On Elections, Opinions, & Thinking

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My Dear Girls,

Last night was the 2016 presidential election.  There are LOTS of opinions – with varying degrees of tact – floating around online in my social networks.  Here are a few thoughts I wanted to share with you while they are still on my mind, in no particular order:

  1. As an American, you have a great honor and privilege in your RIGHT to vote for your leaders.  Whether or not you like the outcome of any election, never take that privilege for granted, and fulfill every opportunity you have to exercise your right as an informed voter.  Many men and women in our great military served and died to uphold that right for you; don’t waste it.
  2. Be ever grateful to live in a land of MANY freedoms and privileges!  Among the greatest of our freedoms include religion, speech, and bearing arms.  In many countries, women are considered second-class citizens who cannot vote nor attend school.  In other countries, people are stuck in a caste system, with no hopes of moving beyond their lot in life, and/or experiencing extreme, desolate poverty.  In other countries, unstable, cruel governments, war, and fear are a way of life.   Be proud to be an American.  Don’t forget that many of the “problems” we complain about here are first-world problems indeed.
  3. Be inspired to live in a land of opportunity.  Both dominant-party candidates in yesterday’s election held historical implications – one was a woman and the other came from a business, rather than traditional political or military, background.  There were several other candidates in both parties’ primaries from varied ethnic and career backgrounds.  With either outcome, history would be made.  Even for those, like myself, who did not ardently support either candidate, the prospect of historical implications for our democracy is exciting to see unfold.
  4. Don’t let fear be a driving force in any decision you make or response to any outcome you are dealt.  Yes, I understand this is easier said than done.  But, we thankfully serve a God who “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28).  For good reason, the Bible tells us no less than 365 times to fear not.  Rest assured in Jesus’ words to “have peace” and “take heart” in times of trouble, for “[He has] overcome the world!” (John 16:33, my paraphrase).  Christians should rejoice that our ultimate hope isn’t found in anything this world has to offer, including rulers.
  5. Think for yourself.  Man, this is a big one!  If your dad and I, or your teachers, don’t teach you another thing in this life apart from your faith, I hope you learn to respect others and think for yourself.  Don’t just follow the crowd or believe what you are “supposed to” or what’s “in” with your tribe.  Take the initiative to research information from all sides, and use your intelligence and values to prayerfully discern what is good and True.  Don’t take for granted what someone else says to be true; look it up for yourself.  Be discerning; consider the source and any potential biases when reading anything, in print or online (I am continually amazed at how many otherwise intelligent adults seem to believe anything they read).  In politics, my parents taught me not to be a straight-ticket voter, but “for the person” – to think about whom I vote for and why.  My parents, grandparents, and the church I grew up in also encouraged me to read and study the Bible for myself, for which I am eternally grateful.  Surround yourself with people you respect and consider wise, and heed advice from your elders, but at the end of the day, have the courage and confidence to make your own informed decisions – even if it means going against the grain.
  6. You will not agree with everyone; the key is to learn to disagree well.  To disagree, or sometimes to “agree to disagree” is ok, and I daresay GOOD!  I expect you to have some points of political disagreement with your dad and I as you get older – because it will demonstrate your ability to think for yourself.  Your dad and I, while agreeing on the major points, have slight points of disagreement with each other as well.  I want to implore you to disagree WELL.  This often means holding your tongue, listening before and after you speak, and trying to see all sides.  You don’t have to agree with all sides, but it helps greatly to consider where another person is coming from.  Your dad really likes this quote by Mark Twain:  “Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”  You may need to stay there, or you may not – but at least think about it.  I would encourage you to seek out friendships with people who are both like-minded and differently-minded from you, and learn to share with and learn from them in a tactful, respectful manner.  Who knows – you just might learn something, and so might they.  But you’ll never have the opportunity if you isolate yourself among people who only think exactly like you do.
  7. Social media is not the best platform to voice disagreements or vent opinions.  Ever.  A face-to-face conversation, with love, respect, and tact at the forefront, will always win.  Just trust me on this one.  In teacher workshops on using social media for professional networking, I often liken posting on social media to shouting a statement in a public forum.  How many people would dare to read aloud some of the vehement phrases they so freely type?  Some adults especially struggle with this, and I often wonder what our actions are teaching the next generation.  I also wonder what the stats are on a social media post actually changing someone’s mind – not promising, I would assume.  If you don’t know what to say, the best answer is often nothing – or at least prayerfully consider the implications or potential misinterpretations of anything you consider posting.  And when you do choose to speak, do so thoughtfully and diplomatically.
  8. Be the change; be the good.  If you don’t like something, resist the ever-present temptation to complain about it, but instead, devise a way to become part of the solution.  Research the issues.  Speak out with an informed, diplomatic, strong voice.  Become involved with a non-profit or charitable organization, or start your own!  Find ways to serve, to lead, to inspire others to hope and change.  Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
  9. Remember who you are.  As Christians, you are His; a representative of Christ; the “light of the world;” “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).  Don’t take that charge lightly.  Others are looking to us.  Show love, grace, kindness, and compassion to a greater extent than is expected or deserved.  Be very careful how you treat others, and how you use your words.  Read Proverbs and James for more on the power of the tongue. You are also part of a family line of hard-working people who strive to treat others with love, kindness, respect, and tact, through both our words and actions.  Admire and continue that legacy.
  10. Learn about history, and develop a global mindset.  Spend time learning about the history of our great country, as well as your personal family history.  Know who you are, and be proud of your heritage.  In addition, take every opportunity to travel – to see the world and interact with others from different cultures.  Travel has abilities to open your mind beyond anything you could ever learn in a classroom.  It’s also good to realize that you’re not as important as you may think; there is a big, wide world beyond the U.S.A. and our problems – both real and imagined.  Seek ways to see the world and to change your world – from your own family/home to your community to abroad – one small step at a time.

I guess that pretty much sums it up.  I know you’ll both make me so proud, as you already do.

Love,

Mama

The One Thing

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow to go on our annual church women’s retreat, and I remembered something I wrote after last year’s retreat that I wanted to share with you:

I spent the past weekend at our church’s women’s retreat with some precious Christian sisters at a gorgeous location with two of my favorite things, water and woods.  While there, I heard one of the simplest and most powerful Truths through an amazing Bible Study delivered by our women’s ministry leader, Tollie Meggs.  And she brings the Word – in an awesome, anointed way.  Just, wow!  How blessed we are by the gift of her teaching.

So often, we tend to complicate motherhood.  And you know what else we tend to complicate?  Simply being – our entire lives. We were made for one purpose – to worship.   Everyone who is alive is worshiping something or someone.  Specifically, we were created to worship God – our Creator, Provider, Sustainer – and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  To do anything else is to waste our lives.  To attempt to put anything else – work, goals, dreams – before worship is to totally miss the picture.  Worship must be the origin of and must be pervasive within all that we are and all that the do.  I can tell you what work, including spiritual service, will do to a believer who got worship out of order in the equation – It leads to exhaustion and burnout.  I know this firsthand myself from past experience and know far too many other ladies who also know what it feels like to work hard for the Lord without having worship in its proper place… and it’s not a pretty picture.  To learn and live out true and acceptable worship will first and foremost please the Lord, and it will also spill over and impact every single area of our lives.  I am convinced that a person never be all she can be without worship at the center of her life.  But we don’t do it for ourselves; we do it because God is worthy.

It’s life-changing stuff, if we will simply submit to the Lord’s leading, obey His commands, and make time to truly worship Him.  And, despite our modern vocabulary, worship is not synonymous with music or meditation – nor does it require anyone else to lead us into it.  There are no bells and whistles, no bright lights or fantastical out-of-body experiences – just simply surrendering yourself to spend time sitting at the Lord’s feet, praising Him for who He is and all He has done, as His Spirit meets you there.  Because my words are pitifully inadequate in describing the depth and breadth of the command to worship and its accompanying promises, here are a few of many verses on worship.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10: 38-42

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. – John 4:23 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  – Matthew 23:23-26 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.  – Hebrews 12:28-19 (NIV)

My prayer for myself and your Dad, for both of you, and for anyone who reads this is that we will be filled by God with a renewed desire – a consuming hunger and thirst – for His Word and His commands, to seek His face and truly worship him with all we have, above all else for all of our days.  To get that one thing right will be to have succeeded in all our roles in this life, as well as eternity.

All My Love,

Mama

When You Don’t Know What To Do

My Dear Girls,

This may be one of the shortest letters I write you, but not among the least important. There will be many times in life when you feel as though you’ve come to the end of yourself, exhausted all the options – you truly don’t know the next step to take. When you find yourself in that place, go to this story from the Bible:  2 Chronicles 20.  I won’t go into the details here, because I want you to take time to read it yourself. Remember that God’s Word is living and active for believers, who have the Spirit of God living within us. God  often speaks personally to us through Scripture, offering wisdom and guidance directly to our current situation.

I was recently led to this passage during a time of worry over a difficult situation – and reminded of it again today – and it brought me such great peace both times. Here are my two favorite parts:

“… For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
‭‭- 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:12‬

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles‬ ‭20:15, 17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I won’t reveal the ending, but it’s pretty awesome! Go check it out for yourselves. And when you find yourself feeling lost or hopeless, take a lesson from Jehosaphat:  Turn back to God, seek His wisdom in prayer, and trust Him to take the reveal the next step, all the while praising Him. After all, the battle isn’t ours to begin with. All we need to do is stand firm, fix our eyes firmly upon Him, and rest in His loving faithfulness.

In Hope,

Mama

What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

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Dear Kate and Annabeth,

As women, it’s not a matter of if you will feel overwhelmed, but when.  Men have the luxury of putting their stress aside in neat little compartments, but not us!  Thoughts are constantly swirling inside our heads like a tornado, and while this can be a blessing for multitasking purposes, it can also cause us to feel a little crazy during stressful seasons.  As a working mom, I know the feelings of overwhelm all too well… But as I grow in my relationship with the Lord, I have also gained some strategies that help me to shorten the time I stay in that place.  So, without further ado, straight from the depths of midterm week grading, here are my tried-and-true best tips for what to do when you feel overwhelmed, in no specific order:

  1. Pause and breathe.  Remind yourself of who you are, who God is, and who you are in Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10
  2. Acknowledge how you feel, and then state the truth of the situation.  Often, our feelings lie to us, but Truth is unchanging.  (This is where Scripture memory comes in really handy – Pick a few anchor verses to cling to in stressful times.  Write them on index cards, until you memorize them.)
  3. Pray.  Give your cares to God, and remind yourself He is in control.  “Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
  4. Make a list.  Do the first thing.  And then the next, and the next.  If the list seems too long, identify the top 3 most important “must do” items.  Count it a success if you finish those things!
  5. Set a timer, work until it goes off, and then take a short break.  I like the Pomodoro method – work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break, with a longer break every few “poms.”
  6. Be thankful.  List your praises on paper or out loud.  Rejoicing is a theme in Scripture.  It’s very difficult for gratitude and anxiety to inhabit the same heart.
  7. Ask for help.  Call a trusted friend… or better yet, your mom! 🙂
  8. Put it into perspective.  It could always be worse – always.  Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five years?”  I can’t remember where I heard it, but a great piece of advice when you feel very stressed is to remind yourself that it isn’t brain surgery (unless, of course, you are a brain surgeon – then, perhaps it is pretty important!).  Other people’s demands may not get met on their desired timetable, but at the end of the day, many things we think are direly important are truly not, in the grand scheme of life.
  9. Put on your running shoes (or your dancing shoes) and some good music, and move!  Outside in nature, if possible.  Exercise is the best natural therapy – and it’s free!  Hands down, running is my number one way to clear my mind and erase the stresses of the day.
  10. Take a timeout to care for yourself.  Make a cup of tea.  Call a friend to chat.  Go window shopping.  Play with a kid or pet.  Watch a funny video.  Paint your nails.  Paint with watercolors.  Doodle.  Read a few pages in a good book.  Laugh!

While it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time, if feelings of overwhelm are happening often, take a step back and ask yourself why.  Maybe you need to take a good hard look at some of your life habits that need to be changed.  I have been there, for sure, and while it’s not always easy to be honest with yourself, getting stress under control sooner rather than later is necessary for your health, and for the good of those around you.  Trust me!

Finally, remember the power of your attitude.  Positive thinking is a choice, and a joyful, peaceful attitude in any circumstance is a fruit of the Spirit.  Stay close to Jesus, keep your head up, and you can make it through any valley!  Remember that you come from a long line of strong women, and I believe in you!

To Overcoming and Thriving,

Mama

 

On Dreams, Goals, & Making Time

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

One day, you will outgrow the magical days of twirling in tutus and spending countless hours in pretend play, drawing, swinging, adventuring, and dreaming.  And in your adult realization of “what you want to be when you grow up,” you will realize, and maybe even yearn for, the true magic of unlimited time and creativity that childhood so freely offers.  You may find yourselves working outside or inside your home, or both, on jobs that, while ultimately fulfilling, some days feel overwhelming and exhausting.  You may at times feel like you’ve even lost a part of yourself, but know that she is there, deep inside, that creative little girl who loved to dance and draw.  Don’t ever lose sight of your dreams, of the creative spark and special gifts that the Lord has given you, to bless the world for His glory.  Ultimately, the world needs your unique contributions!

There will be seasons where you put your dreams and goals on the back burner, and rightfully so, for noble reasons such as serving your family or others, completing a degree, getting established in a new job, or scaling back to care for yourself during a health crisis.  Simplicity is good, and “doing it all” is a slippery slope that leads to exhaustion and burnout; I know, because I’ve been there, but that’s another lesson for another day.  Efficiency and productivity – the seeming buzzwords of our society – are good and well, but you aren’t a robot, and it’s ok to have dreams and goals outside of your “main jobs” tucked away in your back pocket for a passing season.  Just don’t keep them there forever.

If you wait for the “right time” or to have “enough time” to chase after your dreams, then you’ll be waiting forever.  I’ve learned that we must make time for the things that are important to us, and most things worth having are worth sacrificing for.  A good example in my own life is this writing challenge – and some academic writing projects I’m trying to finish.  There are a million reasons why I don’t “have time” to write – a crazy busy season in my job, taking care of you guys, church activities, some other family issues, keeping our house from becoming a disaster zone… and the list goes on.  But the Lord has put a desire in my heart to write, so I’m going to set a timer and give it my best shot for the next 28 days.  It’s not going to be perfect and carefully edited for hours, like my typical writing pattern, but it’s going to be done.  I’m hoping at the end of that time, I will have passed the 21-day mark needed to establish a new habit in daily writing.

Writing is one dream I have, and there are many others!  I want so badly to model for you how to give my all to being a mom and wife, while also working hard to develop and use my own God-given strengths and desires for His purposes.  You will probably have totally different dreams, and that is great!  You are both different people, from each other, and from me.  Remember that dreams lead to intentions, intentions lead to goals, goals lead to actions, and consecutive actions form habits.  Whatever your dreams are, write them down.  Putting them in ink somehow makes them real.  Then, break them into goals, and finally, carve out time.  I promise that one day, when you look back on your life, you won’t regret going for it – even if you fail – as much as you’ll regret wishing that you would have.

To Dreaming and Doing,

Mama

 

You are Covered in Prayer

Dear Kate & Annabeth,

Because I love you, and because I believe wholeheartedly in God’s love for you, I pray for both of you very often – almost every day.  I try to pray for you in the mornings and often throughout the day.  Sometimes we get to pray together in the car, around the table, or before you go to sleep, and nothing makes my heart smile bigger!  I pray many things for you – for the Lord to draw you to Himself and use you for His glory, for your protection – physical, mental, and emotional, for your desire to know God and to hunger for His Word (the Bible), for your friendships, for your teachers, for your attitude and behavior, for God’s grace to cover the places I fail you in my parenting.  You are so richly blessed that your Daddy, Granna, and many other family members and friends pray for you, as well!  Here are two specific passages from the Bible I often pray over you (inserting your names as they fit):

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  – Colossians 1:9-14

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen.  – Ephesians 3:16-21

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, at all times, with perseverance (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Ephesians 6:18).  I love seeing both of you growing in your ability and desire to pray.  Prayer holds great power and is one of the greatest gifts we can give.  In our easily offended society, I’ve never had anyone to counter with an angry or offended response to an offer of prayer.  Remember that as you go out to shine your light into a world that all too often seems downcast and hopeless.  When you say you will pray, do it – right then, if possible.  If not, jot a reminder to pray later.  Follow up, and tell people you are praying for them; there is no greater encouragement!

When you’re on the mountaintop or when trials come – and they will – take heart in knowing that you have been covered in prayer from the time before you were even born.  One day, I’ll make a list of all the answered prayers I’ve seen in each of your lives. How truly amazing and awe-inspiring that we are loved by a God who knows us personally and listens to and answers our humble prayers!

All my Love,

Mama

You are Loved

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Dear Kate & Annabeth,

I am certainly not a perfect mom, but I hope my actions and words show you daily that, above all else, you are deeply loved, just as you are.

From the time we knew we were expecting each of you, your dad and I have loved you with everything that we have.  Kate, the night we found out I was pregnant with you, your Daddy and I went walking around our neighborhood, talking excitedly about our plans for our growing family and wondering about the person you would be.  Annabeth, the day we found out about you, we stayed up late on the couch in our new home (the week that we moved in), wondering which bedroom would be yours and pondering your personality, possible names, and how you would make our family complete.  When I nursed and rocked each of you to sleep as tiny babies, time and time again, singing “You are my Sunshine” and old hymns, I would watch you sleeping in my arms and wonder how I could be so blessed as to know such a great love, knowing that I would do anything for you.  And what a fun adventure it has been to see you both grow, change, talk to us, and transform into your own little wonderful personalities, with your unique gifts!  I often wonder who you will become in 5, 10, 15 years from now.  While I have big expectations for you, know that nothing you could ever do, nor any mistake you could make, could make me love you any more or less.

But as much as we love you, God loves you infinitely more – as I try to remind you at bedtime each night!  As your Heavenly Father, who made you and offered His own Son, Jesus, up for you, His love for you far surpasses anyone’s – even ours.  Human love is always based on condition, no matter how sincere our motives, but God’s love, like His nature, is never changing, always constant – the same today, yesterday, and forever.  No matter what you do, no matter what the world or other people may tell you, you can always trust in God’s love for you.  You are truly, deeply, unconditionally loved and treasured!  Nothing can ever take that away from you.

No matter what is happening in your life – right, wrong, or otherwise – you can rest assured that you are truly, unconditionally loved.

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

Write 31 Days Series: Letters to my Daughters

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Each October, a group of ladies around the world participate in an online 31-day writing challenge where bloggers (including newbies like myself) create and share series on tons of interesting and inspirational topics.  I’ve really enjoyed reading some of the posts shared in past years and need accountability to build a daily writing habit, so the challenge seemed like a fun and easy way to get started.

As a mom to two girls, ages two and six, I’ve chosen a topic that’s near and dear to my heart!  Join me here for the next 31 days as I share inspiration, musings, humor, and practical tips related to topics I want to impart to my daughters when they are older.  In addition to leaving a written legacy for my family, I hope my words might inspire other moms, as I have been deeply touched by the wisdom and humility graciously woven through the words of other women who have walked this path of motherhood before and alongside me.

All posts will be linked below, as they are published.

Day 1:  You are Loved

Day 2:  You are Covered in Prayer

Day 3:  On Dreams, Goals, and Making Time

Day 4:  What to do When you Feel Overwhelmed

Day 5:  To Be Significant…

Day 6:  Three Magic Letters to Reset Your Attitude

Day 7:  When You Don’t Know What To Do

Day 8:  The One Thing

Day 9:  When You are Tired…

Day 10:  On Elections, Opinions, & Thinking

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Day 31: