Friday, December 16

I Pledge Allegiance to Their Standards (No Thanks)

The bath water was warm and inviting. A cup of chai tea sat on the edge of the tub. I wondered if I'd even drink it. Hot water on the outside of the body paired with more hot water poured into the inside is sometimes too much.

The door was locked and my laptop sat sturdy atop the hamper. A show would be nice. Time alone would be nicer.

Children aged nine and under were tucked in bed at the Bacon school-night standard time of 7:30 p.m. All was well. Chances of a knock on the door were slim to none, lest there be a fire or other emergency. Even then I'd question leaving this haven.

I sunk into the water like it was the day's saving grace. Why does warm water feel so good? So comforting?

In the womb, warm water comforts too. Maybe there's a connection, I thought.

As the flash of the laptop began to cast a blue-ish light on my skin, I notice the white streaks painted on my abdomen, hips, and legs. Stretch marks. I hadn't noticed them in a long time.

There were more than I remembered. The marks paved roads to places I didn't realize. The dark room paired with the glowing light made them stand out.


I don't make a habit of inspecting my body in front of the mirror or otherwise, so I just hadn't noticed or thought about them for some time.

Five pregnancies did this. 

Growth and life did this. 

I'm okay with this. 

I've never loved gushy words about embracing your stretch marks. I just don't think enough about them to actually devote time to embracing them.

If it weren't for vanity's sake, why would anyone care?

If it weren't for vanity's sake, why would anyone ever despise them?

If it weren't for vanity's sake, why would anyone attempt to cover them?

If it weren't for vanity's sake... a thought to investigate further.

I stopped using cocoa butter to stave off the stretch marks after my third pregnancy. Creams didn't stop them from coming anyways.

But the real reason I didn't slather my bulging belly with those magic potions any longer was because I was done trying to stop what my body naturally did as a response to the life growing in me.

Trying to stop a natural process from "ruining" my body was feeding my natural inclination to care too much about my appearance.

Here's the part where I say the words we aren't so happy to hear.

If we're struggling with despising our bodies or are desperate to look good, that's a form of pride.

I would know. For the last 16 years, I've struggled with the way my abdomen looks after growing and birthing babies. The marks don't bother me, but the shape of my body does at times.

Pride says, "I need to look better to be better. What I think and what others think about my body matters." 

Pride. It's one of the battles we face daily. It's one of the battles I find myself in more than others.

The American culture feeds this pride and internal battle of ours by shouting:

"You're not at your best unless you look your best."

Really? Says who?

"You don't need to look like you had a baby!"

Um, but I did. 

"Your body is your shining glory!"

No. Just no. This is false on so many levels.

Women apologizing for their bodies is an atrocity.

Women viewing their bodies as a god detracts from their love of God.

Women despising what growing a life does to the body takes away from one's appreciation of life itself.

Women spending the bulk of their time, money, and thoughts on their appearance, means little is left to serve and give to others.

What are our lives and our bodies for, but to be lovingly given away in service to God and others?

In love, not coercion.
In love, not fear.
In love, not guilt.
In love, not shame.

If God doesn't require our bodies to be perfectly aligned with the current culture's standards, then why should we invest our energy and resources to do so?

Can we not be of service to Him otherwise?

On the contrary. If we are worshipping the god of self and appearance, we are less useful to the kingdom. Our allegiance lies elsewhere.

Our worship.
Our attention.
Our standards are shifted from God to man.

When it's laid out like this, it stabs. But I think we need to lay it all out. We don't realize how we hinder God's work through us by staying focused on ourselves.

I wish we could snuff this problem out like we do a candle's flame, but it's not that easy. It takes time to change this way of thinking.

One prayer at a time.
One captured thought at a time.
One less jab aimed at ourselves at a time.
One day reading God's truth at a time.
One more abiding moment at a time.

Their standards are not the measuring tool.
Our value is fixed and unchanging according to God.

A zillion stretched out miles of life-giving skin does nothing to change that.

Wednesday, September 21

Seven Weeks Later

I picked up my journal this morning for the first time in three months. Three months ago we were one month away from closing on our home and moving in with my in-laws and then my parents' until we left the state at the start of August. 

Since then, time has both stood still and zoomed by at warp speed. Jeremy has been watching Star Trek Generations re-runs at night, so you'll forgive me for the Trekkie reference. 

I had so many questions the last time I journaled. I still do. Some of them are still valid, others have been answered. 

I was worried it would all be for naught. Would we be made a fool? Are we crazy?

I was worried about snakes and ticks. Still am. I've seen one snake so far (I almost stepped down right next to it) and my family found a dead baby snake in our yard. I can't say I wasn't happy. 

I was worried about school. It was the kind of fear that overtakes when the unknown lurks. It would be our first time having kids (just our elementary ones) in the public school. We wouldn't know where they'd be attending until we found a rental. When would that be? Would it be a good school? Would our kids be okay? Our fears were quieted when we found a beautiful rental just minutes from a fabulous school. We moved in 10 days before school started. Our kids are doing beautifully. God has been so good to us. We've got four kids at school and four kids in school at home. It's been a healthy dynamic. One we haven't had in years. 

Right below where I listed my worries in my journal, I wrote this prayer:

"Jesus, smooth all these details. You are Lord of all and we trust your plan and path for us. We'll follow you anywhere. Make us wise and at peace there." 

Our last few weeks in Alaska were tumultuous times in my heart. I didn't want to have to say goodbye, but it didn't feel right to stay put either. Tears were threatening at every turn. 

Leaving the place we love. The people we love. It was all just too much. 

If we had a direction or exact purpose for our move to North Carolina, maybe it would have been easier to stomach. I don't know. The amazing part is that we did have direction. We did have hope. It was just we weren't putting our hope in anything we could see. I guess that's the best place to put our hope. In Christ alone. 

In the weeks and months leading up to us leaving, God kept inviting me to release my grip. I had been white-knuckling people and places for some time. It was so hard to let go. 

It wasn't that we were untrusting.
We trusted God.

It was that we are human. 

We arrived in North Carolina completely empty. 

Exhausted after months of preparation and weeks of living out of suitcases.
Parenting eight kids through it all.
We had no job.
No home.
No church.
No vehicle.

Just suitcases and togetherness. 
And peace. We had peace. 

We moved forward exploring our new city. We did the next thing. Finding a vehicle was first so we could return our million dollars a day rental van. We had a free place to stay until we found a rental home. It was a beautiful gift during this time. We swam, unwound, relaxed, and settled our hearts for those first two weeks.

We were antsy too. Antsy about housing, antsy about school, and surprisingly un-antsy about a job. 

These weeks later, we still have no job and no church. We've applied for a few jobs and have visited several churches. We'll get there. There's peace there too. 

Jeremy's been working odd jobs a few times a week and he's been woodworking making things to sell. We've been content just being together. It's a luxury we've never been afforded. It can't last forever, but we'll take it.

 Leaping into the great unknown can be so terrifying, can't it?

I'm guessing you can relate. I write all of this as an update of sorts, and also to remind us to keep pressing, keep trusting, and keep hoping.

He's not finished with us yet. Praise God, He's not finished with us yet.

I document our life and times over on Instagram @amanda_baconbits -- I'd love to have you join me there!

Thursday, August 11

The Olympic Hopeful and the Christian

Well, we did it. We loosened our grip on our beloved Alaska and reached across the continent to embrace a brand new place to call home.

We arrived in North Carolina one week ago, and I'm happy to report we're all in one piece and enjoying the vacation-like setting we're in right now before the realities of life including school, work, and moving into our home set in. I'm documenting over on Instagram (my favorite!) if you'd like to follow along.

Just a day or two after arriving, it was time for the Olympics to start. One thing you have to know about me is that I am what one might call an Olympic Games super-fan.

I love the thrill of the competition, the bright colors, and the excitement surrounding the Games. I love the family and friends in the stands, the years of dreaming and training, and the general buzz the Olympics creates. 

I get into the athletes' stories and highly respect their long years of hard work and dedication. 

The medal ceremonies have the power to choke me up, no matter what country you're from and what event you're competing in. You could be a Ukrainian shot-putter winning a gold medal and I just might shed a happy tear on your behalf. Maybe it's the dreamer in me, but I love seeing big dreams come true. 

All the way across the world, from my home with my family who thinks I'm a wee bit obsessive with my USA warm-up jacket my Dad scored at a thrift store for me, my Go Team USA parties, and my general willingness to veg out in front of the TV for weeks once every two years. It's a fun gig. The Olympics are so. much. fun. 

But before the Games even begin, you have to have the Olympic Trials. 

Can I just tell you I have a whole other set of feelings and love for the Trials? But here's the thing about the Trials:

An Olympic hopeful has a 0% guarantee they will make the team. Their beloved Olympic team, after all those years of pursuing it. 

There is no guarantee they will perform well. Anything could happen. An ankle could roll, a muscle could tear, or a sickness could overtake them. I'm not trying to be all Eyeore about it, but it's true. Depressingly true. 

Because I'm a great big Olympic nerd-fan, prior to the Games I found myself watching interviews with hopefuls who eventually went on to make the team, but were interviewed before actually being selected. I love stuff like that.

Here are some of the words and phrases these athletes were using before they competed to earn their spot. Notice the air of uncertainty.

"I just don't know."

"Anything can happen out there today."

"I can only hope all the years of sacrifice and training will pay off."

"I want to make my family proud and show them it was worth it."

"I am just going to give it my all and hope it's enough."

We've all spoken these sorts of words. Maybe not with a trip to the Olympic Games on the line, but we know how it feels to be so unsure of outcomes.

That exam we've studied an entire semester for.
That illness we're fighting.
That child who gives us an insane amount of grief.
That job interview.
That move across the country.

Yep, we know the feeling. Uncertainty is associated with any worthwhile endeavor. And I don't mean to Jesus Juke you here, but whenever I think of Olympic hopefuls and the inevitable truth that someone who has worked just as hard as the rest will walk away disappointed, I can't help but think of the contrast between these hopefuls and Christians.

An Olympic hopeful has zero assurance their dream will come true.

A believer in Christ has full assurance of eternal outcomes.

Christ-followers find acceptance with God through Christ no matter how hard we work. 

Christ's death and saving work on our behalf gives us confidence of God's welcome no matter how well we perform. 

Because of Jesus:

  • there is no guesswork after years of hard work
  • there are no dashed hopes
  • the dream always comes true

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us of this truth in chapter 10:19-23:

The only dream we can really place any hope in is our eternal dwelling with Christ. No matter what happens, no matter what disappointment takes hold and stays for what seems like forever, in Jesus there is no guesswork, no dashed hopes, and the dream always comes true.

That's something we can be sure of.

Wednesday, June 29

On Moving and Leaping

It's taken me two whole months to actually sit down and write about our family's move 4,000 miles from home here in Alaska. Partly because I've been terribly busy organizing our move, getting our home ready, selling things off, packing, and then just living life as a wife, mom, and friend, and partly because I haven't known what to say or how to explain it.

But it's actually really simple if you get right down to it. 

God told us we needed to move to North Carolina. 
I imagine I'll go into that more later on. It's all so beautifully personal and complex though.

We prayed about it for three whole years, eventually knowing it would happen. 
Then we said yes in May once we had confirmation as a couple the timing was right. 

We then listed our house two weeks later, after prepping all winter just in case we should be selling it come summertime.

One day later it sold. 

One. Day. 

That was six weeks ago.

It's been the fastest six weeks of our lives. 

We're shocked. Sad. Excited. Thrilled to be walking into the unknown knowing the Lord is our stay. And a bazillion other things. This move conjures up so many emotions. 

For three years I've been asking God if He is really wanting us to leave. 

Why would we leave? I don't want to leave. It'd be nuts to leave our parents, our church, these amazing friends, this amazing place. Plus this: THERE ARE 10 OF US TO MOVE. 

But slowly, He changed our hearts to match His on the matter. And now we can't imagine not leaving even though we have no idea what we're stepping into. 

Jeremy was born and raised here, and has never lived anywhere else in his 40 years. 
I moved to Alaska as a kid from Washington state, and have lived here 30 years. 
This is all our kids have ever known. 

This is HOME. 

But as the years have gone by, we've loosened our grip on our earthly home, as hard as that is. And we've begun to embrace our future home, the unshakeable kingdom of our Lord and King, Jesus. 

This verse has impacted us deeply. In fact, this is the very verse that solidified it for both Jeremy and I, completely separate of each other. 

The cities and places we live are temporary. But what isn't fading away is God's kingdom. Our family is being called away from our current place because God has a mission for us, but we don't yet know what that will look like, or what exactly He'll have us doing. 

As Jeremy said right as we made our final decision, "I'm not willing to sit back, comfortable right here, if God has a plan for us there to help lead others into His kingdom." 

People get it when you say, "Hey, guess what? We've moving to Africa as missionaries!" 

No one balks. No one questions. Well, of course they do, but only on the internet, right? Did I just say that? 

We know what this means, and we're familiar with how God calls in this way.

We get squirmy when a calling is more ambiguous.  

We feel a bit (a lot) like Abraham gathering all his people up, and blindly going where God was leading him, not knowing what the future holds. 

We do know one thing amidst the massive amount of unknowns right now, and that is that we serve a trustworthy Savior who will continue to lead and guide and hold us as we walk toward Him all the way to North Carolina and her hot, sticky summers. 

And so we close this twelve year-long chapter in this glorious spot in this beloved home in just two weeks. 

We cry. We shake our heads in disbelief. We rejoice. We pray. And then we go.

Tuesday, June 14

Meet My Brain {9 Notebooks That Save My Life}

When other women ask how I "do it all" (whatever that means), I usually shrug my shoulders and talk about what a good team Jeremy and I are. Which is completely true. Never once have I stopped to consider there are additional ways I intentionally calm the crazy in my life.

Enter my notebooks.

I'll put myself out there and say that I feel all warm and fuzzy about my notebook collection. I usually take one with me anytime I leave the house. I'm a pen and paper sort of girl, and only use my phone to keep track of shopping lists. I even use a tried and true wall calendar to keep track of the family schedule.

I've tried apps like Evernote to keep it all together, but I just wasn't jiving with it.

I love writing things down.

If keeping track of life in notebooks helps me, someone who believes the brain cells in charge of memory slipped secretly out when I gave birth five times over, then maybe they'll help you too.

You certainly don't have to have as many notebooks as I have, (or any!) but maybe this post will give you an idea or two and help you gain some extra brain space of your own.

1.  Bible Study - This notebook holds whatever notes from whatever book of the Bible I'm currently studying. Right now I'm studying Numbers with the gang over on the First 5 app. (It's free! Go snag it. I love waking up with the First 5 crew.) It also holds the things I'm learning from certain passages or books of Scripture that I'll eventually use to form speaking notes when I have a speaking engagement.

2.  Personal Journal - In this notebook, I ask myself questions and answer them. For instance, "What's making me crazy right now?" or "What am I worried about?" and other honest inquiries. Leanna Tankersley speaks about having this sort of journal in her book Brazen, which was a great read for me in early 2016. We were thankful to be able to chat with her as a guest on The Masterpiece Mom podcast a few months back to discuss her new book. Have a listen right here. 

3.  Project or Ministry Notebook - This one helps me keep track of all things regarding the ministry of The Masterpiece Mom. Blog post ideas, meeting notes, podcast notes, and brainstorms are all kept here.

4.  Bullet Journal - Meet my brain: the bullet journal. It's not a specific type of journal, rather it's a journaling method. Learn about it at -- You're welcome! I keep track of my daily and monthly to-do's here, along with other sorts of lists like party invites, book lists, packing lists, etc.

5.  Sermon Notes - I retain more when I'm taking notes during a sermon. The end.

6.  Moving Notebook - More specifically, I call this my North Carolina book. But if there's anything that requires tons of attention and numerous details, consider dedicating an entire notebook to it. Eek. There I go again, mentioning that we're moving without talking about it. I promise, that's coming soon.

7.  Healthy Living - This one is dedicated to keeping track of healthy eating habits and exercise. It helps me stay accountable to myself and my goals, even though I often forget to write in it. As an almost 40 year-old woman, the importance of staying active and eating well for my health is at the forefront of my mind. If I don't feel well, it's usually because I'm not taking care of myself.

8.  Writing Ideas and Quotes - This little notebook holds all the writing ideas that pass through my mind when I'm going about my day. No matter how much I convince myself I'll remember them, I just can't. I also collect quotes I may want to use in my future writing as well.

9.  Prayer - Usually, I post prayer requests on my bedroom wall using white post-its and pretty washi tape, but since we've been in home-selling mode around here the last couple of months, I've had to clear the wall. So I turned to a prayer notebook. Again, I just can't remember all that I'd like to be lifting to the Lord in prayer. This helps me be more intentional.

How do you keep track of your life? 
Thursday, June 2

We Need You and Want You {Mentor Us, Please}

About a year and a half ago I stood in my bathroom and cried hot tears I didn't know were lying dormant inside of me. I was grieving. 

I realized my life had a gaping hole in it and I'd only just figured out what it was. 

I was mentor-less. 

Thirteen years ago, I moved back to the community I grew up in with my husband of three years, and two teeny little boys. I'd had mentors before. Not formal ones, really, but friendships with women a stage or two ahead of me. I treasured them, but after moving, these friendships slipped into the background without the everyday closeness we'd once shared. 

So here I was in the town of my youth, attending the church of my youth after being away eight years, starting over with my sister (who had also recently moved back) as my only friend. 

I made friends my own age quickly, and began to get involved in ministry to moms through Mothers of Preschoolers mostly because I needed it so badly myself. 

After years of involvement there, and holding leadership roles among women my own age, still I remained mentor-less. 

When I figured out what I'd been missing that day in my bathroom, I chalked it up to two things: 

1) I wasn't placing myself in circles with women in my church or community who were older and wiser than myself. How were they supposed to know I had a need if they didn't know me?

2) A large portion of the women older and wiser than myself might be assuming my generation of women and mothers don't need them or want them in our lives, therefore are afraid to reach out for fear of rejection.

When I was six months pregnant with my fourth child, I sat on a stage in Kansas City, Missouri on a panel in front of a large room of female ministry leaders who were a generation or so ahead of me pleading with them to mentor us. 

I watched their eyes widen with tears in the corners and heads shake in disbelief as I told them we needed them. We wanted them. We ached for their presence in our lives. 

And that we were sorry, we just don't know how to communicate it. Because sometimes we don't know what we're missing. 

The internet has distracted us. We think Google is a fine replacement for another woman who's been there. 

We think social media and online Facebook groups are suitable trade-outs for sitting together on a blanket at a park catching up while our kids play and hers are getting married and having babies of their own. 

We're prideful. We think we shouldn't need help. We should be able to do this on our own. 

We think she won't understand our lives. Our complicated, messy lives. But we don't always accept that she has her own messy and complicated, and gets us more than we know. 

I haven't written about it publicly here in this space, and will soon, but we're moving all the way across the continent later this summer, and I've just now started a relationship here at my church, here in this town, that I believe would have and could have turned into this sort of mentoring relationship. 

All it took was me reaching out and saying HELP. I need you. Can we talk? It's been a precious thing. 

I believe God has placed and will place mentors ahead of me in our new town, in our new life. But it's going to take some work on my part too. I'll need to reach out and make myself vulnerable. And do you know what? I'm so excited.  

There's much more to say on the topic, more of which I hope to talk further on. I'm just a mom trying to tap this out before my kids come barrelling up the stairs for breakfast. The struggle is very real. 

Before we step away and move on with our day, how about we take inventory of how we're truly doing in this regard?

How are we doing at reaching out to women ahead of us and behind us? 
How are we at accepting help and vulnerable friendship?
How are we at giving help and being a safe place? 

Have you been missing these kinds of relationships too? 

Thursday, May 5

3 Questions to Ask Ourselves About Friendship

Friendships with other women can be absolutely beautiful. But as we all know, they can be tricky little specimens too.

In my younger adult years, I used to slather myself across a wide expanse of friendships. It's in my extroverted nature to go deep and fast with new friends I believe can be trusted, so this habit has helped me make lots of friends through the years.

It's a great trait until you've overshared just after the first hello and things turn awkward. Or you've got too many people to keep up with, and you just want to make it stop.

As I creep closer to 40, I'm having to learn how to do friendship smarter. Maybe you want to do friendship smarter too.

I've begun asking myself some important questions to help gauge where I'm at and where my friend or potential friend is at, so we can all do this thing like grownups.

Is she interested in pursuing me? 

I'm allergic to pursuing friends who just aren't into it. I don't want to be annoying, but I also don't like not trying. Sometimes it's hard to tell: Is she not engaging much or at all because she does friendship differently than I would, needs me to reach out to her, or is she wishing I would go away and leave her alone?

I'm learning to watch and see, and not push myself onto someone I'm unsure about. Trying a little communication here and there, and see if she bites. Though often I wonder if I'm too much. Too chatty. Too willing to share. Too eager about them or even my own life.

The thing is, if the other person is interested in being in your life, they will find ways to put themselves in your life. They will call. They will text. They will engage on purpose, and if they live close by, they will seek out ways to be with you.

Sometimes that truth hurts. Because truly, the proof is in the reaching out and reciprocating. Does she? Will she? Can she? Am I speaking a solely extroverted language here? I dunno. Introverts help me out.

Are the rules the same regardless of our personalities?

What are my motives? 

Another cringe-worthy question. Why am I pursuing this friendship? Are my motives pure?

Do I simply enjoy her company and her ways with a desire to know and see more? Or am I motivated out of a selfish place?

What will friendship with her do for me? How will it make me appear to others? How can I get her to see how great and exciting I am?

If there's an angle behind our motives, we'd be wise to set this one aside for a time until we can pursue her with right intentions.

Am I being a good conversationalist? 

In any friendship new or seasoned, conversation is a key ingredient. To be a good conversationalist and to keep friendships growing, there has to be a balance of listening, acknowledging, and sharing.

We can't just be a good listener and acknowledger and grow a closer friendship.

We can't just share our stories and tell our news and grow a closer friendship.

To grow a closer friendship, both parties have to be willing to go both places. Listening and sharing. Sharing and listening.

There are times I have hung up the phone and nearly burst because the person on the other end of the line didn't ask a single thing about me or my life. I asked all the questions, and they were happy to answer with all their things. This has to go both ways.

Unless of course, you or your friend is in crisis, or it's just a quick informational phone call. But we should at least check-in, ask how our friend is doing, and listen like we mean it.

Friendship isn't just about us. We're to serve and build others up too. But in order for a relationship to go anywhere but the friendship graveyard, it cannot remain focused on just one person.

Point blank: if the person you're pursuing friendship with doesn't ever ask you questions, generally speaking, they aren't interested in furthering the relationship.

Or maybe they want to, but don't know how.

You can never grow closer to another human being if you are only telling your stories, relaying your news, and flinging all the things you've been dying to say at the other person. 

That's a one-sided relationship and your friend happens to like hearing themselves talk. 

I would know. I've been that friend.

Let's talk friendship. What challenges do you face in making new friends? In keeping friends? What kinds of questions do you ask yourself when it comes to friendship?

Thursday, April 21

So You're Mad at Your Real Life

Let's just say Monday was not my favorite day ever.

It got so bad, that we packed a quick lunch and bolted out the door to who knows where, skipping naps and everything. I could not stay home amidst the frustrating attitudes and actions displayed by a couple of the kids. I was also upset at myself for not handling it better. 

We did absolutely nothing except drive around, take in some scenery we've seen a thousand times, and stop at church to go to the bathroom and play on the lawn. Free therapy, I tell you. It was just enough time for me to truly think about why I was so disillusioned with it all, and to talk to God about it.

What exactly was my problem? Yeah, 8 kids is a lot. Yeah, some of the kids have "unique" needs with repetitive issues that test me to the core. But where was my long-suffering, love, joy, and patience (among other things)?

I pinned down the truth of it. I was mad. Mad that this is my life. Mad that tension headaches are a daily occurrence. Mad that what God called us to as a family is so darn hard. 

Have you ever been downright mad that your current circumstances are your actual real life? Like not just for a week or two, but your honest-to-goodness, somebody-please-send-a-nanny-or-three season of life? Perhaps years of life? 


But at the very same time, the very same people who are contributing to our "mad at my real life" state of mind also make us gloriously thankful. It's this interesting mix. At times I want to run far, far away, but I never do because I love them so, so much. Plus, they're watching me. I want them to see how a struggling believer hangs in there for the long-haul.

When giving thanks in all circumstances is the bar set in Scripture, one can get to feeling pretty guilty about being mad at anything placed in our life by the Lord. Especially our kids. 

At the end of the day, a drive-thru vanilla latte helped, as did blasting the Tony Bennett station during and after dinner. Watching the young ones sway to the crooners helped too. But what really helped is my husband. 

We help each other see. 

That night he helped me see that it's normal to be mad at your right now life at times. 

Even Jesus asked the Father if there was any other way their goal of saving humanity could be accomplished. Does it have to be this? This cross? This pain?

In most cases, the Father says, "Yes. It does." Just like he did with Jesus. 

Our right now life might be the way through this season or this frustration. Much to our chagrin, we have to go through to get to the other side. 

And we can't forget that a whole lotta character is produced through these trials. (Romans 5:3-4) That's the good part we're after.

So is there any other way, God?
Maybe. But the answer might be that we need to keep going.

Saturday, April 9

Let Someone Else Praise You

One recent afternoon, as I was putting a huge pot of water to boil on the stove to start dinner, two tiny little boys I’d never seen in my life came wandering aimlessly up our driveway.

There was no mama in sight, and no car waiting like before whenever a child came to the door selling raffle tickets or magazine subscriptions. There was nobody except two mousy brown-haired boys wearing backpacks.

The older one was around six or seven, the younger didn’t look a day over five.

They came cautiously, yet confidently. At least the older brother seemed to know what he was doing.

I greeted them on the porch to save them the agony of deciding whether or not to knock on a stranger's door.

“Hi guys. What’s going on?” 

The older tiny guy proceeded to tell me their bus driver dropped them off at the wrong stop, and they didn’t know where home was. What brave little guys! I know they had walked quite a ways just to get our house because I never saw any bus.

After asking a few questions and calling their mom because oldest little dude knew his mom’s number (winning!), I figured out they were a couple miles from home. What. How this can happen is beyond me. 

After reassuring the panicked mom I was a safe person (hello, mom of eight kids), she agreed that it would be helpful if I brought them home to her instead of her coming to collect them.

I loaded them up in our 15-passenger with three of my own kids to make them feel comfortable, and headed off toward their house.

As I drove, my mom-dar was working overtime. What if they had chosen the home of a person who wouldn’t have taken good care of them? Why did the ever-lovin’ bus driver drop them off miles from home? Why did they come to our house, out of all the houses on their walk to nowhere? 

In the middle of all of these questions was also this embarrassingly telling one: What would these little boys have done without ME? 

Oops. There I go again making myself the hero.

Yeah, I called their mom to inform and reassure her and drove them home. I did the right things and thought fast on my feet. I hope any person with a heart would have done the same.

It's easy to slip into hero mode because it's tempting to want our work to be noticed and praised.

I'm not proud of it, but I'm an internal eye-roller when other people peg themselves as the hero and tell big stories touting their heroic help or good deeds in a situation.

"I did _______. And then I __________ and ______. They were so appreciative of my help. I'm just so glad I was there when I was." 

I guess it bothers me when other people praise themselves because I'm prone to do the same and dislike it so much in myself.

It's inviting, yet repulsive all at the same time. It's inviting because recognition for a job well done feels good. It's repulsive because it's pride.

We are supposed to step in. It's the way of God's people.

We do heroic things. Some of us do extremely difficult, inconvenient, and costly things in our everyday lives for the good of others.

But even then, should be we drawing attention to ourselves for it?

God's Word speaks about it in this way:

Let someone else praise you.

Such simple words. When we try to convince others of our praiseworthiness by recounting all the ways we've been plain awesome, it's awkward.

What if no one saw us and there is no chance for another person to praise us? How will they know how great we are? (You know it's true.)

If nobody hears about it, did it ever really happen? Will anyone ever know what we went through or how hard we've worked unless we tell them all about it?

Maybe not.

But is that really so bad?

The good deeds we do in secret will be rewarded by God (Matthew 6:1-4), and the good deeds someone happens to notice might be recognized here in this life.

Are we okay with that? Can we stop seeking to attract admirers? Can we recognize it as pride, and work to eradicate it from our lives as we're instructed in scripture?

It's what God is asking of us.

Do the right and noble and heroic thing.
Don't boast about it.
Do seek the reward that comes straight from God.

Let someone else praise you. One day of being plain awesome at a time.

Wednesday, March 23

When Staying is Harder Than Quitting

Ever so often, I have the overwhelming urge to quit.

I want to quit mothering when I'm mega-overwhelmed with all the ages, stages and issues under my roof. Bolting out the door seems to be the only answer.

I wish the exhaustion would cease and the fruit of the effort would magically settle in.

I want to quit speaking into anybody else's life. I want to be done working toward a life of ministry writing and speaking. And I want to be done having people know more about me than I'd prefer.

I want to be quiet. Obscure. Under the radar.

But then again I don't.

Because even if I chose to figuratively stop doing the hard and draining work of mothering all these people and literally stop speaking into the lives of others, I couldn't.
It's in my nature to do so.

I'm drawn to be intentional with my kids and be with my kids, even when it's mind-numbingly mundane.
I'm beckoned to sit and tap on the keys and fill notebooks, even on the days when I see no purpose in it.

Even if I chose to stop formulating messages, I couldn't.
Because they involuntarily run through my head each day, and are frantically written down lest I forget them.

But most importantly, I couldn't stop because I'm wired to do these things. Quitting would be like attempting to unravel my DNA and manipulate it into some balloon animal creation that slightly resembles a wiener dog. It just wouldn't work.

I'm wired to mother and to minister to other women. Even when it all feels like it's going nowhere in the fast lane most of the time.

When I remember God wired me to do these things, my heart is hushed. My resolve is strengthened and my eagle-eyes reset their sights on the far-off finish line God has set before me. I'm in this for the long-haul because He is asking me to be.

Plus, all of the hard stuff can also be gloriously fun and rewarding in the very same day. Like, crazy good.

What do we do about those days when we want to quit doing the things we're called to? Those days where our lives aren't gloriously fun or rewarding, but instead are downright hard and depressing? Staying feels harder than quitting on those days.

Working at that marriage. Parenting that child with needs so far above your ability to deal. Showing love to that friend whose life has taken her down a different path than our own. Taking those college classes. Running that business. Taking care of that aging parent.

Stay is a powerful force.

It's tempting to look around and notice how easy life seems to be playing out for everyone else. It can be so deceiving.

When things appear to be stable, good, and thriving in the lives of those around us, it's definitely not because it's been easy for them. Truly healthy individuals, truly strong relationships, and truly successful ventures are only such because someone spent a good portion of their time and effort working at it.

Thriving doesn't come easily. Healthy relationships don't come without an investment.

We've all heard triumphant stories of people who didn't give up. Like the Cliff Youngs of this world and household names who have persevered against crazy odds.

These verses in James 1:2-4 have been encouraging to me when persevering has felt impossible:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

The hardship we experience as we keep at it isn't where the joy is found. I've often been confused by this, or felt like I'm some lousy Christ-follower. The joy comes through the persevering. It's in the reward that's found as we keep at it. Faith results in perseverance. Perseverance produces maturity and completeness. I can thank God for trials because of what they produce in me.

Faith. Perseverance. Maturity. Completeness. 

Staying may be harder than quitting, but the results speak for themselves.

** A wee disclaimer: I am not advocating for staying in abusive situations. Please get help. Speaking to someone from your church or a trusted friend or family member is a good place to begin. xo

Friday, March 11

The Twinkle is Back

I've started and restarted this blog post too many times. 

How does one start blogging again after two months away? I can't just start talking about my favorite music or how we should all learn to love without the limits we so often put in place. I can't start there, so I'll just say hello.

Hello, there. I'm still here. 

I'm active on my Facebook page, popping in every day or so. So if you're on Facebook, won't you join me over there? 

I'm also busy writing and podcasting over at The Masterpiece Mom. Our podcast is also available on iTunes, which is so fun. But it was in this place I began writing almost 10 years ago, and it is this place that holds such a special place in my heart. 

Well, this wasn't the first place I began writing. There was the book I wrote in 5th grade. Do you remember Sweet Valley Twins? Ahem. I read every single one of those books, paying my hard-earned allowance for them. After reading a crazy number of stories about Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, naturally I wrote a story called Triplets of Long Beach. Yes, I did. That was the last time I wrote fiction. You can all thank me for that. 

I moved on to loving writing reports and term papers in high school and college. And technically, I started writing online two blog addresses ago, but I think you get what I'm saying. I guess I've been a writer for a long time. 

Hello, again. 

I hereby pledge to post at least every other week (on the weeks I'm not writing for my other site) for the next two months to get back in the habit. Will you hold me to that? Come knock on my virtual "door" in the comments or on the Facebook page if I'm not holding up my end. You have my permission. 

Life has been tough. So tough this last year. The kind where you cry through nearly every worship service. That's the main reason for my absence. I just haven't known what to say. When writing for The Masterpiece Mom, I can compartmentalize and write about mom stuff, and it keeps things neutral. But over here, I write about some different things, and sometimes they hit a little too close to home. 

I wrote Into the Presence of God {A Prayer for the Hard Times} during one of the hardest weeks, and The Girl in the Next Seat a few weeks after. I needed to keep writing. But it wasn't easy. There was nothing new to say. 

But things have turned a corner. Nothing's changed, really. The circumstance is still just as difficult. But when God plants peace in your heart, things do change. 

I'm doing well. For the first time in almost a year, I can actually say that with a familiar twinkle in my eye. That twinkle's been away. 

Have you been in that place of unexplainable peace when the storm is still raging? Isn't it just so welcomed? 

Our standards change and we become content with things not quite looking the way we'd hoped or imagined. I'm guessing that's the state of mind we're intended to have all along.

So hello, again. It's nice to be back. 
Thursday, January 7

The Right Thing at the Right Time (Why Your Gifts Matter)

I have a friend who is incredibly gifted in an area I plain stink at. 

My friend Amber has the gift of food. Yes, food. 

She has gifted the women in our community with more meals delivered to their doorstep than I can count. After my last baby was born, she delivered twenty-four meals to our home in a span of six months. What? Twenty-four. 

Each time she pulled into our driveway, I stood near tears (and sometimes tears), with so much gratitude for her selflessness, her time, and her sacrifice. 

Our home was filled with its own special brand of crazy as we followed the Lord into the births of five biological kids and three adoptions. I would be misleading you if I let on that it merely was crazy, because it just IS crazy — like all of the time. On some days during this season, the enormity of my role as a mom of a big adoptive family threatened to eat me alive. 

Enter Amber. Without knowing the current status of my sanity, she would call to see if she and her kids could stop by for a little bit the next day and bring lunch for us all to eat, dinner for the family that evening, and three meals for the freezer. She would never say she’s gifted or special in any way. She just does what comes naturally to her. She goes about it quietly, never touting her kindness for the world to see. She loves deeply in the best way she knows how. With food.

Any woman recovering from surgery, sickness, or the birth of a child, knows how hard it is to prepare food for ourselves. I have never been so touched by the selfless kindness of a friend as I have with this friend’s offering to our family. She was Jesus with a casserole and a bag of rolls. 

God used Amber to teach me to love even when it looks small, because we never know when our obedience in serving will be just the right thing at just the right time for a person in need. 

This challenges me to give and serve with my whole heart in the area of my gifting. 

Why do we always view our offerings as “nothing much,” when they most certainly are not? What seemed to Amber like a big bag of nothingness delivered to my doorstep, was actually a rescue line dropped right into the pit of my despair at the exact moment of my need. 

To this day, the kids still rave about Miss Amber’s enchiladas. And sometimes she drops off a panful just because she knows it.