Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Put Down Your Smartphone and No One Has to Get Hurt

Dear Driver,

Hello! I hope you have enjoyed the introduction of spring weather thus far and i pray this letter finds you well.

This afternoon, my children and i were coming home in the early stages of rush-hour traffic. We had the advantage of being able to drive in the HOV lane, though, which was super awesome as i had a stomach ache to beat all and needed to hurry home. The problem is, while we were over in that lane, my son, who was in the passenger's seat, looked over and saw you staring at your smartphone. While driving.

Then he saw YOU doing it, too.
And then YOU.

I argued that maybe you were placing a call, but when we leapfrogged back and forth a couple of times, it became obvious to both of us that not one of you was placing a call. Or putting down your smartphones. Two of you were casually perusing your smartphones while paying partial attention to the traffic ahead of you and probably no attention to the traffic all around you.

According to my son, it looked like you were on Pinterest or Facebook.

Look, folks, i know there's some FAB-u-lous recipes for the perfect, 30-minutes-or-less, weeknight dinner on Pinterest and you're on your way home to a house full of Ravenous Rugrats, and there are trending stories on Facebook that you've just got to catch up on, but not one of those things is worth the inconvenience of a car accident, the increased premium on your insurance, or (dare i say it..?) - SOMEONE'S LIFE.

My oldest daughter is 15 and studying to take her driver's test to obtain her permit. She saw you, too. Are you setting the best example for her or other teens? Because they.are.watching. Always.

My youngest child is 8 and she is happily playing with her flipflops in the backseat, chitchatting about her gymnastics class yesterday and the skills she is obtaining from her favorite teacher. Are you prepared to be the one to take away her ability to continue with her love of gymnastics because you cause an automobile accident that damages her precious little body with your careless disregard for both safety and the law? Because some accidents are preventable. And some wounds don't heal.

In our house, i practice what i preach. I mean what i say. I ask for forgiveness when i mess up. And i try to do what's right. Because these kids are tomorrow's leaders. 
Did you catch that? KIDS are tomorrow's LEADERS. 
And unless we show them how to fight against the temptation to break the rules, they will take the easy way out. 

Just like you did today, Driver. You took the reckless, selfish route today when you made your smartphone more important than your driving - and everyone else's safety. [Here's a thought: carpool if you must use your phone on your commute.]


Mother of 3 in Middle Tennessee

Smoke and Mirrors

Over the past 18 months, my life has been pretty non-stop upheaval and stress. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the list of Top Life Stressors has knocked nearly constantly at my door. And they aren't really polite about waiting to see if i want them to hang around!

During this time, i have prayed, begged, wept, screeched, sat in stony silence, and lost myself to hysteria too many times to count over the drama that has become my life. I have enlisted many prayer warriors for many situations beyond my faculties, and i have cried in the front row (with friends) and the back row (alone) of my church. Winter has become my New Normal, and i'm not talking about the weather.

So, this past week, yet more drama came to call. And it was followed closely by... yep, you guessed it, more drama. Gah! I was pretty sure i had been hit by more than i could handle, i got pretty depressed, and when i thought i couldn't take any more of it, God reminded me that i was not alone and that He would get me through all of it.

I spent a few days with Him between messes and He spoke confidently and sternly to my heart. I realized that as much as i have leaned on others this past year and a half, i really only need God. I am tired of whining, tired of complaining, tired of sounding like a broken record. Things aren't really changing, at least not fast enough for my liking and not in any direction i want them to go!

So... i am going to stop focusing on the things that are a mess and start turning toward the parts of my life that i can do something about. The parts that satisfy my soul, soothe my spirit, calm my mind, and bring me joy.

I'm going to walk into the Fun House and play with Smoke and Mirrors. That junk the devil wants to throw at me? Yeah, it's not really there. It doesn't own me. It can't control my day or my mood or my reactions. That mess the world keeps creating around me? Can't see it anymore for all the Smoke from my praise music and gluten-free flour puffs and watercolor paints. All of the tough stuff that has become part of my daily living? It's impossible to see in a room of Mirrors that reflect my service to the Lord and my love for others.

I'm lifting up my head, turning from the negativity that tries to bring me down, and walking in the light. Just a tiny amount of light casts out the deepest darkness! And i know i am not anywhere close to "the deepest darkness" life has to torment us with, so i know i'll be okay.

Sometimes, the best way to handle the hard stuff of life is to play games with yourself. I'm not beyond tricking myself into discovering joy. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Gossip (Psst!)

What is it?
I mean, what is it really?

One definition is "casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true."

Another is "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others."

So, gossip is first, about someone else. Second, gossip is generally speculation. And third, gossip is often about another person's private affairs.

I have been the victim of vicious gossip.
And i have been the deliverer of gossip.
I have also been an unwilling participant of gossip, trying to get away or encourage the deliverer to stop gossiping.

Here's what i know:
- gossip is talking about something that isn't your business.
- gossip is talking about someone who isn't present.
- gossip is passing on someone else's problems disguised as a "prayer request."
- gossip isn't necessarily based on any facts.

Here's what i've ultimately come to see about what gossip isn't:
Gossip isn't telling a friend about your personal experience with someone. But that line gets fuzzy, so it's okay to err on the side of caution there.

Gossip isn't asking questions about something that involves you in some way so that you have a better understanding of what is happening, what will happen, or what you can expect going forward. But it is wise to keep those questions to the facts and centered around your area of interest or influence.

Gossip isn't confiding in a prayer partner about a problem you are personally having, even if it involves another person. But a trusted prayer partner who can keep your confidence is essential when speaking of delicate situations involving others, to be sure.

Am i The Gossip Guru? Heavens, no. But i have experienced the good, bad, and ugly of gossip and seen all of the confusion that comes with that word. And i figured it's worth talking about.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers?

I have to say that i am noticing something lately about the kindness of strangers. And it is both surprising and obvious at the same time. Especially if you live in the South, as i do. ;)

Strangers will let a car go in front of them in traffic, offer a handshake and a smile in the church lobby, and exchange pleasantries while lingering in a waiting room. I see these behaviors all the time. And i think they are well done. We should be kind to one another! And as a Christian, i know that God calls us to love one another, that He rebukes us in the holy Scriptures to love even "the least of these" [Matthew 25:40] and the ones who are less lovable [Matthew 5:43-47].

Lately, though, with Social Media, i am noticing another trend in the kindness of strangers: we praise, encourage, and compliment one another in the public forum. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. But it hit me like a ton of bricks this week that we are not as good at performing those same kindnesses amongst our own families.

In the same way that we can have heated debates on Social Media and say things we would probably never say in person, we are also quick to offer lengthy encouragement, hearty praise, and flowery compliments - in the Social Media forum, at least. And yet... are we using those same gifts in our own homes?

Here's what i mean...

Are we offering the same flowery praise to our children? Our spouse?
Are we encouraging our children and spouse as much as we encourage others on Facebook?
Are we speaking words of praise over our children and spouse enough to fill their Love Banks?
Are we quick to speak life when a child or spouse has made a mistake?

Or... do we save those sides of ourselves for strangers (or practical strangers)?

The truth is, on Facebook, you can get encouragement back. You get "Likes" and words of affirmation after being a public cheerleader. But you don't exactly get that with your kids, do you?

I've read a lot lately about our culture becoming narcissistic, and i believe this may be part of it; we long for praise, encouragement, and compliments (it's human nature). But is it driving us to demand that sort of positive reinforcement from one another in any way we can get it? Are we less able to hear constructive criticism because of it? Are we becoming less interested in pouring positivity into the lives of people (like our children) who cannot pat us on the back for every good word? Are we less invested in the long-term satisfaction of a job well done and more focused on the immediate gratification Social Media offers?

Something to think about, anyway.
What say you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

In the Presence of Special

When God created each one of us, He knew us. Better than we can ever know ourselves. And some people on this earth, He made with a sprinkling of "special" dust. You always know when you have had the privilege of knowing someone with that extra something special. Because they just are Special. This is especially true in Specials who are children. Children born of adversity. Children with cancer. Children with Autism. I see them in so many forms.

And when a child is Special, there's a little something different about him.
A smile.
A laugh.
A giggle.
Things that can be taken for granted in the Average Joe Juniors are quite the treat in Specials!

Eye contact.
With Special children, these seemingly common, daily experiences are Events! 
Events to be celebrated!

And when that Special child gives you his genuine smile or delights you with his belly laugh, it makes all of the mess (for lack of a better word) that can go along with Special children seem totally worth it. Because God has given YOU something Special, too, when He gave you the Special child. And that comes in the form of a love that holds no account of efforts, work, troubles, or concerns, but rejoices in the little things like sparkling eyes and cheerful babble (that rambling of true excitement over the Christmas lights or the playground).

It is as if witnessing the harnessed power of true joy in the miracle that is your Special child is a release from all of the burdens that we can too easily focus on instead. And i, for one, need that release. To remind me that i am called to this work. And to reset my patience level. To call up the Holy Spirit of peace to take me over yet again.

Because daily, i need some payoff. I am human, and i have a sin nature. And i whine and complain. And i throw Pity Parties that no one attends because we're all too busy with our own troubles to waste time feeling sorry for ourselves. And the payoff doesn't always come. Then i put my Big Girl Panties on and face the world again.

When the payoff comes...
... in the form of a genuine smile... an honest conversation... or a heartfelt laugh... 
i am overcome. 
Because God has called me to this. 
And all i can ever do is give it my best effort. Because Special people are always put in our lives to help us with ourselves anyway.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From a Distance

People say "the grass is always greener on the other side." Maybe i'm too practical, but i've not been one to fall for that. I guess i'm a realist that leans toward pessimism ever so slightly. My glass is never half full OR half empty. It just... is. You know? It has some. And that's always been enough for me.

For example, growing up, i wanted out of the city and away from the cold. Too many people, too much winter, get me outta there! My parents would say, "the grass is always greener on the other side." For most people, maybe, but not for me. I hightailed it away from the city and the cold the first chance i got and i haven't regretted it. :)

Some people going through a difficult marriage or on the other side of a divorce can't wait to find "someone different" that they can be happy with because they are sure it is out there. And maybe it is, for some. But for me, i'm not interested.

You see, from a distance, a dirty pond looks inviting.
From a distance, a dusty mantle can look clean.
From a distance, a McDonald's Playplace even looks clean! (And i can tell you from experience that there are suspicious puddles and mystery crumbs up in those tunnels! Blech!)

So we get confused. We get antsy for something to change. And we start looking around, judging what we see... from a distance.

Our lives look confusing and tumultuous at times, and an escape looks inviting. Because we can't get the right perspective. We're too entrenched in the mire of the mess. We don't have the ability to step outside our situation and see what the Big Picture is.

But God does.

And even though He has given us the Holy Spirit to keep us company in the midst of our circumstances, He sits at a distance, weighing the tough experiences with the blessings, the struggles with the victories, and the hurdles with the finish line. You see, God doesn't have narrow vision, He is never near-sighted like we are. And when i want my struggle to end, when i honestly feel like i am drowning in the pit of my own circumstances, God knows that just around the corner is something amazing. And He also knows that every time He brings me out of darkness into the light again, my joy is less subject to the enemy's schemes, my faith is stronger, and my desire to thrive during tough times is greater than before.

From a distance, this life is a blip. Up close, it's messy. How i use my blip matters, but it is Who i follow through the messes that will make or break me day after day. And even though today is a rough day and i feel broken and hopeless, i am trying to look up because i know that to my Father in Heaven, my current circumstances are just a moment in the Big Picture of what God is doing in my life. And even though i only see the mess, God sees the masterpiece that is coming.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why I Weep

There's an old hymn called "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" that popped into my head this morning. The refrain that goes "I sing because i'm happy; I sing because i'm free" was the part that i was reminded of. Not because i was singing it or humming it, not because i had heard it recently somewhere. It popped into my head because i found myself weeping at the Christmas Story once again. And i wondered to to myself, why am i crying over this every year?

And as i let that question marinade in my heart, an answer was given in the depths of my being....

i weep because i know.
i know what it is like to wait for God to send help.
And i know what it is like to doubt that He ever will.
i know what it is like to know the pure joy of finally receiving that help.
i know what it is like to face persecution.
i know what it is like to suffer trials.

And God sent His Son to us so that all of that might not be in vain! He sent us Jesus so that all of the hardships of this life don't have to steal our joy or derail us from an eternity in Heaven.

So i weep.
Because my Savior suffered. For me.
Because Mary, long ago, delivered a son she would have to watch suffer and die. For me.
Because i am a sinner who needed a Savior to stand the gap. For me.
And because i never want to take it for granted.

So. I weep. Often. And without shame. Because Jesus has my whole heart, and He has done so much for me already (before i even drew my first breath, He has suffered and died for me!).

Maybe i'll write a hymn. :)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Their Name is Today (Book Review)

At the beginning of this month, I received a new book from Plough Publishing House to read and review. I was super excited about this book because it was by Johann Christoph Arnold, who authored Rich In Years, which I loved! This book is entitled Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.

By the title, I thought this was going to focus primarily on our fears in today's society: child abductions, terrorism, and the child sex trade. That's what I get for getting so excited about Arnold's name in the author line that I didn't read the blurb about the book. ;)
However, as I began reading it, my soul often cried out "YES!" as he spoke passionately about all of the many ways our world has become hostile to children. Ways we may not think of as being "hostile" per se. Standardized testing and mass educational systems that meet no child's real educational needs (and certainly not their psychological or physical ones), as well as the over-stimulation, materialism, and busyness of today's children and families, not to mention technology's impact!

At times, I felt the book take on a slightly liberal feel about how we should help the world's children, but it wasn't anything glaring or offensive. I think that people who are passionate about children have a tendency toward the "it takes a village" mentality, and certainly many of the people Arnold quotes and references in the book seem to be of that mindset. I do not feel this was a fault, though, because it is difficult to take on the issue of a generation of children's best interests (and how we are failing them in so many, many ways) without getting a little overreaching in our methods. I have often struggled with this as I feel very passionate about children, too!

The more I read about the failings of today's methods of raising children, from the poor assessment and teaching methods of our public schools to the behavioral after-effects of the all of our too-high expectations on children, the more grateful I was that I was able to provide an alternative to my children by homeschooling and maintaining a somewhat laid-back schedule. However, we have a long way to go in the materialism piece of the argument as a fairly well-to-do American family. :(

It is absolutely a book a would recommend if you have any interest at all in how to help your child or the children around you. If you are a parent, educator, childcare worker, or anyone who is passionate about or works with children, I suggest reading this very eye-opening book. Some of it you will likely expect to read, but I would hazard a guess that much of what the author outlines in his book will be very enlightening, even if it is just a different spin on an issue you are already aware of.

*Note: This review is my own opinion. I was given a free copy of the book from Handlebar and Plough Publishing House in order to read and review it. There was no expectation that the review would be positive, only that it be honest.

Monday, October 27, 2014

When it's easier...

Over the past few weeks, i have learned a lot about myself and about the cycle of domestic violence. I have learned that no matter how knowledgeable i thought i was, there were always warning signs and evidence of abuse that i didn't consider or wasn't aware of. Little things and bigger things. Daily things and occasional things.

One of the really profound things i learned was how often i ignored the inner voice that cried out for kind regard. The check in my spirit that whispered, "what about me?" Or the ache in my heart from words that struck deep and were never forgotten. But those whispers were always countered by the louder voice of my husband telling me what a "good wife" or a "Christian" wife was supposed to be. Or the church, without intending harm, exclaiming that a truly submission wife would not be treated badly by her husband. Or the well-meaning women who asked if there was truth to my husband's accusations about my laziness, my disrespect, my emotional imbalance, or my failures as a wife and mother.

And it really just became easier to tell myself they were all right.
Because the only person i can control is myself. And i can change myself to fit whatever mold others say i should fit into. But i cannot change my circumstances or my husband or my church or my friends... so i worked diligently on changing me.

So when my husband accused me of not being affectionate enough after our baby was born because she was always touching me and i was begging for some solitude, i tried to be what he needed. Because it was easier to change what i needed than to feel unheard.

And when my husband refused to walk the living room with our colicky son for even 15 minutes so that i could take a shower - because he "couldn't handle it" - i tried to not need him as much. Because it was easier to figure out how to change my schedule to accommodate my most basic needs during that difficult season of working full-time and caring for two children alone than it was to feel unimportant.

As the anger bouts came out in full force against me and the children, i tried to change any behaviors or the situations that might be triggering them. Because it was easier to keep the peace than to fear for our safety.

When my husband made room for his things but not mine, took food off of my plate after he finished his own, cared for his laundry but no one else's, cleaned his bathroom sink but not mine, helped his sister with her child but not me with ours, bought his favorite things at the store but didn't ask what i might like, or took the only towel rod in the bathroom for his towel, i tried to remind myself to be more self-sacrificing. Because it was easier to ignore his little actions that put me last than it was to feel unloved.

And when my husband filed for divorce last month, those same inclinations came flooding back. Because it would be easier to bend myself to his will and continue in this farce of a marriage so that my children do not have to be pulled away from the only life they have known. It would be easier to submit myself to the evils of my husband's self-serving demands than to walk this road of uncertainty and chaos.

i have been learning a lot in the past few weeks.
About myself and about the cycle of domestic violence and abuse.
And one of the things that i learned is that it is sometimes easier to stay in a situation that is absolutely killing you than it is to fight your way out of it.

And when it is easier, it is generally not the right path. Because i have always believe that the easy roads are not the ones that challenge us, and when we are not challenged, we don't grow, and if we don't grow, we cannot flourish! Oh, how i long to flourish!

So i am choosing to walk this very hard road with my husband. A road toward independence. A road toward separateness. A road that will take me out of the firing line of some really dreadful behaviors. And i choose to believe that we will be okay, my children and i. God walks with me. He has this tiny circular beam of light that He is shining on my next steps, but He is also putting wise counsel in path, words of truth in my ears, and peace within my soul.

It isn't easy.
But i trust that it will be worth it. :)


Wednesday, October 22, 2014


This month, my pastor has been talking to us about the Holy Spirit. He is teaching us about being filled with the Spirit and getting our power from the Spirit. He made an interesting point the first week, and reiterated it the second: he said our problem with being filled with the Spirit is that "we leak."

It got me thinking quite a bit. We tend to ask for help in times of trouble. No brainer, there. And that causes us to have a pretty heavy reliance upon the Holy Spirit to just get through the tough days. But we don't hold onto that. Life stabilizes, as it tends to do, and the bad things either get resolved or we learn to adjust and the pain eases a bit over time. When this happens, we lose sight of what we were heavily focused on before: the presence and strength of God given to us through the Holy Spirit.

I've also been thinking about how we tend to react poorly in times of stress. We lose our tempers, raise our voices, make poor decisions that we later regret, act impulsively, or damage a relationship because we didn't pause and allow the Holy Spirit to act through us.

So... yeah, we leak.

We leak the goodness of the Spirit.
We lose sight of the strength of the Spirit.
We leak the strength of the Spirit.
We forget the grace given by God because of Christ.
We leak holy love for our neighbor.

And when we leak, we need to be refilled, my pastor says. Constantly, at times. But that takes awareness to our emptiness, our weakness, doesn't it? And i'm just not sure most people have that sort of personal awareness. Which is frustrating. And unfortunate. And really sad.

This week, i encountered someone who was reacting to a situation with fear. She was overreacting, in my opinion, based on her small viewpoint, and was being not-so-kind to others who didn't share her opinion. In the moment, my blood pressure began to rise and my indignation took root... and then, a still, small voice spoke to me, reminding me to extend grace. And i was able to reign in my anger and frustration, give her the benefit of the doubt, and act in love and grace.

That wasn't me. I leak.
But the Holy Spirit, who resides in me, has been my daily portion lately, so i was not so easily distracted from His prompting as i might have normally been if my situation wasn't so difficult right now. And, frankly, that was pretty cool. :)

I've never been angry with God about suffering. Not saying i'm special for that, just saying... it isn't in me. I understand that suffering is a very unpleasant but undeniable part of life this side of heaven. But it seems like every time He guides me through another valley, He shows me another side benefit of our pain. And i truly hope that i learned well enough during this season just how wonderful the constant presence of the Holy Spirit is! I know i'll still leak, but i want to always stay aware of my need to be refilled. Moment to moment, He is my comforter and my guide, and i need Him.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ashes Have Purpose

Much like the ashes under my charcoal grill tend to swirl and lift with the sweeping breeze to be carried off to replenish the earth, i am aware that the ashes of my life are carried away for a greater purpose than i can imagine. Did you know that routine burning of plant life is a necessary component to a fertile soil? The ashes allow nutrients that would otherwise not enter the soil become available for new growth.

In the same way, our lives have experiences that must be renewed... by the burning of what was so that we can establish newer, healthier growth. I am in a season of letting go of the old and watching it burn. It isn't comfortable and it isn't always easy, but i recognize it for what it is: opportunity.

God uses everything, yes, everything, to stretch us into His image and manifest in us a purpose we often cannot see. And since we cannot see what He sees, it is easy to get discouraged. But He has a plan for that failed business venture, that project that you bombed, and that relationship that ended badly. We cannot always see His plan in the midst of our struggle, but that is why it is so important to have faith.

My faith tells me that God is still looking out for me. It reminds me that He is allowing this season for a purpose far greater than whatever it seems in the moment. And it centers me to remember. Because my life is bigger than my piles of ashes along the way. My ashes are merely a necessary component to the growth of who i am becoming.

It is often said that "hindsight is 20/20" and i believe that is true. Mostly, i think it is true because we can see the good that comes after the experience is over. During the trial, we are too busy fighting for the next breath, struggling toward the next moment, and reaching for the finish line. But later, when we are down the road a ways, we can often look back on the struggle and understand it's value. The job we wouldn't have gotten if we hadn't had the failure, the opportunity that arose because we were in the right place at the right time solely because of the trial putting us there, or the self-awareness and new-found strength that came out of that bad relationship.

So, i can say with confidence, from my position in the battle, "count it all joy," my friends! Because if you must suffer the burning, let it not be for nothing - watch for the beauty that will come from the ashes. :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Some people are addicted to alcohol.
Some people are addicted to cigarettes.
Some people are addicted to prescription medications.
Some people are addicted to illegal drugs.
Some people are addicted to pornography.
Some people are addicted to love (or at least, the idea of it).
I do not struggle with any of those addictions, though i have compassion for those who do.

Specifically, i battle a nearly constant urge to defend myself.
To defend myself against unfair accusations.
Against lies.
Against misunderstandings and miscommunication.

God is working on my heart in this area, and i know He wants me to remain in my peace with what i know about myself, but sometimes, the urge to defend is so strong! And i have to bite my lip. If the person i would be speaking to on the matter is not open to my side, no words will penetrate anyway.

Sometimes, people have to cling to their flawed views of things in order to remain in their own reality. Other times, they are believing a lie themselves and have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth. Mostly, though, i believe that people just don't want to take responsibility for their own mistakes, errors in judgment, or lack of efforts to try something new.

Whatever the underlying cause, i can only change ME, and i have a limited amount of energy each day. So, i'm learning to let go of the things - and people - that attempt to drag me into unhealthy cycles. I am learning that my reputation in Christ is the only thing i have any rights to boast about, and everything else i am is broken, mistaken, and sinful. And if i cannot boast in who i am - other than who i am in Christ - then what is the point of defending myself, really?

So... i will try to say less, turning the other cheek and letting God be my defender. Wanting the truth to be known, while a noble goal, is outside of my realm of control anyway.