Today I am guest posting at Thrive Moms and so I wanted to share these thoughts with you as well!
I kinda stink at playing with my kids.
There…I said it.
I wish I naturally enjoyed playing dolls and spontaneously turning PB&J sandwich crusts into semi-automatic rifles, but it’s a challenge. My husband can play Barbies with the best of them, (which raises no question about his masculinity, rather gives him *awesome dad points*), however, I’m much more of the puzzle, read-aloud book, and “y’all go play outside” type.
This summer, our family lived overseas and we had to become really good at communicating with people who didn’t speak our language. My son and daughter learned to navigate this by smiling extra big at kids on the playground and offering to kick a ball back and forth. It was pretty amazing to see true friendship form between children who couldn’t even pronounce each others’ names…all thanks to a smile and a soccer ball.
This connection spoke volumes to me about playing with my kids. Sometimes it seems we just don’t speak the same language. I want more than anything to nurture their hearts. Right now, the name of their soul’s language game is play. And truthfully, isn’t it the language of us all? Don’t we all crave that break from reality and routine? Don’t we all long to laugh with the people we love? Isn’t it calming to color side-by-side or paint a tiny human’s fingernails just because? Hit the whiffle ball clear down the backyard and go whooping and hollering through the grass? And doesn’t our Heavenly Father lean close to care about our unique interests? Didn’t He create those desires in us? Isn’t this how our hearts most naturally connect with Him?
God created the world to be productive. He created us in His image, calling us to work heartily as unto Him, and to be fruitful and multiply. Worshipful work stands at the center of our purpose for living. But, God also created play. Look at the wildflowers that dance in the rain. Examine your sweetest memories in life. Observe your precious children who reflect His image in their spare time, without even trying. Our playfulness reflects the creative intentions of our playfully endearing God.
Maybe you’re an imaginative-play rockstar or maybe you’re like me and you struggle to prioritize play. Either way, I’d love for you to join me in setting a timer for ten minutes, getting down on the floor with each of our children and asking them, “Hey, can I play with you?” I’ll bet your kids, like mine, will be delighted to see us speaking their language.
What do you think about play? Do you consider play as part of God’s original design for creation? What are your favorite playful activities? What ways do you enjoy playing with your children? What about as a family at large?
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” -Mr. Rogers
We are to work. We are to rest. We are also to play, relishing the beauty, freedom and delight of life. So play on, players.
Well, I just did my first ever Periscope. And though it felt incredibly awkward for me, and though I left out half of what I had hoped to say, it is such a great way to communicate! So efficient!
The Great Commission is likely to be fulfilled through effective platforms like this. All awkwardness aside, I know many of you read for various reasons–maybe it’s posts about infertility and adoption, freezer meal cooking or encouragement in faith and ministry. All the “experts” say bloggers must narrow their focus…but I JUST CAN’T. So, last week it was infertility, this week it’s spiritually resourcing college students. :)
I wanted to give a quick tutorial to anyone who lives near and wants to reach out to a college campus/works with Greek students/has a student going through recruitment, or just someone who needs some transferable tools to use in conversation or to use to host an evangelistic Bible study.
Going Greek is one of the single most influences that will set the course of a student’s faith here at Ole Miss, that’s why we target this type of student. And who we are in college is often who we’ll be the rest of our life. Our relationship with God is not one to be pushed off “till I have kids.” You cannot become who you are not becoming. So, how do you become who you want to be? Specifically, how can a college freshmen go Greek and stay Christian?
First, students have to know about the workshop…so promote the mess out of it. Secure a location and then get other students on campus to post a fun meme to Instagram, Snapchat about it, etc. The most effective form of recruitment is the good ole fashion personal invitation. Challenge each student you know to bring one freshman with them to the Bible stud
y. Gather sophomores and juniors to commit to 3 weeks of leading a small group of students. You will watch these students come alive as they shepherd others. These older students seeing their lives multiplied into the souls of others is actually my favorite part!!!
Week 1: Sit Down, Stand Up (Everyone stand up! Sit down if…you’ve received a parking ticket, you live in ___ dorm, Stand up if you’re making an “A” in freshman English, sit down if you already have your game day dress picked out, sit down if you are wearing work out clothes but didn’t work out, etc. Last person standing wins THE BEST book for freshmen girls!) Week 2: Greek Trivia (Which chapter was…Kate Spade…Sister Shubert…Bill Cosby…etc. in?) Week 3: Cut these questions up and put them in a bowl, pass them around and have everyone answer.
Then a real life testimony-
Week 1: A student who became a Christian through Greek life Week 2: A students who has had a vibrant ministry in her house. Week 3: A student who has crashed and burned in Greek life, but has seen God redeem and restore.
Next, the lesson-
Week 1: “Why Go Greek…And How To Know For Sure You’re A Christian”
Everyone and their mother tells you the visible reasons…
Jesus saw those reasons and raised you.
Those reasons are temporarily valid but God has MORE in store! And if these invisible reasons are your heart, you can go Greek and stay Christian.
The patterns you set now will become habits and character traits.
Who you are in college is who you will be the rest of your life.
Go Greek and live to make God famous!
“How To Go Greek And Stay Christian…”
1. 100% Jesus + 0% You = Christian
2. Relationship > Religion
What you do < What’s been done The Law shows us we can’t measure up. Love shows us Christ measured up for us. We live in light of that!
Just because you’re standing in the garage doesn’t mean that you’re a car. Just because you grew up in church doesn’t make you a Christian. When did the God you didn’t really care about become the God you loved? When did the sin you loved become the sin you’re struggling against? If the Great Exchange is true, how can we not live for Him?
Pray and transition to small groups…the best part!
Share your name and why you are planning on going Greek.
How are you feeling about recruitment? What makes you nervous and what makes you excited?
What did you think about Kitty’s lesson? Anything you liked, didn’t like, hadn’t thought about before?
Where are you on your spiritual journey and how to you think going Greek could help or hinder your growth?
What “invisible” reasons for going Greek most resonate with you?
What’s been your experience with religion vs. relationship?
What did you think about the diagram Kitty used to explain eternity?
What does this passage teach you about God? Yourself? How does this passage of the Bible make you feel?
Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV)
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[a] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
8. What questions did it raise in your mind? 9. On a scale of 0-100%, how sure are you that you are in a secure relationship with Jesus? 10. How can our group best pray and care for you this week?
Week Two: “How To Grow From Duty To Delight”
Holy Spirit-in and of ourselves, we can live the Christian life for approx 2.5 minutes. Much like my laptop computer, I am gonna run out of battery if I’m not connected to the power source. The Holy Spirit is the energy flowing from God the Father through Jesus Christ (the battery cord, if you will) to me. He indwells me and enables me to have power for life and godliness. He is the seal of my salvation. He is the One who convicts me of my sin and produces His fruits (love, joy, peace…) in my life.
Repentance + Faith: Just like when you share a bathroom with 3 other girls and so much hair is shed that it clogs up the drain of the shower, and before you know it your’re ankle deep in clogged water, so it is with our sin. Our sin clogs the drain through which the love and power of God flows. We must yank that nastly glob of hair out so that the water can flow freely. AKA–When I become aware (by the work of the Spirit) that I have sinned, I must confess and turn from my sin, believing that Jesus is better and that He has done and will do all that He has promised in Scripture.
Romans 8:1-7 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
*The Father INITIATES *The Son SACRIFICES* The Spirit SEALS*
Daily Means of Grace:
Why Should I Read The Bible?
We should read and study the Bible because it is God’s Word to us. The Bible is literally “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, it is God’s very words to us. There are so many questions that philosophers have asked that God answers for us in Scripture. What is the purpose to life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle to do good? In addition to these “big” questions, the Bible gives much practical advice in areas such as: What do I look for in a mate? How can I have a successful marriage? How can I be a good friend? How can I be a good parent? What is success and how do I achieve it? How can I change? What really matters in life? How can I live so that I do not look back with regret? How can I handle the unfair circumstances and bad events of life victoriously?
We should read and study the Bible because it is totally reliable and without error. The Bible is unique among so-called “holy” books in that it does not merely give moral teaching and say, “Trust me.” Rather, we have the ability to test it by checking the hundreds of detailed prophecies that it makes, by checking the historical accounts it records, and by checking the scientific facts it relates. Those who say the Bible has errors have their ears closed to the truth. Jesus once asked which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Then He proved He had the ability to forgive sins (something we cannot see with our eyes) by healing the paralytic (something those around Him could test with their eyes). Similarly, we are given assurance that God’s Word is true when it discusses spiritual areas that we cannot test with our senses by showing itself true in those areas that we can test, such as historical accuracy, scientific accuracy, and prophetic accuracy.
We should read and study the Bible because God does not change and because mankind’s nature does not change; it is as relevant for us as it was when it was written. While technology changes, mankind’s nature and desires do not change. We find, as we read the pages of biblical history, that whether we are talking about one-on-one relationships or societies, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). And while mankind as a whole continues to seek love and satisfaction in all of the wrong places, God—our good and gracious Creator—tells us what will bring us lasting joy. His revealed Word, the Bible, is so important that Jesus said of it, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In other words, if we want to live life to the fullest, as God intended, we must listen to and heed God’s written Word.
We should read and study the Bible because there is so much false teaching. The Bible gives us the measuring stick by which we can distinguish truth from error. It tells us what God is like. To have a wrong impression of God is to worship an idol or false god. We are worshiping something that He is not. The Bible tells us how one truly gets to heaven, and it is not by being good or by being baptized or by anything else we do (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:1-10; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10-18, 5:8, 6:23, 10:9-13). Along this line, God’s Word shows us just how much God loves us (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:16). And it is in learning this that we are drawn to love Him in return (1 John 4:19).
Reading and studying the Bible helps us see beyond the attractive “bait” to the painful “hook” in sinful temptations, so that we can learn from others’ mistakes rather than making them ourselves. Experience is a great teacher, but when it comes to learning from sin, it is a terribly hard teacher. It is so much better to learn from others’ mistakes. There are so many Bible characters to learn from, some of whom can serve as both positive and negative role models at different times in their lives. For example, David, in his defeat of Goliath, teaches us that God is greater than anything He asks us to face (1 Samuel 17), while his giving in to the temptation to commit adultery with Bathsheba reveals just how long-lasting and terrible the consequences of a moment’s sinful pleasure can be (2 Samuel 11).
The Bible is a book that is not merely for reading. It is a book for studying so that it can be applied. Otherwise, it is like swallowing food without chewing and then spitting it back out again—no nutritional value is gained by it. The Bible is God’s Word. As such, it is as binding as the laws of nature. We can ignore it, but we do so to our own detriment, just as we would if we ignored the law of gravity. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough just how important the Bible is to our lives. Studying the Bible can be compared to mining for gold. If we make little effort and merely “sift through the pebbles in a stream,” we will only find a little gold dust. But the more we make an effort to really dig into it, the more reward we will gain for our effort.
Connecting with God Through Scripture
R- Read the book. Read up on the history of the book. Read up on the context within redemptive history. E- Examine the section. What does it say? What does it mean? What does it matter? A- Apply it to humanity. What does this passage teach me about the greatness of God? (What does it teach me about the sinfulness of humanity?) What would it look like to practically live this out? Why does my heart resist? What aspect of God’s redemptive work do we need to embrace in order to reflect and enjoy God’s glory? P- Pray that into your life. Pray that into the lives of those you know. Pray for those you know who don’t know anything about reflecting and enjoying God’s glory!
What is my fallen condition? (Philippians 1:1-11= “It’s all about me!”)
What is the Christ solution? (Philippians 1:1-11= “It’s all for His glory!”)
Why Should I Pray?
For the Christian, praying is supposed to be like breathing, easier to do than to not do. We pray for a variety of reasons. For one thing, prayer is a form of serving God (Luke 2:36-38) and obeying Him. We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:4; 13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also. If He needed to pray to remain in the Father’s will, how much more do we need to pray?
Another reason to pray is that God intends prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations. We pray in preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13); to overcome demonic barriers (Matthew 17:14-21); to gather workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2); to gain strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41); and to obtain the means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19).
We come to God with our specific requests, and we have God’s promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we do not receive specifically what we asked for (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26-27). He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15). Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God’s will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.
For situations in which we do not know God’s will specifically, prayer is a means of discerning His will. If the Syrian woman with the demon-influenced daughter had not prayed to Christ, her daughter would not have been made whole (Mark 7:26-30). If the blind man outside Jericho had not called out to Christ, he would have remained blind (Luke 18:35-43). God has said that we often go without because we do not ask (James 4:2). In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. In the same way, we will never see the results of answered prayer unless we pray.
A lack of prayer demonstrates a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God’s Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word and bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others’ lives. Because it is our means of “plugging into” God’s power, it is our means of defeating Satan and his army that we are powerless to overcome by ourselves. Therefore, may God find us often before His throne, for we have a high priest in heaven who can identify with all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15-16). We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). May God glorify His name in our lives as we believe in Him enough to come to Him often in prayer.
Connecting with God Through Prayer
A- Adoration of who God is C- Confession of sin T- Thanksgiving for all He has done S- Supplication for your needs
The lover of your soul desires a relationship with you. He has left Heaven and come to Earth to live the life I couldn’t live and die the death I deserved. Christ defeated sin by paying my penalty and death by rising again. The Father sent the Spirit as the engagement ring. He promises and seals our soul until He comes to take us home with Him forever! Let’s spend time this week growing in our relationship with God. Not because we have to, but because we GET to!!
Pray and transition to small groups.
Review names and talk about how they are doing.
How are you feeling now that you have a few weeks of college under your belt?
Do you feel like you’re starting to make any genuine friends? How can our group help?
What are you most excited or nervous about as recruitment gets nearer? Do you have any questions I can answer?
How have you seen God at work in your life since last week? Did anything we talked about last week pop into your mind? Or apply to what you’re going through?
Coming here today, what was your general knowledge about the Holy Spirit? What did you think about what Kitty said?
What is your first reaction when you think about reading your Bible? Has there ever been a time when the Bible came alive to you?
What is one step you could take in spending time connecting with God through His Word?
What is your first reaction when you think about praying? Describe your prayer life in one word. Can you think of a time God said, “Yes”, “No” or “Wait” to you specifically?
Share prayer requests and let them pick prayer partners. Plan a time to hang-out as a group.
Week Three: ”How To Go And Change The World”
Ephesians 3:16-21 I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.
What fills you spills from you. When the love and power of the Trinity fills you, love and power will spill out of you.
Daily Means of Grace:
Community: Act 2 Outreach: Matthew 28:18-20
-Without community and outreach we will are like the Dead Sea–everything flows in but nothing flows out…no life. -Never before have we been more connected and somehow more isolated. (Gallop Poll stats about loneliness.)
-Intimacy > Isolation: In-to-me-see…the REAL ME because the real me is cracked and broken, but secure and redeemed.
2 Types of People
“Here I am” (either prideful or pitiful)
“There You Are” (others-centered and self-forgetful)
-Vulnerability breeds vulnerability.
-How do we find authentic Christian community?
Take the risk
Take the initiative
What you love is what bonds you. If what bonds you is the drink in your hand then when your cup is empty, so is your friendship. But if the love of God and the love of others is your common bond, you’ll be exhausted to find the end of your community. The bond is eternal.
-Lovers tell. (Adult acne product? We’d tell the world. We have the cure for every blemish of the soul!)
-Never before have we had more opportunities and somehow more excuses.
-Boldness breeds Boldness.
-You cannot give to others that which you do not have yourself. But lovers tell.
-Who are 3 people in your life without the hope of Jesus?
Community – Outreach = clique
Outreach – Community = awkward (people don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care)
Community + Outreach= transformation
Bible + Prayer + Community + Outreach = How To Go Greek And Stay Christian, How To Go Young Professional…CEO…Stay-At-Home Mom…Cute Old Person In A Nursing Home…etc!
Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
If you were to receive a kidney transplant, your body would naturally want to reject this lifesaving organ. The same is true that when God gives us a new heart, our flesh naturally wants to reject it. Because of the seal of the Holy Spirit and through daily practicing the means of grace, we can experience the abundant life promised in Christ.
Pray and transition to small groups:
Review names and talk about how they are doing. How did/is the first round to tests going? (We asked last week, but maybe touch base on friendships/how they feel about recruitment especially if you have new girls.) What are you most excited or nervous about as recruitment gets nearer? Do you have any questions I can answer?
How have you seen God at work in your life since last week? (Have each leader give an example.)
Did anything we talked about last week (repentance, faith, Holy Spirit, reading the Bible or prayer) pop into your mind? Or apply to what you’re going through? Did anyone read their Bibles or pray in a new way or with a better understanding of God?
What has your experience with community and friendship been here at Ole Miss? What did you think about what Kitty said?
What would it look like to experience deep authentic Christian community? How could you help create that here at Ole Miss?
What is your first reaction when you think about evangelism/outreach?
Has anyone ever shared the good news about Jesus with you or have you you ever shared Jesus with someone else? How did that go? What was awkward, what went well?
What is one step you could take to initiate authentic Christian community? In your dorm? In the classroom? In your future sorority?
How could you incorporate outreach into your real life?
Share prayer requests and let them pick prayer partners and exchange numbers. Plan a time to hang-out as a group.
So there you have it, the past month of my life in bullet points and scribbles. It’s been ridiculously fun to teach the foundations of our faith to the next generation. Who might God use YOU to disciple?
Maybe it’s your sister who’d give anything to see a positive pregnancy test or your best friend who is enduring the pain of another miscarriage. Maybe your coworker is staring down the barrel of another fertility treatment or perhaps it’s you trying to figure out why your first baby came so easily but somehow #2 seems beyond your reach. Chances are, all of us have felt the stinging disappointment and the ache of an empty womb.
People’s fertile Facebook posts seem to fill your newsfeed, baby bumps are everywhere you turn and heaven help us all if it doesn’t make you want to whip your car into that “expectant mother’s” parking spot at Target just to spite them all. It’s such a lonely reoccurring struggle already, and then it is compounded by the fact that no one knows the right thing to say to soothe your chafing soul.
For my Joel and I there have been years filled with painful questions from well-meaning people. “Don’t ya’ll want to have children?” “Want to hold my baby? Maybe it’ll rub off on you!” And the ever-popular, well-meaning attempt at encouragement: “Well, now that you’ve adopted I just KNOW ya’ll will get pregnant.” Whomp, whomp.
During these years we’ve grieved in very different ways. Me, sometimes feeling like he wasn’t heartbroken enough and he, (bless him), not knowing how to deal with an extremely hormonal woman. We’ve emotionally run the full gamut of anger, apathy, numbness, hope and despair. But it’s this path of barrenness (I hate that word) that God has used to draw our hearts closer to each other and more deeply into relationship with Himself.
Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone. ~Rick Warren
God’s character has had to become the North star for our journey through the darkness of infertility. His goodness and His sovereignty have hemmed us in behind and before. It’s all we’ve had to cling to when we can’t seem to make sense of our circumstances. He is good and He is in control, and somehow suffering IS God’s love for us. THIS, even this, is a gift from the loving hand of our trustworthy Father.
When we are frustrated with the waiting and the discomfort, it’s God’s unchanging nature that we can lean on knowing that there is NOTHING WASTED in His Kingdom. He is a God who uses everything. There is nothing wasted. No time, no waiting, no experience, no pain, no tears, no joy. Nothing is wasted. Nothing. He has a specific purpose for each day, week and month of this process.
Not only has His character become a great comfort to us, but you know when someone can totally relate to what you’re going through because you share the common bond of “me too” ? Well, because Jesus came to earth and can sympathize with our every weakness, we share in a Divine “me too”. Sure, He wasn’t a female with a monthly cycle but ya’ll. He totally gets it. God has children He longs to have as His own. He can sympathize with us even in this and can relate to each and every emotion we experience! Praise the Lord. The Great I am is sufficient for our greatest need.
We are continually choosing to live in the tension of walking by faith (knowing God’s character of being all-powerful, sovereign, all-knowing, loving and good) believing that He is capable of creating the universe thus plenty capable of forming a little life. Meanwhile, knowing that in His good and perfect plan (right now and maybe forever) having a baby is not His best for us.
We are still asking God to show us the bigger picture of who He is and what He’s doing. We are asking Him for peace, contentment and joy. And He really is delivering on His promise to fulfill our longings. Because HE is better than anything I could ask for here on earth. He has given His best to me, His own beautiful, beloved Child. Will He withhold any good thing from me? No, never. Is Jesus enough to make up for this aching void in my soul? I don’t always feel that it is so. But it is. Jesus loves me—this I know. His plan for our family is a custom fit and I can rest and relax in His sovereign grace.
Do you know someone walking through the pain of infertility? I’d love to pray for them and share with them my favorite book. It’s the one that has kept me sane through all this (it’s also the one that has a whole chapter on what to say to people struggling in this area!). Comment below. Or let’s chat over on Instagram. To read more of our story visit any of these posts.
The homework hour is a very challenging part of our day…Probably the hardest hour in our home. So, in efforts to go back to school like a boss, I’ve called in the big guns. My friend Ellen, has served as an inspiration to me as she has transitioned her family’s homework hour from dreadful to delightful. I hope her thoughts will encourage you.
I am now two years into the world of having a house full of school-aged children. For so long this season felt sort of like a pink, sparkly, magical unicorn. And yet, I’m here. I am also now three years into the world of having three sets of homework assignments to navigate. There are many afternoons when that part of this season doesn’t feel like a magical and wonderful unicorn. In fact, once we got fully into this part of our family life, facing an afternoon full of math worksheets and reading logs and projects that probably require glitter started to make me feel restless, frustrated and rushed day after day.
Here are a few things I have done to redeem that time:
1. Ask for help. When our afternoons became the battleground for frustration day after day, I decided to ask for advice. I sat across from a dear woman who had been mentoring me for a few years and laid all of my failure feelings out. I asked her to tell me what I could do better and what I should realistically expect from that time. We came up with a plan that felt manageable and hopeful.
2. Manage expectations. Over time, I had come to see homework time as a small spot in my day where I could maybe get a few mindless chores done or even a little bit of mindless scrolling on a screen. Some days that works, but I noticed that I was always trying to finish what I was doing reallyquicklyoookaaaaay? before I would jump in to help on whatever the afternoon work held. And then I would be flustered and frustrated that I didn’t seem to be getting anything done very well.
I decided to shift my expectations. I made a plan to just sit down at the table where we were doing homework. I decided not to look at computer or phone screens. I keep a book handy and I’m simply present. I don’t have to help on every single step of the assignments that my children bring home daily, but I am accessible and available.
3. Figure out what brings me to the table. It’s hard to stop everything at the end of the day. There are always dishes to wash and laundry to fold and all kinds of work to do. Also, helping a 6th grader figure out prime factorization or a 1st grader on the journey to become an independent reader? Sometimes I end up in more tears than the actual 1st or 6th grader.
I decided to make it a time I could look forward to. I clear off the dining room table before we sit down. I love fresh flowers, so sometimes I stuff a bunch into a jar and put them in the middle. I light a musky, earthy and wonderful candle. I put the acoustic guitar station on pandora and let it play in the background (because apparently I am old). It helps.
4. Hold it all loosely. I really love my routines, which means I might struggle a little with being spontaneous. In fact, I can start to feel all twitterpated when life doesn’t cooperate with my comfortable way of walking through my day. I also have three school-aged children and a husband working for a parachurch ministry. Life rarely cooperates with my expectations.
I have to hold my afternoons loosely. Sometimes I have to cook dinner during our homework hours so I ask my short stacks to sprawl out on the kitchen floor. Sometimes one child has guitar practice so another one does homework on a music stand in the hallway. Sometimes we have baseball or basketball or what have you and we just have to get all the things done anyway I can. Sometimes I have work I have to do so we just have to put our heads down and barrel through.
There’s one thing I hold onto, though. My goal is to be present (accessible and available) when and where I can. When I feel restless, frustrated and fed up: I admit it, apologize and tell everyone (especially myself) that we will try again next time. And then I let it go and start fresh the next day because I know that it’s not about my performance but my presence any way I can give it.
To hear more encouragement from Ellen, follow her on Instagram @sweetwaterellie.
Okay, so I know you don’t know me, but I totally get you, mostly because I was you. I know how much time you’ve spent picking out THE most perfect duvet cover complete with coordinating trash can. And, that futon? It’ll fit right beside your mini fridge. It’s all just perfect.
I cannot wait for you to meet your potluck roommate. I know you’ve stalked the mess out of her. Don’t worry. You’re going to click instantly. Trust me, she’s bridesmaid material, for sure. Your suite mate? She’s a Klepto—translation: she’ll be “borrowing” your cute clothes in no time. I kid, I kid. But seriously, watch your back, and love her too because you’re all just freaking out on the inside.
Speaking of freaking out, your mom is about to melt down on the inside. She’s totally trying to play it cool, but she’s moving a chunk of her heart onto the 7th floor of that co-ed dorm and she’s not 100% sure you’re gonna remember to wear your shower shoes, so cut the woman some slack and let her cry and fuss and blow up your phone these first few weeks. And your dad? You’re gonna notice he doesn’t have a lot to say as he lofts your bed and meets your RA. But it’s just because he’s afraid that if he starts to talk, he might become a blubbering mess. You’re his baby girl and he’s just not sure he’s ready for this. And when they pull away? It’s okay for your heart to crumple and for tears to come. In fact, I hope you cry and miss your family. It means y’all are each other’s safe place. And that’s how it’s meant to be, because with family, you’re loved already! Share your nerves and your insecurities with them and actually follow their advice during this crazy season of life. And please, please, please, wear your shower shoes!
That first weekend is gonna be brutal. The university is going to try and keep you busy with picnics and lots of free stuff and you will do a great job of meeting people and getting their numbers, but when it comes down to it, you’re gonna feel lonely. You’re gonna think, “What have I done?” and you’re gonna wish you could just watch a movie with your high school best friend. And you can. Next summer. But now is the time to be all here and lean into this loneliness, embracing the woman you are becoming.
No pressure, but the choices you make here will determine the trajectory on which you’re headed. Those friends you hope to surround yourself with? Choose the kind of girls whose character you admire most, because your crowd will determine your destiny. Oh, and you’ve probably heard of the MRS degree? Regardless of whether you get the “ring by spring” of your senior year or not, these years are going to determine what kind of man you spend your life with. In fact, you’re going to discover the purpose of your life and you will “find yourself” because YOU have always been there. You just needed these formative years to become secure in the skin God gave you.
Speaking of God, you’re probably about to have your heart rocked. Listen, I am not totally sure where you are in your faith, but I am praying you experience God in the most powerful ways during these next 4 years. There is no time like now to make your faith your own. And guess what? God loves you already. He created you with those freckles and has incredible adventures planned for that quirky personality. He knows that maybe, if you’re honest, you’ve thought about going to college and going at least a little buck wild but He’s made a provision for your crazy self. He’s gonna show you that He is better than the booze, the boys and that perfect body you long to have. He is the One who quenches your thirsty soul. And He’s going to take those secret longings of your heart and complete them in the person of Jesus. Because, that Jesus guy? HE is the reason you are already loved.
Yes, you’ll need to church shop and campus ministry hop for yourself and find a community of people who are for real about their faith. Go! Even if you have to go by yourself. Because, let me tell you, if you blow it this year, and you probably will–either by doing the things you thought you’d never do or by judging the girl down the hall for doing the unthinkable. There is nothing like walking into a room filled with people (who, come to find out, actually are those cool people you were hoping to meet in college) who are singing their hearts out and learning about Jesus. There is nothing like having your mind blown as you sit among them and come to understand that He lived a perfect life and died to erase your judgments and slip-ups, so that you could have a relationship with God. You’re not even gonna believe how He uses your shame, shortcomings and that semi-awkward Bible study on your dorm floor, to show you His irresistible love.
And as you learn to study the Bible, His love will change you. And you will need it to because you thought you were fairly cool and moderately attractive (even with that dreaded freshmen 15.) But you’re going to quickly find yourself swimming in a sea of effortlessly perfect girls whose grades are waaayy better than anyone from your hometown. And you’re going to need the Anchor for your soul to remind you that you’re loved already. And since there’s nothing you can do to make the Creator of the Universe love you more or less, then no matter what sorority bid you do or do not receive, you can take a deep breath and smile from the inside out. When you know who you are based on who God says you are, and that you’re loved already, then your confidence (like God’s love for you in Christ) cannot and will not waver.
And when you go to that first date party your significance won’t be found in how many heads you turn or by how many people ask to buy you a drink. (And here is where I play the mom card and remind you to bring your own water bottle to every social function so you can always have a safe (and legal) beverage in your hand. It overrides the sketchy guy who keeps yelling, “Hey, can I get you something to drink?”. Trust me, I’m just looking out for you, girl.) Also, legitimately, nothing good happens after midnight. So when people start slurring their words, you and your water bottle invite those solid gal pals to go watch Netflix, please. Because, after all, 8 am Biology 101 taught by the guy whose name you’ve not yet figured out how to pronounce does not take “I couldn’t find a parking space” for an excuse when last night’s black X on your underage hand is smeared all over your cheek.
Oh, and class? P.S.That is why we go to college. And that class that you thought doesn’t take attendance? That is the one whose professor wants to crucify your grade point average and get you to pay another year’s tuition ensuring his job security. So, for the love of used textbooks, get your tail to class. Also? Your professor is a real live human and it would benefit you to visit him during his office hours and at least establish some rapport so that when your 92.7 needs a curve he will remember the extra effort you made to see him about that lab project.
And, speaking of those big bucks put toward funding your future diploma, let’s talk about the YEARS you and/or your parents have worked tirelessly to pull together enough cash for you to attend the school of your dreams. Please, girl, let’s figure out a budget. Learning how to say yes to your needs and no to at least some of your wants will be one of your greatest steps toward adulthood. Sure, you can include an itemized budget line that covers your midnight chocolate chip cookie run(s), but let’s put it in writing so you know how you’re paying for that mani/pedi before the credit card statement posts.
Okay, I feel like I’ve covered the initial bases, but girl, you need someone like me. You need a good mentor while at school. You need someone to bounce your thoughts and ideas, insecurities and adventures off of. You need me to tell you when “that guy” is being an IIIIIIDDDIIIOT and you need me to tell you that Ecology won’t be the death of you. You need someone to encourage you to apply for that mission trip, even though you are scared scared to death. And you need someone to challenge you that while all “those girls” look picture-perfect on social media, they, just like you, need someone to tell them that in Christ, they are loved already. And who knows? All the while God has been shaping your soul here at school, He may have just been using you to dramatically influence the lives of students around you. And wouldn’t that make your collegiate years worth it?
So when you get to campus in a few days, reach out to that campus ministry chick who keeps texting you and inviting you to stuff. I promise you she’s not weird and even though you know don’t know her yet… she loves you already! XOXO
This article is featured today on the Redeemed Girl’s website, a ministry near and dear to my heart. Marian and I share a passion for reaching college-aged women and it was such an honor to work on this together. I mean, you know you’ve gotta write an article like this when you’re states away from each other, but are both overcome with emotion at the exact same time because of all the sweet girls flooding college towns this week. We hope this will reach each one of them. If you know a freshmen girl, (or one of those precious mommas who are freaking out), send her to visit RedeemedGirl.org. It’s a fantastic resource for women 18-35!!
I was mid-mascara and trying get our family out the door for church (which any human who’s been around children for two seconds knows is an act of Congress) when my five-year-old walked in with her shoulders slumped, chin down, and bottom lip quivering. I bit my own lip so as not to laugh at the drama and asked, “What’s the matter, girl?” Her cute little pout begged the question.
“Oh Momma, I want my hair to be yellow. But it’s just yucky brown.”
It seemed funny at first, but then I caught my breath knowing that in the world of a kindergartner, this was a big deal. I asked her what she thought was so special about yellow hair. And, of course, since one of her best friends and her one of her favorite princess are both blondes, she just knew that yellow was the most beautiful hair color in the world.
I told her that I completely understood, and that sometimes I wish that I looked differently, too; but, that we all have to fight the lies that Satan whispers to us telling us that the way God made us isn’t good enough.
I asked her, “Do you ever hear the beautiful flowers saying, ‘I wish I were purple and not plain old pink…” or the puppies saying, ‘I sure would like a longer tail and fluffier ears…” This made her giggle. I stared into her dark brown eyes in the mirror where I too was wishing and working to be more beautiful, and said, “When someone gives you a present it doesn’t matter one bit what color or shape the wrapping paper is, it’s the gift inside that counts. You are God’s masterpiece, a beautiful work of art, a gift from God to me. The wrapping of your skin, your hair, your shape and size? They aren’t what determines your true beauty. We’ve got to fight these lies together, okay?”
August means carpooling, homework and permission slips are right around the corner and I am so not ready…not even just not ready, I am downright dreading my kids going back-to-school. I have loveeeed having them home. I didn’t say I’ve loveeed having their messes, their sibling squabbles and/or their mid-afternoon meltdowns here, but I’ve loved all the rest.
In honor of August, I thought we needed a little “Back-to-School Like a Boss” series around here, so I’ve compiled a few thoughts and invited several sweet friends to add their perspectives and tips over the next few weeks so that by that first day of school (aka social media being inundated with crisp tennis shoes, and chalkboard messages), you’ll be ready to go back-to-school like a boss. Because whether you’re a homeschooler or public schooler or it’s just you, we are all on the cusp of feeling that sense of newness as we say goodbye to the long days of summer and welcome the bursting colors of Fall.
Today, I’ll share a few healthy breakfasts tips. Then, I’m thinking we need a post about morning routines, a post about that pesky detail called “lunch”, some great thoughts about having a happy homework hour (which I clearly will not be writing, because it’s basically the least happy hour at our house, but I’m excited to learn!) There will, of course, be a list of freezer meals that I’m stock-piling to help on those days that are pinched for time. Then, maybe we can all put our heads together and do a “Share The Wealth” post where I compile your thoughts and ideas about going back-to-school like a boss? What do you think? I’d love to hear what you’re considering. We shall see where it goes from here. But first up…
Back-To-School Like a Boss Breakfast Ideas
My thought is that even if it’s all downhill the rest of the day, I can at least start the morning off on the right foot. Because, let’s be honest. This.
My kids are at a fun stage where they are all about learning to do things by themselves. And I am all about delegating tasks to my new work force. Those Quaker Low Sugar Maple Brown Sugar packets are easy enough for a 5 year old for open, dump in a bowl, add water and pop in the microwave for a minute and a half. While the microwave is going we work together to chop up fruit and nuts, maybe toss in some flax meal and chia seeds and boom! A nourishing breakfast and empowered child who is beaming and feeling like a rock star.
We’ve talked plenty about how a lazy mom gets her greens, but smoothie prep is key during these warm months. On Sunday nights I throw handfuls of fruit, spinach, probiotics, barley greens, chia seeds, flax meal and ice into quart sized bags then throw them in the freezer for the week. Each morning I can just toss it all in the blender, add some OJ and water and maybe coconut milk and an avocado and it’s a power-packed breakfast in a cup. As long as we have these wide smoothie straws, my kids suck these bad boys down and they are so easy!
We go through 5 dozen eggs every 10 days or so…and I’m too tired to raise chickens. So, on mornings when we are low on eggs and I really need each kid to only have one…we might have a veggie version of a egg in a nest. D gets so excited when he gets to make these. Not that he wants to sit still to eat them, but make them? That’s his kind of fun.
First you saute the pepper in a little olive oil then crack the egg inside and let it cook for several minutes until it’s safe to flip (not a great example here b/c it leaked…the bread soaks it up better. Then enjoy! It’s nice to have something different and my kids really like the omelet-ish flavor. You could add cheese too!
One of my favorite traditions in the Southeast Cru staff women world is an annual fruit and yogurt bar that the women’s council puts on during our Spring staff conference. It’s always a really special time where we all show up in our pjs, eat together and share our hearts. I decided to bring that back to Oxford and it was a huge hit. I made a kids version for my little people and they loved it! Aldi had some gluten-free waffle cones that I filled with yogurt, topped with fruit and chocolate sprinkles and my kids felt like they were having SUCH a fun treat.
I think I’ll be serving these yummy fruit and yogurt cones on our first day back to school with some bacon and eggs done up all Easter morning fancy. Because, nothing says “Back-To-School Like A Boss” like some cross shaped bacon and tomb stone eggs.
I love seeing people’s “Summer Bucket List” ideas floating around social media. It’s a really fun way to get a glimpse into people’s hobbies and parenting ideals. The lists definitely inspire me to make more of the good stuff happen in our family life. I most enjoy mothering when I’m being intentional and really engaging with my kids. We call our list a “Summer Wish List” simply because I feel less obligated less like I have another to-do list added to my plate. Also because it makes me feel like I am some sort of tutu-wearing, wand-waving, glitter sprinkling, wish-granting, mom-fairy.
The only problem is, by the time the dog days of summer roll around and the Mississippi heat reminds me of the time I fell asleep in a tanning bed, I’ve spent so much energy hosting the neighborhood shaving cream war and getting my kids to run “their” lemonade stand, that I’m pretty much over it.
Well, this year, along with a good ole fashioned, “Mom’s Gonna Make All Your Summer, Summer, Summertime Dreams Come True List” (P.S. Thank you Will Smith for your lyrical genius that will forever provide all children of the 80’s a killer song to blare in our minivans so we can ‘hustle to the mall to get mini-me a short set.’), I’ve implemented a “Mom’s Summer Loving List”. That’s right. A list of refreshing indulgences I can use to enjoy a smidgen of mom time amidst the slip n’ sliding and fort building. Because, I love these things, but I know I need to take time to fuel my soul if I’m going to be the mom God intended me to be.
I’ll give you a peek at my list. But because different things energize and nourish different people, maybe you would benefit from jotting down a few “Summer Loving List” ideas as well? Here are a few questions to get you started.
What did you love to do when you were 10 years old? Could that be a clue about a hobby you might pick up again?
When you have a Saturday to yourself, what is your default?
What are you jealous or resentful of when you see other people’s lives? Could this give you insight into something your soul is longing for?
You know that feeling you get when you know that you need to spend time reading the Bible, but your brain feels so fatigued and mushy that you default to scrolling through Instagram rather than meeting with the Creator of the Universe?
Lately, (as in ever since I became a mom), there’s been this static-like feedback in my mind. It fogs and filters my thoughts all day, evaluating how I can preserve as much energy as possible to get through the day. There are those who can pull off this mothering gig with capacity to spare, but let’s be honest, people. I am over here doing mental gymnastics just to keep everyone alive.
It’s that subconscious static that says, “nope” when I see a big task lingering on my to-do list and “not gonna happen” when I look at the thought-provoking book on my nightstand. And then there is the twinge of guilt that comes when I see my Bible laying on my desk but I feel too tired to pick it up and think. My heart is there, but so is my weariness. And my self preservation. But more importantly, so is an ocean full of grace.
I had a youth pastor who once said, “Kitty, I want you to skip your quiet time and just SEE if God still loves you.” I’ve chewed on that thought for the last 20 years as I’ve slowly begun to believe that Christ’s righteousness is mine. There’s no amount of Bible reading that could make Him love me more or less. I don’t have to read my Bible, I GET to spend time with my Creator.
So, instead of fighting my season of life and drill sergeanting myself into what I think walking with God should look like, I’ve decided to go with it. Go with what feels like a gift and a treat to my soul.
Go with whatever means of grace gently gets the real version of me to the real version of Him.
Sometimes that means a nap as I listen to the Divine Office. Or maybe a prayer walk, listening to a podcast or cooking while the AudioBible plays. Sometimes it’s sitting on the deck in silence or doing my best to bring my whole heart to reading the Bible with my kids at the breakfast table.
This week it has looked like…
Attempting to have my journal, Bible, pencil (I’m a pencil girl all of the sudden…I think that’s what my 30′s have taught me…life is always erasable…but that’s another blog post for another day), earbuds, water bottle and work out clothes laid out so I can get a quick workout in before the kids wake. (So Proverbs 31 of me, right? Actually it’s just so I can eat all the gelato I just discovered at Walmart.) It’s looked like treating myself to a cup of Harney and Son’s Coconut Green Tea as I drop my kids at DAY CAMP (!!!!!!!!???!! HOW HAS NO ONE TOLD ME THE MIRACLE THAT IS DROPPING YOUR KIDS OFF AT DAY CAMP?!??????!!!!!) and then using the totally doable and completely manageable Hello Mornings Bible study worksheets that I printed off when we went to Rome.
If I am tired, but my things are already all laid out, it’s comforting to see that I thought of my future self and cared for myself in this way. My spiritual nourishment is also 100% more likely to happen because there are less chances of me breaking my leg as I tiptoe like a ninja and army crawl around in the dark, so as to not wake the fam. (Yes I did wear my clothes wrong side out to the gym twice this week.)
Lately I’ve showed up. Many weeks I simply have not. But reading the Bible even when I’m weary has made all the difference. For example, I’ve been struggling with contentment all summer and Monday’s study had one simple question, “Read Colossians 1:15-20. What attributes of Jesus do you see in this passage?” This was exactly what I needed to set my mind on for the week. I mean…
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all thingshold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,making peace by the blood of his cross.
When I am seeing Jesus as more beautiful than myself or any set of desired circumstances my heart and my mind are changed.
Seriously. I had to type it out just so I could remind myself of the vivid comparison and truth.
And then there was Matthew Henry’s take that got me all fired up:
Verses 15-23 Christ in his human nature, is the visible discovery of the invisible God, and he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. Let us adore these mysteries in humble faith, and behold the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus. He was born or begotten before all the creation, before any creature was made; which is the Scripture way of representing eternity, and by which the eternity of God is represented to us. All things being created by Him, were created for him; being made by his power, they were made according to his pleasure, and for his praise and glory. He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are upheld. Christ as Mediator is the Head of the body, the church; all grace and strength are from him; and the church is his body. All fulness dwells in him; a fulness of merit and righteousness, of strength and grace for us. God showed his justice in requiring full satisfaction. This mode of redeeming mankind by the death of Christ was most suitable. Here is presented to our view the method of being reconciled. And that, notwithstanding the hatred of sin on God’s part, it pleased God to reconcile fallen man to himself. If convinced that we were enemies in our minds by wicked works, and that we are now reconciled to God by the sacrifice and death of Christ in our nature, we shall not attempt to explain away, nor yet think fully to comprehend these mysteries; but we shall see the glory of this plan of redemption, and rejoice in the hope set before us. If this be so, that God’s love is so great to us, what shall we do now for God? Be frequent in prayer, and abound in holy duties; and live no more to yourselves, but to Christ. Christ died for us. But wherefore? That we should still live in sin? No; but that we should die to sin, and live henceforth not to ourselves, but to Him.
An attitude changer, right? Give me a little kids camp, a little Crossfit and lotta Christ and I’m a new human!
Jk, just Jesus :)
What about you? What helps you most enjoy Jesus?
What environment makes you most clearly see your depravity and your preciousness to Him?
How do you embrace your season of life in tandem with your relationship with Christ?
P.S. Because of my neurotic obsession with resources, friends know they can ask me for personal Bible Study, devotional book and small group study ideas any time. Since many of you have asked recently, here are my faves:
My friend, Courtney asked our writing group (which sounds way cooler than I mean for it to) asked us if anyone would be interested in guest posting for her series, “Show Your Real.” Her hope is to encourage people to be honest about the reality of our lives- good or bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often surface-y interactions of social media.
I love keeping it real, so I happened upon the perfect opportunity to show MY real just recently…warning…unfluffed decorative pillows lie ahead…
There are two types of people in the world.
Those who leave their master bedroom doors open when people come to their homes…
…and those who cannot. It’s not that they will not, it’s just that they cannot.
It’s that bad.
A few months ago, my friend, Ruth, who also happens to be one of my husband’s bosses, came in town. The regional directors were taking us out to dinner so she and I thought we’d hang out for a few minutes beforehand. We were short on time and I was a sweaty mess from the day, so the only way we were going to be able to actually visit was if she sat in my bedroom while I got ready.
I’m typically a fairly laid back hostess, I want people to see my real so they are set free to bare their own, but something in me knew that the state of my bedroom had gone from slightly unkempt to completely horrific during the few days our bosses had been in town.
As we walked down the hall past my perfectly vacuum-striped childrens’ bedrooms, everything in me wanted to keep the door shut and not let Ruth see the real someone-might-need-to-call-the-hoarder-hotline deal.
Ruth could sense my internal struggle as I warned her of the craziness she was about to see and she softly said, “Kitty, I love you for who you are, not what your house looks like. You are more valuable than your hope of perfection.”…