Tag Archives: Christian Blog

 

Who is my cute-mom/designer idol of the year?  You can probably guess.  Joanna Gaines.  I just call her JoJo because we are close.  She is on our TV, on the Magnolia magazine cover that sits on our coffee table, on a book by my nightstand, and her signature design inspiration is all over our house.  Yep, closer than bark on a tree. At least from my perspective.

But why?  Why do I and so many others just love Chip, Jo and their show Fixer Upper?  There are many reasons (so many…) but I think the heart of it is transformation.  We are suckers for a good makeover, aren’t we?  We love to see old and worn transformed to new and beautiful.  Our eyes fix on the story of renewal, restoration, and an amazing reveal.  This is human nature.  It’s why we love stories of brokenness redeemed.  And Chip and Jo create this inspiring experience for in every show.

But there is a greater story of redemption that Fixer Upper always reminds me of. In our own lives, when we take that leap of faith and decide to follow God, we begin to experience our own makeover.   It happens when we ask forgiveness for our sin and brokenness, and invite Jesus to walk with us in all the intricacies of our daily lives.

It is then the construction begins.

Once in our lives, we lived covered in fading wallpaper and peeling paint, our fresh foundation layered by flooring we no longer wanted, and our cracks and mismatched rooms (which we tried to hide) were not really hidden from anyone.  We genuinely tried to present a better outside to the world, but if the world was to open the door and peek inside this is what it would find– shame, guilt, pride, arrogance, betrayal, greed, selfishness, idolatry.  It’s an ugly list, and not a complete one, but we have all lived it in some way, shape or form.

But then, Jesus invited us into relationship with him.  And we took his hand, timidly, expectantly, and accepted.

He began to rebuild a new home in us.  Slowly…over time.  Tearing down old patterns and thoughts, removing walls we had built, opening up space and breathing room in our souls.  He peeled back the layers of protection we had covered ourselves with and like a life-giving balm, painted his word on our hearts.

This is what God does.

He is a restorer.  A redeemer.  A perfect designer of the life he has invited us to.

A life of confidence and peace and love and joy and grace.

And he hauls away all the old–that ugly list from before.  He heals the wounds of shame, he teaches us to not listen to the voice of guilt, he changes our pride to humility and grace, our arrogance fades away as we realize our identity in Christ, he forgives us for betrayal, he replaces selfishness with generosity, he asks us to worship Him alone.

God’s process of building is more than a few months.  It can take a lifetime.  So before the new home in us is finished, we can place a welcome mat at our front door.  It says, “Come in! I am a work in progress, but I have a master-builder crafting my soul.  Come in and see what he is working on today.”

So the next time you are watching Fixer Upper, think about these things.  Be reminded of how God is beautifully fixing us up!  He patiently works over our broken areas, with a good plan, carefully drawn.  If we let him, in his time he will do a great work in us.

And…if God created Joanna and all her talents, how much more can we trust his design work in us!

xoxo,

Amy

You can find more about life, faith and design on my Instagram @amyleehayes

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This week our family practiced saying sorry to each other, a lot. Always so much fun.  We had some words and attitudes and tones flying around that stung and caused mis-understandings.  Between my husband and me, between our children and us.  Between siblings.  Chalk it up to hormones (not just teenage ones) and stress and a lot of time together over spring break.

Words can be full of life and beauty and yet can cause deep pain.  We can talk so sweetly to a little child in a stroller passing by and then bark at our own children two minutes later. We want to be good, but our words and tone often betray what is in our heart…impatience, annoyance, selfishness, control, pride. God knows this and speaks in his word of how our tongue often plays two roles:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3: 9-12

Why is this?  Because we are human and life often wears down our ability to respond kindly and with self-control in every situation.

So how do we tame this rouge tongue of ours? Especially when we use it in negative ways towards those we love the most?

BE AWARE 

Awareness.  We often have feelings and stress and fatigue and hurt from the outside world that we carry around like an overstuffed trash bag.  When someone close to us pushes on us or responds in a way that prickles our nerves we tend to dump the trash, all over them.

We are trying to learn as a family the ability of being in tune to how we are feeling.  When we are in touch with our stress or fatigue or sadness, it can help us and others to understand where our reactions are coming from.  Often our words tumble out before we even realize we are stressed or tired, but if we can take a minute to reflect on where the intense emotion came from, then we can communicate with others and seek reconciliation.

This one example of how it played out in our family this week:

One of our children over-reacted in anger towards me over a situation with our puppy. Our child’s emotion caught us off guard and the situation escalated.  When we were able to discuss and resolve it later, we found our our child had had a very difficult day of rejection from friends.  Upon hearing this we immediately moved from frustration to compassion towards them.

We coached our child on learning to be aware of when they are feeling sad or hurt and how that might come out sideways towards others.  And if it does, to apologize and communicate the deeper issue going on at that time.  This child took the coaching to heart and two other times last week apologized for a negative tone with an explanation of, “I’m sorry I spoke that way, I was really tired,” or, “I was stressed because I was running late.”   If a teenager can learn awareness, I can too.

 

BE PREPARED

In an ideal world, we become so self-aware that we are continually in tune to our feelings and have the ability to control every reaction and word no matter what comes our way….I’m chuckling as I write that.  Pretty impossible.

But not completely.

I have found something that helps me again and again to control my tongue (most of the time) no matter how stressed or tired or weary I am feeling:

I prepare my heart and mind before the day starts with spending time with God.

I have learned that spending time with God in the morning and asking him for wisdom and self- control with my tongue that day can help so much. When I invite God into my day, he takes the wheel.  He gives me strength and peace and perspective in each situation.

I especially need to ask for help when I know my tongue might get me into trouble because of life’s stresses.  Times for me that need extra preparation:

~When I have a very busy day with a lot on my to-do list

~ When there has already been conflict and my heart feels wounded

~I have a presentation or am leading something that day (needing to be “on”)

~ When I am weary of life, going through a tough or busy season

All of these situations can cause me to be sharp with others. When I am aware of these triggers, I can be all the more prepared for the day by spending crucial time with God in the morning.  I can ask Him for peace, self-control in my responses, and a gentle tone in my words no matter what comes my way that day.

It’s one of those miracles that seems to always provide when I ask.

It is inevitable that we will mess up, and when we do a heartfelt sorry is often an instant and healing salve on the wounds we have created.  We must use sorry without hesitation and with reckless abandon in our relationships.

To think about:

What situations/circumstances trigger your emotions? How can you be more aware of what is behind the angry feelings or words?  How can you prepare your heart and mind for your day?

I am thinking a lot about words and how I use them because our bible study group is reading the book Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman.  It is full of wisdom on this subject.  I will be creating a video on what we are learning each week and will post it on my Blog Facebook Community page.  Here is my video from last week:

FACEBOOK VIDEO ON USING OUR WORDS WISELY

If you haven’t joined our group on Facebook and want to hear more on this subject, CLICK THIS LINK and “like” the page to see posts.  I will be posting a new video this Tuesday on why sometimes it feels so good to lash out, and the one perspective check we all could use.

Here’s to taming our tongue, being aware, prepared and ready to say sorry.

~Amy

 

 

 

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I have been a parent now for nineteen years.  Some days I feel like I have learned and grown so much as a parent that I could sit with a new mom and pour wonderful nuggets of wisdom into her cup.  Other days I feel completely unequipped and literally exhale doubt and confusion about how to walk this parenting journey well.

Over the years I have garnered advice from various sources and tried numerous “systems” in our home to to be an intentional, character developing mom.  Many of the new things I have tried have totally flopped, and some have been a great success.  Today I want to share with you three of my most successful parenting “hacks.”    These are resources that are not only extremely helpful to me as a mom, but continue to help me again and again as my mothering seasons change:

MOTHER AND SON by Eggerich

Product Details

This book is a must read for any mother of a son.  Eggerich writes about speaking a different language with our sons–a language of respect.  We are natural speakers of love and affection as moms, but he teaches us how to reach our son’s hearts by speaking words of respect and honor to them.  I began to see changes in my relationship with my son as soon as I started implementing the wisdom in the book.  It’s well worth having in your parenting library– you can click here to find it on Amazon:
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect

CIRCLE by Disney  

So……this is not my children’s favorite but it is one of mine.  I have struggled with managing the technology beast in our house that was threatening some core values we had as a family–protecting what our children watched on screens (what we are putting in to our minds), time spent on screens (how we manage our time), and sleep (…pretty sure sleep can be a core value).

With Circle, you order a small modem that you get for a one time $99.00 fee.  When it arrives at your house you plug it in and the modem basically re-routes all the Wi-Fi in your home through the Circle network.  You then download an app and from your phone can manage all the users of any device in your house.

For example, my daughter has a computer and a phone.  Both of these devices are recognized by Circle which means I can see all the apps on her phone and subsequently manage all of them (Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, etc.), specifically how long she can be on each app (like one hour on YouTube/day).  I can also see what websites she is visiting.

I can also set filters for all the devices (ours are all set to Teen) and set a wake up and sleep time which shuts down the devices at night.

For our family, Circle became necessary when our kids grew old enough to stay up later than my husband and me (actually we are just getting old an needing to go to bed earlier) and we were concerned how long into the night they were on their devices with no supervision.  However, I wish I would have been able to start Circle earlier when our kids first started having phones and computers.

As our teens get older, I will graduate them out of Circle since they will need to learn to manage their time on devices on their own, but for now it is helping them set good habits and learn reasonable time limits for their phone and video use (and I don’t think we can protect our sons enough from access to pornography).

You can order CIRCLE HERE if you want to give it a try…it has given me great peace of mind.

 

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PODCAST  

I started listening to this a couple of years ago and boy do I wish I would have had this resource earlier in my parenting years.  This podcast is one of THE MOST helpful and encouraging (and challenging) tools I have had as a mom.  The podcast is every day, and it ranges from marriage to parenting to discipline to faith building topics.  They are all amazing. But the parenting ones have been priceless for me.  Here is the link.  I have downloaded the app on my phone and listen while I am driving or doing chores around the house.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast

So, those are my three favs.  I hope maybe one of these is helpful to you in your parenting journey. We need to link arms as moms and encourage and help each other out as we raise our kiddos.

Blessings to you!

~Amy

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“Look at Mo!” several voices called out around me. I steadied myself on our boat and turned around to see our small white-haired Bichon Poo swimming frantically through the water towards me. His head was barely above water and the waves lapped over his face, but he was the most determined little dog-paddler I had ever seen.

Minutes before, my husband and a boat full of kids had pulled into the beach area.  As kids piled off to give turns to the next group, I kicked off my flipflops on the beach and grabbed a towel for the next ride.   I proceeded to wade the distance out to where the boat was anchored, not noticing our little puff ball of a dog whining and pacing on the beach where I had left him in the commotion of all the people getting in and out of the water.

I had reached the boat and was climbing aboard when Mo started swimming.

There are two things about Mo that you should know.

 

One, he has NEVER voluntarily swam in the water anywhere anytime (most likely because he fell off the back of a fast moving speed boat when he was just a wee pup and was under water much longer than he probably liked).

Two, he loves me more than I can even imagine.

 
It was the combination of these two facts that made the event so amazing. Mo, who most likely watched me in total anxiety as I left him alone on the beach to get on the boat, decided to overcome his great fear of the water out of sheer love. He was going to swim to me no matter what the cost.

 
I turned to my friend on the boat as we watched Mo paddle towards us and shook my head, “Mo loves me more than he is afraid of the water.”

 
Love casts out fear.
Fear holds us back from so very much.

 
Love overcomes fear, diminishes it, loosens its grip on our lives:
~It is the wife who continues to trust even when trust has been broken because she loves her husband more than the fear of betrayal.
~It is the mother who lets her child soar with her dreams even though she wants more than anything to just keep that child home, safe.
~It’s the neighbor who loves sharing God with others, because he knows what it has done in his life, more than the fear of being rejected.
~It is love of freedom that helps overcome the fear of letting that addiction go.                                               ~It is love of restoration and healing that allows us to swallow our pride (and the fear attached, of losing or not being right)                                                                                                                                                        ~ It is the love of pursuing our dreams that overcomes the fear of failure

 

Its you and me, loving God more than the fear of what life holds, and choosing to trust and walk with him even in the most desperate and uncertain of circumstances.

That day a little dog created a picture for me that I will carry forward.  I can push through my fears with love as my motivator.

 
What, friends, are we afraid of? Loss? Rejection? Betrayal? Death?  Failure?

Whatever that fear, find what you love MORE and lean into it.  Let it become more powerful than anything else.

Try this:  I love _________________more than I fear ________________.

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.  The Message, 1 John 4:18

And where do we find the strength to do that?  We fix our eyes on Jesus.  The one who gives strength, miraculous peace, healing, power, hope, and confidence to our fearful souls.

As Mo reached the back of the boat, his little eyes that were filled with terror fixed on me.  His mom.  The one thing that he lives for (pathetic but true).  I reached down and pulled his wet soggy body out of the water, wrapped him in a towel and held him close.   He didn’t care where we were going, or how long we would be on the boat.  It didn’t matter.  His fear was gone.  His love had conquered the distance between he and his mama.

Happy Valentines Day!

~Amy

You can find more about life, faith and design on my Instagram @amyleehayes

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My husband read a quote on Facebook today:

“I was going to quit all my bad habits in 2017, but then I remembered nobody likes a quitter.”

Ha ha!  That quote speaks to what many of us are thinking about as the calendar changes to a new year.  We want renewal and change but our good intentions often aren’t fulfilled.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am kind of a New Year’s Resolution geek.  And my family gets to entertain my obsession with goal setting just because they love me and don’t really have a choice.  I only subject them to this once a year–when we do our family New Year’s Resolution/Goal-Setting night.

All kidding aside, I do think there are some great benefits for taking the time to work through goal-setting as a family; specifically two:

  1. Our kids learn the habit of self-reflection and the practice of change.   It is actually quite easy to move through life without looking back to analyze what we has worked for us and what we can improve upon.  Successful businesses do this annually (or even quarterly). They review the numbers or the growth they are trying to measure and make changes accordingly.  Why not do this with ourselves and our families?  In seeing what did or didn’t work last year we can then work on changing ourselves going forward.  I want our kids to learn the gift of self-reflection.
  2.  Our kids learn how to set concrete goals and steps for achieving  them. We have all heard how the road to bleep is paved with good intentions.  Well, I would love our children to learn the art of actual change and be able to look back on the year and see how their steps toward improvement made a positive impact on their lives. I want them to feel empowered in their lives with the ability to get “unstuck” if needed.

So in early January Jon, the kids and I sat down and worked through some questions and then talked about them as a family.  We gave the kids a chance to identify some areas of their lives that they were happy with and some areas where change might be needed or wanted, and we did the same for ourselves.  It was great and I would encourage you to give it a try!

If you would like to have a Family Goal-Setting Night, here are some questions for everyone participating to ask themselves:

  1. WHAT are some areas you would like to work on this year?  For kids some examples may be in academics or sports or cutting back on social media.  For adults some examples may be finding more time to connect with your spouse or goals with your work life or homemaking.
  2. What are the SPECIFIC goals you want to work on in the areas you picked?
  3. WHY do you want this to be a goal? This is one of the most important questions to ask–if we don’t have our strong “why,” the chances of change are pretty slim.
  4. What are the specific STEPS you can take this year to achieve your goals?

If you are like me and want a more structured plan than open ended questions, I created the FAMILY NEW YEAR GOAL-SETTING PRINTABLE

In the printable each family member can draw circles around areas where they want to set some new goals (spirituality, friendships, healthy eating, social media, screen-time, and family relationships to name a few) and then they can work through how to accomplish those goals.

EXAMPLE

Here is an example from my own life that I gave our kids as they worked through the printable:

One of my resolutions for 2017 is with meal planning.  Last year I put as one of my new year’s goals “to increase the variety and consistency of making meals for my family.”  Well, I totally flopped in achieving that goal, and it was a source of frustration for me all year.

But instead of feeling like a total failure as a kitchen maven,  I took some time to really look at why my goal didn’t work. In 2016, two of our children had their license, all were in sports or working, involved in youth group activities, and my husband traveled about twenty nights out of the month.  We had a revolving front door, with busy teenagers and constantly moving parts.

Even when I thought everyone would be home for a meal, I was constantly disappointed that I had made the effort to cook (something I don’t particularly enjoy) when plans would change and no one was there to eat it.  And when the kids did trickle in they were not hungry since they had eaten a snack at work or church.

So this year, I am still going to make it a goal, but tweak it a little. (In the printable I created, each family member can work through these four questions):

AREA: Homemaking

GOAL: Planning meals that work for my family’s busy schedule

WHY: This is still an important need for my family and it makes me feel good when our kids are served a nutritious meal at home.

SPECIFIC STEPS:

  1. To prepare a variety crock pot meals that the kids can eat whenever they arrive home.  This is far more flexible and appealing than a meal on a plate in the fridge that needs to be reheated.
  2. To make sure that in our family meeting on Sunday nights I am aware of everyone’s schedule and they are aware of what nights I am making the effort to cook so they come home hungry and expecting a meal.

This was a great exercise for me to work through personally, and I hope you and your loved ones can find some time to do the same.

Click HERE if you would like to try this with your family!

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the-hardest-partabout-giving-our-kidstough-consequences

(Shared with permission from our son who is an amazing kid and I will be buying him a large Blizzard from D.Q. for letting me pick on him in this post)

A few months back my husband, son and I stood in our family room in the midst of a tense discussion. Our fifteen year-old had just responded in a not-so-stellar way to the idea that he would have to be dropped off at work a half an hour early to accommodate our schedules.

Since we had been working on respectful responses with our son for a few months now, and it had cropped up again, my husband decided enough was enough.  He proceeded to tell our son that instead of getting a ride to Chick-Fil-A that day for work, he would need to ride his bike the three miles to get there…and he better get a move on to make it in time.

Now a teenager riding his bike to work may not seem like a big deal, but it was for me. Our kids just haven’t ridden their bikes much outside of our neighborhood before.  We live in a semi-remote neighborhood where it takes riding a distance to get anywhere other than a gas station.

So as my husband stood his ground and told our son to hurry up and make sure the tires were full of air, I sat a little stunned on the couch.  Here’s what was going on inside my head:

“He’s never ridden his bike to work, can he do it?” (that sounds silly even as I write it but I really asked myself that question). “Is it too far?  What about the busy roads?  How will my directionally challenged son know how to get there?”

Even though my protective mom instinct was sounding off full volume,  I kept my mouth shut.  I needed to let my husband take the reigns on this one because this was a recurring issue lately and an important one. We clearly needed something tougher to use as a consequence than taking his phone away (which is what we had been doing).

Our son immediately went into sorry mode, which made staying quiet even harder.   He pleaded and then realizing he was getting nowhere got mad,  stormed into the garage and rode away.

I fought all sorts of urges to stop the whole scene.  But why?  Why was it so hard for me to accept that our son needed to have a hard consequence?

I’ve given this some thought…a lot of thought actually.  And I have three main ideas about why it is so difficult for those of us who are parents to give hard consequences to our kids.

ONE:  It Causes Us Pain

I feel pain when my kids are struggling and darn it, I don’t want to feel pain.  And I don’t only feel pain, but I worry and stress and doubt about the decision. As loving parents, we carry a fierce instinct to protect our children, and I think we feel like we’re leaving them outside to weather the storm alone when we dole out the tough love.

I’ve noticed I am mostly unaffected when grounding our kids or taking their phones away or making them do chores for misbehavior. But the truth is while those things are challenging for our kids, they often do not produce long term-results.

Sometimes we need to be brave enough to raise the bar on the discipline.  In our trying to “protect” them and soften the consequence, we ultimately fail at protecting them from turning into self-indulgent, self-centered, “me” focused children.

TWO: We Don’t Like Our Kids Being Upset With Us

I don’t know about your family, but when we set a boundary or say no to something, especially something that is a “big deal” to our kids, they aren’t all lovey dovey with us.

In fact, we may experience some anger or aloofness or distance from our kids.  We feel disconnected with them.  Doesn’t this go against everything we normally fight for as moms–feeling connected with our children?

We work so hard to create harmony and unity in our homes, between siblings, in our marriage, and with our relationship with our children, that the break in harmony really feels… yucky (that’s the most accurate word I can come up with).  It makes me sad, and my day harder, and adds to the tension in every conversation I need to have with that child…so I avoid it, even if it’s unintentional.

THREE: We Are Little Picture Responders Instead of Big Picture Fighters

Ultimately, we are so close to and emotionally involved in the situation that it is often difficult for us to step back and see that the misbehavior is actually derailing our great intentions for our kids’ character.

I think we all can agree that we want to raise respectful, kind, considerate, grateful kids.  It is often when our kids are disrespectful, unkind, inconsiderate and ungrateful that we are faced with the discipline decision.  Yet at that crucial moment we often make excuses for them or soften the discipline because of the previous two reasons.

We need to circle back to the kind of little/big people we want to raise.  The consequence, however painful for all involved, works toward that goal.  It is for their own good, and we need to fight for what is best for them.

The story wraps up like this.   Our son made it to work, and on the way there he was pulled over by a police officer who kindly told him that he couldn’t ride his bike across the bridge over the highway (no we didn’t bribe an officer to add a little extra shake up to the situation, but not bad timing).

After work our son texted me for a ride home since he would have to ride back over the highway to get home and didn’t want to have a second conversation with a police officer in one day.

I fully expected to pick up an angry child who didn’t want to speak to me.  My husband had left out of town for work so I braced myself emotionally for the evening ahead.

Instead, a humble and respectful young man got in the car and thanked me for picking him up.

Wow.

This was a lesson for our son, but it was a bigger lesson for me.  I learned that the hard consequences work, and more importantly that I could handle the pain they caused my mom-heart.  As our children continue to go through their teen years I often think about this day.  I remember that it is okay for our kids to sweat it out (literally) in order to experience changed behavior.

The truth is, our kids can handle hard consequences.  We are the ones that often can’t.

God is the perfect parent.  He does not cushion our life-lessons.  No, He let’s us fall hard, mess up, struggle and even suffer the consequences of our actions.  But He never leaves us, always is there to love us and care for us in the midst of our pain.  May I continue to look heavenward for the best parenting example ever.

Please love on another mom today and share this post with her–let’s encourage each other to be the best parents we can be.

~Amy

PS: If you are wanting to hear a whole lot of great parenting advice, you can attend the online MOM CONFERENCE next week, October 11, 12th and 13th.  It is FREE and you will get access to amazing speakers, and hopefully feel strengthened and encouraged in your mothering journey.

Here’s a short video sharing more:

Just click HERE for more information or to register!

MOM CONFERENCE 2016

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The last couple of weeks have been rich in connection for me.

Last weekend I attended a retreat at an adorable Bed and Breakfast for a leadership class.  In the evening, after class had finished, we all sat in an ornately decorated dining room around a large dark wood table and played Apples to Apples and Four Corners and teased and joked as thirteen women at 11:00 pm will do.  When we all headed to bed, I said good night to my roomie that I didn’t know very well.   We turned out the lights, and then something sparked a conversation about our past teaching days. For a half an hour we laughed until our sides hurt telling really funny stories…it was priceless.

The next morning my college girlfriends were in town for a visit and picked me up from the retreat.

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We spent the day in Estes Park paddleboarding (more laughing) and then heading to Boulder for dinner.  Before dinner we drove by the house “on the Hill” where we all lived together in college, and saw there was a party going on.  Only one of the girls in our group was sane and suggested we don’t go in, but the rest of us out-voted her and when a young man outside invited us in we just couldn’t resist the chance to see the inside of the house we lived in 25 years ago.

It was so interesting how the entire house cleared out when five forty-something moms walked in…Here we are being troublemakers…the house is behind us.

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We giggled about that whole scene on the rooftop of a Mexican restaurant that evening. Along with sharing so much more about our kids and jobs and homes and lives.

 

img_0414The week before I met two friends for lunch–we gather three times a year to celebrate each of our birthdays.  We have been doing this for years and have walked through so much together.  We spent this whole lunch wrestling through some hard topics around faith and our lives…our time connecting was as rich and satisfying as the food we ate.

Then this past weekend, Jon and I invited our whole street (our new house sits in the middle of two culdesacs) over for a Fall Chili Dinner.  We don’t know all of our new neighbors and wanted to connect.  Over thirty adults and kids came and we stood and sat out back by the fire in the crisp evening air and just got to know each other.

All of this fills me up overflowing.

My guess is your life is full of dear people who you long to connect with, over coffee or a warm meal, in your home or theirs.  Couples, friends, family, neighbors.  To share your life and to know what is going on in theirs, so you can support and encourage and love each other.

We have a gravitational-like pull to be known, to connect.

I think it’s important to remember that all of these times, these connecting moments together, are an expression of God here on earth.  

He created us to know and be known.

Adam was not at his best alone, so God created Eve.  So they could be in each other’s lives and know each other.

Elizabeth and Mary, relatives and friends that helped and encouraged each other, as did Ruth and Naomi. Jesus and his disciples. They showed up in each other’s lives.  They knew each other.

And at an even deeper, richer, more intimate level, God wants this know/known relationship with us.

He knows us.  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. ~Psalm 139:13

He wants to be known.  Be still and know I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

But Why?  Because in the same way as I feel so loved and connected with my husband or children or friends when we have spent time sharing words and thoughts and feelings, God also provides us with love and connection when we know him.

He fills us up, satisfies our soul, causes all the shiny attractions of the world to fade away because we are completely, wholly, deeply known and understood by our Creator.

So the next time you are sipping Starbucks with a girlfriend, or sharing your day with your spouse, or just hugging your little one without saying any words at all, remember that this is a reflection of a God who has created us for relationship with each other and Him.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is it that you love most about connecting with others?
  2. Do you have any hesitation to being known by others?  Why do you think that may be?
  3.  What do you think about being fully known by God?
  4.  Who do you want to connect with this week?  How can you make that happen?

Today, find time to connect, to know and be known.

Blessings,

~Amy

COMING UP:  This Wednesday I will be sharing the Ultimate Healthy Bundle on my site--this is AMAZING! You won’t believe all the products, courses, printables, etc. that you can get at a super-low price that will help you and your family live the most healthy life possible.  Stay tuned…

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My sister posted this quote on Facebook today and I just loved it.  Not because I practice this in my life but because I usually don’t.  But I want to.

Having children makes me “change focused” already (always wanting to make them better little people), and then you add my natural bent towards attempting to control people and things around me and this quote feels both incredibly challenging and incredibly freeing.

What if I could really detach and stop worrying about the people around me?

That would feel, well, amazing.

An important question to ask those of us who graduated from The School Of Changing Others is why do we feel the need to fix people?

It possibly boils down to two main reasons:

  1. FEAR of someone making us unhappy by their actions or behaviors
  2.  EXPECTATIONS of who someone should be based on my terms (I originally wrote “unrealistic” expectations, but I think its expectations.  Period.)

Fears and expectations cause such unnecessary burdens on our hearts and minds.

So how do we let go?  How do we stop worrying and fretting and playing scenarios in our head of how things would be different if that person in our life could just evolve into the person we expect and want them to be?

For me, it requires something extremely difficult and extremely easy all at the same time:

Trusting God.

Trusting God with the people I love, their life, their journey, His timing.

I find when I bring my concerns to Him, the Wise Counselor, He calms my spirit, helps me to open my gripping fingers around the issue.  He often shuts my mouth when I am about to barrel ahead with words that just seem so important to say.

But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.  Isaiah 42:7

I am convinced that I am my own idol sometimes.  I trust in myself, in my feelings and my prideful and self-righteous convictions.  I can see it so clearly in others, when they judge while clearly having their own “stuff” to work on, but the ability to see it in myself is like a shadow that shifts and ducks.

If I can set aside myself enough to make room for God, well, that is the magic–to truly believe that He is in control so I don’t have to be.  It is the place where I stop worrying and start respecting those I love by letting them journey and learn and grow on their own terms.

Prayer for Letting Go:

God, I pray that you will help me trust you more, especially with my children as they grow up and become the people with the story you have planned for them.  Help me to trust you with my marriage and my friendships and those I work with. I pray that I can live out this scripture well:

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.   Psalm 62:8

Blessings to you today!

xoxo,

~Amy

P.S. Would you consider sharing this post?  Thank you!

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A photo by Crew. unsplash.com/photos/rCOWMC8qf8A

Have you been through a season where you just can’t get a handle on “normal” tasks and commitments in your life?  When you just can’t get it all done? I just experienced one of those times.

Our family is just emerging from a season of change and transition with two house moves, a mission trip to Haiti, wedding in Yosemite, a home remodel and getting our oldest ready to head to college in Nashville (two trips out there) all in the past two and a half months.  All of this squeezed every last bit of margin out of my normal schedule, and I found myself doing things that I try hard never to do.

Like backing out of commitments (big ones).  Or saying no to invitations that came my way.  Or putting off meeting with good friends for weeks because I couldn’t find the time, and telling clients that I had to postpone or cancel their design projects for now.

I am a recovering people-pleaser and don’t ever want to appear flaky, so realizing I couldn’t show up or be reliable or even be present if I was there rubbed everything the wrong way for me.  But life just got too full.

The act of backing myself out of events or relationships or work obligations didn’t happen right away. Even when I knew this abnormal season was approaching I had difficulty switching gears.   The “I can do it!” attitude initially prevailed.  This revealed itself in my conversations with clients; “Sure, I can squeeze your painting project in (between an unpacking boxes and an international trip),” or with friends; “Yes!  We definitely should plan that camping weekend (even though I had no idea where any of our camping gear was buried in our post-move basement of boxes).”

The rational voices in my head went on red alert, “Don’t commit to that!! Don’t say yes to that!!”

Fortunately, I started listening to those voices this summer when the stress and un-manageability of my schedule knocked me upside the head.

I had to change my responses to invitations from “Yes!” to “No, I’m just too busy.” Or had to say no right off the bat (which is not easy for me to do).  I had to be honest with clients about my overbooked schedule.  And I had to tell good friends I just didn’t  have time to get together with them right now.  I said sorry a lot.

I even have struggled with this blog because I would say that I was going to post on a certain topic next and then I didn’t because weeks would go by with no time to write or focus.

All of this has meant possibly disappointing people or losing clients.  It has meant potentially hurting friend’s feelings.  It possibly affected the way others viewed my reliability or engagement with them.  And I may have lost readers on my blog because “zero posting does not make a blog reader well”.

But I have had to wrap my brain around the fact that all of this is sometimes necessary and actually okay.  Sometimes we go through seasons of change that derail our normal.  It could be an emotional struggle or starting a new job or taking care of a loved one or becoming a new parent.  It could be any number of things.  These seasons remove any margin we previously had to engage or commit or show up for people or things.

And we need to give our people-pleasing-highly-responsible selves a break.

 We need to accept that for a time (and we usually don’t know how long) we are shifting our focus to other, more important things.

I have learned this summer that people are incredibly understanding. My clients actually responded with huge amounts of grace and said it actually worked for them to do the projects a little later. My friends are my friends because they love me and know I love them, even when I can’t be present with them.

And the invitations I declined…well there will be more.

God knows there are seasons in our life for all different things (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). We can ask Him for courage to say no, wisdom to know what is important (and what is not) and for grace for ourselves when we feel like we are letting others down.

 

~Amy

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This is pretty normal for us! Our son being goofy while we try to take a family picture.

 

Hello Friends!

It has been far too long since I’ve posted, a result of our life “derailing” from normal after selling our house two months ago.  Since then our family of five has moved three times, lived in a friend’s basement and then a home we rented, and finally in to our new home three weeks ago.

All this was planned, thought out, and expected (although much of the process had unexpected twists), so it surprised me how challenging it was for me personally to “get through” these past few months with a positive attitude.

During this interim time our family of five lived out of seven blue tubs we had packed with clothes and personal items. We existed on dinners of Chipotle and Kraft Mac and Cheese because of limited kitchen space and and stretched thin mom who wouldn’t love cooking even in ideal conditions.  Our family felt disjointed not having our “normal” routines and space, and the rainy cold spring added to the unrest.  Our dogs found their own form of crazy (one of them peeing indoors and barking neurotically, challenging at one’s own house but really fun when it’s at your best friend’s house).

For a while I thought I was struggling to stay positive because there was no end in sight–we were having an extremely difficult time finding a new house after we sold ours. But then, we found a great house, and had a closing date and everything, but my restlessness grew as our familiar “more comfortable” life seemed just a reach away.

Why was it so important for me to find normal again?

I asked myself many times, “Why is this so difficult? God has blessed us with wonderful friends to house us temporarily, we know we will find a home eventually, our kids are healthy and handling this transition better that expected.  So why the discomfort?

The answer came to me once again, as it has over and over in all the unknowns over the last year with our moving story.

Our strengthening comes in the discomfort.

This time has felt like “how to keep a positive attitude boot camp,”  and I know that like the true military boot camp, with the purpose of strengthening physical muscles and endurance, this time for me has been an emotional and spiritual strengthening.

I have been forced to release my grip on managing everything the way I want it to go.  I have had to let go of normal, which involves me having a lot of control over my life.

 And that is good.

God is stretching and teaching me to let go, to again, trust him.  To again, remember that the little daily comforts and order I am used to need not to be taken for granted.  To believe that he has a purpose for every difficult time we go through–to decrease our self-sufficiency and increase our God-sufficiency.

One of the largest parts of “me” that I have had to release in the past couple of months is writing this blog.  I think about it every day, but feel like I have been in survival mode for so long that it takes sitting in a hotel room with my family sleeping to find head and heart space to finally write.

We did move into our new house three weeks ago and it is so very good.  I am so grateful for the little things like a desk to work at and some of the homey decorations we had packed away.  And the big things, like our family re-connecting and bonding over settling into our new space.

But normal is still to come.  In a few hours our family is about to get on a plane to Haiti to serve with a Healing Haiti team in the poorest part of the world.  Here is an excerpt from a woman who returned a few months ago from this trip as she relays vignettes of people she met:

Hello. My name is Mardy. I am 23 years old. I’ve been living in front of the hospital for a while. A few months ago I got raped and now I am pregnant. I’ve had a stroke and I am in the hospital now. I can’t move my left arm but that’s not the worse part. I am all alone; with no one to help me. I don’t know how I will take care of my baby once it’s born and where I’ll go and how we will survive.

This experience we are about to have, the conditions and desperation we are about to encounter will feel as far from normal as we have probably ever known.

But we can’t wait.  If there is anything I have learned recently is that God shows up when I feel helpless and out of control.  It is during these times I have eyes that more clearly see Him at work.  I have a heart open to what he needs to speak into it.

So I ask you, where is your normal being challenged?

Where can you find God’s hand in your story right now?

What is he teaching you?

Whether your lack of “normal” was a choice (like ours) or unexpectedly happened to you, I hope that you can find some peace as you wrestle through this time. Whether it is temporary or permanent, I pray that you will see God’s handiwork in the plan of changing your heart to rely more on Him and less on you.  These are certainly the lessons He has taught me.

God bless you,

~Amy

 

 

 

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