 
 

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1

This is the scripture I have been meditating on lately. A reminder for me that a wise woman builds her house (and her children up), but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. And if I’m honest, I have been a foolish woman at times, tearing down my house, and at times, my children, with the things I’ve said.

But I am learning. Sometimes daily, moment by moment. Stopping and asking myself, do I need to speak here? If not, then I stay quiet and just listen.

I may have torn down my house foolishly in the past, but today is a new day, and I can choose to build it back up, one brick, one conversation at time.

 
 
 
Kendra.png

Comment

Comment

Anything But Quiet

emily 6 lr-1.jpg

Oh, the mom life. I wake up in the morning, quietly sipping my hot coffee while flipping through the pages of my Bible wondering what the day will bring me. It’s a peaceful scene of a clean house and quietness surrounding me.

Except, it’s not.

The truth is, the mom life is anything but quiet, calm, and clean. You’re nodding your head agreeing. You get it.

If you’re mornings are anything like mine they are filled with chaos, reminders to children to brush their teeth and get dressed, and a travel mug filled with a caffeinated beverage.

When I held my oldest child and looked into her big brown eyes for the first time I had no idea how differently my my life would be. I mean, I had an idea. I knew it would be different, but I wasn’t sure how it would all play out.

I traded my heels for flats, nights out with my husband for nights in watching cartoons, and peaceful reflective time with God for snippets of scripture in an inspirational Facebook post. Don’t get me wrong. I would not trade this mom-life for anything in the world, but my quiet time with God is anything but quiet.

After becoming a mom I found myself longing for a single moment of peace and quiet. My relationship with Christ started to take a back seat to diaper changes, and let me be quite honest—sleep.

 
 

But Christ knew how big of a job the title “mom” would be. He knew the demands that would be put on us daily. He knew that we would spread ourselves thin, and sacrifice ourselves for our children. He knew what it would take to be “mom”.

He also knew that your time spent with Him would look a little different than it used to, and that’s ok. Even small pieces of time with God can lead to meaningful spiritual growth.

I’ve found my relationship with Christ growing in ways I did not expect before having kids. From conversations with close friends, to watching the innocence and wonder of my children, to reading them Bible with them. All these brief moments throughout the day add up to big moments in my Christian walk.

Our “quiet” time with God may not look the same as it once did before our children entered this world, but we should never stop seeking God. Run to Him as a child runs to his mother. Think about the happiness you feel when you see your child running towards you with their crooked little smile. God feels that happiness too.

Whether it's a prayer in the shower, a daily Bible verse reminder on your phone, or the local Christian radio station, never stop praising Him, running to Him, and loving Him. Find some time to spend time with Christ today. He will be waiting for you with open arms.

Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”

 
quote5-11.png
 
 
TorieBio.png

Comment

1 Comment

When I Don't Know What I'm Doing

I have two very different children and a third on the way. I am used to saying that our kids are in no way mild or mellow, but neither are we, so I don’t expect anything different.

My oldest son didn’t fit into the boxes of the parenting books I read the first time around. They were good practices, working for other people in our lives, so I felt pretty regularly that I was failing. Just as I began to get a small grasp on his unique personality, we added our second son.  And he was exactly the same and I knew everything I was doing.

Except that’s totally not true.

 
 

Like all humans, he was his own little person, and though I was a bit more confident and less scared overall, my small armory of parenting practices weren’t always as useful as I needed them to be. However, this time, I was more open to reading multiple books, listening to different opinions, regarding all things outside of the Word of God as simple resources instead of perfect rules.

Little by little, as I’ve attempted to let go of the way I thought things should be, I have been surprised at how God has led me to the right people, books, or podcasts, and the way he has put things in my pathway to encourage and guide my motherhood. I’ve learned that as I seek his wisdom first, he has been faithful to show up. Sometimes, I get the silly notion that God is hiding the answers to motherhood, baiting me, wanting me to do better, work harder, ready to see me fail. But Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:17 says, “I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.” I forget that God is generous with his wisdom, that he is a giver by nature, that he loves us and our children cares more than I could about the ultimate good.

This doesn’t make the days fly by, and it doesn’t eliminate the head-scratching mommy-hood moments I encounter all of the time. But knowing that God, the all-knowing, intimately-loving God of ours, is ready and willing to lead me specifically day-by-day, child-by-child, with divine wisdom takes the full weight off of me. And it takes the weight off of whatever rules I might be holding onto too tightly — his wisdom will guide us, give us peace, not hide the right answers cruelly waiting for us to fail. As we seek, he is faithful to lead and guide and shine a light.

These are the things I am relying on as we await the next child. Finally, I hope my hands are truly more open, asking God for the wisdom to meet the day, love the children uniquely, guide them wisely, and allow his mercy to rest on us when we fail. I know enough now to know that I will need his guidance, and that feels like the biggest gift his wisdom has given me so far. I can’t do this alone, but I’m not asked or required to do that. In fact, I’m invited in to seek Wisdom, and when I read all through Proverbs, I hear that she shouts, that she stands in the streets, not hiding, snickering from a window watching me stumble along. And again in James, he confirms what it all — “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5)

He will give us the wisdom we lack. Thanks be to God, for I’m the first to tell you that I really have no idea most of the time what I’m doing. We are not alone. The God of the universe wants to walk with us and impart what we don’t have. Praise.

 
 
 

1 Comment

Comment

From Toddlers to Teenagers

For as long as I’ve been old enough to have kids, I had this fear of having them. It wasn’t newborns or toddlers that scared me, but having teenagers. The thought of it petrified me because I remember being one. And as far as teenagers go, I gotta say, I was a pretty good one.

Mainly it was the thought of having a mouthy teenager that turned my stomach in knots. I recall speaking (probably more often than I care to admit) before I really thought about how my words affected others, and more specifically how those words may have affected my parents. So this thought of having to love and nurture one of those, only to have them say they hate me or something at some point was not my idea of fun.

But so it happens, this year I am the proud Mama of a teenager. In fact, I’m also the proud Mama of a toddler. And I’ve got two in between.

 
pin1.png
 

So far, we’ve only had occasional challenges in the ‘mouthy’ department, but the bigger challenge has been making the intentional time and finding the right words to love to a child who rarely seems to need me anymore.

I realize I still have a few years ahead to find our groove, but I’m aiming to find it sooner than later. Because within the next couple years, I’ll have two teenagers. And my fear is no longer how they will hurt me, but instead hoping I don’t hurt, neglect or cause resentment in them.

As I’ve watched 3 of my 4 babies grown into tweens, I’ve realized these four little personalities aren’t just my ‘littles.’ We put so much focus on having the baby or toddler, because it truly is such a special time. But I often wonder, why did no-one tell me how quickly these lil’ babes would become actual people (go figure) with their own personalities, needs, struggles and purpose. No one at my baby shower told me that training them goes far beyond the potty chair and the sippy cup.

As I started thinking about what it means to have my kids grow older, this scripture stuck out to me.

Ephesians 6:4 (amplified) says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger (do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive: nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them), but bring them up (tenderly, with lovingkindness) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

We so often talk to our kids about honoring or obeying us, their parents, because scripture is clear that if they do, it will be well with them. But how do we as Mamas help them do this?  What does the Word say for us to do? Is just telling them enough?

This verse tells me alot. It tells me to not nag at trivial things. To not embarrass them in front of their friends, to not show favoritism to my younger kids just because they currently need me in a more immediate way, to voice that I care about the things that are important to them, to discipline them with kindness, not irritability. And to train them in the ways of the Lord, not just hope the church youth group does it for me.

Mamas, that’s convicting. And so chock-full of wisdom.

I want more than anything to walk out parenting leaning and being obedient to the truth from God’s word. His ways are always higher. I see days ahead in which it may be hard to put my teenager first. I see days ahead that I may be tempted to provoke them out of my own frustration. I see days that I may forget that they still need me and I may be indifferent to those needs. But if I want my child to love and honor me in obedience to God’s word and for life to be well with them, I have to first set that example of obedience and intentionally instruct them and show them how to love.

It’s easy to pay attention and love our kids when they are actual “littles.” Because they actually do need us to provide practical things for them. And they are always right there wiping their boogers on our legs.

But my prayer is that as our kids get older, God reminds each of us Mamas when to pause mid-sentence, when to pay attention, when instruct and even when just to give our big babies a big ole Mama bear hug, even if that means we are reaching up to hug them because they are taller than us.

 
quote5-2.png
 
 
Julie.png

Comment

Comment

When Mom Falls Away from Grace

CK Thrive 3.2017 (30).jpg

She stood in the dark doorway sobbing over an Easter basket that never came. Despite the gift-filled baskets from family members and a weekend full of festive activities, the space where the basket from mom & dad ought to have been left a void inside her broken heart.

After consoling my 10-year-old daughter with an embrace and reminder of prior occasions where we had surpassed her expectations, she calmed enough to return to bed, assured of our love, and that next year we’d try to do better. I closed the door, slithered into my bed sheets, and crumbled from a fragile psyche weighed farther down with the crush of “mom-guilt”.

“I’m a horrible mother,” I began to sob to my husband, “I can’t even give my kid an Easter basket.”

 
pin.png
 

In that moment, it wasn’t about the Easter basket—it was about my failures, about their piling up day after day, and my inability to do better and be better. How many times have I let down my daughter, my husband, my family? Countless. How many times have I let myself down, that I wasn’t a more gracious person, more skilled at navigating the challenges of motherhood and marriage? Innumerable. How many times have I hungered and thirsted for righteousness only to trip over my one broken flesh, one broken mind, one broken heart? Untold.

No, I wasn’t crying because I didn’t have the bandwidth for curating an Easter basket—I was crying because I didn’t have the capacity to live up to anyone’s expectations…especially my own.

When Grace Has Gone

It’s no wonder the Lord led me to the book of Galatians to uncover the heart of my problem. The epistle is written to Christians who have come under the influence of false teaching and the lie that circumcision was a requirement for saving faith in Christ. Paul spends most of his time reminding believers in Galatia that “by works of the law no one will be justified” (2:16) and that their ongoing Christian maturity is not an accomplishment of flesh, but of the Spirit (3:3). He rebuked the Galatians for turning back to “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more,” (4:9) then targets their hearts with a piercing question: “What then has become of the blessing you felt?” (4:15)

What then, imperfect mama crying over her incessant failures, has become of your joy? What has your lackluster law-keeping given you?

There’s no question that when grace has gone, joy goes with it. And when our rules and expectations become the idols of our hearts, we fall away from the blessing we once felt in our communion with Christ. Indeed, our relationship with Jesus feels cold and distant because we’ve placed ourselves under a false gospel. We quickly grow lonely, isolated, and hopeless because we’ve ceased to abide in him (John 15:5). Paul puts it bluntly:

“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (5:4)

The Grace and Hope of Righteousness

Yet, as stark as Paul puts it in verse 4, the shining light of the gospel comes breaking through the walls of our legalism in verse 5.

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (5:5)

True, we’re found waiting for and working towards the crown of righteousness kept for us (2 Timothy 4:8), but we’re never found wanting of it in God’s estimation. This isn’t a crown earned, figured, or achieved, but one already guarded for us by Jesus himself. By grace, through faith, we have been justified (Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8) and by the Spirit we can rejoice with eager expectancy that our hope of doing better, being better, and walking with Christ better is not just a goal, but a guarantee (Philippians 1:6).

Grace is no back-breaker, but a law-keeper on our behalf, meant to “overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy,” J.I. Packer writes, “and to drive us to cling to [God] more closely…to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast.” It is only by way of our inadequacy that we can see Christ’s sufficiency clearly enough to rejoice in it—only by way of our shortcomings do we learn to keep latched to the life-giving bosom of grace.

“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17)

 
blogshare.png
 
 
ChristineBio.png

Comment

Comment

Letting Go of My Not So Controlled Life

CK Thrive 3.2017 (7).jpg

“I was tired last night. Our truck died AGAIN yesterday afternoon and had to be towed to Lenny’s Auto Repair and our kitchen sink is backed up so you can’t use it or the dishwasher. Plastic dish ware is my new best friend. My life has become a country song...all I need is a dog to die...oh wait…”

This was the text I sent to a friend on Monday morning after an unexpected—and unwanted—weekend of mishaps.

Why can’t life just go along smoothly like I planned?!  I found myself speaking out loud to no one in particular as I poured myself a second third cup of coffee.

I sat down, willing myself to open my bible, knowing I would find some comfort in the words, but instead I sat for a few moments, pondering how often life takes twists and turns I have no control over.

 
pin.png
 

Control. A word I like a little too much and wrestle with a little too often.  A word that regularly comes up in scripture, but not in the context that I’d like, not in the way that it’d suit me as a means to hang onto my nice little life, wrapped up with a pretty red bow slapped across the front.

No, control is often asked to be laid down—willingly— trusting in a God who has promised to take care of me and all the little bits and pieces of my life.

But all too often I find myself gripping and clinging to my desire to want to control everything and everyone around me—including my husband, my kids, my circumstances, myself, and anyone else within arms reach of me (whether they like it or not). But what I’ve realized is that control often has the reverse effect, instead of freeing me from worry or dread or fear, trying to control everything often just leaves me exhausted, stifling myself and everyone else around me.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and they are saved (Proverbs 18:10). The words breeze through my mind, bringing what feels like a breath of fresh air over my soul.

The Lord is a strong tower. My strong tower. All I have to do is run to it. I visualize myself running to that tower. Giving my control over to a force much greater than I, telling myself that I don’t need to control everything in my life, I just need to remember to always turn to the one who does.

My life may never be perfectly wrapped up with a pretty red bow (my kitchen sink is still clogged), and far worse things may come my way than the trials I face today, but joy and peace can still be found when I turn and run to God, who has also promised to never leave me or forsake me.

And today I choose to cling to the truth of these words, and let my control rest with him.

 
quote420.png
 
 
Kendra.png

Comment

Comment

Rest Well

I scurried around the house, picking up papers, crayons, tape, scissors, and a variety of small toys. The stuffed animals that had been set up to attend my 5-year-old’s version of “art class” had already been tossed back in their corner, the blankets and pillows used to create their classroom already back on the sofa. I sighed. I was weary, feeling like there was always more to do, and that I was, inevitably, the one to do it.

For well over a year, God had invited me on a journey to discover the kind of work/rest balance He desired for my life. It started, of all places, on Instagram. I’d found myself taking a hard look at the women I followed in that space as I tried to reconcile my love for work and my need for rest. On the one hand, I followed women who were amazing entrepreneurs. These women were the definition of a #bossmama, and I loved watching their creative minds at work. Their message? Hustle hard - it’s up to you to make it happen before someone else does it first.

 
PinterestImage.png
 

On the other hand, I found myself following beautiful women of faith who filled my Instagram feed with a message of grace, soul-care, self-care and rest. My heart craved both the hustle and the rest because I knew God created me to use my gifts for His glory, and that to do that well, I needed time to refuel and refill. God whispered to my heart that this balance didn’t need to be an either/or - work OR rest. But it could be a both/and "work hard, rest well" lifestyle I’ve come to call “holy hustle.”

I am naturally inclined to be an “all or nothing” person, which meant that I would often find myself striving, assuming all the work fell on my shoulders. Or I would find myself vegging out in front of Netflix and calling it “rest” (when it was really laziness) and wondering why I felt even more exhausted afterward.

From God’s very own example of this work hard, rest well balance in Genesis, to Ruth’s hustle as she gleaned from the harvest field (and the blessing she received when her work - and rest - was noticed), God knew our hearts would need these gentle reminders. Like Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 6:31 (The Message): “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.”

Working so hard, or so busy keeping little people alive that I forget to eat? I’ve been there.

When we embrace a work hard, rest well lifestyle, we can serve God and our families as the best version of who God created us to be.

In this season, resting well means closing my home office door so I can focus on my family in the evenings. It means asking my family for help around the house so we can all enjoy time together. And it means trusting that what refreshes me - abiding in God’s Word, reading a great book, creating memories and experiences, working out, exploring a new place - is exactly how God created me.

God, help us to lay down the heavy burdens we feel obligated to carry on our own. Remind us that we aren’t alone, and that - while the work you’ve called us to do is good - so is the refreshing rest you desire for our hearts. Show us today, Father, how we’ve been striving instead of serving so we can enter that sweet spot of holy hustle as we work hard and rest well for Your glory.

 
quote413.png
 
 
CrystalStine.png

Comment

Comment

Partner Feature: God Loves All of Me

What is your identity? Who are you? What makes you, you?

Venturing into the journey of motherhood can leave us divorced from the woman we once were. Slowly, though rarely with intention, our “self” gets buried somewhere. Somewhere underneath the laundry, the diapers, the pick-ups and drop-offs, we lose our self. We think back to our pre-children selves like the way we’d remember an old friend; Oh yea, whatever happened to that girl? She was cool. I miss her. 

Why do we do this? 

Maybe it’s because of the lack of sleep, or the abyss of confusion that we get propelled into, wondering constantly if we are even doing this motherhood thing right. Or, maybe it’s the drastic overnight change from being completely independent, to being the primary provider for tiny humans that pretty much can’t do anything by themselves. And amidst all of this extra stuff, rather than cultivating various aspects of ourselves, we opt for sleep, or a shower, or drinking a cup of coffee while it’s actually hot. 

Perhaps for you, you’ve lost yourself somewhat accidentally along the way.

Or maybe for you, you’ve been misguided by well-meaning people who have assured you that this, this new title you’ve been given is your new identity; a mother is who you are. And so, just like with any good thing, you’ve placed the sum of your being in it, defined yourself by it, and continue to pour yourself out completely onto your children. While it’s true, you are a mother, that isn’t all that you are. 

Saying motherhood is my identity is like saying “Space Mountain” is Disneyland, and using those two terms interchangeably. Sure, Space Mountain is one aspect of Disneyland, but it doesn’t fully encompass it. 

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Similarly so, our identity is multi-faceted and can’t be fully encompassed by one role we play.  

Our identity is fraught with passions and skills and gifts and interests. It’s enriched by roles like friend, mentor, wife, and mother. It’s a life-long journey of being shaped and reshaped, broken and redeemed and coming through fires we didn’t think we’d make it through. It was crafted in the innermost place of Holy, set apart, made to produce reverence and reflect the very image of the Divine. It’s made up of inner-wirings and things that make us hum happy tunes, and it’s built with gravitational pulls toward certain things and experiences. It’s all of this. All of these components mixed together uniquely and specifically to make up who you are. 

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Motherhood is not your identity. It’s simply one beautiful, amazing, challenging aspect of it. 

But, discovering and cultivating that identity can be a struggle. It can feel selfish, inconvenient and irresponsible when little lives are so dependent on us. 

So, what’s a girl to do?

I guess what I’ve learned along the way is that the journey of discovering your identity is worth the risk. Allowing yourself precious time with the Lord, so that He can reveal to you who He made you to be, is the paradoxical way to more life. It will come back to you ten-fold, because it’s in this place of being led by our Creator on a journey of discovery that we truly begin to come alive. And along with this awakening comes an enhancement and enrichment in our children’s lives, our marriage, our friendships, and our intimacy with God.

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

Jeff Dillow Photography (jeffdillow.com)

“Identity: A Soul Journey” is a 7-week workbook & video teaching study that leads women on a journey of discovering their unique and specific identity created and given by God. If you’ve struggled with placing the entirety of yourself in your role as a mother, or if you’ve wrestled with a false identity, or if you’ve never really taken the time to get to know yourself, then join us. Join us on this soul-journey of discovering the unique you God made you to be.

Comment