Let it roll (off your back)

A few days ago, my girls and I went outside to take advantage of the sunny, spring-like weather. I started pulling weeds in my side yard while my girls were tinkering around in the driveway. I’ve stopped nagging them to wear shoes at this point, because they end up leaving them strewn around the yard, and when we have to go somewhere, they can’t be found. As I came around to the front, a retired couple from the neighborhood was out walking their dog. My outgoing daughters said Hello, my youngest on her scooter and my oldest on her balance bike. I headed toward the end of my driveway to ensure my girls stayed there and didn’t try to pet the couple’s rather large canine. Rather than exchanging pleasantries, the man started, “I was watching one of them (nodding at my daughters) riding in the driveway almost to the street.” I faltered, unable to come up with a reply. Then, he looked at my girls’ bare feet and barreled ahead, “And no shoes?! Ouch!” With fire in my belly, I replied, “When I was a kid, I never wore shoes in the summer, Man!” (Yes, I ended my sentence with “Man.” I was spitting fire mad!) The woman laughed in passing, either out of embarrassment or truly because she had no idea her husband had belittled me, and he kept walking. I was so angry and insulted. I thought of at least a dozen comeback lines, of course, five hours later. Things like, “Here’s a balloon. Want to fart in it for me?” Or, “Here’s my bowl of Cheerios. Could you pee in them for me?” Or one a little less juvenile and more to the point: “Any other criticisms you want to make on my apparent lack of parenting?” I shouldn’t have let him get to me so much, but dang, it hurt. That morning was particularly rough. We had just gotten back from our weeklong trip to Colorado the day before, so we were all jet-lagged and exhausted. I was weary, and had to get outside for some fresh, sea-level air. That jab at my parenting skills were not at all what I wanted or needed that day. Or really, ever.

Then, I was reading my Bible yesterday and came across this in Proverbs 12 from the Christian Standard Bible version:

16 A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible.

25 Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.

26 A righteous person is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.

Okay, God. I guess it was good I couldn’t come up with some snarky retort. It wouldn’t have helped the situation or my attitude. It probably would have made me even angrier, and then make me feel bad because I HATE confrontation. Then it would be awkward. Thanks, I guess, for not giving me a quick wit?

I think his words really cut deep because of the insecurity I already feel as a mom of two little ones. Am I reading to them enough? Should I go back into her room and sing one more bedtime song? Did they eat enough vegetables today? Does she know how much I love her, even though she’s making me crazy today? Did I teach them about Jesus today? Have I been a good example of God’s grace and forgiveness? Have they had enough outdoor time and exercise today? I know that I am uniquely qualified to be their mama, because they’re my babies, but knowing that in my head doesn’t quiet those anxious thoughts that plague me like poison ivy. I’m the kind of person that will cling to the one negative comment and utterly forget the countless words of encouragement and praise. Maybe we’re all like that, especially when it comes to what and whom we’ve utterly poured out our hearts into.

Obviously, that man has no idea how I am as a mother. All he knows is what he sees for the three minutes it takes to walk down the sidewalk past my house. He doesn’t know me, my heart or my girls. Is this blog post even worth my time to write? I think it is, because we all have gotten sucker punched in the gut metaphorically or have gotten judged unfairly. Trolls looking for mud to throw abound. But what we do in response to that insult or criticism is more important. Romans 12:9 reads “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good.” So now, I’m clinging to the good. I know that my girls are loved, protected, and prayed over daily. They love talking to people and are polite (most of the time). They’re brave and strong and have no shortage of tenacity. What am I going to do the next time we’re outside and we see that couple? I’m not interested in another round of confidence degradation, obviously, but we are called to love our neighbors. And to love without hypocrisy. I’ll wave, as I’m sure my girls will too, oblivious to the tension I’ll feel. I’ll pray that God softens my heart toward them. And then my girls and I will continue about our day, playing outside in bare feet.

Trust your Gut and Ignore your heart

I vividly remember one night about twenty years ago, driving home from a dinner party with friends just outside of Baltimore. I was about five minutes away. It was nearly midnight, and the stop light flicked to red, even though nobody else was on the road except for the one set of headlights behind me. Those lights belonged to a pickup truck which stopped next to me, and I could feel the driver looking me over hungrily. I flicked my eyes to my right so I could quickly see him, and immediately felt a shiver run down my spine. The hair on my arms and neck stood on end. Something in the pit of my stomach told me that this guy had very dark and very scary intentions. The light turned green, and as I shifted into gear (I had a stick shift), he swung into my lane right behind me. He followed me so aggressively, I knew I should not pull into my apartment complex. Danger was pulsing in my ears, I had to get away from him. I continued straight and headed towards the mall instead of turning right. He followed. I screeched my car out of the mall parking lot and sped around, and again, he was behind me. I looped around the whole block twice, and when I finally had lost him, I shut off my headlights, turned into my complex, parked my car, shut off the engine, locked the doors, and sat shaking in my seat facing my building. Perhaps a minute after I parked, I saw his truck barreling down the street and drive past the entrance to my complex. I unbuckled my seatbelt and crouched down. Realizing I must have pulled off somewhere, he U-turned, and drove slowly through my C-shaped parking lot. I was never so grateful to have a Honda that looked like every other car. I prayed he didn’t have my license plate memorized. His headlights passed through my windows as he crept around the parking lot, then he blessedly gave up and took a right back onto the main road. Once he was gone, I bolted out of my car and up the stairs into my apartment, locking the door behind me with my shaking hands.

It’s strange, these feelings we have that are innate to us. There is a saying that you should trust your gut. Your “gut” refers to your instincts or your “spider sense” that bristles when something feels wrong, or when you sense danger. Your body initiates its fight or flight mode, and when we trust and act on these gut instincts, they’re usually right and we are kept from harm.

Why then, is it that our hearts are so off-base when it comes to what’s best for us? When I was single, there were times in my life I just didn’t want to be single anymore. I became jealous of other couples and bitter because it seemed that everyone else I knew had a partner except me. I would plow through stop signs and danger flags and compromise my convictions because I craved the thrill and excitement of winning some boy’s attention. My heart made choices for me that hurt more than I could have imagined. In retrospect, we can be so choosy about what company to keep when it comes to friends, but it seems like all sense and caution get tossed out the window if our hearts go aflutter with some new boy. We trust these boys with our hearts and our lives often without having any idea what they are really like when they’re alone or not trying to impress us. We rush to their defense when someone who truly knows and loves us questions their character or actions. We put up with more garbage from them when we think it’s love than we would ever tolerate from friends or family members. Psalm 37:4 states “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” So, when are our hearts’ desires ever something good for us? If we are desperately trying to obtain the love and affection (or simply the attention) of another human, or seeking money, or success, or pleasure, or even peace in our lives or minds without God, we are setting ourselves up for heartbreak, pain, shame, and/or guilt. If we are delighting in the Word of God and seeking God’s face daily, he will quiet the most desperate longings of our souls. We are God’s creation, and he knows us even better than we understand ourselves. He knows our most intimate thoughts and fulfills our hearts’ deepest needs, and when we allow him to fill us, we become thankful and content.

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba. Now, Solomon’s parent’s relationship began rather scandalously. Bathsheba was bathing on her rooftop and King David saw her from across his own palace rooftop, and immediately fell head over heels. David was so infatuated with her, that he even had her husband advance to the front of the battle lines so he’d be killed in combat. When Solomon became king, God told Solomon that He would give him whatever he asked. Solomon asked for not riches or peace or power or the love of a woman. He simply asked for Wisdom, and God gave it to him filled to the brim, running over, plus all the other things he didn’t ask for. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23 to “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the wellspring of life.” I’m sure David warned his son against the dangers of jumping heart first. Proverbs consistently reminds us to above all, seek wisdom and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of of all wisdom. Our hearts can so easily wander when we are not letting God complete us. By daily seeking the Lord, he will both fill our hearts with what we are longing for, but he will also give us wisdom. Out of a thankful and content heart, we will make wise choices that are good for us and keep us away from harm.

A Writer’s Fears

My own words intimidate me
Afraid to pick up the pen and write
Scared of what the scribbles will read.
Thoughts pile up in my mind at night
unable to stop the flow.
I cannot stifle these words that 
rattle and steep within my brain any longer.
They're within me intended to come out.
Somehow, they must find paper and a voice.
Like Frankenstein's monster, these inanimate thoughts
need breath and life
and only I can free them.
The longer I wait, the stronger the pull
on my gut that I'm missing something.
That part of who I am is locked away, 
the pen in my hand the key.
Be bold, be brave, let your light shine.
These words and God's light inside me 
are gifts meant to be shared.
If I seal it off, I will wilt.
Part of myself will die without use
And the part that remains will always wonder
What would have happened if I had tried?

The Pressure of Walking on Water

I have stories to share from my life which I know God has written; beautiful events only God could orchestrate and also results from my own unwise decisions that only God could have restored. But, before I can collect the thoughts and emotions from my cavernous memory, I often lose my focus and drive. I end up writing nothing, ending up feeling defeated, deflated, and completely frustrated that I have this simmering desire inside me, with nothing to show for it. I’m reminded of the story of Peter who calls out to Jesus walking on the water in the middle of a stormy night. He asks Jesus whether he can come out of his boat to walk on the waves with him. Jesus doesn’t hesitate. “Come,” he replies. Peter must have been elated. How incredible to walk on top of the sea! What an amazing opportunity to perform this miraculous feat with Jesus. “I can’t wait for the other eleven to see me” I can imagine Peter thinking has he clambers out of the rocking boat. Then, his eyes catch a glimpse of the agitated waves, and the result is disastrous. The choppy skin of the water that should not hold his weight starts to claim him. Almost immediately, Jesus is there with his hand outstretched, pulling Peter up onto his feet, back onto the uneven surface of the tossing waves. Only after the two get back into the boat do the wind and waves calm down. For me, those waves have names: Comparison, Distraction, and Pride. I get distracted by looking at other peoples’ magnificent lives or stories or success and I start to doubt myself. I start to doubt my ability and whether I even have a story to tell. Contradictorily, I also wish I had a bigger audience with whom to share my stories. But I know it isn’t about me. When Jesus saved Peter from drowning, Jesus asked him, “Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” That sort of makes me laugh. I mean, Peter had enough faith to step out of that boat. The other eleven disciples thought Jesus was a ghost and were too scared to even talk to him. I’m not even sure I’d have been brave enough to ask if I could get out of the boat, much less kick my leg over the side of that rocking vessel. Peter certainly couldn’t walk on water either, but, he could do the impossible when his eyes and thoughts were on Jesus. The pressure is off. It isn’t about my (in)ability or (lack of) focus or the size of my audience. It’s about being willing to step out into the thrashing, foaming waves to meet Jesus where He’s walking. It’s about being obedient to His voice, taking one next step at a time, and keeping my eyes on Him alone. Those waves will still be out there, slapping at the surface, but as long as my eyes stay focused on my God who calls me, I will not sink.

Oatmeal pancakes

Heres a pancake recipe I’ve been creating for my girls this past week and we’ve all been loving them! They have a nice, nutty flavor and texture since they’re made with oats instead of flour. This also means that if you use organic, gluten-free oats, these pancakes will be gluten free. Super simple to whip up, and nice and easy to portion the batter onto the pan, thanks to the food processor. I desperately need to get to the grocery store because I have no eggs, but these come out beautifully even with my egg substitute. The pancakes do come out a bit more delicate without a real egg, but just as tasty. If you use the flaxseed and coconut oil, these would be vegan too! Also, we use full-fat Oatly (oat milk) at our house because of the dairy allergies, but you can use whatever milk you like. This recipe makes approximately 8-10 3-inch pancakes, which in our house feeds my two little girls plus me, with a few leftover unless we’re really hungry! So, I’d say it would feed 2 hungry adults if this is the only item on your menu.

  • 1 c rolled oats (can use quick oats or thick cut- whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 egg OR 1 Tbs ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbs water (allow to sit for a few minutes to gel up)
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil (or melted butter)

1. Process dry ingredients in food processor until pieces are uniform in size.

2. Add egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. Pulse until just combined.

3. Cook over medium heat, flip over once little bubbles form on surface. Serve with maple or agave syrup, or with a dollop of yogurt on top. (we love Forager cashewgurt)

Learning to be a GentleMom

This morning, I could have slept in for another hour. Instead, my ginger-haired girl tiptoed her way into my room, discovering an unopened package of Easter candy on her way to my side of the bed. “Mama! We didn’t eat all the Pez from our Easter baskets!” she boomed. My youngest then danced into the room, wide-eyed and excited for more Easter-themed sugar. I groaned, tossing my covers off and sat up. I did not want that candy ripped open and for both girls to have a sugar high before 8am. “Give me the candy,” I said gruffly. I took it and stuffed it away. I was not at all gentle in how I spoke to them this morning. While I drank my coffee, and my girls were eating their breakfast, I apologized for being such a grump. In their sweet little voices, they both assured me by saying, “It’s okay, Mama.” But how often do I blow up at them for them being little people with their own wills, not acquiescing to my own, especially if what they’re doing isn’t wrong? I read Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel a while back, and I still think of this fantastic quote: “Childhood is the time that God has set aside for children to work the ‘ding dong’ out of themselves.” It’s so completely true. I don’t need to get so crazy wound up over silly things I should just be laughing at instead.

Dear Lord, help me to be patient with my girls (and with my husband). Help me to speak life-giving words to them, to treat their hearts tenderly, and to swallow my knee-jerk reactions that come out angry or impatient. Please help me remember that I am your representative of grace, patience, integrity, forgiveness, kindness, and gentleness.

Passover Exchange

The gospels record that a large crowd had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover festival and pressed in to see Jesus, who was riding in to the city on a donkey colt. The crowd laid down palm branches and their cloaks on the road for this highly anticipated Jesus, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord- the King of Israel!” Then we read that just a few days later, Jesus was in handcuffs tried as a prisoner by Pilate. Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate attempted to address the crowd, but this crowd was full of bloodlust. Three times, Pilate sought to ask the crowd why he should crucify Jesus, for he knew that Jesus was innocent. But the crowd, ignoring Pilate’s questions, continued to scream, “Crucify! Crucify him!” and their vehement, rabid shouting won out over reason. Pilate allowed the crowd to dictate his decision, and so he released Barabbas, the prisoner convicted of rebellion and murder, and handed Jesus, the Lamb of God, over to be crucified.

How did shouts of Hosanna switch to Crucify so quickly? The people so abruptly changed their minds about Jesus, yanking him off a throne and nailing him to a cross. Similarly, the Israelites who were led by Moses through the wilderness were just as swift to turn their backs on God. The Israelites enjoyed the actual presence of God in the form of a pillar of fire at night and of cloud during the day, and the daily miracle of manna from heaven. Moses took too long for them to return from the mountaintop, so they melted down their gold and turned it into an idol in the shape of a cow. In one week, they had abandoned their living God, choosing instead to worship a lifeless, golden calf they themselves had fashioned.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, and I woke up with this Bible verse in my head:

We all went away like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 (CSV)

We can read both stories and think that we would never have been that fickle to desert the Lord. We most likely have never carved a lump of wood or metal into an idol, nor were we an actual member of the screaming mob yelling, “Crucify!” I looked up the word iniquity and found lots of synonyms: abomination, crime, evildoing, heinousness, immorality, injustice, sinfulness, wickedness, unrighteousness, and wrongdoing. That verse states that we ALL have some of this in our hearts and have acted on it, too. We may even be weighed down by it, flogging ourselves mentally for a past we cannot undo, or living in a current addiction from which we cannot break free. Yet, Jesus isn’t angry or bitter or disgusted with us. He forgave us all for putting Him on that cross, not with an actual hammer and nail, but with our own iniquity.

We exchanged shouts of Hosanna for Crucify
We exchanged a savior for a murderer
We exchanged our living God for the golden image of a grass-eating ox

Jesus exchanged His life for our sin
Jesus exchanged our past for a future with Him
Jesus exchanged our guilt and shame for forgiveness and love that knows no bounds

Encounter at the Cross

I wanted this Easter to be more than Easter bunnies, decorating eggs, and honey-baked ham. I really wanted to connect emotionally to how Jesus felt during this week of his life on earth. I’ve poured over each Gospel’s story of Passover through the resurrection. As I prayed today, I could almost see Jesus in front of me. I could see his eyes, and feel the depth of his love and forgiveness. I pray that this helps you see Him too.

Looking down at my shuffling feet in the dirt
bearing the shame of my own guilt
I stop at a fresh mound in front of me.
Looking up, I see Jesus, bloody and beaten, 
nailed to a splintered cross.
He looks me in the eyes,
liquid love meeting mine.
"Forgive her, Lord.  She doesn't know what she's doing," he prays,
Never taking his eyes off me.
I drop to my knees, 
dropping everything I own and all I have been carrying
scattered at His feet.
Tears pour from my eyes as I ask forgiveness for nailing Him there.
"It is finished," I hear him say.
All is quiet.
Then, Jesus simply says my name.
I look up, and there He is.
The cross is gone and Jesus is standing in front of me, 
wearing blazing white 
the holes in his hands and feet still visible.  
He smiles, opening his arms wide
just as they were as He hung on the cross
and says,
"You are forgiven, for all of it."

Savoring the Time

After lunch, I’m eyeing the clock, waiting for 1pm to get here. That’s the time for my two little ones to skitter up the stairs, I will read them a book (or three) and then it’s quiet time for both of them. After their doors close, I can feel my body relax. I excitedly heat up water in the kettle for some tea, and break out my Bible. This is my only Alone Time during the day. I’m going through the book of Psalms now, using the reading plan in my Bible as my daily checklist of which Psalm or multiple Psalms to read, and the two “Going Deeper” readings elsewhere in the Word. I have my journal and pen in hand as I read, so that I can write down the verses that speak to me, and then once my Bible is closed, I write out my prayers in ink. I savor this hour, just God and me, alone. Which is why it’s so hard to not be rattled when one of my girls yells from her door, “I have to go potty!” Or any number of other interruptive exclamations. I’m protective of this time, and it’s difficult for me not to get angry when my alone time is disrupted. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and for meeting me, and help me to savor your presence all day long, not just in the one hour I allot. Also, help me to savor this precious, fleeting time with my little girls while they’re home with me all day.

Daily manna for a Hangry mama

Nearly five years since giving birth to my first baby, I think back on that first year of motherhood with my content Noelle as being glorious and blissful. My second baby, Autumn, then crashed into our lives 21 months later. That one miserable post-delivery night in the hospital changed me from being a confident, always smiling and laughing mom into an overwhelmed, completely anxious and tearful wreck. All of a sudden, my docile and sweet Noelle was, without warning, everything the opposite. I was navigating life as a first-time mom of a Terrible Two, concurrently dealing with an often-inconsolable newborn. Some nights after getting both girls to bed, I’d sit in my husband’s lap, soaking the front of his shirt as I’d cry, ashamed at my inability to be the mom I wished I could be to my girls. I was heartbroken over the harsh words I’d let out in anger and impatience at my Noelle. I was torn that I couldn’t spend quality time with each of them as I felt they deserved or needed. My husband would rub my back and let me cry, but he never fully understood the turmoil I felt inside. 

On one particularly difficult morning dealing with 15-month-old Autumn and three-year-old Noelle, I was dragging myself around the kitchen to make another cup of coffee. My ever-observant ginger-haired Noelle said to me, “Mama, look up. Don’t look at the floor.” I looked up at her, surprised. “What made you say that?” I asked. “God did,” she told me confidently. I was barely hanging on and God spoke to me in my kitchen that day through my oldest, and my most challenging daughter at the time. He was reminding me to stop trying to do this motherhood thing by myself.

After that day in the kitchen, I’ve intentionally made time to spend time with God every day. He has since filled my soul and my mind with precisely what I need in order to pour it out on to my children and my husband. No matter how small or big the amount of time I can commit, God gives me sufficient grace, patience, love, joy, and peace to get through the day. Likewise, God provided manna, bread from Heaven, every day for 40 years to feed the Israelites as He led them through the wilderness. In Exodus 16:18, it reads that “…the person who gathered a lot [of manna] had no surplus, and the person who gathered a little had no shortage. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat.” Our patient Heavenly Father led and fed the whining, hangry Israelites through the desert for over 40 years. In turn, He knows just what we need and how much, because he gifted these precious children to us to lead and feed. We simply need to spend time with Him each day for a refill.

This is my daily Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for being with me when I feel alone, overwhelmed, or like I’m completely failing my kids. Children are gifts from you, and I’m so thankful you’ve given me the honor of raising my girls and to teach them to be followers of Christ. Help me to teach them with grace, and in order to do that, remind me of your grace that you so freely give me every day. Help me to get rid of distractions that take me away from spending time with you and with my family. Thank you for restoring me, settling me, strengthening me, and supporting me always, and for being so gracious to me in filling up my soul, so that I can pour onto my family in your overflow.