To My Daughters, On Your Second Birthday

This last Saturday was my girls’ second birthday. That morning, I was reflecting on the day they were born. Two years ago at that moment, I was sleeping in my car in a Target parking lot, waiting to take our birth mom to the hospital (long story…) This was the day that our girls burst on the scene, very much in keeping with being beyond our every expectation, and our lives were never the same.

That day was a blur in so many ways, a whirlwind of emotions and fears, anticipations and uncertainties. Every bit of it was beyond my control, and I felt like I was just along for the ride. I had an inner calm that knew everything would turn out ok, a release that comes from knowing you have zero control anyway, so there’s no use in trying to make anything happen.


Dear ones, the way you came into our lives made us fight and grow. It stretched us so far beyond our abilities, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even before you were born, your existence changed us at the core, drawing us deeper into ourselves and into the places where God was waiting to shape us into who we would need to be as people and parents.

Now you are two years old, growing into these tiny human people with larger-than-life personalities. You STILL stretch me and cause me to grow, and I’m leaning into God my Father as I learn how to be a parent to you both.

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Addy, you are strong and fierce, full of life and light. You feel things deeply…I can SO relate to that. You are a leader and you’re blazing your own trail, even now. I love how affectionate you are, how you give kisses to me and your dad and your sister, how you pat me on the back as you give me a hug. You are hysterically funny, and you make me laugh constantly. You, my dear, are going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I am watching in expectation for the amazing life you will create.

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Lissy, you are sweet and tender, but you are not timid. I love seeing you dance at the slightest hint of music, how you don’t walk, but bounce lightly on your tiptoes everywhere you go. You have THE most contagious laugh, and you love to have fun and play. You love to snuggle, but you’re also perfectly content to play on your own for a while. You are sensitive and I suspect you have an artist’s soul. I love your curiosity, how you ask, “What’s that?” and “Where’d it go?” about EVERYTHING. You are beautiful inside and out, and your heart will lead you to a beautiful life.

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I am so grateful God chose me to be your mother. More than anything, being a mom has shown me the depth of my need for God’s strength and wisdom, and my prayer is that everything I do as a parent will point you to Jesus.  You are more than I could ever have dreamed or imagined, and I love you both. Happy birthday, sweet girls.

When Parenting Is Beyond Your Ability

Parenting doesn’t come easy for me. Maybe for some people it does, and it feels like this is what they were made for, that it’s a natural overflow for them. Maybe for some, they are endlessly patient and feel equipped and able to handle their kids’ tantrums and fights and disobedience.

Maybe.

But I have a feeling that for most of us, being a parent is the most stretching thing we will ever do. I know it is for me.

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The other night, I was feeling overwhelmed with my kids, like I didn’t know what to do or how to handle discipline or anything at all. Parenting felt so beyond me in that moment. And I thought…why am I so surprised that being a parent feels so beyond my ability?

It’s like I have this expectation that I should know what to do, that I should be endlessly patient, that parenting should always feel natural and fun and joyful.

I expect myself to be more than human.

I realized in that moment that I was trying to parent out of my own strength again, and I was expecting more of myself than I’m capable of. I thought that I SHOULD be able to do this, that I should be able to handle it, that I should be strong and capable enough.

But God is inviting me to let go, to stop trying so hard, to rest in the knowledge that He’s got this so that I don’t have to.

I shouldn’t be so surprised that I so often reach the end of myself as a parent, because this was never meant to be up to me or my abilities. Parenting can stretch us until we break. But if we admit from the start that we don’t have what it takes, that’s when we’ll discover that it’s never been up to us. God longs to give us what we need to love our kids well, if we’ll let go and give it all over to Him.

What I Want In This Season: Fall 2016

I’m feeling a bit introspective today, looking ahead to the next season and thinking through what I want it to look like. I don’t know if it’s because we’re at the start of a new month, or the slight chill in the air that hints at fall’s imminent arrival. But I find myself asking, what do I want this next season to look like for me?

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Here are a few things that come to mind:

Spiritual
God has been speaking to me a lot lately about what it means to live from a place of weakness. I’m still processing what this fully means, and I’m sure I’ll share more on this in the future. But I am realizing that I can’t operate out of God’s strength while I’m still striving out of my own. Embracing my weakness—not just when I FEEL weak, but ALL the time—is the only way God’s strength can move in and through me. I know I need to begin here, because otherwise, I will move into this season in a spirit of striving.

Family
With my family, I want to be present and grateful for the seemingly small moments. I want to be present with my girls, to enter into their world, to laugh and be silly with them. I want to have the courage to be consistent with discipline, and not just take the easy way out. I want to be intentional about going outside and on walks, doing fun things together as a family, without feeling pressure to make it some amazing, unique experience.

I want to extend grace both to them and myself when things get difficult, when I feel weary or stuck. Above all, I want to extend the idea of living from weakness to my parenting. I want to embrace the fact that parenting is far beyond my ability, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t need to be strong or capable…I need Jesus. The more I can rest in that, the more my parenting will be about what Jesus does through me and not what my limited strength and abilities can manage.

Writing
I have some big goals I’m pursuing as a writer during this season. I have some updates to my website that need completing, along with some additional resources I’m excited to share with you soon. I want to share blog posts on a consistent basis, and to be ok with publishing posts that aren’t polished or perfect, recognizing that blogging is about sharing thoughts in process. Next summer, I’m planning to travel to a writer’s conference, and I have some specific things I want to accomplish and develop in as a writer before that time comes. There are a lot of specifics under this one, but I’ll spare you the details.

Home
When it comes to our home, I’m tempted to say I want to clean out and organize ALL THE THINGS. But I know from experience that this is unrealistic. Instead, I want to focus on one area, and that is preparing for a garage sale, which will be mostly baby clothes. Our basement guest room currently looks like Monica from Friends’ secret closet or that it belongs on an episode of Hoarders, and it’s time to get rid of the stuff the girls have outgrown once and for all. This goal is pretty much an immediate one, since the plan is to have it this month (ugh, so much to do!!!).


These thoughts and plans aren’t anything revolutionary, and are somewhat vague at this point. This is just some big-picture thinking about the next season. Life moves fast, and if we don’t stop to consider our “why” and our vision for our life every once in a while, we’ll find ourselves making a lot of movement, but very little progress. So today, I’m taking a small step back, taking it all in, and reminding myself about what I want for my life, what’s important, and where my time and focus should be for this season.

Why I Don’t Want To Be a Perfect Parent

Something I’ve found myself praying recently is this:

God, help me let go of the need for things to be perfect.

It seems like the older I get, the more I like things to be orderly and organized, with everything in its place. I don’t do well with chaos, and if things are messy and scattered in my external environment, my internal spirit tends to feel restless and anxious.

So you can imagine what raising twin toddlers does to my internal spirit at times.

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Some of this has to do with worrying about what other people think, wanting to be seen as competent and together. Some of it is just an internal expectation I put on myself. I tend to put pressure on myself and would really prefer to just do things the “right” way.

I was talking with some friends this week about our tendency to carry the responsibility of what our kids say and do. If our kids throw a tantrum or say something inappropriate or have a bad attitude, we assume we must have done something wrong and that it reflects negatively on us as parents.

I’ve been trying to take a step back from this for many reasons, for my own benefit and for the sake of my kids.

I’m reminding myself that tantrums and meltdowns are normal at their age (and thankfully, I have other people reminding me of this too!). It doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong. I may not handle it the right way every time, but I can’t expect myself to have all the answers or to always know exactly what to do as a parent.

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These pictures are evidence of our attempt to attend a wedding reception as a family. We didn’t even last through dinner.

I’m trying to release control, going to God in prayer instead of turning anxious thoughts over and over in my mind until I drive myself crazy. I’m acknowledging that I have very little control, and that I need God desperately as I seek to love my kids and raise them well.

The thing is, when I’m focused on how my kids’ behavior makes ME look, I’m not necessarily focusing on what’s best for them. I can become so consumed with how it LOOKS to other people that I conform my actions to please them instead of doing what my kids need in that moment.

When I make it about me and if I’m measuring up as a parent, I’m losing sight of the point of parenting. It’s not about raising my kids to be perfect or trying to make sure they never mess up or struggle. Because mess-ups and struggles are inevitable.

Here’s what matters more than me AND my kids having it all together:

Am I pointing them to Jesus?
Am I admitting my need of the Spirit’s power?
Am I offering BOTH grace and truth?
Am I giving discipline and guidance that will teach them what it means to obey God?

I want to be motivated by love, seeking to point my kids to Jesus rather than trying to look like I have it all together as a parent.

In this stage where my kids are so young and are barely talking, it’s easy to lose sight of that bigger perspective, especially when it can sometimes feel like they don’t get what’s going on. But it’s a process, and this part is important too, and it’s vital that I remain connected to Jesus and surrendered to him as a mom, and as a human being who is just trying to figure out how to do this life.

And so yet again, I pray: God, help me let go of the need for things to be perfect.

In my home.
In my kids.
In myself.

Because struggles and shortcomings are part of what it means to be human. So may we extend a little grace all around, beginning with ourselves.

Why Being Weak Is Better

I would tell you that I believe we are ALL broken and in need of Jesus, that we don’t outgrow our need for grace. We have emotions and struggles and it’s ok to bring all of this to Jesus. In theory, I believe this to be completely true.

Until I’m a broken mess. Then I want Jesus to just fix it already so I can move on and do more things for him. I’d much rather feel competent and together, thank you very much, and my preference would be to lead from my strength rather than my weakness.

When I’m in a place of brokenness, it feels overwhelming and fear tells me it will always feel this way. I start to believe that I have nothing to offer, because apparently, I can’t even hold myself together.

In Shauna Niequist’s fantastic new book Present Over Perfect, she talks about how odd it is that she’s a writer since she hates introspection and silence, but writing is healing her and taking her to those places she needs to go.

For me, I believe that writing heals me of my need to look like I have it all together.

The writing that feels the most true of me comes out of my deepest struggles and places of self-doubt. I don’t tend to take the position of an “expert” when I write, giving three bullet points and nice, memorable sayings that make us all feel better about life.

Nope, I tend to write from a place of weakness and struggle, sharing the parts of me that I would rather hide. I still don’t share EVERYTHING, of course, but I don’t ONLY share the good stuff or try to make it seem like everything’s just fine. I can’t pretend like I’m strong or together when the truth is, I often feel very fragile and weak.

It is in this weakness that God meets me and shows me who He is. It’s where I gain perspective, where He reminds me that it’s not up to me to perform or impress or figure this life out.

And so my hope is that through the words I share, I can extend a hand, inviting you to join me in finding God’s strength in the depths of our weakness. If you’re looking for a super-optimistic, cheery, motivational encourager who will say, “You can do it! You’re the best! If you believe in yourself and work hard, you can do anything!”…well, I’m not your girl.

But if you need to see that you’re not alone in the struggle, that it’s ok to not be ok, that REAL life comes only when we face who we truly are, in all our brokenness and beauty…

Welcome. This is your space, these are your people. We are not here to wallow, but we ARE here to be real and to lay down our armor, take off the masks, shatter the glittering image that we’ve worked so desperately hard to hide behind.

For so long, I tried to bring to others my strength and my talent, my polished self that was ready to inspire. All the while, scared to death that someone would see the real me and discover that maybe I wasn’t as great as they thought.

Now God is inviting me to give up the act, to show up as the real me. He’s reminding me that I don’t have to impress or please or live up to anyone’s standard, that the truth of who I am is enough…not because of ME, but because of HIM.

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There is so much freedom to be found in letting go, in stepping into the light and being seen as we are. Take the risk to come out of hiding, to step out as your true self…you’ll find you aren’t alone.

(Original Image: Tim Parkinson via Creative Commons)

When You Have Big Feelings

The other week, I posted a picture of one of my girls having “big feelings”. You don’t ever have to wonder how she’s feeling, because she will let you know. She will yell and scream and cry, but she will also laugh with delight and smile and run around in glee. My other daughter is not quite as dramatic, but she also has a pretty fierce “yell” when she isn’t happy.

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Oh, how I can relate.

I’ve always been a deep feeler. I have big feelings too, I’ve just learned how to hide them a little better. For a long time, I didn’t want to accept this about myself. I didn’t think it was ok to feel sad or angry or anything considered to be a negative emotion. So if I felt those things, I would stuff it down, ignore it, distract myself from it, hoping it would just go away.

Lately I’ve been reminded that this is part of how God made me. I feel things deeply, and this is not a bad thing. Emotions are a gift. And while they are not intended to be what controls us, they do serve an important purpose.

It’s when we ignore our emotions and pretend they aren’t there that they begin to control us. They only grow stronger beneath the surface, and they’ll emerge when we least expect it. Our emotions are trying to tell us something important, if we will only listen.

Being a deep feeler means that I have days where feelings of sadness become almost overwhelming. I’m talking about those times when I’m not sad about anything in particular. Nothing bad or out of the ordinary happened, it’s just a sadness that settles in below the surface.

My natural reaction on those days is to distract myself…scroll through social media, watch TV, consume a lot of sugar. Anything to avoid facing my feelings.

Sometimes on those sad days, I go to the opposite extreme. Instead of avoiding the sadness, I try to figure it out and fix it. I journal on for endless pages, I search my soul trying to figure out what exactly is wrong and how I can make it better.

But I’m finding that there’s another way. On those days where sadness feels overwhelming, when it’s not really due to circumstance but just how I’m feeling, I’m reminding myself of this:

My feelings don’t determine my reality.

I might FEEL sad, and at the time, it can seem like things will never change and it will always feel this way. But I can step back and look at my life and see clearly: that just isn’t true. It’s not reality; it’s just how I’m feeling today.

So what do I do with those feelings?

Lately, I’ve come to see this picture, a metaphor, for how this looks in my life, and I share it in hopes that maybe it will help someone else.

I imagine it’s like being in the middle of a vast body of water. When I’m feeling sad and hopeless, it almost feels like I’m being pulled underwater, like I’m drowning. My response is usually one of two things: I give in to it and sink, or I try to fight.

When I’m sinking, I’m believing the lies that my feelings are telling me. I’m believing that things are hopeless and that it will always feel this way. I’m giving in to the feelings.

When I’m fighting, I do everything I can to stay afloat. I make a plan and a strategy to feel better and to fix my life, and I fight like it’s up to me and my strength to change how I feel.

But I’m realizing there’s another option: I can simply float.

I don’t have to give in and sink. I don’t have to fight or try and fix it. I can stretch out my arms and lay my head back and float. I can rest, knowing that I don’t have to fix this. I can acknowledge that while my feelings are real, they don’t define reality. I can trust that it won’t always be like this. I can float and rest and wait, knowing that the feelings will pass.

Are there times to take action, to ask for help and fight? Yes, absolutely, and I don’t want to diminish the importance of that.

But a day doesn’t have to define a season, and when I find myself having one of those days where I just feel sad, I’m learning to just ride it out. I’m learning it WILL pass.

I’m still acknowledging that the sad feelings are there, and that it’s ok to feel how I’m feeling. But I don’t have to give in to them, and I don’t have to fight them. I can let go and trust that God will be with me in the floating until the feeling passes.

When You Aren’t Being As Real As You Think

Before I preached my last message, I did a run-through for Tyler to get some feedback. He said the content and flow were good overall, but there was one observation he made that gave me pause:

He said that it felt a little too polished, and the stories I shared were a little too safe.

Whenever I write or speak, it’s important to me to be authentic, to share some stories from my life and move beyond just sharing abstract ideas. I want to share what it looks like to actually LIVE the message and not just give a few nice, tidy bullet points.

So when he gave this feedback, I knew I had some adjustments to make. And here’s the thing: I THOUGHT I was being real and vulnerable, but it was very controlled and I was only sharing enough to make it LOOK like I was being real. This wasn’t a conscious effort, not a manipulation or anything. I was not aware that this is what I was doing, but looking back, I see that I was still very much playing it safe, only letting people see the surface of my struggle.

I made some changes to the message, and feel like with the end result, I got to a much more authentic place (whenever you break down crying in the middle of your message, that tends to ruin the whole “neat and polished” vibe).

As I think about what it means to be real and vulnerable, to let people see that I’m human, I’ve been considering what it looks like to further peel back the layers. What parts of the glittering image am I still trying to preserve?

In many ways just in my life in general, I’m still playing it safe and not letting my guard down.

Maybe I need to allow myself to get a little more messy.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to go to the other extreme of just sharing EVERYTHING. There are still parts of my life intended to only be between me and God, things I only share with close, trusted friends.

This isn’t about sharing everything. But it IS about not working so hard to cover up the parts of me that aren’t bright and shiny. This is about not trying so hard to perform in order to make myself look better than I am.

I want to find the happy middle between those two extremes of sharing too much and not sharing at all. I’ve been reminding myself of this:

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I don’t have to perform and I don’t have to hide…I can simply BE.

I don’t have to perform and try to impress people.

I also don’t have to hide who I really am.

I am free to be who I am, to let the beauty and the brokenness exist together.

So I’ve been asking myself these two questions a lot lately, in those moments when I feel like I’m not quite acting like myself:
Am I performing?
Am I hiding?

I’m trying to notice when I go to either of those places, and I’m reminding myself that it’s ok to just BE. I don’t have to try so hard. I also don’t have to hide my true self out of fear or shame.

I don’t have to perform. I don’t have to hide. I can simply BE. And when I live in that truth, I’m not afraid to let people see the unpolished, weak parts of me. I’m free to let that show, because it’s part of me, and I don’t have to hide it or try to act like I have it all together. I can be, simply, ME.