Christian living

We all have holiday problems, but that’s okay– it probably won’t kill us too badly

The new book (coming in February of 2018!) has a chapter titled thusly:

When Thanksgiving Includes a Table for Ninety-Eight

Because the holidays are supposed to be this joyous time of fun and laughter and cocoa and loving family togetherness, all gathered around the table. All ninety-eight of us.

But reality proves otherwise, year after year after year. Those joyous times are actually full of crazy relatives, hyperactive children who have been ingesting pure sugar (or possibly cocaine) since rising at 5:30am, and an angry woman in the kitchen, pretending she’s glad she’s making all this extra food again.

For example.

The other day I was in my kitchen, whipping together a batch of cornbread with a wee bit too much ferocity and WAY TOO MUCH resentment. I cracked eggs like they were responsible for my bad attitude and I griped out loud about all the cooking required this time of year.

I can barely keep up with the regular meals around this house, so when we start throwing in extra potlucks and dessert tables and transporting hot dishes across the county to church, I sort of lose it.

It’s not lost on me that– once again– I’ve covered this at length in a book I have written. I believe the Lord just thinks it’s just hilarious that I get to write a book and then must return to that book to relearn the same lesson. Sometimes hundreds of times.

But ANYWAY, the point of the holidays shouldn’t be about the food or the eggs or the drives or the hassle. A holiday should be one more chance to love others, one more chance to glorify God in our daily lives.

But this can be really, really hard when the ninety-eight people around the dining table are driving you crazy in ninety-eight different ways. (***Not that I know this from personal experience because the people who share the holiday table with me are shining lights of perfection, normalcy, and delight at all times.***)

Here, let’s go back to the chapter about this in I Could Use a Nap and a Million Dollars:

For this, we grit our teeth and choose to be flexible. We choose to accept differences and be content with the fact that our family members are who they are. We aren’t going to change them. They aren’t looking for our approval; they’re looking for pumpkin pie and a football game. They don’t care how many hours we spent on the decorations or the turkey; they just want a safe place to put the baby down while they talk to other adults. They might need a comfortable chair for their old bones, or a big glass of water for their back pills.

See? What are we so worried about? It’s all fine. There’s nothing here that can’t be fixed with a little flexibility and kindness, right? Among Christians, everyone gets a place. Everyone gets a seat. Weirdo or not.

I’m trying to relax a little and enjoy these loved ones. I’m trying to extend a seat with grace and patience and genuine affection, and I’ve got to be honest– it’s not super easy. And I know I also grate on the nerves of the others around the table like salt in an open wound sometimes. WE ALL GET TO BE A LITTLE CRAZY, OKAY?

Okay.

I need to remember this— when Jesus said to love others, he didn’t mean in some far off, mystical place. He means right now, right here, in this very time. These very people. The love and the grace start with the smallest things, deep in my heart. They don’t start with turkey or ham or gravy.

They start with the Holy Spirit taking my willing heart and turning me into someone who is loving and kind, despite myself.

Ninety-eight different ways.

 

When you write a book on stress, God may just let you live through some extra stress

Well, things around here are getting interesting. My stress levels are soaring and my mental health is deteriorating, as evidenced by the following recent text message to my friend Jen:

I wasn’t jiving, either. I was so wound up that a run/jog/stomping gallop sounded like a legitimate stress reduction option, and this is so completely out of my normal response to things that I was afraid of myself.

I scared myself. Some of you may remember a post from earlier this year about how I jogged for a few minutes and thought the Lord himself was going to have to arrive on a white horse to carry my carcass away– that’s how running usually goes for me.

Here’s the thing. We’re deep into this moving situation, a situation I basically created for myself. No one else in this family can take the credit for stalking houses online for years. No one else was determined to create more financial margin. Nobody cared one whit about these things, so I only have myself to blame.

Photo by Xavier Massa on Unsplash

But somehow in my moving fantasies I forgot about moving realities. I conveniently disremembered things like dealing with mortgage paperwork and making sure we’re communicating everything clearly and honestly with a buyer (through two separate real estate agents, mind you. It’s not like I can call this guy and chat for hours.)

Now I’m having panic attacks about all sorts of things and then I remember that I have literally written a book about stress and I wheeze, “God, you are super funny with all your ironic life situations,” and I try to take a full breath.

Tonight I came across a powerful section in Control Girl, by Shannon Popkin. She was relating a story about a time when she had been on her way to speak to a group of women when she became convicted that she was sinning in the exact area she was about to teach on. She repented through tears, right there in the car, and this is what she writes:

I would far rather approach a group of ladies with patched makeup and a contrite spirit than with a false sense that the lesson is not for me. It’s always for me (p. 176).

This is why her book speaks so deeply to me– I know she has lived the struggle and she continues to live the struggle. I could list other favorite authors right now (Emily P. Freeman, Leanna Tankersley, Myquillin Smith, Amber Haines, Sophie Hudson) and all of them have this one thing in common– they’ve lived the struggle and they keep living it.

It keeps them humble. It makes their teaching accessible. God works through their brokenness, and we benefit from a kinder, gentler, humbler version of each of them.

Part of me wants to push this away. If I’ve written a book on stress, then most likely I should have conquered stress, right? What right do I have to speak on a topic when it’s still a daily struggle?

Paul’s words ring true for me:

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NLT).

This continual battle with stress and anxiety is driving me to God in prayer. I’m seeking him on a hourly basis as I recognize my frail humanity over and over again, all day long.

Writing a book on stress hasn’t made me some sort of expert who floats above the mortal world– it’s dragged me right through the thick of it. I pray you, my beloved reader, will benefit.

But even more, I pray that you’ll be encouraged about your own weaknesses. Do you feel like they’re keeping you from ministry? Do you feel like you’ll have something to give or teach only after you get your life together?

Perish the thought, my friend. Join us right here in the mess of life. We need your determination to seek God in all things far more than we need your perfection.

Also, I think perfect people tend to run a lot, and we all know how I feel about running…

 

Free to Lean (A reminder that a balanced life is not our ultimate goal)

Friends, I often wonder if we stress ourselves out. Stay with me here– is it possible, just a tiny, teeny bit possible, that our own life choices are the reason we have twitchy eyelids and blood pressure that’s somewhere near 250/134?

I think we’ve bought into the lie that we can have it all and should have it all and–in fact– are failing God if we don’t do it all.

Craziness. This is not a biblical idea, as Jocelyn Green points out in her new book, Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life (affiliate link). She points out that Jesus lived a focused, passionate life. He had a ministry, it was intense, and it was short. It was a particular season of his life, then he died knowing he had completed his work.

He didn’t stretch out his ministry for fifty years, start five different ministries, then conquer five countries like we would try to do.

In fact, if you look at Jesus’s ministry by today’s standards, it really wasn’t that impressive. He brought a few people back from the dead, but not all the people. He healed a few people, but didn’t set up a miracle hospital to serve millions. He didn’t even get married or have any kids!

So why do we think we need to do it all?

If you’re tired of feeling stretched thin, if it feels like your life is a five miles wide but only an inch deep, this is the book you need. Green will help you find your God-given priorities, then will give you the permission to lean into your season of life without guilt.

There’s more to life than an overburdened schedule and a racing heart. And Green helps us hear from God to choose the priorities that require our focus and attention.

Let me close with a quote from the introduction of Free to Lean:

…The common refrain among time-starved, noise-saturated, overworked Americans is, “How can I achieve balance?”
We’ve been asking the wrong question. Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to pursue balance. If you’re a believer, your purpose in life is far bigger than that. Jesus said that being His disciple requires us to deny ourselves, to lose own lives so we can find life in Him (Matthew 16:24-25). As we follow Jesus, with our crosses on our backs, we aren’t balanced–we’re leaning, hard, after our Savior, whatever that may look like in our own particular seasons of life (p. 17).

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Calm on the outside; freaking out on the inside

If you could peek into my house right this minute, you’d find us calmly going about our business in perfectly clean rooms.


I’m not even joking, friends. The house looks like we’re ready for potential buyers to walk in the door because we are, in fact, ready for those potential buyers.

The sinks are shiny, the showers look like no one has ever bathed in them, and the laundry is all done. The oven is clean and someone who shall remain nameless has been forbidden to bake pizzas until the house is sold.

It’s weird and I don’t really like it very much. It feels like we snuck into a show house and are pretending to live there.

It looks like this, but even CLEANER. No stuff stuck to the fridge, an almost empty counter. It’s spooky, folks.

The kids are old enough that they know how to not make messes, so they’re quietly going about their business in a tidy fashion while Eric and I read and write blog posts.

Outward everything is calm. But inside I’m totally freaking out. As evidence, I bring actual thoughts I’ve had since waking this morning:

WHAT HAVE WE DONE? OH, MY WORD, WE JUST BUILT THIS HOUSE FIVE YEARS AGO!! WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY ARE WE THINKING ABOUT SELLING THIS PERFECTLY GOOD HOUSE AND MOVING TO A NEW ONE WHAT IF WE HATE IT OH MY WORD THIS IS A PERFECT SETUP FOR A SITCOM AND I THINK I NEED A VALIUM!

Notice how my thoughts become run-on sentences as the panic grows.

To counter these negative emotions, I also have perfectly sane and intelligent thoughts at exactly the same time:

This other house we’re interested in will really offer us some great opportunities. It solves a few problems (LIKE THE IDIOT CAT), it opens up financial possibilities, and the decorating decisions will be such a fun challenge. I can’t wait to rip that ghastly wallpaper right off the wall. What a delight this will be!

It’s like my brain is in a blender. All the outcomes will be fine, honestly. We love this house and will be happy to stay here for years, but the other house we have our eye on could really be a great adventure.


We spent a solid two weeks praying about this decision to possibly move, and Eric and I reached the same decision carefully and slowly. Neither of us pushed or shoved the other in either direction; no one whined or wheedled or begged. Those of you who know me in person will find this unlikely, but I promise I put the brakes on my usual personality out of terror I’d drag my family into a nightmare that would scar them for years.

But we finally did it. The sign is in the yard, the kids are actually getting their dirty laundry into the basket each night, and I’m actually getting it all washed the next morning.

Now we wait.

As much as I’d like to demand God hurries up and gets our future all lined up in either direction ASAP, I’ve learned that spending time with him in the midst of the uncertainty is a far better option. That’s where the closeness and trust grows.

We prayed ourselves into this situation, now we can pray right through it. And prayer doesn’t mean demanding evidence. It means we choose to trust that he’s working– even when we can’t see it from here.

It means choosing to be still even when our brains are feeling like blenders. It means scrubbing a tub and being thankful it’s clean whether someone buys the house or not.

I was feeling like a moron the day Caleb took this photo, but it actually illustrates my state of mind today– happy, but also insane a little.

It may, in fact, require a Valium in the near future. I’m no saint. I’m due for another round of panic here in about three minutes. Bear with me, and I’ll keep you updated on the situation!

 

 

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The seasons are changing, and I’m not just talking about pumpkin spice lattes.

I want to like pumpkin flavored things, I really do.

But I really actually don’t. It’s not the pumpkins’ fault– it’s just that they’re so terribly similar to acorn squash, a vegetable that is probably served daily in Hell’s cafeteria.

My parents, blessed saints that they are, have one small flaw, and that is the unending love of all squash and their byproducts. I will not bore you with stories from my youth where I begged and pleaded and whined at the dinner table because my parents were merrily gobbling squash up like it was some kind of delicacy and expected me to do the same.

You’ll forgive me if I gag a little at the memory and then can’t bring myself to drink a pumpkin spice latte. It’s basically a super sweet, liquid version of my worst nightmare, and I’m not excited that it’s the new autumn standard.

But I doubt you came here to read about my childhood food issues, so let me get to the point. Fall is coming soon, if it hasn’t already happened in your part of the world. Some of you are cheering, and some of you are weeping a little as you gather up your flip flops and put them away for another long, cold winter.

The weather changes, and so does our life. Nothing gets to stay the same forever, nor should it. We may dread the coming cold, but resisting it is futile.

I am re-reading Victim of Grace by Robin Jones Gunn for what has to be the fifth time. Her journey as a writer and a child of God gives me encouragement whenever I’ve lost my own way, and I have this section highlighted in my copy:

Why are we caught off guard when the seasons change? We wonder if we’ve done something to precipitate the loss of the previous abundance and all the vibrant evidences of God’s wonder-working power. All of nature willingly surrenders to the changes in the physical universe, yet nothing in our human nature allows us to simply let the season be what it is and trust that the hand of the Great Gardener is still at work in us, carrying out his bigger plan for the world as well as for our lives (Victim of Grace, pg. 126, emphasis mine).

Maybe you are like me, headed into a season of uncertainty and change. Our kids are in middle and high school and Lord knows nothing stays the same when your kid walks through the doors of that new experience. We’re also considering some big changes around here to our careers, our house, our cars, and even the cat.

When things become challenging I often look for where I am at fault. I almost never stop to wonder if this is simply a new season from God’s hand. My human perspective is limited and focused directly on my own experience.

I share this tendency with the Israelites, who crossed a barren land and ended up at the sea. Like Logan Wolfram says in this Hope*Writers podcast, these were people who’d grown up in the desert; they probably weren’t real great swimmers. What they saw was a roadblock and quite possibly a cold, wet death, but God was about to work something amazing on their behalf.

Or like Jesus’s followers, who buried him and then huddled in misery, wondering how they had been so wrong. Jesus was dead. Their dreams were dead. But they just had to hold on a few more hours until God restored their dreams beyond what they could have ever imagined.

Our dreams are too small. Our hope is too fragile. We’re banking it all on one small outcome, and that outcome often flows from what we know and value right here— we aren’t ready for the season to change. We aren’t anticipating the great things God will do in the next season because we’re too freaked out that the last season is over.

What if, instead of panicking and deciding we’re doomed, we decided to trust the slow work of God? What if we could let the season simply be what it is, without fretting and dreading what it might become?

I think that might lower our stress levels quite a lot, frankly. We might enjoy the changing of our seasons a little more as the leaves fall and the winter creeps closer.

Maybe for you a little pumpkin spice helps everything. I’ll take a cider and a gluten free donut, thank you very much.

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Why I’ve let go of my dreams for a tiny house

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll be acquainted with my love of tiny houses. I can’t explain it, I understand it’s totally unreasonable, and yet I love them anyway.

 

why I've let go of my dreams of a tiny house

But sometime this last winter I finally let go of that dream because:

  1. Eric and the kids thought I was insane.
  2. The reality of a composting toilet for four people finally sank in.
  3. A private bedroom is good for married couples, and sharing a tiny house with teenagers makes that nearly impossible.

I finally acknowledged the tiny house wasn’t going to work, but then I just moved my sights slightly higher– three small bedrooms and a real bathroom. I just needed to find one close enough to the kids’ school.

My friends rightly pointed out that we’d moved out of a 900 square foot house a few years ago. I was going crazy in that place– what on earth would make me want to go back to another cramped house?

I understand my desire to downsize makes no sense. We truly did move out of a small house three years ago, and I couldn’t wait to escape that place. The day we moved out was an endless Happy Dance.

I couldn’t quite explain it, even to myself. I busied myself with some projects in our new home, and that squelched the desire for a time. But then, burning somewhere deep (possibly next to my spleen) was the constant and burning desire to downsize. I wanted less house and more available money. I wanted to be able to give wildly and generously, and to travel far and wide.

This is the closest explanation I can find– you know how some couples decide they’re done having children after their second baby? They give away the baby clothes, sell the crib, and get some surgical intervention. And then, beyond all reason, five years later they find themselves ready for a new baby. They get the vasectomy reversed or start filling out adoption paperwork.

It’s a desire deep inside that drives them, with no logic involved. They remember the sleepless nights and how difficult two year olds are! They haven’t lost their minds, but something deeper compels them.

And that’s how it was with me and downsizing. I hear the stories of people in Haiti and India. I realize many people are living in huts with metal roofs while monsoons rage in 100 degree heat. How can I continue living with two bathrooms and central air? Am I supposed to go on landscaping my yard in this planned community while a missionary school in India can barely afford to pay their teachers?

I finally asked Eric and the kids to pray about it with me. They weren’t totally on board, so I could see how this was possibly a new version of the tiny house ordeal. I was quite sure that after some prayer at least Eric would come around, because of course God was on my side. This desire fit in with the biblical ideals of sharing with those in need, so God and I held the holy cards.

I even had real life stories to back it up. My friend Amelia Rhodes did the same thing last year– sold a comfortable family home because of a simple desire to downsize. (You can read their story here.) And I recently read Amber C. Haines’ book Wild in the Hollow, and her family downsized into an apartment (with four little boys!) so they could be closer to their church community.

I’m not the only crazy one, is all I’m saying.

After three weeks of praying, the answer hit me hard and clear one morning. No. The answer isn’t moving to a smaller house. The answer is to stay right here, even with central air and two bathrooms.

I don’t understand why, exactly. I think it probably has something to do with being the aroma of Christ right here in this very neighborhood, where the children zip circles on their bikes and the families walk their children in strollers. It might have something to do with being involved in the schools, full of kids who need love and Christ. It could be that we’re called to be salt and light to this community, full of scrappy, independent (occasionally cranky) citizens.

I told Eric this a few days ago, and this was his response. “I feel like we prayed and felt led to be here. I don’t feel like that’s changed.” And the man is right. We didn’t land here without a lot of prayer.

It’s pretty clear that God plants his children all over the world. Some of us get the planned communities and central air and others of us get the monsoons and the huts. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why God doesn’t concentrate us, like an army, in the areas that need the most help. But he doesn’t ask me to have all the answers; I only need to be faithful in my own place and calling. I need to give as generously as we’re able right here, even with the larger mortgage and tax bill.

We can still be faithful right here. Although I have started negotiations for a tiny house in the backyard, because wouldn’t that be adorable?! It could be the Poopsie Hut! The Mom Cave! I could paint the walls sky blue and hide from children and writing deadlines.

I wouldn’t even need a composting toilet. Perfect.

 

 

God is going to do whatever he wants, and I’m prepared to work with that.

I feel like God’s preparing me to one day write a book titled God Is Going To Do Whatever He Wants, and I Am Prepared to Work With That.

Catchy, no?

It would totally fit with my tradition of book titles that are impossible to type quickly.

(This is why I have editors. They reel me in before I get too weird.) ((But blogs don’t have editors so I can write whatever I want.))
ANYWAY. WE HAVE BIG NEWS, so let’s get to it. I’ve been offered a new contract to write another book! Kregel Publications has accepted my proposed book for stressed out Christian women. If you’re a subscriber to my email list, you already know all this. (This is one of the perks of being on the email list– you get the exciting news first! Click here if you’d like to join.)

big news, new book!

But back to my title at the beginning of this post– truly, God is going to do whatever he wants. And I have decided that I’m prepared to work with whatever he brings my way. I did not expect this book proposal to have life after this long wait. I had laid it to rest and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Meanwhile, God was waiting for… I don’t know what. I have no idea. I know it’s been a long and gritty season of quiet, but that’s only what I can see from here. I have no idea what has been going on above and beyond this earthly spot.

I do know this. I had given up on writing as I knew it, but I hadn’t given up on God. I knew he may have changed directions or stilled my work, but I that didn’t mean he had abandoned me. After I cried a little (okay, a lot) about failing him, I waited for whatever new thing he had planned.

And you know what? It turns out he planned a new version of the old thing. The writing wasn’t dead at all, it was just taking its time.

And you, my friend who may be waiting for your own new thing– I’m praying for you today. I’m praying for the job news, or the baby news, or the letter from the school of your choice. Of course I’m praying that you’re on exactly the right track and ready to move with God, but I’m also praying that his plan will bring you peace, even if the outcome isn’t one you would prefer.

I started Plug My Ears with this passage from Isaiah 55:8-9, and I think it fits today beautifully:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Amen, amen, amen.

A Prayer for the Stress

Dear Father.

a prayer for the stressI don’t even know where to begin. It’s all attacking me, dear Lord.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 26:7-8, NLT)

So here I am, to talk with you. But first I need to gather my wits and my thoughts. Are you sure you even want me like this? Maybe I should get my life together first and then come find you.

I’m sure you’d like me better if I wasn’t such a dramatic mess at the moment. If my laundry was folded and my career was on track and my kids knew how to write a proper thank you note. Maybe then I’d be more presentable.

But then I read,

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalm 37:7)

And I remember that maybe it’s not about me getting my stuff together first. Maybe it’s about being still.

Maybe it’s about your presence.

Maybe it’s absolutely about waiting patiently for you to act. Not me.

You’ve led your people for thousands of years– through deserts, across the sea, and around the world. Why do I forget and assume you can’t take care of my life?

Be my rock of safety, where I can always hide. (Psalm 71:3)
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given. (Psalm 105:4-5)

I don’t know how to handle the current messes in my life, Lord. Not my parenting, my marriage, my finances, nor my career– nothing is truly under my control.

And that bothers me more than it should.

My lack of control bothers me like a thousand fire ants climbing up my pajamas while I try to sleep.

I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (Psalm 116:1-2)

I know I’m a control freak, Father, and I know that causes about 97% of my stress. But please bend down to listen to me anyway.

Help me remember that the stress only lessens when my mind is in the right place. When my attitude is completely focused on trusting you and being thankful for your presence, I can breathe again.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Remind me of those who have gone before, who accomplished great things because they were focused on one thing–your glory. May you glorify yourself through my life.

Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you. (Isaiah 26:12)

May you give me a proper perspective about all this stuff swirling around in my head. None of it is permanent. You are permanent. You are eternal.

And I am forever grateful for you,

Amen

 

 

 

To Detroit and back, just like a grown up.

I did several very exciting things this weekend. Let me list the minutia for you:

  1. Drove to Detroit all by myself. Did not get lost. (Siri may be responsible for this.)
  2. Fell asleep for an hour in my minivan. The experience was kind of sketchy– I was an hour early to check in to the hotel, but my head hurt from this sinus thing that won’t go away, so I decided to close my eyes in the back seat while I was parked in the hotel lot. “Closing my eyes” turned into a deep sleep that stole an hour of my life. I woke up disoriented and groggy and a little uncomfortable that I can sleep in a minivan without a pillow or blanket or anything. What am I, a hippy? Weird.
  3. Checked into the hotel all by myself.
  4. Stayed in the hotel all by myself. Never in my life have I spent a night in a hotel without one or many family members/friends/random strangers assigned to the room. I had two beds, a bathroom, a TV, and a couch all to myself. It was delicious and lonely. I hated and loved it. 
  5. Ate breakfast with famous people. Well, famous might not be quite the word. I ate breakfast with the other speakers at the conference I was attending, and they all speak around the world and have approximately 1,293 books published. Topics of discussion included travel to Africa to teach the Bible, and also men shaving their armpits before getting into a hot tub. I’ll just leave you with your questions. Really, you don’t want to know.
  6. Attended a conference with 1,200 attendees. Was interviewed at this conference in front of those same 1,200 attendees.
  7. Did not pass out during interview, thanks to the wonderful crowd and the amazing support of the other conference presenters.
  8. Drove back home in the rain, after having dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. Did not get lost or fall asleep at the wheel after an exhausting day.

So, to summarize, God ran me through the list of things I wrote about in my book, Plug My Ears. I was invited to the 1-Day Bible Conference by Our Daily Bread Ministries, and I left my comfort zone. I went in my weakness, my fear, and my distinct understanding that only God himself could qualify me to be included in such an event. I was anxious and on edge for weeks before the event, not at all sure why I was even included. I don’t have a mega ministry or a degree from a prestigious school. I don’t speak to crowds around the world or even small groups in Kalamazoo.

I had nothing to offer this crowd except my willingness to obey God and then talk about it in front of aaaaaallllllllllll the people.


Ohmyword. So many people.

But I sat up there on the stage when it was my turn and I brought everything I had, which was basically nothing but my weirdness and my love for Jesus. I told stories about my small group and how I want to be a dirty hippy who lives in a tiny house.

The crowd, which was mostly African American and over the age of 50, both thought I was nuts and funny. I know this because my brother and sister-in-law were planted in one of the rows, listening to the crowd while no one knew we were related.

After our segment, Sheila Bailey and I were directed to the back where we met with people and signed books. This was mildly hilarious because Sheila B is like a rock star to this particular crowd, she herself being African American and over 50. I had about four people who wanted me to sign one of my books (and three people who brought me books to sign that I hadn’t written– moments of true embarrassment for everyone), while a line formed for Sheila that was about twenty people deep for a half hour.


I decided to chat with the ladies waiting to meet Sheila, and we had amazing conversations. We talked about Detroit and the neighborhoods that are slowly coming back to life, and how they need more small groups sharing life to flourish. We talked about being a female corrections officer in a male prison. We talked about our families and ministries and churches.

It was beautiful. And none of it required an advanced degree from seminary or 1,293 book contracts.

Why do I always make things so complicated? Why do I look for weird proof that I can go and love people, and they can love in return?

I left the church relieved that I’d survived. But I also left filled up, blessed by all the prayers and kinds words and shared stories.

And today I write this from my couch, back in my comfort zone and cookie pants. My encouragement to you is this– if God is calling you to it, go ahead and join him. Don’t second guess his reasons or your qualifications. Just go and meet the people. Share the stories. Join the fun.

Don’t make it more complicated than God himself is making it.

And let me know how it all works out!

Family Stress? Here are some resources to help!

I don’t believe there has been a family relationship in the history of the world that’s stress free. In fact, of all the stresses we face, the very people we love the most often cause us the most angst. Who spends all our money? Who messes up our house? Who keeps us up all night? Who calls our very sanity into question on an hourly basis?

Family.

Blessed, blessed family.

I’d like to offer you wise counsel on how to manage your family relationships with as little stress as possible, but that’s not going to happen because 1) I am vastly unqualified for this responsibility and 2) there is no end to the kinds of family drama we all face. I could write for days and not scratch the surface.

family-stress

 

But have no fear. I’ve gathered an assortment of resources to help! I asked friends on Facebook for help, so many of these suggestions came from others. I hope you find exactly the thing you need to help your family succeed.

  • Focus on the Family and Family Life Today: Two classic resources for Christian families.
  • Jackie Bledsoe: His ministry is focused on building strong marriages. Check out his Date Night in a Box! It’s a free resource he offers on the site. (No, seriously. Go sign up for it right now. The “Drive-In Movie” suggestions are adorable and racy.)
  • The Happy Wives Club: Fawn Weaver’s a happy wife and she wanted to find other happy wives. She’s written a book called the Argument Free Marriage, and swears this is possible. (Eric and I are almost there, but we must admit to some intense conversations when we discuss whether or not the cat needs to continue living in our house.) ((Eric’s worried my plans to have the cat euthanized will “emotionally scar the children.”))
  • Care for the Family: My friend David recommended this site, and it has to be good because David’s been married for many years and has five children. He seems to have all his faculties firmly in tact at this point, so he must know something. (Also, the podcasts will help you perfect your British accent.)
  • Ministry Mom: Cheri Gamble’s website has resources to help us raise godly children. (Thanks for the suggestion, Barbara!)
  • Common Sense Media: I think we all have trouble monitoring the flood of media that comes at our family. My friend Jennifer recommends this website to help sort out the good, from the bad, from the worst.
  • The National Center for Biblical Parenting and Christian Mom Thoughts are two websites my friends Deb and Peter have used as they built a strong, united family.
  • Protect Young Minds: Pornography is way, way too easy to find in our own homes these days. This website helps us talk to our kids, and I’m so thankful my friend Scott brought it to my attention!

Thanks so much to all the readers who gave suggestions! If you have others, include them in the comments below.

And may your children behave tonight, may your spouse bring you flowers/not burn dinner/stop spending money, and may your cat not poop on the carpet again. May we all have stress-free evenings in our homes.

Amen.

***And also– I have an eBook for you, just Click Here! It’s a devotional on stress, so if these resources aren’t quite enough, let’s go try the Bible to see what it has to say. Wait. We should start with the Bible. But too often we don’t, and then we make the mess even messier. Let’s turn that around starting today!***

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