Margin: Making Room for Me

I keep my heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

I was so tired. It was early still, only 9:30 pm. I had just tucked the kids in bed. Usually that’s when I’d go downstairs and read or watch something until 11:00 or so, but that particular night I was simply exhausted. So, I decided to go to bed early. The only problem was that once my head hit the pillow, instead of falling asleep, I almost instantly felt my chest tighten with anxiety. There was a heaviness I felt that was almost oppressive. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why at first. It’s almost as if I had been feeling that way all day but I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge it until I finally got quiet and still.

It seems to happen that way to me; when I get quiet is when I notice the feelings and emotions that I subconsciously try to suppress. It’s at that time when my body speaks to me and communicates what I’m trying to ignore mentally.

I was tense so I started to reflect and pray that God would show me what was the root of the problem, and a few thoughts came to mind.

One was that I had recently celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday and instead of being excited over a day filled with fun, I spent the day dwelling on the fact that I have less time left on earth to accomplish my goals. I became even more aware of how quickly life was flashing before my eyes on that day. Another year down. Don’t get me wrong, 34 was good to me. A big year for our family; we adopted three girls my thirty-fourth year of life, three sisters. It’s a year that I will never forget. But boy, did it go fast! I used to think that only old people said that time went fast. I didn’t understand what they meant until now.  Lately, it seems as if time is slipping through my fingers like sand through an hourglass. It was getting away from me and I wanted to chase after it; catch it and bottle it up, but I couldn’t. It was like a river that had swept me up in it’s current, pushing me forward with no way to stop.

My mind was focusing on the negative instead of the positive, which is a never a good thing.

I have work to do, I thought. Work that I feel a deep desire to accomplish, but I wasn’t getting anything done because taking care of my family and home is all consuming. My mom job is never, ever over. The amount of work it takes to keep my home running smoothly is actually overwhelming to me at times. There is rarely a moment where I feel I can rest because I am drowning in piles of laundry, dishes, and dust bunnies.

When I try to do something that I enjoy, something that breathes life into my soul, I am quickly interrupted. So I end up feeling frustrated, and stifled by an endless list of to-dos.

For me, anxiety and worry creep in when I’m not managing my schedule well. If I don’t prioritize the things that are important to me, I get stressed. And it’s crucial for us to set boundaries and live a life with intention to be emotionally healthy.

Our schedule is sacred. Boundaries are critical. Our schedule is a reflection of what is most important to us. Maybe you need to put yourself on the schedule. As parents, we often put ourselves on the back-burner and then we wonder why we’re worn out and anxious.

What fills you up and brings you joy? What makes you feel alive? Whatever that is, put it on your calendar. Make room for you. If you don’t know what you enjoy, find out, create, explore, get out of your comfort zone, try something new. You are worth it! And your family will get the best version of you when you take care of yourself. You will become happier which will make them happier. It’s okay to leave things undone once in a while.

It’s important to schedule quality time with God, your spouse, and your kids. Schedule time with friends, time to do what you love–something that makes you feel excitement and breathes life into your soul. Create your schedule based upon goals and what is most important to you. I’ve noticed that when I stick to my schedule, I feel at peace. My life has balance and order. Time management in life and in our schedule protects us mentally and emotionally. And that’s God’s heart for you. John 10:10 says that “the thief comes to steal kill and destroy; but I come so that you may enjoy life and live it to the full.”

My prayer for you is that you will live your life to the full. Enjoy this journey you’re on. Take care of yourself. Seek God and live a life of balance. Make time to do the things that bring you joy. Use your gifts and talents, spend time with loved ones, create, explore, get out of your comfort zone and be at peace. You are worth it!

 

Our Adoption Story Part 1: Desire

It’s funny how God works. Even as a little girl I remember saying that I wanted to adopt children. I didn’t know any families who had adopted but I thought, “why would I have my own kids when there are so many children out there who need a home?” I was just a little girl, I didn’t know anything. But I never forgot what I said and I meant it with all of my heart. It’s as if even as babes God deposits in us a little spark or desire that is from him. And as we travel through life little by little he blows on that spark until it becomes a flame.  And the flame is that desire that is so strong that it compels us to take action. His word says that we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them- Ephesians 2:10.

Time went on. I got married. My husband and I got pregnant two months after we were wed. And I was sick as a dog. I mean, I felt like I had the worst flu of my life for the entire pregnancy. Finally, after getting pregnant with our third child I knew I never wanted to be pregnant again. There was no way that I could take care of my three little ones through another pregnancy. It was shortly after that when I was reading the Bible and James 1:27 jumped off the page at me. It said “true religion in the heart of God is caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” And at that moment I knew, God was asking me to care for orphans.

Mama: The Unsung Hero

Train the young women to love their husbands and children. To be self controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God might not be reviled. Titus 2:4-5

We all want it, to be important, to matter. To feel like we are making a difference in the world. Or at least I did…

I wanted to feel significant. I wanted my one and only life to count for something. This fact became glaringly obvious to me the day that my kids had to enter a writing contest in honor of Martin Luther King Day for school. The assignment was for them to write about someone who is a “Servant Leader.” All of my kids chose to write about the same person, their dad. Of course they did, my husband is amazing! He was the obvious choice. He has a cool job. He has a way more interesting life than me. He works in law enforcement and gets to do exciting things- like go on stakeouts and put bad guys in jail. Truth be told, I’m jealous of his job.

Me, I’m just a stay-at-home mom. When my husband and I meet new people and I tell them what “I do” with my time you can see their eyes almost instantly glaze over with boredom while moving on to ask my husband what he does. As he tells them what his position is, their faces light up with interest, tell me more! “I bet you’ve got some good stories!” My husband is instantly the cool kid in the room while I fade into the background becoming little more than his shadow.

Moms, we can feel like that sometimes; like the people in the background on the stage of life. The unsung hero. The un-noticed one. We’re the unseen. Working hard at helping everyone else succeed.

But the truth is that God sees you. Every selfless act. Every time you laid down what you wanted to do so that the other person could get what they wanted. Letting any selfish ambition fall to the wayside. Every sleepless night and ho-hum day. You keep going. You stay faithful to the call of motherhood. Waking every morning and caring for your family. Choosing to be expectant and thankful for the gift of children to raise. Because in the grand scheme of things, titles and prestige really don’t matter. God and people are what matters. Relationships matter. And if you’re a mom, you get to pour your life into the very things that are close to God’s heart- people, family, children, the next generation. My family has been entrusted to me to care for. That is an honor and gift. Your family has been entrusted to you. Raising them is one of our God-given assignments. Embrace it.

We are raising the next generation and our job may not be glamorous or impressive, but it matters. You were chosen to be the mother of your kids so do it with all of your heart.

Let’s not allow discontentment or the need for significance rob us of today. Enjoy this season. Make the most of it because soon it will pass. You’ll have time to chase your dreams one day but this day lets celebrate motherhood. Lets make memories, have fun and go on adventures with our young ones.

Your time will come, mama. But right now it’s their time. Our children’s time to grow and learn. To be nurtured and loved. They need us. They need you. To kiss their owies and build their confidence. To read them bedtime stories and say prayers.

You can do this mama. For the sake of our children and the sake of our future. You can be the unsung hero.

 

 

 

Unforeseen Victory

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into it’s sheath; shall I not drink the cup that is given to me?” John 18:10-11

Fight, flight or freeze. How do you respond when you feel threatened? I’ll admit it, I’m a fighter, all the way. I’m not proud of it but it’s true. If there’s one thing that gets me riled up and ready to fight more than anything it’s seeing my babies suffer. I’m a mama to six precious kids. The more kids you have the greater the odds are that something’s going to go wrong. Watching one of them hurt kills me. It’s like my kryptonite. You can pick on me all you want but mess with my babies and watch out cause the mama bear inside of me might just unleash.

The thing is, I love them so much that I want to protect them from anything that could cause them to hurt. Because of that, I come to their rescue a little more than I should, okay maybe a lot more than I should. I’m a fixer, If it’s with in my control to fix their problem, I do what I can to help. But I realize that there are some things that they must go through on their own in order to learn and grow.

And there are some things that are simply out of my control; like the time my six year old had to have a simple out-patient procedure but the doctor made a mistake inside of his little body that created a blockage further damaging his one and only kidney. Which caused my little boy to undergo four other procedures and one major operation in order to get well again.

That was definitely not my favorite season of life. It was hard. I hated that there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. He wanted me to fix it, but there was nothing I could do. He had to endure the pain of the procedures in order to be fully healed. I hated to see him suffer. I wished I could take his pain away but he had to go through it to be healthy again.

Sometimes we have to walk through storms in life to get to our victory.

Jesus knew he had to endure the pain and suffering of the cross to redeem us from darkness. He didn’t want to to go through it.  He agonized over it all night. Sleepless and alone, but you were worth it to him.

I can relate to Peter. Peter loved Jesus the way that I love my babies. He wanted to protect Jesus from the pain of the cross. I can picture it now, as Jesus was with his disciples in the olive grove called Gethsemane. He stayed there knowing that Judas had gone to betray him. He waited there in the garden knowing the temple guards would come.  As the mob of Roman soldiers and Jewish servants confronted Jesus and his disciples on that dark eerie night, Peter was fearful and threatened. Desperate to protect Jesus, he quickly pulled out his knife and, without thinking, lunged toward the soldier’s face. The man moved fast enough that Peter only cut his ear, slicing it clean off.  Jesus doesn’t want to be fought for. He knew that what He was about to endure, as much as he didn’t want to go through it, was necessary for the sake of you and me.

You see, the kingdom of God feels backwards at best. It goes against our human instincts.

We want to hurt our enemies instead of love them. We want to fight when we’re fought against. The thing is, in the end love wins. Love trumps all. The only way to overcome evil is with good.

We win in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s by being un-chosen rather than chosen. By sharing our failures rather than our successes. By letting the other person have their way instead of fighting for your own. By lowering ourselves to serve with humility rather than fighting for positions of power at the top. By receiving an insult and meeting it with a compliment.

Humility is the channel in which all other Godly virtues flow through. Jesus defeated Satan in the most unlikely of ways. It was so unlikely that Satan actually helped Jesus win by enticing Judas to betray him. Satan never saw Jesus’ victory coming.

Oftentimes our struggles propel us forward. It’s our pain that catapults us or positions us to fill our destiny. God can use your enemies, opposition, hurts and failures to launch you straight into God’s will.

He can turn your ashes into beauty. Oftentimes, the most beautiful stories are created in seasons of pain.

My prayer for you is that you will stay close to Jesus; follow Him step-by-step and let Him lead you. Even if you don’t understand where He’s taking you,  let Him use your story for His glory.

Stop Praying For Open Doors

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

I knew what it was that God wanted me to do, or at least I thought I did. I felt a longing, a nudge. It was almost like a nagging feeling that I should be doing this one particular thing.

What I felt Him calling me to do was exciting but intimidating at the same time. That’s usually the way it is when God calls you to do something. It feels big and scary. The odd thing about it is, you will be more at peace when you are doing that big and scary thing than you will be not doing it.

When you do what God created you to do, you experience peace that passes understanding. We fight against it because often times what we were created to do feels border-line impossible to achieve.

When you feed the dream that God has given you, you feel settled but if you ignore the dream you feel anxious, restless even. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I had no clue how to get started. Eventually, I spent so  much time thinking about what I should be doing instead of doing it, I became paralyzed. I had a restlessness in my soul all because I refused to feed the dream. If you starve the dream for too long, eventually it will die.

I dragged my feet and prayed for so much confirmation, it’s almost embarrassing to admit. I started to pursue other endevours, jobs and roles that seemed easier and more acceptable. I offered God part-time obedience and expected full-time blessing.

I was willing to settle for less than God’s best. All because I didn’t want to take risks or put in the hard work it would take to achieve the God-sized dream. I’d pray for open doors and opportunities for play-it-safe kinds of roles. But along the way I’d say, “if it’s not your will Lord, then please make it clear. Slam the door in my face. Make it obvious to me. Make my path straight”. When God slammed the door in my face, the door to my easy way out, I was hurt, embarrassed and offended. I’d cry and sulk, thinking, ‘how could you do this to me Jesus?’ When all God did was give me exactly what I’d been praying for: direction and clarity of my calling. The truth was I wanted clarity in a less painful way. I wanted clarity through open doors instead of closed ones.

God speaks just as much through closed doors as He does through open doors.

God closes more doors than He opens. It’s one of the ways He keeps our path straight.

Shut doors bring clarity and direction. They make what you should be doing rise to the surface and the things that are wasting your time and energy sink to the bottom.

The truth is, a God-sized dream will be way to big to ever achieve with out Him.  It will require His help and miracles along the way. It will require His provision, divine connections and providence to make it come true. He has an appointed time for the dream to take place. If we are obedient and start taking steps in the right direction, He will be faithful to lead us along the way. He will delight in seeing your excitement as you watch the dream unfold with each step you take.

 

 

 

 

 

Stand Up! Even if You’re Standing Alone.

We must obey God before man– Acts 5:29

There’s something about wanting to be liked… it’s human nature. A crippling need deep inside of us that longs for other’s approval.

Standing up for what you believe requires risk. If you have a strong opinion about something and start voicing it, then you’re taking a chance. Naturally, there will be some people who agree with you and like you even more. While others won’t agree with you, deciding that maybe they don’t like you so much after all. They may even decide to unfriend or unfollow you on social media over a difference in opinion. Therefore, we keep quiet because we are controlled by what other people think of us.

But aren’t we as Christ-followers called to live before an audience of one? Aren’t we called to be a voice for the voiceless and to break the barriers of injustice?

There’s something freeing about letting go of needing approval. It’s like unlocking the chains that have kept you in bondage. When you don’t care what people think of you, you are free to speak what God is stirring inside of you.

People who make history are not ruled or dictated by other people’s opinions about them. God calls certain people to stand up against injustices. He calls some to be an advocate for change, to make progress, to make a shift in culture. Jesus prayed, “God may your kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven”. To make earth more heavenly, change must take place.

God brings about change by working through obedient believers who are completely surrendered to His will and the leading of His Spirit. Is God calling you to be a voice for change?

Just think of all the men and women who have gone before us who were brave enough to take a stand on an issue that was bigger than themselves. They understood what they were called to fight against was more important than their very lives. I think of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, as well as Jesus and his disciples.

One thing they all had in common was that there were people trying to keep them quiet. They endured threats and were berated. The religious leaders of the day tried to keep Jesus quiet because he didn’t fit their stereotypical mold. He was not the Messiah that they had envisioned in their legalistic minds. The Pharisees tried to keep Peter and all the other disciples silent too. They were given strict orders not to teach in the name of Jesus. What if the disciples gave into the threats that were made by religious leaders? What if the fear of being imprisoned, tortured and crucified had a stronger grip on them than the gospel did?

You and I as Christians are called to something that is bigger than ourselves Let’s stand up for what’s right! Stand up for equality! Let us refuse to be ruled and governed by what people think of us. Let us instead be ruled and governed by pleasing the Holy Spirit.

To say what you think involves risk.  If you’re wrestling with whether or not to take a stand, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.

Do you believe God is calling you to speak up? Is what you have to say worth the cost?  If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions:  Is this cause worth fighting for?  For the sake of my children and my children’s children?  Would society be better if this change were to take place? Are there people who are not being valued based on their gender, culture or ethnicity differences? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then will you prayerfully consider being a voice for change in Jesus’ name?

How to Help Your Kids Take Responsibility for Their Actions

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.- Proverbs 29:11

It was just one of those days. My boys were at it again! They are best friends but sometimes they are also each other’s worst enemies.  And here they go, fighting like cats and dogs! To make matters worse, they each had a friend over witnessing this ugly fight unfold. There they sat–four boys, nestled in front of the TV playing a video game. My older son, more advanced at the game, killed my younger son’s character in order to get ahead. My younger son, frustrated by being killed yet again, exploded. World War Three broke out in front of my very eyes. I had no choice but to send their friends home. There were tears, hurt feelings and boy, was it awkward for everyone!

I took a deep breath and said a silent prayer.  Separating the boys, I asked them each to prayerfully consider their part in the feud.

After they cooled down, I met with each son separately.  Before giving any further correction, I told each son I loved him regardless of his behavior and I prayed with him. This broke down defensive walls, allowing us to get to the heart of the issue.

Anger begets anger. If I attempted to talk with them while angry, it would only add fuel to the fire, making matters worse. Once I waited and spoke to them from a place of love and grace,  it set the stage for growth, healing, and restoration which allowed them to become receptive to correction.

Say Yes to Being Used

I was a young woman when I was first asked to teach the word. It was not a big fancy invitation. It was a simple request from a pastor at my church. I have to admit, when he first asked me, I was scared! Like, shaking in my boots kind of scared. I would be speaking at our church’s “young marrieds” retreat. And to say that I felt inadequate would be an understatement. Not only was I one of the youngest people at the retreat, but out of all the people in attendance, I had been married for the shortest amount of time. I thought to myself, what did “I” have to teach them? These people are older and probably wiser than me. But I had been asked and after giving it some prayer I felt that the Lord wanted me to say yes.

After a few months passed, the time had come.

The night before my talk I couldn’t sleep. It was fear that kept me awake. I had thoughts running through my mind like ‘what if I’m too nervous to even speak a word? What if I forget what to say? What if I make a complete fool of myself?’ I thought, ‘Oh Lord, what did I get myself into?’

I stayed up the whole night begging God to show up and speak through me.

The next morning came and a miracle happened. Jesus did show up! I knew that He was not only with me, but He was giving me the ability to speak. I could feel His Spirit working in and though me, it was the best and most rewarding experience of my life!

The reason it was such an amazing experience is because of the closeness that I felt to God while speaking and teaching His word. There is absolutely nothing that can compare to the sweetness of being close to Him.

I’ve found since then that I feel closest to God when I’m doing His work. Which has made me to want to do His work more and more.

From that day on, my deepest prayer and cry of my heart began to be “Use me. God, use me, in any way that you see fit. I say yes to you. All I need is your Spirit to enable me. If you give me that, I have everything”.

My hope for you is, that you will pray “use me” prayers, the kind that take you out of your comfort zone. He has a great adventure that awaits you, if you will simply say yes to being used by him!

What is God asking you to say yes to today?

 

 

Are You Feeling Forgotten by God?

Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and in due season He will exalt you. 1 Peter 5:6

I was sitting on my couch trying to have some time spent with Jesus, but I was distracted. This particular morning I wasn’t feeling thankful or filled with any expectant hope. I know that I do have SO much to be thankful for and felt guilty for even feeling that way on top of it! I have plenty to look forward to, but for some reason this particular day I was wondering if my best days were behind me. I was trying not to give in to a full blown pity party. I was thinking of all the times I had missed opportunities or had been passed up for someone else. I was feeling old. My back hurt. And to top things off, I’ve had a pinched nerve in my lower back for months. I had a horrible cold. It hurt to move. I was feeling fat, very fat! You know, when you don’t feel well physically, you often start not feeling well mentally.

But after I took a moment and dug a little deeper, I realized I had been feeling that way for a long time.  Just kind of down.  It was starting to impact my outlook on life. My hopes and dreams were starting to fade away like a distant horizon I would never see come to pass. It felt like every time I turned around someone was getting a promotion or opportunities to live out their dreams. They seemed happy, living in the promised land of abundance with a perfect marriage, amazing health, plenty of money, and high esteem from the community. I was seeing their highlight reel on Facebook and believing that their life was perfect and that they were God’s favorite while I was his forgotten child or the one who was not good enough to be used by Him. I felt that I had offered my life for His service and He said “no thank you.”

But I know the truth is that my emotions will lie to me every time and the devil would love nothing more than for me to give into discouragement and despair and believe the lies that my emotions serve me on a silver platter.

The truth is, just because someone else is having success doesn’t mean that I can’t have success too.

Just because it doesn’t look like God is working doesn’t mean that He isn’t working. He is preparing you even when it doesn’t feel like it. If you are suffering, if you are in some sort of emotional pain then chances are you are growing. And pain accompanied with purpose is a powerful thing.

God has not forgotten you.

Just remember all the great men who were given a God-sized dream or promise and held on when they had absolutely no reason in the natural realm to believe it would come to fruition. Abraham and Sarah were told they’d have a child when they were well past the child-bearing age, Joseph was shown he’d have a position of great power and high esteem but ended up as a slave and falsely accused and imprisoned. Moses was called to deliver the Jews from slavery, but ended up being a lowly Shepard for forty years first. David was anointed king twenty years before it ever came to fruition and had to live his life on the run and hide in caves because the current king was so jealous of him.

Even after all the time that these men spent waiting, God never forgot them. He knew exactly where they were when the appointed time came.

So today, lets choose to enjoy life now and be fully present with our loved ones. Lets make the most of each day and not wait for our dreams to come true to be happy. Lets be happy while we wait.

 

 

 

Leaving the Wilderness and Entering the Promised Land

 

For the Lord your God is bringing you in to a good land, a land in which you will eat with out scarcity, in which you will lack nothing- Deuteronomy 8:7

As soon as our plane landed in Seattle, I knew I wouldn’t like it there. It was dark and dank with a constant mist in the air that left me damp and cold. But it was where my husband got his first “real” job so we had to go. I grew up in southern California and then moved to Las Vegas in my teens, so I had known nothing but sunshine up to that point. Once we settled in, I realized how incredibly lonely I felt. Most days the weather matched my mood: dark, rainy and dismal. I felt trapped indoors. I was in the throes of parenting with a two year old and a baby on the way and no support system to speak of locally. My husband worked long hours. He left early in the morning when it was still dark, he came home after dark too-tired and worn out from the day. The commute for him was long but necessary due to the fact that we couldn’t afford anything close to his work.  The days for me were difficult and dragged on. I remember praying and begging God to get me out of there for four long years. But His answer was always ‘no.’ I didn’t understand it at the time, not even a little bit. But now, looking back, I can see all that God did inside of me during those dark years.

I think of that season now like my own wilderness experience. Much like the Israelites who were rescued from slavery only to find themselves wandering the desert for forty years, facing confusion, fear and scarcity. We not only were lacking financially but relationally and spiritually as well. During those wilderness years God was not only humbling me, but testing me, and most importantly, teaching me to rely solely on Him and His word. Would He be enough for me during those hard times? Would I doubt His goodness or faithfulness or His ability to help? Or would I stay faithful to Him and obey Him even when I was disappointed and confused.

The sooner that we learn the lessons that God is trying to teach us, the sooner we can move from the wilderness in to the promised land.

Finally, after four long years of being miserable, I decided to embrace where I lived. I accepted it.  I surrendered my need to move away from the gloom and embraced my place completely. I began to serve in multiple ministries and cultivated real friendships.  I started to focus on all that we had instead of all that we lacked. I had a change of heart towards God, choosing to believe that His plans were better than mine and that He could be trusted. One year later, a miracle happened. Just like that, my husband was given a new job opportunity that required a move to the sunny state of Arizona.

All along I thought I was waiting on God but it turns out He was really waiting on me. Waiting on me to learn the lessons that I so desperately needed to learn.

Maybe today you feel like you’re in a wilderness season. A season of fear or scarcity that you can’t seem to break free from. If you can relate, let me encourage you that a new day is coming. God will lead you to your promised land. Whatever that may be for you, a land of abundance. A land where dreams come true and relationships are rich. If you’re in a wilderness season right now, hang on! Don’t give up. Do your best to embrace the place and season that you are in. Keep trusting that God is good. After all, you are called to the place that He has you in. We may not like the place that He has us but we can serve God anywhere. There are always needs to be met and people to help if we only take our eyes off of ourselves and look around us.