The Prayer Fail

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About three months after I became a Christian, I came to work one September morning and sat in front of my computer watching the Twin Towers fall on MSNBC.com. I was supposed to be on a plane that day. But, I’d recently accepted a promotion that changed my customer base and so someone else took my place. Every other manager in our Design Department was in the air at the same time that planes all over the world were possible terror targets. Except me.

As we stood in clumps throughout the office, watching what we believed to be the beginning of the next World War, we were stunned. And terrified. And all I could think to do was thank God that I wasn’t on a plane. As we clamored for what to do next, my coworkers turned to me for guidance.

I knew two things:

  1. I desperately needed to get to my small daughter.
  2. I was going to let everyone go home to gather their families as well.

“You’re the only manager here today.” A voice said behind me as I turned to see our Office Manager standing in my doorway. “I think it would really help everyone if you could get us all together and say a prayer.”

My heart literally tightened. I shrank in fear at the thought of gathering 20 or more people from my office and spitting out incomprehensible thoughts that made no sense to anyone. I didn’t know how to pray. I hadn’t been told the rules yet. I mean, I’d literally just met Jesus a few months before. I wouldn’t be ready for prayer of that magnitude for years. Decades even.

“Um. Just tell everyone to pray at their desks,” I said.

Yes, I really said that.

And I shrank from God as He asked me to stand up. A pivotal point in everyone’s life that they would remember for the rest of their lives. It was our generations “moment”. One of those times that each of us would recall with great clarity, being able to list every single detail of the day.

I let fear rob me of that opportunity to shine light into one of the darkest days in history.

As I spent time with my family that night, I couldn’t get my missed prayer off of my mind. And in my sadness and disappointment in myself, I reached out to God the way I had since I was a child. That night, I said the only prayer I knew at that time:

Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guide and guard me through the night. And wake me with the morning light. Amen.

But as I lay there in the dark, repeating words that had become my regular nightly routine, I realized something: prayer wasn’t meant to be complicated. And this same prayer that carried me through difficulties in my childhood, the same prayer I prayed even when I didn’t know God, was powerful.

Because prayer should be simple.

And a simple prayer gets right to the heart of God.

We make it complicated when it doesn’t need to be.

We chase this idea of the perfect relationship with God, when the perfect relationship is only a conversation away. Our expectations of His expectations can throw us so far off the path that we’re afraid to even take the first step. When in reality, all He is hoping for is a simple conversation.

And when we can’t find the words? To simply join Him in silence, allowing our hearts to pour out to Him. Because even in those moments where we can’t find the words, He still hears what we are saying. Which also means that a simple prayer said with an honest heart has just as much meaning.

A simple conversation.

I still pray this every night. At the age of 43. And, I’m not kidding. There is something about it that connects me to my Father. It’s a nightly handing over of my life to Him. Something that is powerful to a girl whose daddy rejected her. Because her Father delights in hearing it.

So, just talk to Him, sweet friend.

He’s waiting to hear from you.

 

Want to hear more stories of simple prayer and the impact they can have in your life and in your relationship with God? Stop by the blog hop with Proverbs 31 speaker, Suzie Eller.

suzie

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on Facebook.

 

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Letting Your Children See the Ugly Side of Loss

Sad And Upset Woman Deep In ThoughtLoss of any kind is painful.

If I were to round up a group of my closest girlfriends, we could literally spend hours cataloguing the combined losses in recent years. I bet you could too. If you are a mom, dealing with loss can be complicated. Because in the middle of our ugliest ugly, sometimes we’ve glanced to our side, or down the hall, or around the corner to discover our sweet children watching us—waiting to see if we’re all going to make it through.

Sometimes we’ve held it together despite how we felt. And sometimes we’ve taken part in what can only be described as a glorious meltdown. You know, the one where we’re crying so hard we can’t catch our breath, and we’re talking gibberish, and flailing our arms, and slimy things start flowing from our faces.

Just me? Ahem.

It’s during these bouts of uncontrollable anguish—where I’ve typically hidden in the basement, or the nearest closet, or even my car—that I’ve struggled deeply with this question:

Should we let our children see our pain?

And while my inclination is to say “Yes, of course. We’re not robots.” The reality is that I’ve been where they are. I’ve been that child watching my mother struggle through the loss of a marriage. Through the crushing reality that her dream for her family has been shattered. I’ve watched my mother suffer hopeless, while those around her left her to struggle alone. And it’s a heartbreaking thing to witness as a child.

Heartbreaking.

And, so I’ve hidden everything I can from my own children because I never forget the simple truth that they are also in pain from the same loss. And yet, I’m beginning to think I’ve been wrong on this point.

As I’ve been travelling down this path of single motherhood—the one I NEVER wanted to go down—I’ve decided to let my kids in on a little secret: their mother is human. Yeah, it’s hard to believe. I mean, I rock a mean pot of spaghetti and can blow through ten loads of laundry without breaking a sweat.

But loss? It turns out I’ve had enough of it in my life.

And hiding how I feel? Well, I guess I’m over that too.

Because more than the fact that I want them to know their mother is healthy, and that we are all going to be okay, I want them to know this:

In my struggle, I turned to God, and he carried me through it.

I want them to see that despite the pain, and heartache, and desperation they may feel in their lives—if they ever experience loss beyond what they think they can handle—they can turn to Him as well. And He will carry them through it.

2 Corinthians 4: 7 says,

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

I want them to remember that in the broken days when they worried for me, when they comforted me, that they were not alone. Because inside of me—and each of them—was the remaining flicker of a light, that pushed me forward toward healing. A power that came from God.

And that it’s a power that heals.

And it lives in them as well.

 

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

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When You Stop Being Brave

It starts somewhere in our childhood. The first time we realize that we’re really scared. Maybe it’s sleeping without the nightlight for the first time. Or riding our bike without the training wheels. Or facing a bully alone.

Young pretty woman opening her shirt like a superhero. Super gir

We put on a brave face—because that’s what strong people do—and suffer through something alone and scared knowing that we must because our parent’s hand is just out of reach.

As we grow older, we perfect the skill. Through middle school when we feel like we have to say things we don’t want to say. Through high school when we’re pressured to do things we are certain we shouldn’t. And even through college and our first job when how we handle scary situations become part of our success or failure.

We hone our brave faces until they mold perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that we begin to forget they’re there and they become our fine that helps us through life’s painful moments.

  • When our marriage is falling apart and we tell everyone we’re fine because the pain is too much to talk about.
  • When our health is struggling and we tell everyone we’re fine so they won’t feel burdened by us.
  • When our financial situation is desperate and we tell everyone we’re fine so we don’t further embarrass ourselves.
  • When our children are struggling and we tell everyone we’re fine so we don’t let them know that we think parenting is really hard.

Until one day we just can’t lift the mask again. Our arms are suddenly incredibly weak, from years of holding it in place. We look around at those who would mock us (and maybe at some we know are mocking us) and decide that we don’t care what they think anymore. We’re sick to death of pretending and we let the mask drop.

Offering the rest of the world a look at what God already sees.

It’s in those moments of surrender—those broken moments where we feel we’re just a shell of who we once were—that He finds us most precious, and that we open ourselves up to a life that’s real. When we come to him with the same passion we had for pretending to be brave and instead admit that we’re scared to death—that we need Him to hold us—that we begin to feel again.

Because there is freedom in admitting we’re scared.

In a world that competes through social media, and friendships that can’t bear anything deeper than an excuse to get together and gossip, we’re masters of the brave face.

In a society where we agree with things we don’t believe for fear of being judged, and are scared to fight for things we do believe for fear of being outcasts, we’re masters of the brave face.

Until we begin to see it for what it really is:

Nothing more than a barrier between what we have and what we really want.

A mask that keeps a wall between us and the people in our lives that we wish would dig deeper. People that won’t know what we’re going through unless we let that mask drop. And allow them the chance to see us—possibly for the first time.

And there’s beauty in watching that mask fall. In seeing a friend give in so that God can have room to work. Beauty in seeing them realize that His hand is not so far away after all.

Ironically, that may be the bravest thing of all.

 

Want to hear other stories of women being brave? Stop by Proverbs31 Speaker, Suzie Eller’s, blog hop.

bravesuzie

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on facebook to join the conversation!

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The Blessing of This Home

Sometimes a blessing comes when you least expect it.

This last year has seen nothing but changes for my family. None of which I wanted. Most of which I went into kicking and screaming. Certainly not expecting to be blessed in.
Which is why this may be the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen. This starting over for me, is not where I would have chosen to start over. But, it’s exactly where God chose.

livingroom

And it’s so much better than what I would have ever chosen for myself.

Isn’t that what a blessing is?

In the weak moments when all we feel like we can manage is the next step—which looks more like a slow dragging of our wounded feet—God’s favor comes from nowhere.

Like this house that feels more like home to me than anywhere I’ve ever lived. In my whole life. A house that means peace. And healing. And blessings for a girl who hasn’t felt like she deserved them.

And I just want to shout to the world that this is what God did for me. That it doesn’t logically make sense how this came to be, and yet it did. Because of Him.

The God who sees.

The God who provides.

The God who loves beyond our imagination.

The God who picks up the broken pieces of our lives and shows us how to rebuild, creating something beautiful in His eyes. Even when we can’t yet see the beauty of it all. Something more than we think we deserve.

And so I praise Him for the broken pieces. And for the blessings He gives us when we give in to him and give up everything we thought we held dear. Opening our hearts to Him in ways that seem so dangerous, and outrageous, that we fear we’ll never recover.

Because He won’t let us. Retreating back to the places of pain is never His intention for us. A “re-covering” of our pain so we can limp on through life is not good enough for the children He loves so deeply. He wants to give us His best.

Which is why this blessing is so precious to me. So beautiful. So perfect.

Just as He loves me. Just as He loves you.

 

 

Check out more blessings through today’s blog hop with Proverbs 31 Speaker, Suzie Eller.

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Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on facebook to join the conversation!

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What I Hope They Remember: Life is Not a Selfie

Open book with hand drawn landscape on wooden deckA few years ago, a sweet friend of mine battled breast cancer. After a Stage 4 diagnosis, I was shocked at how quickly her life slipped from us even though she fought to the bitter end. She was so convinced that she would overcome it, that even her family believed she was improving and would be released from the hospital just two days before she died.

During those last weeks with her, someone mentioned to me that I should try to get her to write a letter to each of her children. It seemed so personal a thing to request of someone, and though she was my friend, our friendship wasn’t intimate enough to where I felt like I had the right to even suggest such a thing. I mean, this woman was a fighter. And even though I brought my laptop to her bedside, I couldn’t make myself ask her. I didn’t want to do anything that might suggest she wasn’t going to make it. Even when it became apparent that she wouldn’t.

It’s one of my many regrets in life.

For months after, I thought about the letters she might have written. Her funny way of thinking about things, and her deep love for her children. I worried about what she might have wanted them to remember. Words of wisdom she would have wanted to pass on. I became so consumed with it, that I even wrote a novel about a mother who leaves her daughter letters to read as an adult. It overwhelmed me to say the least.

Because of her, I’ve given quite a bit of thought to the idea of what I’d want my children to remember about me. I’ve often considered how the day-to-day duties as a mom can become so overwhelming that we get caught in the getting-it-done mode and often forget that the window we have with our children is a small one. A fleeting one.

Yes, I want them to remember that I stood by them through everything. Yes, I want them to remember the fun things we did together. And yes, I want them to remember the many ways I tried to make their birthdays special.

But, more than anything, I want them to know this about me:

For me, they were the dream.

Though they watched me chase things in life like my design career, my writing and speaking ministry, and even being a business owner, at the end of the day, none of that mattered to me as long as at the end of the day they were there.

They were my dream come true.

The dream I had as a child to be a mother. The dream of our lives together as I held each of them for the first time. The dream of the family I’d always wanted, and prayed for my entire life.

And in a society filled with selfies, and six-second video snapshots, and 140 character tweets that only promote the best side of everyone as if they were living a perfect dream life, I saw every single side of them: the lovely, the brokenhearted, the successes, and the failures—

And they were still the dream.

lifeisnotaselfie_cutoutBecause life is not a selfie. There is not time to pose, and repose, adjusting our lives to look just so, so that we can find the precise moment of perfection and display it to the world. Life can be a mess, with heartbreak, and disappointment, and highs and lows that happen so quickly that before we know it our babies have gone from 16 months to 16 years in the blink of an eye.

It’s more of a picture that exposes slowly. A bigger picture we’ve managed to capture that is so completely, outrageously, and deeply loved that we can look back and see that it was our dream come true. And though we could never even fathom a love like that, they gave it to us without even knowing what they were doing.

So, to my beautiful Saige, and my kind Knox, and my sweet Cullen: thank you for allowing me to live my dream. To expand my heart. To learn to love.

Want to hear other stories of moms and what they hope they’re remembered for? Check out the blog hop at Proverbs 31 Speaker, Suzie Eller’s blog.

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Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on facebook!

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My Risk: Trusting God to Stick by Me When Others Ran Away

Free happy woman enjoying nature sunset. Freedom, happiness and

Today I’m linking up with my sweet friend, Suzie Eller of Proverbs 31 Ministries, to talk about taking risks in our lives. Make sure to follow the link below to discover more risktakers in faith. 

It felt like looking over a ledge I once visited in the mountains of North Carolina. As a teenager, I’d gone camping with a group of friends to Hanging Rock State Park. At the top of the trail, was a literal rock-and-a-hard-place. Two sheer cliffs if you asked me, that you had to climb between and wedge yourself into in order to reach the peak to see the best view. It was risky.

I remember being terrified as I approached those cliffs, but having to act like I wasn’t. I remember it being cold in between those rocks. And, I remember looking down as I climbed and thinking no one would be able to catch me if I lost my footing and fell. I did it out of fear, mostly, because after hiking to that point, I didn’t want to be left behind.

Near the top, you had to leap almost from one rock to the other in order to reach the final steps. If you closed your eyes, you risked falling. And so you had no choice but to go through it wide-eyed and scared, knowing that if you made it you’d be privy to the view that had become legendary. Even if standing on the edge of a cliff to witness it was almost as scary as the path that got you there.

Leaving my marriage felt much the same. Stuck between a rock-and-a-hard-place for years. Uncertain of what lay ahead and fearing falling back into where I’d come from as a child. Because where I’d come from was a train wreck. A family so broken by divorce that the pain still lingered as if it’d happened the day before. A father so angry at everyone involved, including the children, that he’d disowned me the day I got married for asking my step-father to also be a part of the ceremony. So broken that when my grandparents on that side of the family (whom I loved deeply) died, I was banned from their funerals.

My greatest fear—and single mission as a mother—was to avoid such a fate for my own family. And yet there I was—between two cliffs having to make a choice to leap to the other side and trust that God wouldn’t let me down. Not easy for a girl who’d learned early in life to trust no one. I felt like I was losing my grip, and that my children and I would surely plummet, hitting every painful crevice on the way down. It seemed out of control. And terrifying. And, more alone than I’d ever been.

I clung to God like I clung to life itself those first few months. And every movement felt fragile and small. Some days I couldn’t move at all. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t do anything, really, except cry to God. That’s when a friend suggested that I ask God for a life verse for this season of my life.

I’d never done such a thing before but at her urging I prayed and asked Him to give me something I would know immediately was His verse for me. As I read my Bible each morning, and came across verses through social media and other avenues, I wondered how on earth I’d even recognize it when it came to me. I mean, I was hanging on by a thread. Every verse I read seemed relevant and necessary in my life.

Until I came across:

“God is within her; She will not fall;” Psalm 46:5

And, you know that feeling you get sometimes in life, where your heart soars because someone has made it abundantly clear that they love you for you, and will always be there for you, and you get all squishy inside at the thought of finally—finally—being understood? Yeah. It felt just like that.

In the midst of this unexpected turn in my life. In the middle of my heartbreak over what me and my children were facing, God made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t climbing that rock alone. We were climbing it together. And God doesn’t fall.

And while moving forward—away from what I’d always thought my life would look like—seemed like the riskiest thing I could do, I knew it was where God wanted me to be. And just like the moment after I reached the peak of that cliff as a teenager and saw from that vantage point that the world was so pure. So beautiful. So simple. With crisp blue skies and treetops that sat so close to one another that they seemed more like rolling hills of green, and gold, and amber. I marveled at God’s vantage point of my life now and how he could love a girl who desperately needed to feel loved, in tangible ways.

Nearly a year into this journey, I realize how big a step that small leap was for me. It was risky in my mind. And how a girl who’d been disowned, and banned by her own family probably should’ve chosen to protect her heart instead. But, I’m thankful that I didn’t. That I jumped wide-eyed into the path that God pointed me toward even though it was the last thing I wanted in my life. Because it’s allowed me to trust Him completely. It’s made me stronger realizing that He won’t leave me in the hard places. And I cherish the fact that we’re climbing this peak together.

Because I understand the risk in climbing while you’re afraid. It’s where the very best views—not seen by everyone—can be revealed. And that those sometimes come at the end of a breathless climb toward the edge of something we fear the most. Because God is always ahead of me, and behind me. And for someone who learned to trust no one, I finally see there is One who is trustworthy.

I’ll take that risk again any day.

What about you? What risk is God asking you to take in your life?

risktaker

 #takearisk  #risktaker

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How to Make Mom Friends that Stick by You

Happy mother

It’s one of those little secrets about motherhood that people won’t tell you: making mom friends is hard. In fact, it can feel impossible at times. Years after leaving high school, moms often find themselves going through the same feelings they struggled with as a teenager: anxiety about fitting in, and feeling like there isn’t a “group” they want to be in anyway. The truth is, moms can be very competitive, and it’s difficult to find ones that are sincere.

The bad news? There are a lot of moms that are simply trying to be the queen bee.

The good news? There are a lot of moms just like you that want nothing more than a good girlfriend.

So, how do you find these gems?

Faith Matters

Moms of faith have an advantage in friendships: our hearts are similar. While you will certainly have friends that don’t share your faith, make sure you surround yourself with some that do. Approaching life with the same world view can remove a lot of barriers that exist in other relationships.

Start with Your Children’s Friends

You can learn a lot about moms through their kids. Since your children likely reflect your values, they will tend to make friends with kids who do as well. In turn, their parents will likely have qualities you admire in a friend. Start by looking at your children’s friend’s moms (say that three times, fast) to see if there is one that you wish you could get to know better. This is called improving your odds.

Wallflowers Should Rule the World

Let’s face it, the moms who aren’t tackling the teacher to get to bring the cupcakes on party day are typically the nicest ones in the room. While some moms long to befriend the cupcake-bearer (because she wields power?) it’s the moms who don’t get into the fray that can make the best friends. Why? They know how to avoid drama, Mama. Priceless in a friendship.

If You Want Something, Get it Yourself

Moms live by one hard and fast rule: doing it yourself guarantees it’s done right. This can become a problem in things such as housework where you need help, and showing a little grace can actually allow others to contribute. But, with friendship? It’s the answer, baby. To find a friend worth sticking by, you have to make the effort and take the first step.

So, don’t wait any longer! Find that mom that you’ve always admired and ask her to lunch. Maybe she’s the one who is friendly to everyone but doesn’t necessarily have a “mom-clique” (hint: she probably chooses not to be in one, just like you), or the mom who has mentioned getting together before, but the two of you never got around to it (social anxiety is real for many moms). Putting yourself out there is the first step to a lifelong mom friendship you’ll turn to again and again.

Looking for more mom insight? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thechristiansinglemom

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The Land of Not-Where-I-Want-to-Be

Open roadIt’s been nearly a year of taking a break. Of withdrawing from ministry, and blogging, and essentially life to heal the broken parts of me. It was not too long from this date one year ago that I realized my marriage was ending, and that I would soon be plunged into the land of Not-Where-I-Want-to-Be. I wanted the dream. The happy family. The loving husband. The growing old with someone I’d spent a life with. But instead, I was looking into the future in shock. Barely holding on as I faced my new reality.

It’s been a year of growth, and learning, and revelation. Of learning how much I can do that I never thought I would even attempt (can you say fix a washer/lawnmower/toilet? Woot!) Of realizing that there are people who really care deeply about me, and others I thought cared who have slipped out of sight. Of growing up abruptly as rumors flew through my small community and I had nothing to stand on but my integrity.

It’s been harder than I ever thought it would be. And yet, I’ve not done it alone. Beside me, behind me, and in front of me, God has been there holding my hand. And holding my children.

If you’re a single mom you know. You get it. And your heart probably breaks for me, just as mine does for you. There is no one that should have to go through this. And yet, here we are, nearly 16 million of us, struggling to raise more than 22 million children.

And it’s harder than we ever imagined.

But only nine months in as a single mom, I feel God leading me to help others walk this path as well. That seems ridiculous because I have no idea what I’m doing in this role. Except that I hear him whispering to me that I’m exactly the kind he uses for such a thing: someone who is willing, but doesn’t know how. Because that allows room. Room for him to work. For him to lead. For him to change me.

I don’t have to have all the answers on this path. Neither do you. In fact, we shouldn’t even try to. Instead, we need to follow his lead. To leave margin for Him. To pull up the roots that have been our lives even if it knocks us on our rear because it’s time to start with fresh soil.

A new beginning.

And so I step out, knowing that the things I dread most in life are always the things that God uses. The most painful moments in my life become the most beautiful in his story. I hope you’ll join me here and at my new Facebook page for single moms of faith: https://www.facebook.com/thechristiansinglemom

Sweet Blessings,

Laura

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This Gift of Plate Twirling

bigstock-Plates-Spinning-on-Sticks-49069412Sometimes we surprise ourselves with our talents. You know, the ones that kind of creep up out of nowhere—and you’re really good at. Like, realizing you can rock a hula hoop, or that you have a natural gift for baking that no one taught you. Or, plate twirling. I’m totally awesome at that.

I’ll bet you are too. Only you don’t even see all those plates in the air you’ve been managing for the last (insert number of years you’ve had children) years. We moms wrote the manual on plate twirling, and have the fewest number of breakages worldwide. Seriously, I’ve done the research online.

So, this explains—doesn’t it—why we’re so exhausted? All these plates constantly spinning in mid-air can wear a girl down over time. Until we finally realize what is going on.

Last week, I walked away from my plates. These things I’ve been terrified of letting even wobble, I let them drop.

Just. Like. That.

And you know what? The earth did not tilt one degree off normal that day. In fact, my world appeared normal for once. I stepped off the stage, and decided that I’m only going back when God firmly places me on it himself. And I think I heard my family breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Because I realized that in all this plate twirling, and scheduling craziness, and worry about getting everything done, I’m actually missing time to do the one thing I know that God’s called me to do. And when we do that, we aren’t honoring him, or impressing him, or anyone else with our prowess of abilities.

We’re simply failing to do what he’s asked.

A wise friend guided me through this (aren’t they the best kind?) and her words have stuck in my mind ever since. “When we continue to do something that we dread doing for God, it’s because he’s lifted his grace from it.”

Whoa, sister.

Did you get that? Have you been there too? Begrudging the very thing you sign up to do for his kingdom? Wishing your turn to serve the nursery, or usher, or even lead bible study was over? Then, feeling guilty every single second for even thinking that way? All the while pretending to be a cheerful giver, as if God can’t see through to the truth.

But, consider this: maybe you feel that way because it should be over. Maybe it was just one step of obedience in what God has called you to do. And, continuing to do it out of obligation feels awful because his grace has been removed.

The grace that blesses our offerings of service. The grace that fills us with joy to serve. The grace that allows us room to do our very best.

You see, often we agree to things in ministry simply because we’re asked, without realizing it’s not where God wants us. And we agree to do good things—in the church and elsewhere—and assume that it is right, because it serves the body of Christ. But, that’s not always true. We have to be more careful of the plates we put out to spin. We have to make certain that the one asking us to do it is God. Otherwise, we’re not only not doing what he wants, but we’re possibly taking an opportunity that he’s meant for another.

In our agreement to serve, we need to ask ourselves: are we leaving room for God to place us where he wants us? Or, are we saying yes to so many plates that we can’t step away from them to do what he would have us do, for fear of the others falling?

How many plates are you twirling right now? Which one’s turn is it to drop?

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Being a Parent is One Big Party

© Wilmy Van Ulft | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Wilmy Van Ulft | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This past weekend, I celebrated my 31st birthday party. No, I didn’t turn 31. (Can you hear that? It’s my friends choking on their laughter). I’m talking about the 31st party I’ve thrown for my kids. We’ve had some great ones, some rowdy ones, and some way too loud ones. And as I watched my seven-year-old regaling in the joy of sugar-induced-bonding-with-friends, I couldn’t help but think back to my very first attempt at a kid’s birthday party.

My daughter was turning four. Of course, she picked a theme that no party store stocked—it’s like they know, isn’t it?—causing me to stretch my creative genes and get to work. It was the first cake I’d ever decorated that had a cartoon character on it. The first invitation I’d ever made and printed out on my computer. The first all-out-decorating of my home in pink balloons and green streamers, and anything that remotely resembled her favorite character.

As that Saturday rolled around, I was ready. I’d been prepped for days, had the goody bags lined up in a row, and the room we would hold the party in stocked with food, drinks, and decorations galore. I even had party games planned. Awesome ones, too, because I’m the kind of mom that hunts things like that down on the internet so that my daughter’s friends will enjoy themselves. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it.

Then the little monsters arrived.

For some reason, no one would stay in the room I’d taken special care to decorate for their enjoyment. No one waited until the specified snack time to eat the goodies I’d prepared. And, most shockingly, they didn’t want to play my games. My carefully researched games.

Instead . . .

They ran around the house and yard with wild abandon like sugar-addicted savages. They ignored me as they swept by the food table grabbing snacks on the go, leaving a trail of crumbs for mice to later discover. They laughed in my face—the kind of evil laugh that makes you shudder—when I told them that goody bags were not to be opened until they got home.

It was utter chaos.

Chaos, people.

The little beasts destroyed my dreams, my home, and my sanity in a mere 90 minutes.

But, my daughter?

She was in heaven. Beaming as they discovered her favorite places in our yard. Sweetly pointing out all of the things she loved about her room. Loving her moment in the sun. Her chance to be the center of attention. Her opportunity to be a host.

I realized something that day about motherhood, that I have to say is still true at party #31:

  1. Nothing is even close to what you might expect.
  2. They greatest lessons learned are learned by me.
  3. Chaos can bring joy like you’ve never experienced.
  4. The things I’ll do to stretch myself, make me a better person for the rest of the world.
  5. My plans are just starting points in the adventure.
  6. Sometimes you have to let things go so that things go best.
  7. If I’d have known what life would be like with my children, I’d have done it sooner.
  8. It’s the simple things that matter, bring joy, and will be remembered.
  9. I can never say “I love you” enough.
  10. Until my children, I never realized how much I could love.

The best part of this realization? God feels the same way about us. Celebrates us in the same way. Loves us in the same way. In fact, the same list can be used regarding him. Try it.

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