june finds of the monthBanana Dippers by Dole — This is the perfect snack for the summer. Frozen banana slices covered in dark chocolate. The best part is only 100 calories a pack! This is definitely a favorite in my house. — Rachel

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by  Kevin DeYoung — I read this book this past week and found it very thought-provoking. Sometimes as believers I think it is easy to forget how we are also called to be holy as Christ is holy. This book talks a great deal about holiness and obedience and the place it should have in the life of a Christian. Definitely a book to add to your summer reading list! —Rachel

Love this prayer from St. Francis of Assisi. We’d all do well to pray like this more. — Erin
st francis
Cannot overstate the amazingness of this iced coffee recipe from the Pioneer woman. It has saved me a lot of money (instead of going to coffee shops) and probably a few calories as well. — Erin

I could not stop laughing at this article — “When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to my Brothers in Christ.” It’s a pretty spot on satire of the fact that our modesty teachings have gotten a little out of control. — Erin

Finds of the Month — June


leaving bitternessThey will know us by our love. You may have heard this multiple times in church or even in hymns. This saying is found in John 13:35 when Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

This is a verse that is often used to describe Christians. But consider these questions:

·      How many of us have heard this said in church?
·      How many believe this to be true today?
·      How does the church demonstrate this as the body of Christ?
·      How do individual Christians demonstrate this?
·      Do people know we are Christians because we love the poor, speak up for injustice and care for the orphan and widow?
·      What about loving our enemies?
·      What are we as Christians known for?
·      Are we known for the love we show to others?
·      Do we really love like Jesus loved?
 
For me, as a believer, love comes naturally. It flows from me and I am filled with compassion for those less fortunate, for the poor, the wealthy, the abused, broken and the prostitute. But I struggle to love those who have hurt me.

I have felt emotionally betrayed many times by people I have trusted and respected. Betrayed by coworkers, friends, teachers and classmates. What do I do? I walk away. I wallow in bitterness. I think about everything they did wrong and I did right. I harbor ill-feelings and sometimes think about it for days and weeks afterwards.

I am one of those people who internalize and rehash situations in my head. This seems like a natural reaction.

But the truth is …
Bitterness will eat you up inside. Bitterness will destroy a person from the inside out. I like the way Joanna Weaver put it in her book titled, Having a Mary Spirit: Allowing God to Change Us from the Inside Out: “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Bitterness does more harm to the person who is feeling bitter than the person who did the wrong. By harboring bitterness we are in fact poisoning ourselves.

So what should we do?

I believe a person should forgive, and if you are a Christian, you are called to forgive even more so.

Recently, I read a book entitled, Amish Grace How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. It’s a book about forgiveness. The author analyzes the Amish concept of forgiveness after the schoolhouse shooting in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In short, a man entered a one-room schoolhouse with a gun, took hostages and killed five young Amish girls before turning the gun on himself.

And what did the Amish do? They forgave. They became friends with the family of the gunman. They even attended support groups and get-togethers with the family for years after. The author of the book interviewed many Amish who said that they were angry and sad. But they live by Matthew 6 when Jesus says we must forgive. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (ESV).

They CHOSE forgiveness even when nothing made since. They chose to love those whom the world would deem enemies.

And we must do the same. It is hard, but as Christians we are called to love and to forgive.

Forgiveness is not an easy task. The best way I have learned to forgive and to love my enemies is to pray. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. So, how does prayer fit in?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:43-46, ESV)

Jesus instructed us to pray for those who persecute us. And with that instruction comes a promise. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, SO THAT you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Jesus promised if we love our enemies then we would surely be His children. They will know us by our love.

You will find if you begin to pray for those who have hurt you, betrayed you or abused you, slowly but surely your bitterness will melt away. It could take weeks, months or even years but our God is a God who will give us the power to forgive as He forgave us. He will renew your mind, take away the bitterness and fill you with compassion. God is faithful to His children.

So what are we called to do?

1.     Forgive as Christ Forgave us. (Matthew 6:14-15)
2.     Pray for our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-46)
3.     Let go of bitterness and love. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV)

So will they know us by our love and forgiveness? Or will they know us by our hatred and ability to hold a grudge?

Rachel

Called to Forgive: Leaving Bitterness Behind


conflictSo far, 2014 seems to be the year of conflict. One thing after another has brought about some measure of conflict in my life. From family to friends to marital conflict, I’ve been a part of it all.

Here’s the deal, I hate conflict. I will do anything to avoid conflict. Conflict makes me uncomfortable, causes me to question my opinions, and threatens to hurt relationships. All of which are quite unpleasant to a people-pleaser like myself. For months I have asked myself and God, “what is wrong with me?” and “Why do I have to deal with all this?”. As God often does, He quietly spoke to my heart telling me He has placed me in this season for a reason and a purpose. So, after many a tear, I’ve decided to allow God to teach me a few things through conflict. Many of these principles I have learned from two books: Unglued by Lysa Terkurst and Walking Wisely by Charles Stanley.

1. Conflict can strengthen relationships

I specifically speak of marriage conflict, but I believe this can apply to other close relationships as well. My husband and I have had some knock out yelling matches, which is nothing I like to admit. Although in the midst of the conflict we both said things we shouldn’t have, at the end we came to a deeper understanding of one another. In the past five months I have learned more of what my husband needs from me through our conflict.  It is better to view conflict as an opportunity to grow deeper with a person rather than a negative experience.  Conflict does not have to be negative, it can be beneficial.

2. Some conflict may require healthy boundaries

I have unfortunately been thrust into a situation of conflict out of my control.  I’ll spare you the messy details, but I was accused of wrongdoing where there was none, lied about and verbally abused. In this case I followed wisdom I received from others.  After completing this suggested plan, I highly suggest this approach.

First, seek forgiveness and reconciliation from anything done wrong on your part. Extended hope and relationship repair for the future. If a lack of willingness to repair the relationship continues from the other person, which in my case it did, establish healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries are yours to decide, but here are a few ideas. Limit conversations for a set amount of time, limit conversations for an indefinite amount of time, limit personal alone time spent together, or have a set plan for how to respond to circumstances that arise.  Let the other party know what the boundary will be, why it is in place, and offer one more chance at reconciliation. Hopefully at this point reconciliation will be the winning option, but if not, stick with the boundary.

This type of conflict is not ideal, and is in no way fun. The most important thing is to make sure you have emptied yourself and sought forgiveness for any wrong doing on your part. After that, there is a time to protect yourself and your family, which is where healthy boundaries are a great option.

3. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to approach conflict: Stuffers and Exploders

Stuffers tend to be passive aggressive, and push everything down to fester until one day it explodes like a volcano. Stuffers will allow conflict to fester for months before exploding. When doing this, the conflict turns into a much bigger issue than it would have if dealt with at the time of origin.

Exploders just explode at any conflict and lose rational control. Emotions take over an exploder, preventing them from working through conflict positively.

Both don’t work. Exploders don’t take the time to stop and think about how to respond, they just respond in a destructive way. I myself am an exploder.  I can’t hold it in, I lose the rational and calm side of myself, and become someone I don’t like being.  I don’t claim to be an expert on conflict but I have gained a few nuggets of wisdom on how to handle conflict in a healthy way.

  • Approach conflict after prayer. Ask God if you should discuss this, or if you need to work on your own heart.
  • Ask God to give you an opportunity to approach the topic of conflict.
  • Approach conflict with a desire to change/apologize yourself.
  • Be honest in conflict. Don’t hold anything back that could be brought up later.
  • Yelling only begets more yelling. Stay calm.

I don’t believe I have this conflict thing figured out. I still have a long way to go in changing my human habits when dealing with conflict.  I am thankful, however that God is changing me from the inside out in an area I never expected. It’s good to know God is working on me; that He hasn’t and will never give up.  When dealing with conflict, hang in there, seek Godly wisdom, and know God will use it to mold you.

 

Tips for handling conflict


photocopyIt was 7:00 that Saturday morning when I saw the little positive sign for the first time. I grabbed another test. It didn’t even take a full minute until I saw another positive.

I’d been sick off and on for two weeks, just not feeling like myself. I had been too scared to take a test, fearing what I’d find out. And there it was … everything I wasn’t ready for.

I’m pregnant …

See, I’m not the woman who has struggled to get pregnant for years. I’m not the woman who has always known she wanted kids quickly after marriage. And I’m not the woman who wants child after child after child. I’m the woman who wanted as much time with her husband as possible, with as much of my life in my control as I thought possible.

When I saw those positive signs, my only emotion was devastation.

I don’t think any girl hopes or plans to tell her husband she’s pregnant while sobbing, not able to say anything, devastated at the news. But that was me, crying my eyes out at the thought of having a baby, holding the stick like it had attacked me personally.

I always knew someday I would love to have kids. Just one or two, maybe adopt also. But I always had this idyllic scene in my head: my husband and I well-established, married for three or four years, renting or owning a house, school behind us and jobs well under our belts.

None of this was the case that Saturday morning.

We had actually been living with my sister, brother-in-law, 18-month-old nephew and two dogs while my husband searched for employment. He had just graduated, and we were between jobs and applying for doctoral programs. I was still working intake at a doctor’s office and we were about as far away from ready as I could have ever pictured myself.

I struggled for weeks with the thought that I was going to have a baby. That I was going to be pregnant for the next nine months and then have a small human that was mine to keep alive for the next 20+ years; just holding onto hope that you’ve taught it how to follow Christ and leaving most everything up to God. Everything about it terrified me.

During these first few weeks, after announcing our news to close family, friends and co-workers, I was inundated with congratulations and offerings of excitement. And I didn’t want any of it. Every time someone said, “Isn’t it just a miracle?” “Don’t you just love it already?” “That’s amazing! I’m so happy for you!” I just wanted to ball up, holding back tears.

No. It’s not a miracle yet. I can’t say I love it yet. I really don’t think this is amazing at all. But instead, I’m thankful and smile and nod.

I felt so guilty because it wasn’t lost on me that women do struggle with infertility for years, sometimes never reaching their dream of bearing their own children. My own mother was one of those women for eight years and a co-worker, who is now pregnant, tried for 11 years to have children. I see and understand the pain that must come with that type of disappointment month after month for so long.

It also wasn’t lost on me that I have single friends who struggle with the thought that they will never have the opportunity to get married and have children someday. While that may or may not be true, fighting through the emotions and facing the day-to-day reality is difficult for them.

I also realized that some of the same thoughts I judged others for having, I was having myself … “I can’t say I want this baby right now.”

But at some point I stopped feeling guilty and began recognizing that every woman’s story is different. The woman who desperately wants a child and cannot has to face that struggle daily. The woman who never wanted to be single her whole life, but is now in her 50’s or 60’s must wrestle with God in the midst of not understanding His plans. The teenage girl who has no support system, no husband and becomes pregnant to eventually choose or be forced into abortion has to live with her pain and choices.

And the woman who struggles to trust God in the midst of overwhelming, unprepared-for life changes has her own set of idols, fears and insecurities to lie at the foot of the cross. I was that woman.

I found the more I thought about other women’s situations, the more I connected and had the most empathy for the those who choose abortions out of desperation, fear or exasperation. Being pregnant is unlike anything you can ever experience. Not only do you feel as though you have no control over your own body, but my experience (and many other women’s) included weeks upon weeks of sickness, exhaustion, weight loss, trips to the hospital and enough roller coasters of emotion to fill a Six-Flags theme park. I knew very little about being pregnant and I don’t know a lot about living with and taking care of a baby.

If I, a girl with an amazingly supportive family, a precious husband who encourages me and takes care of me, understanding and thoughtful friends, and Christ on my side, can feel abandoned, alone, unsure, terrified, devastated, judged and basically like a lost little girl, how must someone with a life full of the opposite feel? When I think about the feelings I have and then realize how much worse it would be if I didn’t have Christ, it overwhelms me to the point of crying for the women who are in that exact situation.

In these last few weeks God has shown me so much. It was as if, all of a sudden, He said, “Whitney, I’m not doing this to you. I’m doing this for you.” And it’s brought me so much humility, realizing what I was clinging to were my idols of security, comfort and control. It has also brought me a little better sense of understanding and genuine empathy for other women no matter the situation.

Control is tricky and deceitful. If we are happy because we feel we have dealt with the blows of this life relatively well, or judge others who we think haven’t chosen things in their life as well as we have, we need to take a moment to ponder we are never the ones in control. God works all things for His glory and our good. We work nothing for ourselves. If we take comfort in the fact that our lives are exactly the way we’d hoped, we need to be humbled that God would be so generous and pray that He would never let us get too comfortable or self-righteously think we have accomplished these things on our own.

I am 16 weeks pregnant. We will find out the gender of our baby soon, and while I still struggle with the idiosyncrasies of pregnancy and at times the overwhelming thoughts of being completely unprepared for my future life, the constant reminder that God is for me has given me so much peace. In the Gospels, Jesus was rarely understood by even His closest followers, but He never left them, He just kept teaching them, living with them and loving them. Now I can actually say I am falling in love with this little growing baby and we are preparing slowly for its arrival.

While I still have many unsure and anxious days, I’m so grateful for the lessons He is teaching me. My comfort comes from knowing He has shattered my illusion of control and is leading me, sometimes carrying me, the whole way.

“It is no sin to say, my love, that bliss and pain come from above … beware the thought that all is vain, in time, God’s wisdom will be plain.” – The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God, John Piper

 

– Whitney

 

 

 

When God showed me He is for me


may-finds-of-the-month

Articles

not-texas

Words That Have a Totally Different Meaning in Texas – I thought this was funny and relatable for all those Texas folk out there! – Melissa

Love this post, Everything We Think We Know about Marriage and Divorce is Wrong. I get so sick of discouraging comments about marriage, and those comments should never come from the church. – Erin

Books

unglued

Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst – An honest look at women’s emotions and how to handle them in daily life. – Melissa

Blogs

I found this post, My Best Advice on Writing Isn’t from a Book, really encouraging and clarifying, especially as I write and teach. – Erin

When You Feel Like You Keep Blowing It – Love this honest and real article by Ann Voskamp. It reminds me that I am not alone. – Melissa

Podcasts & People

I was so sad to hear that Maya Angelou passed away yesterday. She is a truly inspirational human being. This is one of my favorite quotes from her. – Erin

maya

Videos

mom

Gotta be honest…I usually find faith-based films kind of cheesy and heavy-handed. BUT, I saw Mom’s Night Out this month and really enjoyed it. A truly good, fun, and entertaining movie with some Spiritual substance (that didn’t feel like a sermon). I’d love to see more movies going in that direction. Recommend this one! – Erin

Buzzfeed – Things You Do at a Wedding That’d be Creepy Anywhere Else. Haha. Love it. – Erin 

Beauty & Buys

I just started using Almay deodorant  (hello Summertime) and it is the best. It has 25% of the antiperspirant ingredient (most clinical strength deodorants have 15-20%). – Erin

I absolutely love Melaleuca Affina face wash. It comes with a cleanser, exfoliator, and lotion. It has cleared up my acne in about 3 months. – Melissa

Finds of the Month – May


God marriedA single friend and I were talking the other day about the kind of phrases and clichés you hear when you are a Christian single.

You hear things about relying on God, how God will supply all your needs, how no husband can fill the place of God in your life.

Occasionally you may even hear the Coup de grâce of all Christian single clichés: Focus on dating Jesus right now.

When I was single, my friends and I talked to each other like this (with the notable exception that we never told each other to “date Jesus”), but when we got boyfriends and fiancees and husbands, we stopped. We stopped talking about how we needed Jesus to provide those needs that a husband couldn’t fill. We stopped thinking about being content with just Jesus. And, what’s more, we stopped hearing about it from others.

When you’re single, sermons, books, and Bible studies are focused on telling you that only the love of Jesus can fulfill you. When you’re married, the same sources are focused on teaching how a husband and wife can love each other in a fulfilling way.

For all our talk when we were single about how no person could fill the place of God in our lives, we sure started acting like it was possible when we got married. Deep down I don’t think we ever believed it anyway — that only Jesus could fill our needs or that He was somehow better than a husband.

In fact, I remember in high school when one of our youth leaders was saying how much she loved and enjoyed being married and having a family, but that none of it could compare to knowing Jesus. I remember thinking “Of course she says that now that she’s married, now that she has the life that she wants.

Maybe when we were single, we were all just passing around comforting thoughts to get us through a difficult season until we could get to another not-as-difficult season where we wouldn’t have to believe any of it anymore.

I’m in that elusive “next season” now and I actually believe more than ever that I need God. Two years into marriage and four years removed from singleness, I finally believe it.

I actually think this realization has become more and more clear to me every day since my wedding day. I think I’m realizing that leaving God out of the picture is a recipe for a miserable life — regardless of whether it’s a married or single life.

As I was telling my friend about this, she asked why. Why does marriage so clearly show me my need for God? She listed several possibilities and I had to say that they were all true.

It makes me realize that I need God because it puts a magnifying glass on all my faults. I now have someone who is in my life everyday who I can be a jerk to. Being married shows me how far off I am in comprehending the concepts of grace, kindness, and unconditional love.

It makes me realize that I need God because I put these impossible wifely expectations on myself that I can never live up to. The cycle of self-sufficiency > anxiety > breakdown makes me realize how much I need God to hold me up.

It makes me realize that I need God because, no matter how many times I heard it when I was single, my husband cannot fill every emotional, physical, and Spiritual need in my life. God is still the only one who can do that.

The weight we all sometimes feel — the pressure, the unmet needs, the lonliness — that’s something inside us telling us we can’t do it on our own. That we can’t even do it even with an amazing husband or a close circle of friends. It’s what everyone was trying to tell me all along during my high school and college years: that no matter what life stage I’m in, who is in my life, or what I have going for me, I need God.

And we can’t just share this message with people who are in difficult circumstances. That carries with it the idea that when circumstances improve, we can go back to being self-sufficient or putting all our dependence in another person.

But we all need God. Every day. For salvation, forgiveness, wisdom, strength. In our marriages, in our singleness, with our kids, at home, in our jobs. On our best and worst days. I’m not sure there’s a more important lesson we can learn in our Christian lives than that.

No matter where we are in life, you and I need God.

– Erin

You Still Need God When You’re Married


community and singleness

I am single. I’ve never been in a serious relationship. I can count on one hand the number of proper dates I’ve ever been on.

And being single can get lonely — very lonely. God created within each of us a desire for relationships, which is why community is so important — especially, I think, for singles. God has blessed me with community in each place that I’ve lived in the past few years. God has surrounded me with the body of Christ and provided me with friends that I would not have found otherwise.

It is interesting to think about the kinds of people that I call brothers and sisters in Christ. The Body of Christ is made up of people from every nation, speaking every language, living in every kind of circumstance. The church is blessed to have people from every sort of background: rich and poor, former criminals, soldiers, single moms, leaders of countries, members of governments, kings and queens, and the list goes on.

But we all have one thing in common: the blood of Christ covers our sins. 

This is why the bond forged out of Christian community is so strong. As Christians, we have dedicated our lives to following the One who gave His life to set us free from sin and give us an eternity with Him.

Many point to Acts 2 as the beginning of the church. Jesus had been resurrected, preached for 40 days and ascended into heaven. Acts 2 begins with the day of Pentecost. This event ended in the salvation of at least ‘three thousand souls.’ These people were from all over the place — ‘every nation under heaven.’

Check out what happened next:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

So what did these new believers do? They sat down and ate together, spent time together, prayed and worshiped together. They began to live ‘life on life.’ They began to get to know each other–the good, the bad and the ugly.

Christian community is vital for all believers, regardless of their stage of life. But where marriage and family often provide a sort of built-in community, singles don’t always have the same opportunity. So why is community important for singles?

It keeps us accountable

Where a married person may have a godly spouse to hold them accountable and help them in their walk with Christ, a single person living outside of community has to navigate this on her own. It is harder to delve deep into God’s word and spend daily time in prayer without the accountability of another believer.

Scripture says:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

It makes us better people

Have you ever heard someone say that their spouse or significant other allows them to be the best version of themselves? Each person brings something to the table and helps the other grow in that area as well. When you live in a gospel-centered community, the Body of Christ is there to encourage you to be the best version of yourself and live as the person God created you to be in Him.

Scripture says:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

(Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

 It fulfills our need for relationships

God created within us a desire for relationships and friendships. Even Jesus had His close circle of disciples. A single person can often get lonely and discouraged. The Church points singles towards Christ while encouraging them.

Scripture says:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

It helps us lift each other up in prayer

Maybe you live alone. Or maybe you move a lot. Maybe there is something you are struggling with, but have no one to share it with. We are told to pray for one another in the Body of Christ.

Scripture says:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

(James 5:13-16 ESV)

Because we are commanded to

This is simple. Scripture commands us to be a part of Christian community. That command is for everyone. Married or single, we are called to live together as one body in community.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

(Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

These are just a few reasons why a single person should be actively involved in a Christian community. There are many more, and the Bible is full of verses that speak about the importance of living in community with other believers.

So, even though it may seem hard or awkward, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, go seek a church and stay put.

 

Get involved and reap the benefits of living life on life with people who have also been bought with the blood of Christ Jesus and who are working towards the same goal. You may be surprised at the kinds of people you meet, the messiness you may see. You may even find people who are just like you. Nobody in the church is perfect, but with one another we press on towards Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

 – Rachel

Community and Singleness


good mom

Not too long ago I was at a baby shower and we’d come to the part of the event where we were all supposed to go around the circle and give advice on motherhood. I was the only one at the shower who was not a mother so when it came my turn, I felt a little ill-equipped to be giving advice on something I had never experienced.

But as I was thinking about what in the world to say I realized that I’m actually pretty well able to give advice — not as a mother, but as a daughter. I couldn’t give advice based on where I’d failed in the past or what I wish I had done differently, but I could look at the example of my mom and say a few things that I knew made up a great mother. From the outside looking in, without fear of failure or self-consciousness to color my view, I can see what makes a good mom.

We live in an age where a mother is quick to base her worth on the cuteness of her child’s birthday cake, her database of quick, fun, and easy meals, the shabby chic decor of her house and her ability to come up with good rainy day activities for her perfectly behaved children.

In short, it’s only taken a few years of internet and social media for the worth of a mother to be measured by how well she can peruse Pinterest and the internet.

But my mom is simpler than that.

It’s not that she never homemade a birthday cake or did crafts or refinished furniture. It’s not that she overlooked the little things, it’s that she focused on the big things. She didn’t focus so much on all the “womanly” and “motherly” things that she forgot that being a mother actually means caring for, bringing up, and teaching another human being.

And as I look back on my childhood, it’s not the homemaking and the DIY and the hand-painted pink bows on my ceiling that stick out to me. It’s the million other things that she did consistently. It’s the actions she did and the lessons she taught me that didn’t
get eaten or ripped or thrown away or painted over. And every time I feel like a failure as a human being and a wife for not getting the tangible little things right, I’m encouraged by my mom, and I remember the simple things she did as a mom that taught me how to be the right kind of person.

She taught me how to listen. Mainly from spending all those years listening to the ramblings of her chatty daughter. Through all these years, I’ve always felt important, like what matters to me matters to her. And seeing that in her makes me want to make someone else feel just as special.

She taught me to see God in everyday life. When we watched TV shows or movies or listened to music or read books, she always saw how it related to God, how it related to a Spiritual life, and she talked with me about it. She asked my opinion. She came to me on my turf and let me see God in my everyday life.

She taught me to be me. She never tried to force me to be a specific type of person. She never tried to control me or keep me where I was. She encouraged me to be the best possible version of myself — whoever that was.

She taught me to open my home to others. Our house was always open to my friends. It wasn’t perfect or spectacular, but it was always open.

She taught me to be wise with money, but she also taught me that all the money in the world is no good if you’re too petrified of spending it to live your life. 

She taught me to try to live healthy, but she also taught me that sometimes we have to enjoy our lives outside a calorie count. 

She taught me to work hard, do my best, and be kind to everyone. 

She taught me not to let the expectations of others box me in. 

She taught me to love God with my heart soul, mind, and strength.

She may look at these things and say “Yeah…but” and proceed to list all the things she could have done better, all of the things she didn’t get perfect at the time. And that’s ironic because when I tell her all the ways that I don’t measure up to what I think I should be, she tells me to give myself a break. To focus on the important and intangible stuff like love, faithfulness, laughter, friendship, and joy. And that’s what she’s done the 27 years she’s been a mother.

This lesson goes far beyond motherhood or womanhood. It’s a lesson to all human beings.

We never live up to our own expectations or to the expectations others have put on us. We’ll never get it all down perfectly. The perfect version of ourselves that we’re chasing doesn’t exist. But living a life that matters, that cares about and teaches others and changes lives is usually pretty simple. My mom has taught me that by example.

-Erin

The Simplicity of Being a Good Mom (and Human Being)


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One of my favorite games growing up was called Perfection. The goal of the game was to quickly put each shape into its correct spot on the game board before time ran out. The game sounds easy enough, but if I didn’t get each piece in the right spot before time was up, the board would jolt up, and the pieces would fly everywhere.  As the timer got louder and louder, I would frantically fumble around, trying to put trapezoids, circles, rectangles, hearts, and stars into their spots just right, jamming pieces wherever they would fit and hoping that somehow it would all work out.

For women who have been diagnosed by others as suffering from “chronic singleness,” our lives sometimes feel like this Perfection game.

For many of us, we have this goal of becoming a wife and a mother. Yet, for various reasons, we’re told that, frankly, we don’t have enough time.

We must pick and choose: family or career, best friend or boyfriend, sub-par men over being alone—all because our biological clocks are ticking. A subtle message of judgment is projected at us through whispered comments and raised eyebrows— if we really wanted to be married, if we really wanted children, we would find a way to make it happen… and happen soon.

Dating was all fun and games in high school or in college, but now that we’re in our 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s, our families/co-workers/church members/ random ladies at the grocery store have had enough. It’s time that we stop this foolishness and decide to settle down. Reassurances such as “Don’t worry, you have plenty of time” or “You’re still so young” start to be replaced with blind dates and desperate attempts to marry us off to the first available man.  If you’re not freaking out yet, don’t worry; they’ll remind you of how little time you have left.

Countless articles, books, blogs, texts, and emails have been written by women, single and married, trying to help other women find contentment in wanting what they do not have and having what they do not want. Single women know that their bodies are starting to revolt against them, threatening to run out of time before all of the pieces of their lives are where they should be. Being single when you don’t want to be is hard and the simple fact is that we don’t have all the time in the world.

Unfortunately, neither does anyone else. We are all running out of time. This is not just a plague of the single woman. She does not waste away while her married friends have found the secret formula to stop the passage of time, ensuring that all their hopes and dreams are fulfilled.

Running out of time is not a condition of singleness; it is a condition of the human race.

I recently went to the funeral of a friend who ran out of time. At 24 years old, his life was cut short. When awful things like this happen, we shake our fists at God and demand that life comes with a guarantee—85 years of health, love and happiness with little to no sadness.  But we all know that life doesn’t offer a guarantee—we might not even make it to the 30th birthday we’ve been stressing out over the past five years, we might never find the man of our dreams, we might not be able to have kids.

Someone said to me once that the reason why some people are still single is because they aren’t ready for a relationship. They don’t have what it takes. However, I think it’s the opposite. It takes a great deal of courage to choose to be alone, waiting for something great that may never come rather than settling for just “good.” I used to boldly whisper to God that it wasn’t okay with me if I never became a wife or a mother.

But now, I feel like I can say with more passion and conviction than my whispers in the night that I’m not okay with being miserable my whole life because I’m not a wife or a mother.

Life is too short to waste time waiting for it to begin.

Marriage and children aren’t a guarantee of life, and it hurts when we don’t get what we want—we all know that. We may never be called a “Mrs.” or “Mom,” but hold onto this guarantee— nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, who purposefully ran out of time 2000 years ago, so He could be with you. He is not quickly scrambling to put the pieces of your life together. He isn’t surprised (or worried) that you’re 30 and haven’t been on a date in a year. You are not a disappointment because you have seemingly failed what seems to come so easily to others. He is holding you in His hands and will continue to sustain and provide for you, no matter what lies ahead.

Jessie

Jessie lives in upstate New York. She enjoys her work at a homeless shelter, loves music, enjoys playing basketball and is learning more and more about how God is a God of grace and redemption.

Time: The Plague of the Single Woman


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Articles

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32 Graphs About Everyday Things Are So Hilariously True. I could relate to almost every single one of these. – Erin

Given that we just celebrated Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I thought that this article on the medical account of Jesus death was interesting, it brought tears to my eyes and is worth a read. – Rachel

 

Books

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Whats Your Worldview? An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions by James N. Anderson. Have you ever read a choose your own adventure book? One where depending on the answer you give to a set of questions sends you to a different page and so forth until you have chosen your ending? This book is very similar but it  deals with your worldview. It is a very quick read, but what I liked about it was reading all the world views and learning about viewpoints outside of my own. – Rachel

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Maybe y’all already know that I love Lauren Winner. Her newest book Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis did not disappoint!   In an honest, funny, and refreshing way, she talks about getting through a difficult season in her personal and Spiritual life. – Erin

 

Beauty & Buys

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Audrey Assad’s newest record Fortunate Fall (came out in August, but I just now got it) is a stinking masterpiece. Already one of my all-time favorites. – Erin

Needtobreathe came out with a new record this month, Rivers in the Wasteland, and it is incredibly good. Check it out! – Erin

 

Freebies

This website, Supercook.com is amazing. You can keep a running list of food that you have on hand and it suggests recipes and meals for you from an enormous database, then you can save your favorites. Love it! – Erin

Finds of the Month – April