Conquer the Chaos

A common theme among tired mamas is the dreaded feeling of overwhelm. Laundry. Dishes. Cooking. Cleaning. Over and over and over again. We sometimes walk a fine line between the daily rhythms of grace and the cacophonous craziness that knocks us off balance. Perhaps it’s my almost twenty years of military experience, perhaps it’s the example of my own mother who steadfastly managed our home…perhaps it’s both…but I’ve come up with a proactive approach to keep my household flowing in rhythms of grace. Some of these tips come from my own experience and practices, others come from mothers I’ve met over the years, and still some others come from FlyLady’s recommendations.

Laundry Tips: One load a day keeps the crazy away.

  • Every stitch of clothing and dirty towel goes into the washing machine, all day long. At night, when everyone is in fresh, clean pajamas, run the washing machine on cold water. Go to bed. After decades of not separating my laundry by colors or fabrics, I’ve never had an issue. (At most, wash the whites/reds separately.) When you wake up in the morning, put the laundry in the dryer to tumble on low heat. Forty minutes later, I take everything out and have the kids help fold their laundry. Since I’m only washing a day’s worth of clothes, the folding and putting away never takes long. All of the laundry is done before 8:00am, every single day.

Dishes Tips: Skip the sink and go right to the rack.

  • If I can keep my sink empty, the rest of the kitchen seems to follow suit. When my sink runneth over, so do the countertops and tabletops. Crazy how that happens! Put every plate, cup, fork, and dish directly into the dishwasher–all day long. After you turn on the washing machine in the evening, run the dishwasher, even if the racks aren’t 100% full. If it happens to fill up halfway through the day, run it right away. When it beeps to tell you it’s finished, let the steam out and close a dishtowel inside the dishwasher. (You can fold it over the dishwasher door, half on the outside, half actually inside the dishwasher. It will dry your dishes faster.) Check them after 30-45 minutes and unload them. Waking up to a clean sink, free of dirty dishes, helps start my day off right! After you put the laundry in the dryer, unload the dishwasher. All of the dishes will be clean and put away before 8:15am, every single day.

Cooking Tips: Mindful menus make the meals.

  • Choose seven to ten tried and true favorite meals–healthy, nutritious, and loved by the whole family–and make a menu. You can do this every week, two weeks, month, or seasonally, depending on how much variety you want. Filling all of the nutritional gaps, I plan dinners that will make everyone in the family happy. Smoothies are a great way to ensure my kids get all of the fruits and veggies they need, and those can be served at breakfast, lunch, as a snack, or as part of dinner. In our house, we have charcuterie Mondays, taco Tuesdays, grilled chicken and veggie Wednesdays, chicken and rice stir-fry Thursdays, homemade pizza Fridays, breakfast for dinner Saturdays, and leftover or grilled cheese Sundays. Utilize an Instant Pot in the afternoons to put your meal prep on autopilot.

Cleaning Tips: Swish and swipe to save your sanity.

  • Each morning, after finishing the laundry and dishes, run a toilet brush around each toilet bowl. Definitely clean all of them weekly, but you can keep toilets looking clean by swirling a brush around the bowl after the first morning flush of the day. I keep toilet brushes next to each toilet in my house, so it takes minimal effort on my part. In the afternoons after you’ve fired up the Instant Pot, have your kids (even the toddlers) help you with a Home Blessing. Turn on fun, upbeat music and set a timer for fifteen minutes. Tidy up the main areas of your house before dinner–clean off countertops, wipe down the table, put away toys. You don’t need to worry about laundry or dishes, because those were done hours ago! This method doesn’t deep clean your house, but it keeps your home presentable for unexpected guests, and it’s ready for a deep cleaning whenever you actually get the time.

Spiritual Practices: Focus on what you CAN do, and lean into Jesus.

  • There was a while I couldn’t manage to have the idyllic devotional times that I’d enjoyed before having children. Rather than lamenting what I couldn’t do, I embraced what I could do…and left my inadequacies at the feet of Jesus. My kids and I listened to Seeds Family Worship music as we did chores or played games. I kept Andrew Peterson’s music on in the background for hours and hours at a time. His songs of scripture wafted through the walls of our home and encouraged me to keep going in the midst of my exhaustion. Rather than carving out a specific, stringent prayer time, I inhaled and exhaled Jesus with every breath; I listened for his gentle leading in the quiet moments, and I shared my heart with him all throughout the day. Those daily, mundane tasks of loading and unloading, cooking and cleaning, are invitations to prayer.

Don’t add to the overwhelm by trying to do everything all at once. Choose one thing to focus on, and work at it until it becomes a habit. Then, do the next thing. The old adage is true: Slow and steady wins the race. Within six weeks, you can calm the storm of weariness and find Sabbath margin in your home. Rest in Jesus, sweet friend.

A Qualified Homeschool Teacher?

I am a certified educator who taught high school English in Texas and in England for a total of six years. My teaching experience includes gifted and talented education, pre-Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement, accelerated courses, and university-prep courses. After leaving public school classrooms, I went on to teach in a private pre-kindergarten program for a short stint. The last few years found me involved in adult education where I co-led Shakespeare classes for military veterans. I’m also in my eighteenth year of service in the Air Force National Guard, where I’ve received top-notch leadership training. Since 2011, I’ve authored, co-authored, and contributed writing to four published books. I’ve been interviewed by local media, a prominent podcaster, and—quite miraculously—found myself as an official staff member at a nationally-recognized theatre. Oh, and I’ve homeschooled my two sons since the very beginning.

All of that sounds really good on paper, doesn’t it? But I want to let you in on a little secret: None of that qualifies me to be a homeschooling educator.

What does qualify someone to be a homeschool teacher? A love for one’s own children. If you love your babies—even those giant, overgrown babies—from the depths of your being, you are qualified to teach your children! I can confidently assure you that my university degree, state certification, and leadership training do not make me a good homeschooling mom. In fact, my experience in formal classrooms was more of a hindrance than a help. A love for my children and a passion to learn alongside them is the only qualification I need.

Sweet Mama, if you are feeling less than confident, anxious, fearful, or inadequate, please hear me: No one is more qualified to come alongside your children and walk this educational journey than you are.

You were created in the image and likeness of God!

His works are wonderful, and you know that full well!

You have the mind of Christ!

Go back and read those statements again. Put them in first-person and say them out loud. Repeat until you believe it! You stand on HIS truth, goodness, and beauty. God is in the business of redemption; if you feel your own education was inadequate, He will redeem your education as you teach your child!

Walking in faith is hard. Saying yes to the unknown is hard. What you’re doing—whether it’s for a season or for the duration—might seem impossible. But I’m here to tell you it’s not! When you give God your yes and invite His holy interruption, He will show up. He will equip you to do the hard things. He will give you the strength for each day, the wisdom to lead, and the passion to persevere. There is plenty of oil for your lamp, and He’s waiting to give it to you!

Courage, dear heart! Where you’ve been called, you will be equipped. Remember He is for you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. Please know I’m cheering you on every step of the way. You’ve got this! May you rest in the arms of the One who painted the stars in the canvas of heaven.

Mothering with Grace


The myriad of threads woven into the fabric of your day make up your family’s tapestry of faith. What we see mid-process looks like loose threads and knots, but God is taking those gloriously quotidian efforts and crafting a masterpiece. Remain faithful in your weaving, dear mama. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). Here are some of the daily rhythms that have enriched our family’s faith journey…

Biblical Affirmations

When you begin the day by speaking biblical words of affirmation over your children, it not only reminds them of who they are in Christ, it reminds YOU of who they are in Christ! Our affirmation statements are based in scripture; this idea came from a Wild + Free podcast I heard many years ago. Every morning at 9:00am, we sit together, hold hands, and I look them in the eyes as I say:

  1. You are a mighty man of God.
  2. You are a leader of leaders and a follower of Jesus Christ.
  3. You are a blessing wherever you go; you are never a burden.
  4. You walk in favor with God and man.
  5. You are bold and you speak the truth.
  6. You are creative, artistic, athletic, and intelligent.
  7. You will marry only whom God has intended for you.
  8. You will lend to many nations and you will never borrow.
  9. The Fruit of the Spirit lives inside you.
  10. You are a Ludwig young man, and you are destined for righteousness!

After affirmations, I chose a couple of scriptures to pray over them. When we routinely begin our days in this manner, we all tend to treat one another with more kindness, love, grace, understanding, and respect. When we become swept up in life’s craziness and move away from this anchor, attitudes deteriorate and there’s more fussing all around.

Take Authority

When those inevitable sibling squabbles arise, I’m quick to take authority and lead my boys in the act of repentance. “Son, the Bible tells us our words have the power to give life or death. Did you speak life or death over your brother just now?” Starting there keeps me focused on the actual issue at hand: We are all sinful people living together in one house; the enemy would love nothing more than to bring division, and then keep that division going with an upset, angry response from one or both parents.

Recognize the enemy’s plans, and thwart them through the power of the Holy Spirit. After they speak words of apology and forgiveness, I hold their hands together in mine and pray: “God, thank you for giving these brothers to each other for life. Your word says it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity, and I pray you break the spirit of frustration between them, and bind them with your unity.”

Does it magically make them both happy? Do glittery butterflies and rays of light shoot out from our hands clasped in prayer? No and no. But it absolutely takes the sting out of the situation. Inviting Jesus right into the middle of a disagreement always makes a difference. This is discipleship-based discipline over punitive punishment.

In our family vocabulary, we call this “planting a Kingdom flag.” I wrote a parable story for my boys to explain spiritual warfare in a way they could understand. We all know that the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Simply yelling at my kids for their behavior and sending them to their room doesn’t get at the root of the issue. In so doing, I’ve aimed my worldly arrows at flesh and blood. I need to exchange my “weapons” for God’s and redirect my aim!

I believe this story was divinely inspired after three days of fasting and prayer, in which I experienced palpable spiritual warfare. As a writer, I normally follow a creative process when I set out to write something. Not this time! This story was nothing like anything I’d ever written. The best I can explain it was God instantly downloaded it into my brain, and I could barely keep up with getting it on paper. With it came a direct instruction: “Tell your children.” I did, and they gained an immediate understanding of what happens in the spiritual realm when we pray and take back ground from the enemy. They understood that the enemy was defeated long ago, and we–as Christians–have authority to enforce God’s victory. I share this story with you in case you’d like to use it in your own home. Genuinely, I can’t take writer’s credit since God gave it to me.

Click to read the story: THE KINGDOM KEEPERS

The story itself may seem unfinished, but I believe that was done on purpose. There was simply no more “divine inspiration” past that point, and I didn’t feel at liberty to add more or attempt to finish it on my own efforts. However, I strongly felt God tell me to take my boys on a prayer walk to finish the story. After reading the last line, I charged my boys with this statement: “Let’s go plant flags for the King, my princes!”

We then set out on a prayer walk where semi-violent protests had taken place the night before. (No protests were taking place at the time we went out, all was physically safe.) I held their hands as we walked to the police station–now covered with graffiti and strewn with trash–and we prayed for God’s unity and healing to be released in our state and nation. We prayed for God’s angel armies to be released in battling the spiritual forces of violence and division. We planted Kingdom flags together! They tangibly understood their part in spiritual warfare. I’d say that was infinitely more powerful than any story ending I could’ve crafted!

Teach your children about spiritual warfare as soon as they come to Christ. Don’t give them a watered down cartoon version of “Sunday School Jesus.” My friend Jillian often reminds me that there is no Junior Holy Spirit, and she is absolutely right! Have your children pray big prayers with you, and rejoice over every single answered prayer. Invite them into your walk with Christ, and tell them what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.

When we take nature walks or spend time in our garden, we collectively marvel over God’s creation and openly thank him for the lovely flowers. For the bees, squirrels, and doves that so often visit our windowsill. Everything is an opportunity for praise and worship.

Personal Faith Stories

Both of my sons made the decision to follow Christ at an early age, and I wanted to mark these special occasions with something they could physically hold on to. We worked together to write faith stories (testimonies) by using their actual quotes and photos shortly after each of their baptisms. This allows them to take ownership of their personal decision to follow Jesus. They are so proud of their books and read them often. Here’ a video preview of their faith stories…

The Baptism Book

Missionary Stories

I want my children to understand that following Jesus means living a life of sacrifice. American cultural Christianity often tilts toward a hyper-grace-prosperity-gospel. Yes, God provides for us and abundantly gives us His grace–and for that I am eternally grateful–but I don’t want my sons to fall into the broken mindset that God only shows his love by padding our bank accounts or that grace exempts us from obedience to the Father. Missionary biographies are frequently part of our family read-alouds, and we openly talk about the difficulties our real-life missionary friends face around the world. We turn those struggles into prayer petitions!

Someone recently told my boys that China was a bad communist country who hates America, which planted a lie in their hearts that China, and all its people, are bad. I stepped in and told them that Jesus died for the people of China. I told them that he wrote eternity on their hearts. I told them of the underground churches and persecution, and how it’s our job to pray for them. We then prayed for God’s angel armies to be released to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness and oppression. After praying for China, my oldest son’s eyes grew wide as he said, “We just planted a Kingdom flag!”

The next morning, I pulled Hudson Taylor’s biography off the shelf so that my boys will have an encounter with someone who dedicated his life to bringing God’s truth to China. Someone who loved them with every ounce of his being and saw them through the eyes of Jesus. Speak God’s truth over negative mindsets and don’t allow any seed of hatred to germinate in your home.

Discipline vs. Punishment

This next bit may seem controversial, so I offer this up simply as something I do in my own home, based on searching the scriptures and prayerful revelations. Here it is: I don’t yell and I don’t spank. Have I ever yelled or spanked in the history of my parenting journey? Yes. But now, I rely on my Savior not to do those things. In the past when I have spanked and yelled, I repented to my children and to God, asking their forgiveness.

From my personal experience, spanking is a lazy shortcut, and yelling only goes to show that I am severely lacking in the Fruits of the Spirit. How did I come to this less-than-conventional Christian parenting decision? Scripture. I researched the actual Hebrew words used in the “pro-spanking” verses and learned that the Hebrew word used specifically refers to an almost-grown male, NOT young children. The actual Hebrew words that translate to “young child” are not used in the book of Proverbs. The word that is used in the “pro-spanking” verses is naar, which Jewish rabbinical tradition considers to be males between the ages of 16 and 24. So, the practice of spanking young children is found nowhere in the original translation.

I grew up in a very pro-spanking household, and what did I truly learn from it? How to conceal things from my parents, and how to be a very good liar to avoid another spanking. I lied to my parents, to myself, and to God. Avoid getting caught to avoid the punishment! It took lots of prayer, searching the scriptures, and wise mentors of the faith to bring me to this question: “Am I willing to trust God to help me discipline my children rather than trust a ‘proven’ and obviously more practical method?” (Clay Clarkson posed this question in Heartfelt Discipline.)

If you’re remotely interested in exploring this aspect of biblical parenting, I highly recommend these books:

Clay Clarkson’s Heartfelt Discipline 

Clay and Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Parent

Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting

L.R. Knost’s Jesus, the Gentle Parent

Their collective wisdom, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was instrumental in bringing me to a place of repentance and understanding. I choose to parent by faith and discipleship instead of fear and punishment. This road is not easy. It’s a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute choice–one that cannot be made apart from Christ’s strength. Shockingly, it actually works!

Parents are the first impression children have of God. For the life of me, I couldn’t find any examples of Jesus smacking his disciples when they went against his instruction. If I’m going to call myself a Christian, I’m supposed to be like Christ. Ten years ago, I was absolutely 100% pro-spanking. That change only came about through the power of God.

Understanding my children’s intricate personalities has also been instrumental in my parenting journey. We shouldn’t ever punish personality, but many do. We all encounter people who grate on our nerves without actually doing anything wrong…you may experience this in your own home. Paul and Barbara Tieger’s Nurture by Nature helped me pinpoint my boys’ and my husband’s personality types, which opened my eyes to how God made them. This knowledge has solved many problems before they’ve ever started.

Motherhood is an adventurous journey with many uphill battles. I fail often, but I cling to His grace. Sweet mama-friend, stand firm in the faith as you stand in the gap for your family! May the God of Peace bless you with wisdom and discernment as you shepherd your precious flock.


A Season of Blessings and Thanksgiving

Late summer and early autumn swirled with Texas heat and ran high with emotion. We buried my grandmother in late August, started homeschooling in September, and tried to find a new life rhythm throughout many illnesses in October. The funeral brought with it hard questions from my four-year-old son. “Mommy, if you go to heaven before me, who will take care of me?” He would break down in tears for missing his great-grandma a few times a week. This little boy of mine has dealt with difficult things and shown wisdom beyond his years.

In this midst of trying to settle into a new normal, my two year old somehow managed to get salmonella poisoning; he’s an ardent thumb sucker, so he picks up germs like a magnet. We’ve gotten to the point of keeping him home from the church nursery – every couple of weeks he contracts some respiratory illness or stomach virus – my husband takes Asher to his class and volunteers at guest check-in, while I stay home with Keane and attempt to watch the sermon online. I’ve become a bible study dropout as well as a marriage class dropout…for the sake of keeping my little family unit sane and somewhat healthy.

The changing of seasons has brought a restful, hopeful anticipation (hopefully cooler temperatures will soon follow). To prepare my heart for the coming season, I’ve focused on finishing L.R. Knost’s Jesus, the Gentle Parent, as well as cultivating an atmosphere of thankfulness in our home. Amazingly enough, these two endeavors have gone hand in hand. One particular portion from the last chapter of her book birthed a purposeful question in my mind and heart.

She writes:
“So often when we read God’s word we hear what we’ve heard from the pulpit instead of hearing the voice of a Father who loves unconditionally, sacrificially, and eternally. And so often what we’ve heard from the pulpit is accusation, damnation, and condemnation. It’s no wonder we have problems trusting in God’s unconditional love if all we hear are commands, demands, and reprimands echoed in those misguided voices…it can feel like…you’re digging and sifting and winnowing your way through years of hearing human interpretations from God’s Word spoken from the pulpit and from Sunday School teachers and Bible camp counselors and parents and friends and relatives, etc…”

Those impactful words led me to this question: Am I listening to echoes of misguided voices, or am I listening to the still, small voice of God?

Granted, I’ve been blessed with fabulous parents, pastors, teachers, and counselors along the way. However, I have also been exposed to more than my fair share of skewed, judgmental, unloving Christians. None of us are perfect. Especially me. I’ll be the first to admit unloving, harsh, judgmental things have lived in my mind and heart, and have been spoken from my lips. I pray that I am forever changed in that regard. I can easily think back to my childhood and recall several poignantly defining moments that are forever etched in my soul. They shaped my views of God, because a child’s first exposure to God is based on the people in his or her life. We are either the hands and feet of Jesus, or a stumbling block in someone else’s path.

I remember hearing about the scandal of a pastor’s daughter’s teenage pregnancy…and I don’t remember any kind words said about that situation as it was whispered between the adults at church. I would have been four or five at the time, and I still remember the lack of grace. When I was in the seventh grade, I witnessed firsthand women from our church, who we called friends, tease my mother behind her back. I guess most people assume children don’t pay attention or won’t remember – I definitely did both. As a young teenager, I witnessed an adult youth group leader remove various students’ True Love Waits cards from a bulletin board when there were rumors of premarital sex. Inadvertently, I was taught to be judgmental and harsh from this lack of grace played out by those I looked to for guidance.

For me, based on my history of experiences, I know how easy it is to slip into those old mannerisms, because those old voices still roll around my heart and head. For better or worse, they became part of my formative years. My goal as a parent is to never let my children experience those types of behaviors in our home. I can’t control the outside world, but I can control the people we welcome into our lives. I can control my own words and responses to situations. I can teach grace and love by modeling them in my speech and actions.

As a pastor’s daughter, I’ve heard more of my father’s sermons than I can count, but one of the lessons I most remember came not from the pulpit, but at a restaurant. My family was eating lunch at Chili’s on a Sunday afternoon in Mansfield, TX. It was very busy from the church lunch rush, and our waitress was remiss in refilling our drinks the entire meal. When the check came, I urged my father not to leave a tip, because she had given such poor service. As I watched him write in an amount for the tip, I objected once more. He spoke words that I will never forget as long as I live, and bring tears to my eyes even now: “Robin, it’s called grace.” I remember feeling speechless, a major feat for my talkative teenage self.

Four words, not a three-point sermon, are what I’ve held on to throughout my adult years. I have been the recipient of God’s unfathomable grace more times than I’ll ever know. It’s that type of grace and love that I long to impart to my children. It’s this particular season of the year that heralds such a message. Before the craziness of Christmas comes the quiet of Thanksgiving. I will work to create a loving, graceful, thankful environment in my home. I will teach by living instead of simply speaking. I will strive to cultivate a safe, nonjudgmental space that speaks truth in love. The past couple of days have found me working to implement tangible traces of grace in our home. I’ve created a list of family goals for November, and have made a Doxology printable (complete with a photo I took in our neighborhood’s nature preserve). We begin our mornings by lighting our Thankful Tree and singing the Doxology. While these may not be monumental for my young children, they work to bring a sense of peace, calm, and an attitude of gratitude to my mama-heart. I pray you will find the same in this season of life!

The Ugly Truth of Beautiful Grace

“The root of all sin is self-sufficiency — independence from the rule of God. When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength, we are saying with our actions, if not with our words, that we do not need him.” -Charles E. Hummel

This blog has been about ten years in the making. The words that follow have rested on the tip of my tongue, on the tips of my fingers, and on the edge of my heart for about five years now. My story is not unique in that it displays God’s grace, forgiveness, and redemption…but it is unique to me. The decisions and choices that I made between the years of 2004 and 2008 set the stage for my life from 2009 until today. I’ve lost count of how many times I sat down in front of my keyboard to type out the events that led me on an unbelievable and unexpected prodigal journey into the arms of Jesus, and the heart of God. 

And then, after reading Hummel’s quote in The Tyranny of the Urgent, it all came tumbling out. God said to my heart, “Now. Tell them. For my glory.” And that is exactly what I intend to do…

In 2005 I married a godly, salt-of-the-earth guy who I’d dated all throughout high school — he was the only boyfriend I’d ever had, and we were involved in church activities just about every time the doors were unlocked. I was living as a good preacher’s daughter should. In 2006, I graduated with my English degree and began teaching high school, we bought a house in our hometown, led worship on Sundays, and were sponsors in the youth group. In 2007, I started teaching at a brand new campus — I was responsible for two different preps (sophomores and seniors, if memory serves) on an A/B day schedule, and I was cosponsoring an after-school extracurricular activity. I usually got to work around 6:45am to get everything ready for the 7:25am class. By the end of most days, I had mounds of grading to accomplish, copies to make, and lessons to plan, so I’d stay at work until 6:30pm. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. After a few months into the school year, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from the long days. I didn’t know it until years later, but I was flirting with depression due to lack of sleep and being overworked. (I say this not to blame my bad choices, blatant mistakes, and deliberate sin on depression, but to make the link that once someone is depressed, they generally don’t care about long-term consequences of poor decisions…which is why there is often a string of really dumb decisions that don’t make much sense to outsiders.)

During this time period, I tried my best to help a good friend through a break-up, which meant we hung out in downtown Fort Worth an awful lot. I had never partied, drank, or “went out” until I was 24 years old. At first, we just hung out together — two girls laughing the night away — then it snowballed into a lifestyle that left me spending more quality time with a girlfriend than my own husband. I was naïve and ignorant, and paid no attention to the fact I was making terrible decisions. This left me open to major temptation, and my spiritual life had withered into nothing more than a song-and-dance routine I performed on Sunday mornings. Let me paint this ugly picture: I would go out on Saturday night, stay out until 2:00am, and sing praise and worship songs on stage with a microphone…nursing a hangover. It disgusts me to type that out and see it in black and white. But it is so necessary. I can look back on my former life through the lens of grace and God’s forgiveness, and I can now see it for what it was: Sin. Ugly, selfish sin.

I grieved those who loved me the most, and I betrayed those who trusted me. This “just having fun, no harm done” mentality led me down a path that no one — not even me — saw coming. That’s how sin works. That’s how The Enemy so efficiently steals, kills, and destroys.

Backtrack a few years to 2004: I met a guy on a military training tour in England — he was a friend of a friend, and we all spent time together over several days after we were off duty. Had I been involved in prayer and scripture on a daily basis, I would have been able to see this man for what he was — temptation. After returning home from the 2004 training exercise, we emailed back and forth for a few months…something I never should have done. In early 2005 I decided to stop emailing him — I was now married and knew enough to realize it was an inappropriate relationship.

Fast forward to 2007 — flirting with depression, almost zero quality time with my spouse, and even less than zero time spent in prayer. Out of the blue, we reconnect via MySpace, and the emailing begins again. He’s in England, I’m in Texas…I knowingly lie to myself, saying it’s harmless because there is literally an ocean separating us. Distance doesn’t matter where sin is involved. My heart was deceitful, and I was involved in an emotional affair. Keep in mind, at this point I was staying out late on the weekends, working twelve hour days, and treating my husband with no respect. I was in a tailspin of sin, going down in flames quicker than anyone noticed. By the time someone from church confronted me about my lifestyle, my heart had become hardened. I no longer cared that the façade was crumbling and people were starting to see me for who I was…and who I was not. I didn’t care that I was committing the sin of adultery, because I was still lying to myself, repeating the mantra that it’s all just a harmless friendship. A lie straight from the pit of hell.

I hated my life. I wanted to escape. I couldn’t believe this was the person I’d become. I felt too far gone to come back…so I ran. I ran fast and I ran far. Incredulously, I applied for teaching jobs in England, never expecting to get an offer. Turns out, if you seek out sin, it is easily found. In early 2008, I was called for an interview on my way to work one morning, and offered a position within a week. I accepted the position without ever consulting my husband. I resigned a good teaching job half-way through the school year, waited for my work visa, packed my bags, and left. I destroyed my marriage, and broke my family’s heart. I entered my own Lo Debar, and I settled in for the long haul. When I arrived in England, he was there to pick me up from the airport.

As I well deserved, this man quickly began cheating on me and became downright mean. I was the recipient of his anger, and I knew I deserved everything he could dish out. No doubt, my parents were praying for their prodigal daughter in the midst of this terrible time. I knew I had disappointed them, and that knowledge alone left enough of a crack in my heart to eventually lead me back to my Heavenly Father. After a particularly rough week, I confessed to my parents via email how deep my sin had become, and I knew I was on the precipice of the point of no return. There, in my self-made-misery, I began to seek the face of God. He allowed me to hit rock bottom and feel the weight of my choices, so that he could be glorified…the same way he allowed Lazarus to die so that he could be resurrected, for God’s glory. All of my sinful choices were rooted in the ultimate sin of self-sufficiency and my desire to be independent from the rule of God.

After two months in England, I resigned my teaching position, packed my bags, and headed home. My parents were there to meet me at the airport. I returned home to face divorce, broken relationships among friends, and shame. But, I still wasn’t done sinning. I proceeded to indulge in drive-by-dating, thus further injuring my bruised and battered heart. I knew I was in desperate need of God, but I was still running. This time I just happened to be on U.S. soil. I refused to just be still and know…instead, I racked up a series of broken relationships before meeting the man God had reserved for me. God used my pain and brokenness from my sinful choices to solidify my need for his grace.

In The Tyranny of the Urgent, Hummel goes on to say, “The opposite of such independence is prayer in which we acknowledge our need of God’s guidance and empowerment. In this respect we have seen the example set by Jesus in the Gospels. He lived and served in complete dependence on his Father. Contrary to popular views, such dependence does not limit or repress human personality. We are never so fully personal — free to become our true selves — as when we are living in complete dependence on God.”

Having been utterly laid bare before God, I know I am nothing more than a sinner in dire need of his grace. Having been the recipient of his unharnessed, matchless grace, I am nothing more than a vessel through which that same grace flows to others. To whom much is given, much is required. I have been clothed with much grace, love, and forgiveness. I have experienced God’s faithfulness in a way I never thought possible. In the seven years since my return from Lo Debar, my mission in life has been to extend God’s grace, love, forgiveness, and faithfulness to others. After everything I’ve received, how could I not?

May you be clothed with grace and mercy. May your heart forever be open to God’s voice. May you walk in the power of his love and forgiveness. May you run into his open arms, and never leave.

I’m "Just" a Stay-at-Home Mom

This past week my husband and I had the pleasure of having dinner at our pastor’s house. Every couple of months, they invite a group of new church members over for food and fellowship — it was fun getting to know others and relax for a couple of child-free hours. At one point, one of the pastors asked what we did for a living, and I responded with, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom!” Without missing a beat, he said, “There’s no ‘just’ about it, that’s a fulltime job!” He was absolutely right.

My life as a stay-at-home mom far surpasses my former life as a high school English teacher. I truly loved my students, but the love I feel for my own children is enough to take my breath away. These last three years as a homemaker are vastly different than the six years I spent in the classroom, but they are infinitely more rewarding. The fact that God allows me to be exactly where I am, doing exactly what I’m doing, overwhelms me with gratitude and humbles my heart.

Meeting my husband’s and children’s needs is a never-ending task, but one worth pursuing. I’ve come to see my responsibility to my family through the lens of Christ’s sacrificial love. My attitude is paramount to living out sacrificial love to my family — if my heart is not centered on God, then my patience runs thin and my children suffer. Finding balance in keeping the home, loving my husband, educating Asher, taking care of Keane, preparing meals, and pursuing my own creativity can take a toll…if my focus is in the wrong place.

Aside from anchoring myself in scripture, I have found these books to be essential to my motherhood:
     1. Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
     2. The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
     3. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms
         by Gloria Furman

My bookshelves are also stocked with titles on strong-willed children, childhood brain development, and methods for classical education…but I’ve found that it’s much easier to deal with my strong-willed child when my will is bent to his Maker. When I respond with grace and sacrificial love, his tantrums tend to be curbed from melt-downs into teachable moments that involve scripture. Is every discipline encounter full of snuggle-hugs and bible verses? Absolutely not. There are still plenty of off-the-charts melt-downs, but when I’ve taken the time and effort to center myself in God’s word, I am more inclined to respond as Christ responds to me.

There are days when I’m beyond exhausted from sleepless nights, and on those days it’s God’s grace that carries me through. There are days when I scoop my three-year-old up in my arms and ask his forgiveness for my impatience and my poor attitude; hearing his sweet voice say, “I forgive you, Mommy,” humbles me anew. I don’t have it all together. I am not perfect. My failures are enough to fill a vast ocean, yet his mercies are new each morning. His grace is sufficient for me, his power is made perfect in my unending weakness.

Bibles, Boobs, and Beauty

There is an article floating around social media that truly grieves my heart. Part of me was very hesitant to even link the article in my blog, but the other part of me figures there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it. While I don’t particularly want to give that website any more traffic, I believe a discussion is in order.

The author pits two teenage girls against one another in an effort to “prove” that one is better than the other. One teen girl comes from a Christian family, the other does not. Let’s strip away the fact that these teenagers are reality stars with big families, big money, and big followings. We’re left with countless people tearing one girl down in the name of Christianity. Sadie is inspirational. Kylie is promiscuous. (Not my words, mind you.) The fact that so many Christians are liking, sharing, praising, and justifying this article shows the rest of the world a picture of Jesus that I do not recognize.

Here’s the thing. Kylie Jenner is created in the image and likeness of God. He wrote eternity on her heart, too. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. His grace is sufficient for her. Christ laid down his life for her. She is entitled to the throne of grace; she has an invitation to be a daughter of the King.

We are all products of our environment. It’s safe to say that Sadie’s parents and Kylie’s parents have different priorities and belief systems. The easy thing to do is compare ourselves, our daughters, our sisters, and every teenage girl we pass in the mall to Sadie and Kylie. If we look more like Sadie than Kylie, we must be doing a good job. If your daughter dresses like Sadie instead of Kylie, then you’re doing a good job as a parent. If only it were that simple.

Not only is that mindset damaging and discouraging, it isn’t biblical. Christ is our standard. He marches under a banner of love, grace, and acceptance. Compare yourself to him — how do you measure? I know I fall short. Daily.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that your own Sadie-esque daughter grows up to make some Kylie-esque decisions. Would you love her any less? God wouldn’t. Comparison and judgment leads to complacency and a false sense of security.

Growing up, I was Sadie. I was the pastor’s daughter. Then life happened. There were several years that I looked more Kardashian than Christian. I was judged and labeled by Christians who formerly loved and supported me. American Christianity prizes good reputations over Christ-like relationships — I’ve experienced that harsh reality firsthand.

Rather than judge, criticize, and label, look at Kylie through the eyes of Christ. Utilize the lens of love. Rather than publicly demean her, pray that she finds unconditional love, grace, and true acceptance. Rather than placing Sadie on a pedestal, pray that God continues to guard her heart in the midst of a very public lifestyle.

May you see the heart that God created, rather than the painted veils we often hide behind.

A New Reality

I had the most incredible dream last night. These days, I’m doing good to remember any dreams with multiple night-waking divided between bathroom trips and flailing toddler arms. This dream is a true gift that I cannot keep to myself. I wholeheartedly believe we can all learn from this alternate reality…a fresh perspective, indeed.

In this dream, Trayvon Martin was my brother. I didn’t spend time figuring out the hows and whys of the circumstances, nor did I question the obvious outward differences. My parents also accepted Trayvon as their son – my normal real-world family was intact, except with this new sibling.

In this dream, Trayvon Martin was the one who lived after the infamous altercation.

In this dream, he was hated by the media, seen as a cold-blooded killer, and was in prison.

No part of my dream dealt with trials, lawyers, judges, or juries; it only dealt with my brother in prison. My heart was truly broken for Trayvon, and I made every attempt to visit him as often as I could. My husband, who does not now and will not ever have a tattoo of his own personal preference, got a tattoo of Trayvon on the top of his right foot to symbolically show that he would walk every step with my brother, and that he would never be alone. We all took turns visiting him, lamenting his treatment by others, hugging him, crying with him, and just being with him.

We championed his cause as if it was our own, because we made it our own. I could do nothing to change his present circumstance – my sole purpose was to love him. I prayed for him, with him, wrote him letters, showed up for every visitation; my heart was truly grieved for him.

I woke up this morning to a very different reality, yet my heart was still grieved. My beautiful son was smiling next to me, gave me a big kiss, and requested his breakfast – as he does every morning. Except this morning was different. My heart hurt for this brother.

I woke up with Hebrews 13:2 emblazoned on my heart and soul: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

The truth is, we are all brothers and sisters. What would our world look like if we truly lived out the compassion of Christ? What if we did as we were instructed and ALWAYS showed hospitality to strangers? What if our hearts were truly grieved for those imprisoned by so many different things – not just impenetrable walls, but by addiction, sin, anger, and loneliness? What if we truly hurt for those who are hurting? What a different reality we would all experience.

God Loves Gays!

I’m sure over half of those who read that title will find it offensive. Guess what?

God’s love is offensive.

Recent conversations with friends and family have led me back to my favorite Bible verse: Galatians 5:6, “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Many Christians have a need to see the world in black and white, to unequivocally call things right or wrong. It’s important for them to categorize actions as sinful or acceptable, to judge others based on a rigid criterion devoid of love. These Christians can back up their thought processes with scripture; they tell others how God should/would react to certain behaviors, and they in turn attempt to do the same. The problem with this mindset is that it is not based in Love. The very definition of God is Love (1 John 4:8). There is no fear (1 John 4:18), no condemnation (Romans 8:1), and no finger-pointing (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7) in God’s unconditional love.

So those “Christians” who are quick to judge, slow to love, and shake their heads at other people’s “sin” are not demonstrating God’s love. If someone says “I love God,” but acts rude, disrespectful, hateful, judgmental toward other human beings, that person is a liar (1 John 4:20). When we look down our noses at those who make decisions we disagree with, and think “I’d never do that…” or “Well, I thought that person was a Christian…” or “How dare they?!” we are not extending love to those who need it most. Many Christians get too hung up on “hating the sin” and don’t truly “love the sinner.”

God has asked me to walk though some intense fire-pits in the last decade of my life, and many people (“Christians”) were (and are) very quick to judge me. Having made it through my valleys and storms, I can look back and see God’s purpose and provision throughout my missteps and mistakes. God’s promise in Romans 8:28 rings true in my life. “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [Him]…”

I have made mistakes. I have sinned. I have wronged others. I have been selfish. 

But I have been redeemed.

I am covered by God’s unreasonable grace in spite of who I am and what I’ve done. Because of my experience, I am happy to extend that grace to others.

I recently came across a quote and picture that resonated deeply in my soul…

Sometimes I think, “If people knew the half of it, they’d think differently.” If people had walked my road, they’d throw less stones. I choose to keep that mindset with everyone I meet. How different would our world be if more Christians made that decision? If everyone who took the name of Christ reacted out of love, rather than judgment, people would flock to churches and beg to know this type of love. Hear His words in Micah 6:8, “…the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Focus on what matters! I must love mercy and extend it to everyone I encounter; judgment has no place in my life. I must choose to humble myself and not find flaws in other people. The ONLY thing that counts is FAITH expressing itself through LOVE.