To Do or Not To Do: That is the Question

To Do or Not To Do: That is the Question

Recently I interviewed Kristen Howerton (visit rageagainsttheminivan.com to find out more about her). I read her book Rage Against the Minivan in 24 hours. It was that good.

I’m not a huge fan of parenting books, tbh. They usually end up making me feel even worse than I already do about my failing parenting skills. But Kristen met me right where I was with this book and I couldn’t put it down.

One thing she talks about in the book is “Opting In” and “Opting Out” of certain activities for you and your kids. Gosh, I loved the practicality of that idea. So, I’ve starting making my lists of what I am “Opting In” and “Out Of” so I don’t opt out of my every-loving-mind.

Opting In:

  • At least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with Mom a day (when I can): Whether that is just talking, playing a game, watching a show, coloring, or baking. Just taking a few minutes out of my day to make sure my kids know they are a priority is important to me. It fills their tanks and mine.
  • Family dinners: Most nights out of the week, we sit down around our farmhouse table for family meals. I love this time because we always ask the kids what their best part of the day was. I feel like the kids share, laugh hard, and get our undivided attention.
  • Cleaning schedule: I have a cleaning schedule that I follow almost to the letter because it keeps me from spending several hours one day a week cleaning the whole house. Instead, I do about a room or two a day. It’s been amazing and leaves me feeling like the whole house is always clean!
  • Cooking: We used to eat out all of the time and it was expensive, stressful, and unhealthy. Covid forced me to slow down and cook at home. It also helped me organize my day so that I was always sure we were home by a certain time for me to make a meal. I have found cooking is like working out for me: It keeps me focused on the task at hand and reduces my stress and anxiety.
  • Music on: Alexa sits on my kitchen counter and is always playing some tunes in the background.
  • Candles Lit: I love a cozy smelling house. So between my candles and my music, I feel like I’ve set a relaxing tone for my house. It helps my mind center and reminds me that I am safe and can create safety for my family.
  • Working out: I don’t workout more than an hour a day. I take the kids for a run (25 minutes) and then do a 30 minute workout at home. It reduces stress and helps me maintain my health. It’s also a good example to the kids. But anymore than that and it begins to jeopardize the rest of my day. I also workout at home now using Beach Body on Demand. I used to go to the gym and enjoyed it, but I would stress wondering how much time I was taking away from being home.
  • Living life: The past year has taught us that you don’t have to take every opportunity thrown at you, but like, why not? Why not go all in, balls to the wall, and really LIVE? So we don’t get bogged down by the “what if’s” because we don’t want to have any “if onlys” later. But, here are staples to living this way: A budget, communication, values. Those three things will put guardrails around each of your decisions so you don’t derail your life.
  • Time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. We will plan our weekends around parties and gatherings with/for family. They are our people.
  • Sex night: This has revolutionized our marriage. Pick one night a week when YOU KNOW you are going to have sex. Ladies, this will help you know what is coming and how to prepare for it. Do you need to nap? Do you need to do less so you have energy? Is that sexy outfit ready? etc etc etc. This may sound lame, but our sex life has grown EXPONENTIALLY because we’ve invested in it. And, we now have sex WAY MORE than one time a week. But we also don’t pressure ourselves because we schedule sexcations where we get away without the kids to catch up if need be.
  • Prayer: I have started making this a staple of my day and it has changed everything. I write in my prayer journal or pray while I run. I just list out my concerns, stressors, fears, and then spend some time thanking Jesus for stuff. It’s amazing how writing it down or talking it out releases the pressure and allows me to better focus on my family and the day at hand.

Opting Out:

  • An uncluttered house: I am trying to learn that allowing the kids to use their imaginations and play requires some mess. And noise. Both of these things tend to trigger me because I fear the clean up and the energy it will take to organize the chaos. Instead, I am choosing to let the kids be kids and embrace the mess, because, one day, I am going to miss this.
  • Mowing the lawn: We hired a lawn service and a pool service a few years ago. I used to do those two things myself, but the time it took away from other stuff wasn’t worth it. Also, we didn’t want Bryant spending his time off on the lawn and pool and not the kids. So it is a staple in our budget now.
  • Empty laundry baskets: Some weeks I’m better at this than others. But guess what? I now have five other people who can help with the laundry and I’m not afraid to employ them on the task!
  • Perfect grades: My kids do their best. End of story.
  • Extra curriculars: We just haven’t gotten started with these yet. Idk when we will. We value our week nights and weekends too much.
  • Nights out: Bryant and I get one night a week to be out if we need it. Due to our jobs, we sometimes have to schedule things in the evenings. But we aren’t away more than once a week.
  • A huge circle of friends: We honestly don’t have time for tons of friends. Or the energy. Our job requires a lot out of us emotionally, so we have to have very secure and confident friends. We have a few close friends who we invest in, and that’s it.

So there are a few of the things I’m opting in to and out of. What about you? What do you need to opt in to and out of? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Juggling

Juggling

Why is it so hard for me to accept that God does not need me?

I need to be needed. I need to feel like I matter. Like people’s well-being depends on me. Cause if people don’t need me, they will leave me. And then I will be alone with my thoughts and feelings and that scares me. I don’t want to have to face my past…I want to distract myself from my past with my busy present. And so I tend to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get things done so I don’t have to think. To feel. And I exhaust myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

There is nothing wrong with being busy. Busyness is a part of life. But sometimes my “busyness” is self-inflicted to either distract myself or to find my identity in something else.

Juggling

And so we always say yes and never say no and now we have so many things on our plate, we aren’t balancing anything, we are juggling everything. God never meant for us to “juggle” our lives. What is that verse in Matthew 11:28? “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Nothing in there about Jesus’s work requiring juggling, or causing anxiety or exhaustion or overwhelmed feelings. It just says what Jesus asks us to do is “easy” and “light”. Gosh, how do I find that work? Must be nice.

The First Step

In 2 Chronicles 20 in the Scriptures, King Jehoshaphat (crazy name) is in a war that he knows he will not win. He is facing an overwhelming circumstance that he cannot avoid. See, that’s the first step in going from anxious and overwhelmed to easy and light: It’s setting down those things that don’t matter – those things that are just distractions. We will face enough in life that we have no choice but to confront. Why are you exhausting all of your mental, emotional and physical margin on things you don’t have to do? If you are having trouble saying “no” to certain things for fear of being replaced, rejected, or abandoned, that’s a tall-tale sign that you need to find a good counselor and get to work on yourself.

Back to our story:  Jehoshaphat turns to God and cries out for help: “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand You…We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Wow. To have the courage that Jehoshaphat had to admit that he was nothing and could handle nothing apart from God…

Whether it’s your fear of your past, the intimidation of counselling, or just the looming circumstance in front of you that you cannot circumvent, you have to have the courage to invite God into your situation. You are not strong enough…big enough…brave enough…healthy enough…But God is.

Here is God’s response: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

God doesn’t need me

I tend to believe that God needs me…because I need to be needed. I have so many fears and insecurities that I try to temper by being needed, which in my mind is a sure way to evade rejection and abandonment. But if God did need me, then he isn’t God at all, is he? And that scares the sh%$ out of me.

A.W. Tozer says: “This truth [that God is self-sufficient and needs no-one], while a needed rebuke to human self-confidence [ouch], will when viewed in its Biblical perspective lift from our minds the exhausting load of mortality and encourage us to take the easy yoke of Christ and spend ourselves in Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God and the good of mankind. For the blessed news is that the God who needs no one has in sovereign condescension stooped to work by and in and through His obedient children…In the meanwhile our inner fulfillment lies in loving obedience to the commandments of Christ and the inspired admonitions of His apostles. ‘It is God which worketh in you.’ He needs no one, but when faith is present He works through anyone.”

Why faith?

I have to have faith that God is going to come through for me. That he’s not going to drop the ball. Unbelief, Tozer says, is deadly because I am believing in myself, not God, and I am only human. I will fail. Do I really believe God has got this…whatever the “this” may be in my life at any given time? If so, I will allow Him to dictate my day (“Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God”) and I will be freed up to love and to serve other people (“the good of mankind”). I won’t be distracted by finding ways to make myself feel wanted and needed and irreplaceable. I will be able to focus on loving God and loving others, which is exactly who God created me to be. I will be living my divine purpose, and there is nothing more fulfilling.

Where to start?

Here’s where I’m starting: I am trying to find 10-12 minutes each day where I can pray uninterrupted. I like to write my prayers – it keeps me focused. When I can’t write them, I like to run and pray or walk and pray. In those 10-12 minutes, I am pouring out all of my anxieties, insecurities, fears, feelings of being overwhelmed, and confused. Then, I get up from that time fully surrendered to do what I know needs done next. Not what will necessarily distract me or make me feel better, but what actually needs done. My yoke actually does feel lighter because I’ve left all of my negative emotions with Jesus, trusting that He will take care of those things. And then I live in the moment.

Want to join me? How and where will you spend you 10-12 minutes in prayer today?

Scar Stories

Scar Stories

We all get wounded. The question is are we living wounded or living with our wounds?

If you are living wounded, then you may…

  • Walk around as a victim.
  • Refuse to release the pain.
  • Struggle to surrender.
  • Hold grudges.
  • Allow every negative circumstance to remind you of previous negative circumstances.
  • Battle depression.
  • Pull away from friends and family.
  • Be bitter.
  • Live paranoid.
  • Be angry.

I’m not saying this is an end-all-be-all list for people who are walking around nursing their wounds. In fact, if you can think of other tell-tale signs that someone is living wounded, add them to the comments!

What’s interesting is that we are often blind to the fact that we are nursing our wounds. In fact, we may even think we are doing what we need to care for our wounds. Self-medication does work…for a while. Eventually, those things you are using to numb the pain will not work anymore. And then you will have a choice: Do you continue down the self-destructive path you are on, or do you decide to get help? The hard truth is that some of you cannot make progress in your healing because you are afraid to entrust your wound to someone else. 

Jesus Christ didn’t just come to save us from our sins, but also to heal us from our wounds.

Think about it: A daughter is in an accident, rushed to the emergency room, rescued into stable condition, and ushered into the ICU. The father arrives and decides that Urgent Care treatment is all he is willing to pay for. She will therefore spend the rest of her life in the ICU. Sound realistic? Nope. So why do we think our Heavenly Father will do the same and maybe even worse with us? Yes, He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We are in “stable condition” if we accept Jesus as our Savior. However, Jesus also came to give abundant life (John 10:10). Unfortunately, Satan is the Father of all lies and he seeks to utterly destroy us (John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8). He convinces us that we can take care of ourselves, that there’s nothing more to be done, and that we have to live wounded.

But you see, there is a difference between living wounded and living with our wounds.

Here is another illustration: If you were to severely cut your arm, you would have a bloody mess on your hands (pun not intended…but it’s awesome). You would have to spend weeks cleaning and caring for your wound. Ultimately, it would heal and leave a small scar hardly anyone would notice. Since you took the time to clean and mend the cut, it no longer causes pain. The only way anyone would know about the wound is if you felt lead to show and tell.

The same thing occurs with our emotional wounds. When we are initially hurt emotionally, we are bleeding everywhere. We have to go through intense treatment. Once we have healed, we have the scar, but not the intense pain. We learn to live and are able to interact again healthily.

It takes time and hard work to heal.

The healing process is made up of both discovery and application.

  • Discovery: Discovering your triggers…what causes the wound to flair and be painful. Some of you have certain M.O. reactions that you just consider “part of your personality” now. You’ve never taken the time to discover what your body believes are threats to your wound. And so it goes into “fight or flight” mode to protect you. However, these responses are not healthy to you or your relationships and you need to pay attention to when, where, and why they are happening so you can determine what caused them.
  • Application: Once you discover what your triggers are, you can begin to apply healthy response techniques to those triggers. You can rewire your brain to stop interpreting certain situations as dangerous. You can teach your body to live and interact peacefully with your surroundings. But it does take time, patience, and practice.

I named my podcast Scar Stories because when we do the hard work of healing, our scars become our stories. We get to use our stories to redeem and rescue those who feel just as alone, forgotten, embarrassed, discouraged, and hopeless as we once did. This is your battle wound that God will use to heal others when you are ready. Don’t let anyone take advantage of your scar or use your scar. Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You need to own it because the world needs it.

Brokenness

Brokenness

“When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!” 
Psalm 65:3-4

I have a number of close friends and family members that I have seen wrestle with the devastating consequences of their brokenness. I have been privy to the statements, condemnations, judgments, and even prophecies that have been spoken over their lives. If you have ever lived through a season of “reaping what you have sown” as I have, you know firsthand how quickly the religious people come running out of the woodwork bent on making sure you understand that what has just happened must not and cannot ever happen again.

I was broken. 
I think my angst comes from this: After a season of about 6 months of living through absolute Hell due to emotional problems and self-medicating, I really didn’t need anyone telling me how bad I was or that these behaviors needed to stop. I knew it. O Lord, You know I knew it. I was so broken, so devastated, so utterly ruined by who I had become, I didn’t even recognize my own reflection in the mirror. I was terrified. And it was in one moment, face down on the floor of our bedroom, that I just called out to God from the depths of my heart. Even typing this is making me emotional. I told Him I was nothing. I had nothing. And if He was real, if He truly was my Savior, then the only way I was ever going to go on living was to be reminded in that moment that He loved me. And I’m not lying to you when I say that I heard Jesus whisper His love to me. Right then. Right there. And I was never the same.

True Brokenness
See, I think that’s what true brokenness is – when all we have to cling to is the fact that Jesus loves us. In the past I could’ve made myself feel better by listing my spiritual accomplishments. But my mental/emotional breakdown did just that: It broke me day after day for about a year and I was literally stripped spiritually and emotionally bare before God and others. Yes, my clinical depression and anxiety, my emotional issues were exposed to others. Never before had that been the case. However, my humiliation pushed me to Jesus. He’s all I had. And if He didn’t come through for me in that moment on the floor, then I am not sure what would have happened next.
The Way of Jesus
Isn’t this the way of Jesus though? Didn’t He do this for people over and over in the Scriptures? He met them in the middle of their brokenness and humiliation and didn’t condemn them. Instead, He reminded them of how much He loved them – even in the middle of their mess.
Brokenness looks different for all of us.
I believe brokenness looks different for each of us but one thing is the same for all of us: When you are stripped bare and left face down before God wherever that is, you know. You know the depths of your heart have just been revealed to you. And you know that you will never understand the Gospel and it’s life-altering ramifications better than you do in that moment. You will never interact with Jesus the same again because you quite have nothing more or left to prove. You only have His love, grace, and forgiveness. It’s an incredibly powerful, resurrecting, transforming process. And there is a freedom that comes from true brokenness. A freedom that is often misinterpreted, but a freedom that I will defend the rest of my life.
Freedom in Brokenness
It’s the same freedom the Prodigal Son experienced when he came back home – the freedom to party and dance even though he was still dirty from living with the pigs (read Luke 15). You see, he wasn’t celebrating his brokenness, he was celebrating the love of his father and the fact that he came home and was safe. Why can’t we do this for people? Why do we operate out of fear and guilt? Why can’t we just rejoice when someone comes back to Jesus and trust Him to finish the work He’s started in their lives?

Our church, Centerpoint Church, ministers to hundreds of broken people every week. And I am here to tell you that we celebrate Prodigals coming home. All I can do is to remember my story and the fact that the Father came running to me when I was most helpless. Unable to offer or prove anything. And He changed the trajectory of my life. When we stop trying to prove to God why He shouldn’t love us and just determine to accept His unconditional love, grace and forgiveness for us, He does a miracle. It may look to outsiders like He is letting us off the hook. All I can say, we know otherwise. And that truth saves and sustains our lives.

Afraid to Change

Afraid to Change

Full disclosure: I wrote this blog sitting in car line (the longest line you will ever sit in – where your soul dies). I came home and read it to my husband, Bryant, and then he read me his message for that week (surprise – he’s a pastor) and gosh were we so in sync. So, after you read this, I’d encourage you to listen to this podcast.

But without further ado, here is my car line blog.

We are afraid of our own brokenness.

Admitting we are broken would be to admit that we have a past that we don’t know what to do with. What do we do about all of those things we regret? All those seasons and situations and circumstances that we wish with all of our might we could go back and change – for ourselves, for our marriages, for our families, for our relationships.

We already know the answer and that’s what scares us to death: We will be able to do absolutely nothing.

We cannot change the past. We can only own the past. And gosh almighty that is so painful. Embracing the fact that there are things we could have done differently and therefore our life wouldn’t look like it does now is nothing short of daunting. This is why we tend to rewrite history. It’s the best form of self-defense. Your brain cannot face the fact that certain relationships, seasons, opportunities are lost or broken because of your choices. Living with that grief is too overwhelming. So we lie to ourselves and others, not out of spite, malice, or ill-will, but out of self-protection. Our pride becomes our saving grace and that leaves no room for God’s grace.

Here’s what I think we all too often forget…

If we don’t deal with our pasts and failures, then we will live enslaved to them. That kind of bondage looks like living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, a lack of empathy, an obsession with control, ignorance, manipulation, rejection, passive aggressiveness, arrogance, and abandonment.

That sounds like an awful way to live.

So you have a choice: You can decide not to deal with your past and remain enslaved to it…or you can go back, with the help of a therapist/counselor, and do the hard work of getting healthy.

Yes, it will be grueling at first. But you will be guided by someone who’s been trained to take you where you need to go and not to leave you there. If you choose not to do this, you will constantly sabotage the relationships that are most important to you…not to mention your own life.

Once you’ve dealt with your past, you may still have some pain, regret, and emotion around certain people, situations and circumstances. But you won’t be controlled by those triggers. You will live free and be able to embrace a healthy future with a healthy you fostering healthy relationships.

So the choice is yours. But so many people’s well-beings depends on your choice.

Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends…YOURSELF.

Jesus wants you to escape from the prison that is your past. He will guide you and He will never leave you. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. You have to do what only you can do and then trust God for what only He can do – and that’s wash grace, forgiveness, and love over your past so you don’t have to live any more of your life behind it’s bars.

So go ahead. Call that friend. Attend that community group. Make that appointment. The future you is begging the current you to take the steps you need to get healthy.

See you on the other side.️

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt.

There is nothing quite like it. Parent Guilt guts you out and weighs you down. It is the absolute worst feeling when you hurt the ones you gave life. Nothing compares to seeing the pain in their eyes and hearing the sadness in their voices. Then fear rushes in claiming the lies that you’ve forever ruined them and your relationship to them. Panic is quick to follow. The deadly cycle picks up speed, expending so much time and energy that you are even more depleted than when you started. And so who do you take it out on? The kids. And here we are: Back where we started with Parent Guilt.

When I’ve spent myself emotionally and then have to deal with needy kids (this is not negative – all kids are needy in the best ways), I lose it. I’ve got nothing left to give and yet here are four littles who need just about everything. The amount of emotion it will take to love them well feels overwhelming. And so I give into the frustration, the anger, and instead of retreating, I go looking for a fight.

When I take a step back and survey the damage, I fall apart. How could I have just treated my babies that way? What is wrong with me? Why am I such a monster?

I’m broken. That’s how. I’m depleted emotionally from distracting myself from my hurt. Nothing will drain you faster than ignoring your pain. Your trauma. The real source of your anxiety and depression. What seems the fastest way to refill is to dump all of the negative out on those closest to me and who will still need me and want me after: My kids.

But this is so counterintuitive. If we are empty, why do we think an emotional dump – will fill us? The dumping will only deplete us more.

Someone explained it this way: If you have a bucket of dirty water, instead of dumping the water out and now having an empty bucket, stick a hose at the bottom of the bucket and flush out the contaminated water with clean, fresh water.

Emptiness is lonely. It’s scary. It’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous. Instead of further emptying yourself only to discover you’ve filled your heart with more contaminated emotions, flush out the negative with the positive.

Here are the ways I go about regaining a healthy equilibrium:

Circle the wagons.

My therapist taught me this. Back in the covered wagon days, when settlers would travel across country, they would circle their wagons around their camp at night for safety. The wagons became a source of security from the outside world. If we are determined to create safe homes, then when we are in the midst of emotional turmoil we should be able to take time to withdraw from the world around us and to retreat to the people who love us the best: Our families.

That may require us to cancel, say no, rearrange, rest, turn off media, sleep, eat better, drink water, exercise, self care. The best thing we can do is to listen to our bodies – they are crying out for us to pay attention, slow down, and circle our wagons. We live in an unsafe world – we have to learn when it’s time to create some additional margin in order to feel secure again.

Communicate.

When I am struggling the most, I let my husband and children know. I get the most honest with Bryant so that he isn’t caught off guard by my reactions and responses. We make a plan as to how we will intentionally circle our wagons. Then I talk to the kids and explain that mommy is struggling and so sorry for her behavior. She is going to really work to make sure she doesn’t treat them badly.

Commit.

I commit to whatever I need to commit to get healthy. I slow down – my anxiety and pain want me to keep moving to stay distracted. I commit to hugging, holding, sitting, listening, being present. When I am present with my kids, I am grounded to the moment. It is such a relief to get my mind off the downward spiral of my anxiety and depression. And their love and attention in return is so healing to my heart. It reminds me I am safe. I am okay. It gives my soul the deep breath it has been searching for.

I do the same with my husband. Sometimes we just need to get dressed up and go out. Sometimes we need a few nights away. Sometimes we just need to sit on the couch and watch Downton Abbey. Whatever it is, we need to be together.

Our families should be a source of safety. Replenishment. Reprieve.

I find my Courage.

Some of our homes aren’t safe because we’ve never been brave enough to break the cycles. Maybe your home wasn’t safe growing up. Maybe you’ve been hurt along the way. Maybe you know something’s wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it.

It takes courage to say, “I’m not okay, but I’m ready to know why!” We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. But with knowledge comes accountability. It’s not enough to discover the problem, we have to do the work of changing. Talk is cheap and repeated apologies without any signs of growth will only drain our families. Our getting healthy proves to our families that they are worth our best selves. 

It takes counseling.

Hurt people hurt people. We know this. So if I am not actively dealing with my hurt, then I am going to hurt my family. 

I have been dealing with low-grade anxiety. It started to come to a head the past few days, and one of the tall-tale signs is I have been incredibly impatient with my kids. I am rushing through my day (so I stay distracted and don’t have to deal with the pain), and running over them emotionally. IT BREAKS MY HEART. So it’s time to reach out to my therapist, communicate, commit, get courageous, and circle those wagons.

What do you need to do TODAY to fight against the parent guilt? I’d love to hear what steps you will take to communicate to yourself that you are safe and to your families that they are special.

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