Some Days Aren’t Pretty

 Some Days Aren't Pretty -

Some days are just plain hard.

Some days the ugly comes pouring out.  Some days it’s not sacred ointment I pour on His feet, but soul-vomit and tears.  Do you have those days, too?

When the haggard woman staring back is NOT so much the kind, sweet, put-together girl that you want to see, but some crazy lady who looks like she is one espresso shot shy of a latte.  (If you know what I mean.)

And as much as I want it to be all picture perfect, my life just isn’t.  Grouchy attitudes, unpleasant realities, and peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches smashed into car seats happens.  Irritations simmer, personalities collide, and the laundry mountain isn’t going anywhere.  (Except up.)  It is days like this when I most need to be reminded of the truth of the Gospel.

Jesus came to save.

And oh, it is His love that saves.  I don’t need to be reminded of how far short I fall, I need a love that never fails when I do, again.  The gospel holds up.  It takes the worst of us and gives back grace.  This is not a porcelain love to be admired on a tidy mantel shelf – it is a sturdy love to build a life on.  It is a hammer and nails kind of love that will hold you together when everything else is falling apart.

Love is not just for the pretty days, the sunshine and popsicle days, the days we’re kind of almost winning this whole life thing…it’s the arms that hold us when our world has crashed in.  When it’s the darkest night we’ve ever seen, the deepest pain we’ve ever known, when we are at the utter and total end of ourselves.  Love sustains.  In the face of senseless brutality, and the horror of evil played out in the reality of a fallen world, this love does not flicker out or wither away. It is an anchor, a beacon, a refuge.  It’s not going anywhere.

And in the mundane, the hormones-awry, kids-are-fighting, and hubby’s-late days, it still holds up.  It is the fabric of our very life, the fiber that weaves our torn pieces together.  This is not some cheap, synthetic blend that pills and wears through the first time it hits hot water and throw up.  This Jesus love is rugged.  It can endure the day-in, day-out tug of war between the girl we want to be, and the girl we are when the poop leaks out of the diapers and becomes something to use as finger paint.  (I am not. Even. Kidding.  Toddlerhood is a very body-fluids-intensive time of life.  Also, I use Lysol wipes by the case.)

When Psalm 61:3 reports that God is a shelter and a strong tower, it’s easy to forget that the writer knew what is was to have his world collapse.  His father in law literally ordered a hit on him, his wife was given to someone else, and he found himself rejected and betrayed multiple times.  His child died.  One son raped his daughter, and another son killed the rapist.  And that’s just the abbreviated version.  And yet, this grieving man found the love of God to be the one thing that could hold him up when everything else in his life was knocking him down.

I see it written all over the pages of sacred Scripture, and scattered across the ages of history: this faithful, sustaining love.  And yet, I hesitate.  I get distracted.  You, too?  When my wonder dulls, and I gloss over the truth about Calvary, I miss out.  My family misses out.  Because THIS day is not beyond His ability to redeem, too.

Saving grace is not just for eternity, it’s for here and now, too.  Jesus’ favorite place is not the church pew, but your kitchen table.  And your office.  And your laundry room.  His love is the most important thing, not because we must spend hours sitting and admiring it, but because it is the sturdy thing that carries us through the ugly moments, the hard things, and the endless routine.  His love elevates taking-out-the-garbage-and-washing-dishes mundane into something holy.

When we serve with love, drudgery becomes opportunity.  The gospel saves, yet again.  Not just your soul, but your day.

Because the Gospel is Christ’s love, applied.

And it makes all the difference.

Grace, peace, and wet wipes,


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Travel With Littles – With Printable Packing Lists

Travelling With Littles -

My family and a good many dear friends live 3,000 miles away.  I guess that’s what happens when a Washington girl marries a New Hampsha’ boy.  Which means, among other things, that when it comes time to visit said precious people, it involves tearing my hair out, strapping the kids in strait jackets, sedating Superman and myself much prayer and planning, and yes, travel.  (That may be the understatement of the century, right up there with “coffee is great” and “motherhood is not what I expected.”  Ahem.  But I digress.)

Where were we?

Oh, right.  Travel.  Packing up a family of 5 for a day of entertaining a kindergartener, a feels-everything-deeply-three-year-old, and a toddling one-year-old in a space the size of a Hobbit’s phone booth, surrounded by hostile, germ-infested people who resent your very existence (or at the very least, your reproductive choices) while you hurtle through the sky in a steel cylinder defying gravity WITH NO ESCAPE?  Please sign me up.

The only way to make it through is unlimited lattes and giving your inner control freak free reign and bribing everyone with lollipops being organized.

To wit, a list.  The mother of all lists, in fact.

I’m about to spill the secrets of the mommy universe regarding travel survival.  You on board?  Buckle up! (Just as an aside, who really expects a squirming toddler to keep an air mask on their face “in the event of loss of cabin pressure”???)  Just sayin’.

  • Coerce your husband into buying you a coffee gift card and hiring a nanny.  (I guess this is not going to happen, so we can move on.)
  • Pack your carry on with veterinary grade tranquilizers for yourself and your husband with age appropriate, Pinterest-worthy homemade toys and handcrafted, organic, nutritionally balanced snacks.  (Hahahahahahaha!  That’s a good one!)
  • Pack your checked bags with the entire contents of your closet and medicine cabinet because well, you may need it with perfectly coordinated, matching outfits for everyone, neatly packed in individual Ziploc® baggies.  (I’ll sell you a bridge next!)
  • Schedule counseling appointments for everyone at your final destination.

Okay, okay, I’ll get serious.  When you are going to travel with little ones, the keywords to success are anticipation and flexibility.

To anticipate what will be most helpful during the trip is key to preparing successfully for travel.  Choosing to pack items that are dual-use enables more flexibility during the trip.  Also, it prevents your arms from being ripped out of their sockets by too-heavy bags.  Win-win.  If you want a print version of the above graphic, I have it for you: Travel With Littles

I’ve created packing lists for baby, toddler, and kindergartener (FOR FREE, Y’ALL!  BECAUSE I HAVE YOUR BACK, FEEL YOUR PAIN, AND BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.)  You’re welcome.  🙂  Just go here and get printing (and packing!) 😉

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Mind Matters – Winning The Thought War

Winning the Thought War -

You know that show where they offer some person a ridiculous amount of money if they will just stay in a locked box with snakes and tarantulas all over them for 5 minutes or something?  CRAAAZY.   Crazy, I say.

I’ve never seen the show (nor do I plan to!!!  THANKS!!!) but for those brave few who make it through and win the pay out, I have to admire their control.  Mind over matter, and all that.

Because let’s be real: the hardest work you will ever do is in your mind.  Win the battle of your thoughts and you triumph.  It’s kind of ridiculously simple, but crazy hard, all at the same time.  In the Bible Study I just finished by Priscilla Shirer, she talked about how important our thought life is in maintaining spiritual, mental, and even physical health.  We can literally pollute our minds so badly with toxic thinking that it spills over and contaminates every aspect of our lives. (It’s The Armor of God study –  and WOW!  Did it ever kick my spiritual…derriere.)  So, ICK…I don’t want my mind polluted with toxic thinking patterns!

Now, all this is well and fine, but how can you ACTUALLY do it?  You know, in the little moments between sibling squabbles and dish washing and nose wiping and helping our kid sound out Dr. Seuss books?  Never mind when things turn nasty on Facebook, or someone makes a snide comment, or our spouse does something irritating, or the kids are well on their way to a life of organized crime (or so it seems when they are jumping off the couch FOR THE FIFTH TIME TODAY.)  This mind war stuff all sounds fantastic in my cozy Bible time with a cup of coffee and morning peace washing over me like a soft blanket, but it becomes increasingly blurry as the morning wears on.  I’ll be honest, by 10 o’clock, I’ve completely lost sight of winning the thought war, and am much more consumed with winning the sock war.  (As a side note, why is it SUCH an enchanting experience to a toddler to pull off socks? Oy!)  Aligning our daily thoughts in REAL LIFE is harder than letting hairy spiders crawl over your face. *shudder*

And then it occurred to me how much I need a different perspective when six tiny feet hit the floor.  How much my mind needs renewing in the moment the oatmeal and my temper both boil over.

How much I need to live out Philippians 4:8 and not Proverbs 27:15.  Renewing our minds is not another item on the to-do list…it’s the life-giving medication that preserves us from the toxicity of our own selfishness and silliness and agendas.  Oh, yes, I’m an agenda girl, and nothing brings out the yet-to-be-sanctified in me like a couple of roadblocks in the path of my expectations.  (Please don’t ask my family.  They would probably affirm this WAY too vigorously.)  I’m learning, really.  But it’s HARD.

So let’s get down to business.  How does a busy girl with a million things to do make the time to win the thought war?  Scripture is your secret weapon, my friends.  When I store up His thoughts and systematically replace my toxicity with His holiness…beautiful things start happening.

All of a sudden, I start to feel different.  That Bible-study-cozy-and-coffee peace starts chasing me while I’m chasing the sock-pulling toddler.  I find a smile bubbling up with the dish soap as His words wash away the ick that so quickly accumulates.  Gentle words come easier, and conviction pierces more quickly.  (I’m sorry is an oft-used phrase around here…and by His help, I’m learning to live the difference and not just say it.)  WORK IN PROGRESS, people.

This Bible is so much more than ink on tissue-thin pages.  There is sand-blasting power in those aged, potent words.  Holy power.  Mind-changing, spirit-renewing power.  Enough to change your life and mine, if we will just. use. it.

You know that negative chatter that feels so normal in your head?  It needs evicted.

It starts with one thought, taken captive to Christ.  Replaced with truth, one sacred verse at a time.  Then another.  Pretty soon, the truth pumping through you is doing the captive-taking work without you even knowing it.

Oatmeal boiling over isn’t the issue.  The change in plans isn’t the issue. 

My heart, flowing out of my thought life, is the issue.  When I remember that all things work together for good to those who love God and the present troubles are small and won’t last very long it’s easier to respond with a deep breath and a wet paper towel instead of a temper tantrum or sharp words.

This is practical.  This is game-changing.  There is nothing I need more than how to change my thoughts in the day-in and day-out of life on earth with my personality rubbing up against other personalities and circumstances.

Well, that, and maybe some socks that stay on little feet. 🙂


This post contains affiliate links, and you can read all about my affiliate disclosure here.  Basically, if you buy something through the link on this site, I receive a (quite small) commission at no additional cost to you.  Win-win.  🙂

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Pursuing Excellence or Chasing Perfection

Pursuing Excellence or Chasing Perfection -

Pursuing excellence is not the same thing as chasing perfection.

It hit me with the approximate velocity of a 100-mile-an-hour freight train.

Excellence is not the same as perfection?  Really?  Really.  (Clearly, some of us missed that memo.  If you already knew that, please, don’t tell me.)  There are times when ignorance really IS bliss.

See, excellence asks only for the best of us.  It’s not demanding something we don’t have to offer.  It requires only that we show up, do our part the best we can, and leave it at that.  There is no need for manipulating, controlling, or losing sleep over the outcome when we are pursuing excellence.  It isn’t even about the outcome.  It’s about faithfully showing up, doing our part as well as we can, and then leaving the rest in God’s hands.  It’s about taking responsibility for the gifts we’ve been given, and living out the best version of ourselves.  Excellence is offering the best of ourselves to God and others as a generous gift.  And that’s it.

Perfection demands an unattainable and unrealistic standard.  (Perfection and I…we have a shady history which I get into here, here, and here.)  Things get sticky when perfection comes into play, because egos are always involved.  When an identity hangs on the line, suddenly, it’s all about the outcome, and we’ll do whatever we have to do to come out intact.  It’s self serving at best, destructive at worst.  And because perfection is so chokingly tangled up in identity, life becomes all about us, and others become either annoying obstacles or convenient stepping stones.  Hardly “they will know you are My disciples by your love for one another” kind of living. (John 13:34-35)

It is awesome and God-glorifying to pursue excellence, dream boldly, and live faithfully, humbly, and lovingly.  It’s what should exemplify Christians everywhere.  In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gives an example of using what we’ve been given wisely when He tells the parable of the talents.  In the story, those who took what they had been given and faithfully traded and invested are the ones that are held up as models for our instruction.  The Christian life is not about primly sitting around waiting for life to happen, but rather engaging fully with the ins and outs of daily living, yet never becoming consumed by the outcome.  A wise woman knows that there is no controlling needed on her part.  Doing her best…that’s her job.  Caring for all the other details…that’s God’s job.

It is terrifying and self-destructive to chase perfection, pursue approval, and hunt for supremacy.  Ain’t nobody filling that hunger.  Perfection is cruel and abusive, and if left unchecked, will take all the best things from us.  It will take our love for God, our families, our friends, and our focus.  It will twist what’s good and beautiful and make it warped and ugly.  It will turn us into ego-driven, self-centered little tyrants that no one wants to mess with.  It will make us the ugliest, most twisted and warped version of ourselves and chew up all that was ever good and beautiful.

Excellence energizes, while perfection exhausts. Do you know how tiring it is always flailing and grasping for something, and never quite getting it?  Ridiculously, drooling-on-the-couch-in-a-stupor kind of draining.  (My poor couch.)  Perfection just never knows when to call it a day.  Excellence does.

Oh, how I need to wrap my mind around this galaxy-wide difference between doing my best and doing it all.  Your best and mine…it’s enough.  It is.  Jesus is the only One who can do it all.  And He can have that job.  (I am so done with candidating for it.)

How about you?

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Building a Safe House – With Free Printable

Building A Safe House: Habits to Protect -

She laughed as she spilled the story, animated and bright-eyed.

It was funny.  Her husband’s epic fail gathered a good sized crowd of listeners, and we laughed together as she regaled us with extra silly tidbits of his other shortcomings.  Years later, I still don’t have a high opinion of the man – and I never met him.  He held a respected position in the community, was promoted at work, and yet…his wife held up his most humiliating moment as public entertainment.

If you’re sobering down right about now, so am I.  It scares me to think that I could so easily and unknowingly wound the most precious relationships in my life.  ‘Cause here’s the thing: this lady wasn’t trying to be malicious.  She was a good-hearted, well-meaning woman.  She just acted in violation of rule #1 in the safe home handbook.

Home should be a safe place.

  1. Don’t spill what’s private to the world.  (This seems to have been lost in a culture of revealing clothing and Facebook fights.)  Some things are just best kept under wraps when in the public eye.  Amen?  Let’s keep it classy.
  2. Don’t underexpose.  Protection sometimes means exposing to the light. Removing secrecy is to sin what antiseptic and oxygen are to a wound.  If you need outside help, get it.  (Case in point, the Duggar tragedy.)  This is not a violation of rule #1…you are not spilling it to everyone.  But staying silent in the face of sin is neither healthy nor safe.
  3. Tell it like it is, and do it lovingly.  Speaking the truth in love is God’s way to create a safe place for your family.  A healthy place.  There is room to grow and enough oxygen for everyone when this protection is in place.  Where else do our family members have room to be themselves without fear of rejection or smoke screens?  Truth and kindness make the best house mothers.
  4. Treat your family better than your friends.  (This is not a pass to treat your friends worse; it is a challenge to elevate the level of courtesy in your home.) 🙂 Give family members more consideration, more compliments and kindness, more loving words and your best-self-moments.  Be present.
  5. The best protection you can give your family is to cover them in prayer.  When you pray, you invoke the power of God over your family.  That’s a big deal.  A HUGE deal.  Because He can go where you can’t, knows what you don’t, and protects better than you can dream.

Do you want to guess which one gives me fits challenges me the most?  It’s #4.  I can manage politeness (barely) to the world on a horrible day, but my family gets what I really think.  It is a constant challenge to me to treat them with consistent, unfailing courtesy, regardless of circumstances.  When the trail of mud leads across the carpet, and I have a writing deadline, and the baby is down for a nap, the reasonable request for a cup of milk can be what unravels me.  Work in progress?  You bet I am!  (I also gratefully accept prayers and casseroles.)

Is your home secure?  Is it a place where grace thrives and healthy boundaries exist?  A balance between airing dirty laundry to the world and allowing toxicity to grow unchecked might be tricky, but it is possible.  The world doesn’t need to know that your kid did something stupid unwise or your husband acted like a jerk tested the limits of your Christian forbearance.  That’s what your Bible study girls or your BFF is for.  Better yet, that’s what Face time (with your Creator, not your device) is for.  Spill it to Him, spill it to the ones who will lift you up in prayer, but please…don’t splash it on social media or your coffee klatsch.  The world just doesn’t need to know, and more importantly…your family doesn’t need the world to know.

Home should be a place of safety, where confidences are held close to the heart, grace is dispensed gospel-style, and toxic secrets are brought into the light.  It is where we grow, together, in Christlikeness.  It is not a halfway house for sin to grow undisturbed.  You are the guardian of precious souls, and it is as vital to expose serious sin as it is to safeguard our family’s trust.  Doing the former is one of the many aspects of fulfilling the latter.  It’s easy to become hoodwinked into thinking that no good will come of bringing in outside help, but it is foolish to put a band aid on a wound oozing pus.  That’s what you’re doing if you cover over sin.

Home is a buffer.  It’s an island of safety in a nasty, hurtful world.  It’s a place where we can retreat from the worries and ugliness and find refreshment and people who both know us and actually like us.  So much damage can be done by unkind or untruthful words, and our family is exposed to who-knows-what when they’re out and about.  We can’t put a muzzle on the rest of the world (tempting as it sounds.)  🙂  But we can speak words of kindness and honesty in our homes and relationships.  We can become go-to people when someone wants a straight and loving answer.  We can live out Proverbs 31:26 and have the “law of kindness” arrest mean words that want to slice and gut others.

Home is where family goes to be treated better than anywhere else.  My kiddos are tiny still, (I’ll keep them that way, thanks!) but I am looking at a not-so-distant future when home will be only one of many options for my family to spend their time.  I want it to be a fun, refreshing, delightful place that they want to come back to.  Much of that depends on how they are treated in the here and now.

Intentional, regular prayer on behalf of our family is the best safeguard we can implement.  If you do nothing else, do this.  Pray for their hearts, their minds, their bodies.  I won’t belabor the point, but there is nothing you can do that will have more eternal impact than your prayers.  If you need help with what to pray, I created a free printable (usually on the Subscriber Freebies Page, but here today!) Prayers For A Christ Centered Home.  Just click on the link and print as many copies as you need! 🙂

In summary, it needs to be a huge priority in the life of every Christian woman to create a loving home environment.  Single or married, children or not, the home is a gathering place.  As such, creating a safe and nurturing home is both life-giving and essential.

It’s up to us to set the tone.

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