Am I Beautiful?

I was putting her to bed the usual way, with a song and prayer.

Suddenly, my four year-old daughter made a pouty face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, stopping the song mid-line.

“You sing prettier than me,” she sulked. And then, as if it added insult to injury: “You sing prettier than me and are more beautiful than me.”

I must admit I found my daughter’s comparison of herself to me — at the age of four no less — sobering and a little disturbing. That she would already feel some need to compete in the beauty and talent department with another female saddened me. It also made me realize how innate those feelings can be.

I already knew she was tuned into recognizing and valuing beauty — in nature and in other people. And most days after picking out her clothes, she comes down to the kitchen to ask what probably every woman has wondered at some point, “Am I beautiful?” But this new revelation of comparison and competition made me think deeper about the message of beauty I want my daughter to receive.

Join me over at Ungrind to finish reading

Image Credit: Ungrind.org

Ava Claire

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I was due January 5th. I didn't think I'd last that long, but I didn't imagine that our new bundle of joy would arrive on Christmas Day!

But arrive she did, and what a sweet Christmas surprise! I still can barely believe we have another baby in the house. She gets showered with love everyday by her siblings, who are excited to have her join our family.

We have enjoyed the Christmas break and Josh being home from work. We're thankful for my mom who has helped out and family that were in from out of town who got to meet Ava. And we're super thankful for the amazing meals so many wonderful friends have been dropping off!

We're getting used to our new normal and loving almost every minute of it.

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A Humble Heart

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AdorationofShepherds

Inconvenient.

If ever there was an inconvenient pregnancy, it was Mary’s. Her pregnancy was not only miraculous; it put her in a tenuous situation. As a virgin engaged to be married—worse case scenario—Mary could have been stoned to death.

There’s so much I wonder about. What did her parents say? When she went away to visit Elizabeth for three months and came back starting to show how did she deal with the gossip? Did she remain silent or did she share the angel’s message? Was she laughed at and ridiculed? After all, even her betrothed, Joseph didn’t believe her story at first (Matt. 1:20–21).

I wish I knew the details. Don't you?

Join me today over at FortheFamily.org as I take a look at Mary's humble response to the inconvenience of motherhood.

Prepare Him Room

I met Christie when we were both contributors over at Pick Your Portion. Her writing stood out, stirring and beautiful. I started following her personal blog. Then her Instagram. Then I discovered she lived an easy hour's drive away from me.

That sealed the deal. We had to meet.

Christie generously invited me over to her lovely farmhouse for homemade pizza on a Friday night. It was lovely to make a personal connection with another writer-soul: to talk books, writing, God, and gardens.

Today I'm honored to be sharing my advent thoughts over at her blog today, which has been hosting a month-long advent series.

This is what has been rattling around in my mind the past month of expecting in the month of the ultimate Expectation:

Joy to the World! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her king; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing…”

The song is so familiar that I barely notice the lyrics. I stream it from iTunes while making dinner. But suddenly these words cause me to pause:

Let every heart prepare him room.

This December I am great with child.

My belly is swollen with a child that thumps and kicks and pulsates life. Three weeks out from the due date we are preparing room. The crib is set up; the clothes are washed and stacked in neat rows in a freshly painted white dresser. I’ve been here before. The preparing and waiting. The waiting and preparing.

Continue reading over at christiepurifoy.com

(Image credit: Kelli Campbell from The Zinnia Patch)

Why My Kids Don't Come First

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Remember Everyone loves Raymond? One of my favorite characters, Marie, was the matriarch of the family. Passive aggressive and manipulative, she made sure the lives of her adult children revolved around her. She often made their lives miserable with her meddling, resulting in over-the-top dysfunctional family dynamics.

Although Marie cracked me up with her antics, I wouldn’t pick her as a role model!

She kept a neat house, was a good cook, and devoted herself to her children, but Marie’s priorities were off. She believed she was dedicating herself exclusively to her children even into adulthood, but in reality, she sought her identity in them,  and the result was that she emotionally suffocated them.

So how do we avoid the pitfalls of Marie?

Would you join me over at For the Family? Would love to hear your thoughts on this article.

Too Much Comfort?

(Image Credit: Start Marriage Right)

My husband and I both love dramas.

We’re foodies and enjoy a delicious dinner at a fabulous restaurant.

Our favorite vacations are spent at the beach.

From crafts to rehabbing an entire house, DIY is the way we roll.

We enjoy spending a quiet night reading our favorite books, although I love fiction and he likes non-fiction best.

We share a love of music and art.

The phrase opposites attract doesn’t really mean much to us, because quite frankly, we’re kinda like two peas in a pod.

Continue reading at Start Marriage Right . . . 

Honesty in the Little Things

“How do I look?” I asked, turning one last time in the mirror before getting ready to leave for church. “Hmmm, actually, I think those pants are a little tight,” said Josh, my husband.

We’d only been married about a year and this was the first time Josh had ever said anything negative about my clothes.

“Well, I’ve had these pants for years and wear them all the time. If they were tight, why have you never said anything before?” I shot back hotly.

“I don’t know,” Josh said. “Maybe I never noticed?”

“How could you not notice if they’re too tight on me?” I exclaimed. “And if you never noticed, maybe they’re actually not too tight!”

Josh looked confused. “Look, I don’t know about all of that, all I know is you asked me right now and I told you what I honestly thought. Why did you ask?”

“Because I thought I looked fine and was all ready to go and now I have to change!” I said angrily.

But even as I pulled a new pair of pants out of the closet I knew I was over reacting. I’d asked the question expecting a response of affirmation, not criticism. And I’d gotten an answer I didn’t expect.

To continue, join me at StartMarriageRight.com . . . 

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe {A Review}

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This winter I found myself in a bit of a low place. I often lost patience with the kids and was not disciplining effectively because of that. I would then feel guilty, ask forgiveness, try to start over. It seemed like a cycle with no end in sight. Homeschooling was harder and more draining than I anticipated, in our small house I felt like we were on top of each other all the time, and the winter blues were upon me. Deep down in my soul, I was struggling to find joy each day. The mundane just seemed to be crashing in and the days were a string of cold and grey.

During that time I picked up Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. The authors, Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae wrote a book that was life-giving and inspiring to me!

Desperate is written by a young mom (Sarah Mae) and a mom with grown-up children (Clarkson). Each chapter is constructed as a give and take between the two women, one from the point of view of being in the thick of child raising and the other looking back with grace and wisdom to offer. Primarily, this book is written to women with young children, but there is a lot of wisdom within it's pages for all mothers.

This book is not a how-to manual, a formula for parenting, nor is it particularly practical. While there are practical suggestions, I mainly found it inspiration to forge my own path as a mother by creating meaningful relationships with other women for support, creating a home with a unique family culture, realizing I have limitations, and staying close to Jesus and following His example for my life.

Mothering Mentors

In ages past, women were closely linked to the other women in their communities. Now, however, we can move to whatever city we like and not be known by those around us. We can have no close friends "in real life" and only be known by those virtually on Facebook. It is easy to live in isolation. Clarkson stresses the need for communities of women and for mentors:

"A woman alone in her home with her ideals eventually wears down and becomes a perfect target for Satan to discourage. Some women have journeyed alone for so long they are not even aware of their urgent need for mentors, friends, peers, and fellowship."

She encourages women to make friends with peers, as well as older women who can offer encouragement, and younger women who need friends. Clarkson doesn't let me feel sorry for myself if I feel unincluded by others: "I have had to start almost every group to which I have ever belonged," Clarkson writes. "One of the first lessons I learned was not to be discouraged if others did not invite me. In this individualistic culture where everyone is too busy and overwhelmed with life, the groups in which we find community will inevitably be the groups we start ourselves."

Family Culture

I appreciated the emphasis on creating my own family culture. Although I love social media, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and Instagram may tempt me to compare my way of life with someone else's and end up feeling like mine doesn't measure up. I may feel like an underachiever, uncreative, and unable to multi-task if I constantly look at what other families are doing through the lens of comparison.

"Every family's puzzle will be different," Clarkson wisely reminds me. "We can only please God if we listen to His call on our lives. Each of us has a different personality, different strengths and limitations, and different passions and stewardships. God gives us great freedom to exercise wisdom and authority in order to rule over our lives and make the productive for our own families."

Clarkson encourages deep thinking and planning of your own family culture. What do I want to instill in my children? "God has made each couple with the freedom to create their own family culture."

Limitations

Another theme was to live "within the limitations of our own personalities." Today's cultural message--especially to women--is to be everything to everyone. Work successfully, have time for yourself, raise children, volunteer, have a hobby, exercise everyday, and the list goes on. But the fact is there is only so much time in one day. Different people have different capacities for the amount they do and the level of stress they can operate effectively under. We can not do it all.

"It is vitally important for women to learn how to think biblically for themselves instead of being enslaved to other people's thoughts and opinions. To truly follow God with everything in our lives, we must learn to develop discernment."

Instead of seeing limitations as a negative, Clarkson sees them in a positive light: "You have your personality for a reason--probably for the special work He has for you to do in this world. We have great freedom to live within the confines of our own personalities. The more we learn to accept our own limitations, and the limitation and vulnerabilities of our children, the more able we will be to give our children from our strengths, rather than our weaknesses. Our happiness spills over into our parenting and creates children who feel loved and accepted."

Follow Jesus

Desperate encourages us mom's to "unpackage" the evidences of God's love in the mundane moments of motherhood. The book also reminds me that the very act of mothering is an act of worship to God. Although it may not feel like it, it is a spiritual service. Clarkson encourages women to not look to others, but to Jesus as the source of our inspiration to parent by looking at "the way Jesus was willing to lay aside His life to serve and love His disciples and those around Him, and to invest in their lives."

Clarkson also reminds me that I will fail, again and again, but that through this very work of mothering God "shapes us into His own images along the way." She shares that she learned to "live in the reality of Romans 8:1-2: 'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.' "

Although I'm sure that I will continue to have some of the same struggles I had over the winter in the future, Desperate, has inspired me to be more purposeful in this mothering journey. To find other women who can speak into my life, to create my own unique family culture, to live within the limitations that are specific to me (and not apologize for them), as well as to have a vital, living relationship with Jesus.

For this I'm grateful.

Mary: A Humble Heart

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In 2011 I wrote a series entitled With Child: Meditation on the Meaning of Motherhood. Great with child myself, I wanted to look deeper into the lives of women in the Bible who experienced motherhood and glean from their lives. With Christmas soon upon us, I thought it would be great to look back at the lives of two women who figure into the Christmas story: Elisabeth and Mary.  So I'm reposting an updated version of Mary's story. I hope you find it meaningful.

Inconvenient.

If ever there was an inconvenient pregnancy, it was Mary’s. Her pregnancy was not only miraculous; it put her in a tenuous situation. As a virgin engaged to be married—worse case scenario—Mary could have been stoned to death.

There’s so much I wonder about. What did her parents say? When she went away to visit Elizabeth for three months and came back starting to show how did she deal with the gossip? Did she remain silent or did she share the angel’s message? Was she laughed at and ridiculed? After all, even her betrothed, Joseph didn’t believe her story at first (Matt. 1:20-21).

I wish I knew the details. But what I do know is that Mary did not bring up these potential challenges and fears to the angel who visited her that miraculous day. Although they certainly must have come crashing into her mind the minute the angel told her she’d conceive a child.

What she did blurt out was, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

After receiving Gabriel’s answer, she responds with incredible humility:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

John MacArthur writes about Mary’s response in Twelve Extraordinary Women: “There’s no evidence that Mary ever brooded over the effects her pregnancy would have on her reputation. She instantly, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will without further doubt or question. She could hardly have had a more godly response to the announcement of Jesus’ birth. It demonstrated that she was a young woman of mature faith and one who was a worshiper of the true God.”

How I long to respond to the inconveniences in my life like Mary. I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.

Motherhood is all about inconvenience. The physical discomfort of a swelling body is just the beginning. Then comes the intensity of labor. Next up is late night feedings, poopy diapers, and perhaps inconsolable crying? The reality that one’s life really isn’t one’s own anymore. Of course, joy is experienced in every one of those situations, but sometimes, it’s also just plain inconvenient.

Even the smallest inconvenience can sometimes send me for a tailspin. In the midst of writing this very post, my boys woke up much earlier than usual from their naps, crying. My natural tendency is not to be happy to see them when interrupted like that. This is my time, after all. They’re invading it. They’re, well, inconvenient. My mother’s heart does not naturally desire to sacrifice for them. I don’t want to give up the time that I thought was allotted to me.

For Mary, the high honor of being the mother of the Jesus came with inconveniences that would culminate in great suffering. Gien Karssen puts it this way: “She was being given the opportunity to subject her motherly desires to the will of God.”

She did this by giving birth in a stable. Fleeing to Egypt while toddlers were slain by order of royal edict, because king was looking for her son (can you imagine living with that knowledge?). Having Jesus leave his family after 30 years to accomplish his earthly ministry and not have access to him as she had before. Experiencing the pain of family turmoil because her other sons not believe Jesus was the Christ. And then the ultimate pain of seeing her son crucified. Indeed, the sword would pierce her side, just as Simeon prophesied.

But her example in all of this was one of humility. Of being aware the story wasn’t really about her in the first place. It was about Him. And this is not more evident than in the fact that Mary herself was a disciple of Christ.

Gien Karssen recaps Mary’s life beautifully when she writes that Mary experienced “unknown pinnacles of happiness. At the same time she had experienced deep heart sorrows which no other woman has or ever will encounter. But her attitude toward God hadn’t changed. She had proven with her life that she meant the words she spoke when the Messiah was announced, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I will do whatever He desires.’”

I pray that would be my humble response too—not only motherhood—but in all of life.

Would you be willing to share an area of life where God is calling you to submit with humility to His plans for you? Perhaps it's an area you'd have orchestrated differently, had you been in control.

To dig deeper into the story, read Luke 1-2