home about kay where kays going topics by kay contact

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dancing with Scarlett

A friend and I are driving into Tucson to see Gone With the Wind on the big screen next week. I can't wait! I thought for about 10 minutes about rereading Margaret Mitchell's book in preparation. Then I remembered that I went through a full box of tissues when I read it the first time and decided against it.

I am anticipating both the movie and the experience. We're eating lunch out before we catch the flick, so I've already decided that I'll postpone buying my popcorn and Diet Coke until the intermission. Isn't an intermission just so fun?

And I've already been reflecting on my favorite scenes from the movie. I love the opening with Mr. O'Hara surveying his cotton fields. And then don't we all love seeing Scarlett sitting on the front porch steps of Tara with all her beaus swooning over her? All except Ashley, that is.

I'm also especially fond of the scene where Scarlett and the ladies of Atlanta are hosting a ball or gala of some sort for the war effort. Scarlett is in mourning attire in honor of her late husband who has died on the battlefield. But, while she watches the dancing from the sidelines, we catch a glimpse of her toes tapping to the music underneath all of her petticoats. She's in mourning (sort of), but she's itching to dance! And dance she does! With Rhett Butler! Shamelessly!

Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Others are appalled at her dancing in mourning clothes, but you know Scarlett! Fiddle-dee-dee!

Now Scarlett was mourning on the outside with her heavy black gown, but in her heart of hearts she was pining for Ashley. The only thing making Scarlett sad was that Melanie was wed to her beloved Ashley instead of her.

But you may indeed be mourning. You probably are not wearing all black, but your days may feel dark and your mood may be heavy and solemn. Loss is hard. Change is hard. Hurt is hard. And there are times when indeed our hearts feel like they will literally break. In fact, there are times when we feel like we are truly broken. And we wonder if we'll ever feel whole again, much less feel joyful, happy.

Grief takes time. And it includes so many ups and downs; sometimes it seems perpetual and eternal. We imagine that we will surely carry this dull and weighty ache in our hearts every day for the rest of our lives. At certain stages in grief, we even feel like we're supposed to be sad forevermore, that it would be disrespectful or disingenuous to be otherwise. At other times we try desperately to lift our own spirits or at least to somehow ignore the constant ache...but we just can't.

In Psalm 30, David reminds us that God always brings us through our times of mourning into times of refreshing and joy:

Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
(vs. 5b)

Thou has turned for me my mourning into dancing; 
Thou has loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness;
That my soul may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever.
(vs. 11-12)

Read those verses one more time, this time looking for the extreme contrasts David draws. Could that be right? Can a mourner (not the Scarlett O'Hara brand, but a genuine and sorrowful mourner) truly go from weeping to shouting for joy? Can you really go from mourning to dancing? Dancing??? Was David taking poetic license here? Or is he serious?

Knowing David, the demonstrative, dancing king, he literally meant the Lord had lifted his spirits so much that he indeed left his sackcloth behind, donned his dancing duds and took to the dance floor.

I believe God can do that for you and me, too. And I have no idea what or who you have lost. I understand the loss of a child is the toughest to be borne, but I haven't experienced that. So I do not pretend to know the depth of your pain, whatever is causing you to mourn.

But I do know the power and depth and love and grace and goodness of our God. And I know He has the power not just to change circumstances, but to change hearts, lifting and soothing and healing and restoring and, yes, infusing with supernatural and splendid joy.

You may mourn today. And if you do, cry into the welcome arms of your Savior. He truly cares. Cry and vent and hurt. Allow Him to press in on your wounds and stop the bleeding. Allow His Word to soothe you like the balm it is. And rest, sweet friend, in His strong embrace. There is a time for mourning. You, unlike Scarlett, may indeed need to take the time to mourn.

But know this. You will dance again. Maybe not later today. Maybe not tomorrow or even next month or the next. But one day, by the grace of God, you will dance again. And when you do, remember Psalm 30:12, and give a shout out to the One who has restored your joy.

Maybe, like Scarlett, you already feel your toes tapping and you're just afraid to get out on the dance floor for fear of relapse or being misunderstood or letting go. Let your sweet Savior take you by the hand and lead you out to a wide open place where joy comes in the morning. Kick up your heels and dance the Cotton Eye Joe...and dance with Jesus! There is a time for dancing. So trust that it will come.

Could I pray for you today? If this blog post has spoken to you and you have been waiting and hoping for healing of your broken heart, would you let me know so I can pray for that comfort? Just leave a short comment; you don't even have to leave your name, just a word or two. I'd love to pray for you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Lord of the Details

Things changed on me at the last minute, and I hate it when that happens. Still, it does cause me to rest upon the Lord's strength and provision even more than when I feel like I've got all my ducks in a row.

I needed to rent a car for this weekend's speaking engagement in Fort Worth (Hi Birchman Baptist ladies! I can't wait to meet you all Friday night!) because of some last minute changes in plans. The host church hadn't budgeted for this expense because I had assured them of other provisions. And I hadn't budgeted for this expense...because I don't have much of a budget for any expenses ;-)

I hear of other people getting great deals on last minute travel arrangements, so I was hoping I could find one, too. But for the past two days all my attempts had yielded high prices and fees. I was growing discouraged.

In fact, I cried. 

I sat here at my desk and just wept. I had made a mess of some things and now my poor choices had resulted in extra expenses. I owned those poor choices, but I didn't know how I was going to pay for them. 

So, instead of just crying into my tissue, I cried out to the Lord.

"Please, God, I just need a little help here. I have made a huge mess of things and I know that. But I can't afford the consequences. Can you please help me find a rental car that I can afford?"

I abandoned the web site I had been using with no results, and Googled "rental car." Up popped plenty of options, but I had no idea which one would lead to anything positive. I just clicked on one.

Next thing I know, after filling in 42 the blanks with my vital information for the 29th time in the past 24 hours, up popped the deal of a lifetime. In fact, I wasn't sure it could possibly be legitimate. They offered me a full-size car for $29 a day, and with the fees added in it just amounted to $76 for the two days! The best offer I'd manage to find thus far was well over $225. 

I imagained that when I clicked "purchase" the web site would probably spit me out to some kind of this-is-all-a-big-joke-and-the-real-price-is-$325 page. Or even worse, I'd find myself renting from Bob's Cars and Kitchen Supplies and driving an old delivery truck. 

But nope. The car will be at the Hertz Rental facility (that's a legitimate rental company, right?) at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport (which is indeed where I'm flying to). So all is well. 

And I stopped crying.

And I started praising the Lord of the Details!!

God is not our genie in a bottle. But He is a God who cares about the smallest details in our lives. He is also a God of compassion and tender care. He is good. He is oh so good.

So don't sweat the small stuff today. Don't cry about it either. Well, you can sweat or cry a little if you want to. I did. But when you find yourself sweating or crying or both...run to the Lord of the Details. I'm not promising the deal of a lifetime, but I know He'll take care of you all the same.

I'm joining with other bloggers today offering encouragement and hope through Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart link up. You can find more encouraging posts from Holley and other authors here.

You'll find my other Walk with Me Wednesday posts here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Because Everything's Not Going to be Okay...

"Don't worry. I'm sure everything will work out just fine."

Truth is, not everything works out just fine. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes we miss out. Sometimes we hurt...and hurt some more. Sometimes everything works out really badly.

But I've learned that while everything may not be okay, I can be okay. 

I learned that when I reached for Holley Gerth's book You're Going to be Okay.

I loved Holley's encouraging book because she not only cheers you toward hope in it, but she gives you practical tools to help you get there.

And she and I agree strongly on a very strong premise:

You have to meditate on truth in order to change your thinking and your feelings, so that you can, indeed, be okay.

I teach that very concept at the Satisfied at Last Conferences I've been presenting in churches and conference centers all over the country for the past three years. I encourage women to search out scriptures that feed their soul hungers for things like love, significance, purpose, and security, and to chew on those biblical truths three or more times a day through meditation.

But sometimes, when a difficulty or unusual life change occurs, we flounder for truth. Because of hurts, disappointments, and rejections, we find ourselves not just hungry for truth, but starving for it! And if we don't lay hold of some truth fast, we end up swallowing the lies surrounding those unwieldy circumstances instead...causing even more hurt and frustration.

In recent months I've been starving for truth. Satan has aimed an arsenal of lies in my direction and pulled back his bow with full strength, targeting my wounded and insecure heart.

And that's why Holley's newest book, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days, has been such a lifesaver for me.

Holley has given us 52 well chosen, encouraging truths to hold on to when the difficult days come. I can tell that Holley is no stranger to hurt and disappointment because she has selected scriptures from the Psalms that soothe and gently encourage. She offers no platitudes or empty promises, only scriptural truth full of holy hope and grace.

Holley writes like a friend speaking to you from across the corner booth at your favorite coffee shop, leaning in and looking you in the eyes, taking your hand in hers occasionally. She doesn't promise the moon or even that "everything is going to be okay." But she does promise you things such as the following entry titles:

God Makes Sure Even the Darkest Night Leads to Dawn (Psalm 4:8)

God is Thinking about You Today (Psalm 9:18)

God Says You're a Delight, Not a Disappointment (Psalm 18:18-19)

God Doesn't Want You to Try So Hard (Psalm 44:3)

God is Bigger Than Your Problems (Psalm 97:5)


God Will Train You to Do Battle (Psalm 144:1-2)

Remember, she has 46 more biblical and hope-inspiring truths where those came from. In fact, if you'd like, you can have one for each week of the year.

I like to fill a scripture memory and meditation album with soul-satisfying scriptures that feed my current hungers and voids. I explain how to do that here. But the basic jist is to slowly (as you find them) add satisfying truths to your 4x6 photo album on 4x6 index cards. I keep the album with me throughout the day and read through it several times daily, and even memorize the scriptures over time.

Holley has pointed me to some fresh scriptures that I had never meditated on before. She brought new meaning to familiar scriptures, but she also led me to some that I had never really pondered before, such as:

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. (Psalm 3:3)

Holley says, "Jesus is looking at you and loving you. He's reaching out his hand to cup your chin and lift your face so you can look into his eyes. What happens when we lift our heads? Our perspective changes."


Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:7)

Holley writes, "We will never know all God has shielded us from...What we do know and can trust in with all our hearts is that he was willing to die on a cross to protect us. And that means he's committed to our well-being."

I'm pretty diligent about digging into God's Word for life-changing scriptures for myself, but during this season of change and hurt I have welcomed Holley taking me by the hand and leading me gently to well-chosen and meaningful verses that have fallen fresh on my famished soul.

For the first time, Holley will be hosting a book club featuring What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. You can find out more about it here. All you have to do to join is like her Facebook page here.

I have absolutely loved this little book. It makes a great gift for a hurting or grieving friend, but I think it's one you'll want to have on your own nightstand as well.

Have you read any of Holley's books? Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Good Morning, Dear Friend!

Morning used to be my favorite time of the day. I loved the blank page in the journal, the sun low in the sky, the coffee in my cup and the coolness in the air.

And then I encountered a heartbreaking and difficult season in my life.

For the first time, I had a hard time opening my eyes to the light in my bedroom, I dragged out of bed, and I dreaded the birds' new song. My mind would land on the same daunting thoughts every single morning, and hope seemed swallowed up by the fears and what-ifs that I toted from the previous day into the new one.

It wasn't uncommon for tears to gather in my eyes almost as soon as the morning's light opened them.

But each of those mornings, when I hesitated to lift the covers and leave the safety of my bed, my dearest Friend persistently and gently reminded me that He was waiting for me on my back porch.

I've been prone to have a "daily quiet time" for most of my adult life. Sure, I've had spells of time when I was negligent in this daily ritual, and I've even gone long periods of time when my quiet time was nothing more than a quick cursory read of a short verse and someone else's poetic words. But more days than not, I'm guessing, I've at least sat still for a few moments with God.

When my season of depression began (that's the first time I've owned that word...depression...hmmm) I lumbered on through my daily times of scripture reading and prayers out of necessity and desperation. And God met me where I was. I wouldn't have. If I'd had someone who showed up out of desperation each morning to whine and moan and cry in my presence, I'd have sent some lame excuse for my absence and found someone else to hang with.

But every morning I found the Lord waiting anxiously for me to pour my coffee, let my dogs out and hurry out to the porch already! No kidding, as the days went by I truly sensed that, while I was still dragging my feet, He was practically pacing back and forth, looking at His holy watch and sporting the same silly grin children have when they're waiting for their parents to sit down around the Christmas tree. No disrespect intended here, but I just want you to know that it truly felt like I was keeping an excited and eager God waiting just beyond my sliding glass door each morning!

His enthusiasm is contagious. And that holy enthusiasm is now what causes me to once again cherish my mornings. More than ever before, my "quiet times" are not just a daily ritual or even an anchor for my day. They are the most thrilling and enjoyable times of my week.

I still have mornings when I wake up to tears and fears, frustrations and lingering bad dreams in which I've struggled to sort out those frustrations. But now I quickly move on past those initial daunting emotions and remember that my God awaits my company.

When I sit down on my backporch glider with my coffee, my IPad and a carefully chosen book or two, I know He is there, too. Sure He was also with me when I first awoke, as I slipped back the bed covers and even while I brewed the coffee and released the dogs from their "beds." But when I settle into "our spot" on my porch I feel as though I have arrived for a much anticipated appointment. Like a girl on a date with a special guy, I feel a little nervous, excited and plum pleased to be there. Even better, I feel His pleasure about our meeting as well. His joy warms me and causes me to smile...or cry happy tears.

One of the reasons my quiet times with the Lord have taken on such new life in recent months is because I have become so desperate for His consistent, persistent and overwhelming love. And He has not disappointed me. Like any satisfying and joyful meeting of friends, it is often hard for me to get up and leave our little tryst each morning. The conversation is so rich. His gentle teaching and quiet encouragement resonate so perfectly with my hungry soul. And He's such a caring and compassionate listener. But in the end, it is usually He who dismisses me to move on with my day, promising to stick close throughout and reminding me there is work to be done.


When I began this post, my original intention was to share with you about one of the precious books that the Lord has used to minister His truth and love to me during our daily times together. I still want to do that. But it became important to me for you to know the setting in which I have opened this book and others each morning. So tomorrow I will tell you about Holley Gerth's new devotional guide, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days: 52 Encouraging Truths to Hold On To. Please let me share that book with you. It has truly spoken grace and love over me when I desperately needed it. I think it will do the same for you.

But today I'd like to end here for now:

I don't know what you're going through these days. You may be in a season of depression as I've been (there's that word again) or you may be all hunky dory! Or maybe, like most folks on most days, just somewhere in between. But no matter where you are, God wants to meet with you for an amazing, soul-satisfying few minutes tomorrow. He's been trying to get your attention and He would be thrilled for you to take Him up on His persistent invitation. And even if you show up whining and crying or dragging your heels or looking at your watch and hoping to get this thing over with, He will be thrilled to sit with you if you'll let Him. Let Him.

Have a good morning.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Boldly Seeking Grace

It's one thing to count on God's grace when we are in the clear, when we have honestly done nothing wrong. Maybe we've been wronged; but we've done no wrong.

Grace is surely coming then.

But what about when we have finally come face to face with our ugly? When we've owned the mess we've made? Maybe we can hope for grace, but can we boldly ask for it?

David did.

I went looking for David's hanging head and solemn words in the familiar Psalm 51. I knew of his confession, his repentance, his sorrow. I thought I'd find a pattern of sorts for my own admission of guilt.

I found those things.

But I also found a man deeply familiar with God's grace, a man who expected to find grace in the pit of his own making.

And David didn't wait until he'd spilled his ugly confession to ask with head hung low for a little grace.

He began his plea with bold request...not even a question...but an imperative:

"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."
Psalm 51:1-2

Wait a minute. Shouldn't David clean up his own mess? Shouldn't he apologize a little more profusely before so boldly requesting cleansing? Shouldn't he throw in a few promises of "doing better" or making it right?

But David knew a God of grace. He had called on God to be gracious before (see Psalm 31:9, Psalm 56:1, Psalm 57:1), and God had surely given him what he lacked.

Sometimes I think forgiveness is something I can earn, something I can pay sufficiently for, something I can attain over time...with a clean track record. But I can't earn it. I can't pay for it with good deeds. And I can't even keep my track record clean.

When I sin and mess things up terribly, which I have surely done, my only hope lies in the fact that I serve and know a gracious God. And He is indeed so gracious. So gracious. So gracious.

Want a glimpse of God's grace in David's deplorable situation? It will amaze you. Take a look at 2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:20 (you can't worship a God who has His back to you), and 2 Samuel 12:24-25. And when you look at that final passage, you need to keep in mind that Jedidiah means "beloved of the Lord."

Do you desperately need the grace of God in order to see the light of day? I do. I'm counting on God's grace to cleanse me from my sin, to make me hear joy and gladness again, to create in me a clean heart, to renew a steadfast spirit within me, to restore the joy of my salvation and to sustain me with a willing spirit. Gladness, joy, a steadfast spirit, a willing spirit. These are no small survival tools; these are luxurious riches! David needed those very things, and he asked God for them with bold confidence. 

We have a God who remains for us even when we have turned our backs on Him. That is grace. And that is our hope.

If you find yourself in a situation of hopelessness or hurt caused largely by your own sin, don't despair. God is still for you. He still has blessings in reserve to pour out upon you. He still has a plan for you. He still has healing to give and wholeness to restore. He still loves you. And, yes, He still delights in you.

God doesn't just want to get you out of your mess. He wants to give you great joy again! What grace!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's Your Big Deal?

Today may seem mundane or extraordinary. You may have plans; you may have planned to have none. You may have put your makeup on and your cute shoes, and be heading out and about. Or, like me, you may have put on some clothes you found lying around your room and skipped the makeup, knowing that you have no intention of drawing attention.

Regardless, this is the day that God has made for one spectacular purpose. Makeup or no. Cute shoes or flip flops. Big plans or mundane chores. God has called each of us to one over-the-top, momentous opportunity.

Today we have a prime chance to make a big deal of our God.

Whether we're making appointments on the phone, standing in line at the post office, running copies in the copy room, sorting through the concerns of our family members, shopping on line, wiping noses and sticky hands, or serving trays of food to hungry customers, we get to show off the Lover of our Souls. We get to sing His praises, point out His benefits, brag about His faithfulness, give Him our allegiance, rest in His strong arms, and call upon His name in the company of others.

Let's not let 24 hours go by without making big over our God. That's the one thing we're all called to do today. We may do it differently, with various personalities, dressed in unique styles, with words or without. But we all get to make a big deal about our God.

How will you draw attention to your God today? How will you reflect His glory in your life?

Friday, August 1, 2014

She Wanted to Linger

I saw her come in the door of the restaurant and waved her over. She smiled and hurried to our booth, gave me a quick hug and sat down across from me.

The waitress was right on her heels. She offered her a drink, and my friend ordered exactly what sat in front of me: coffee and a glass of ice water.

But then my fairly new friend said something that made me swallow down hard and skip a breath.

She looked at the waitress, smiled all friendly and said, "Now we're going to be drinking a lot of coffee and sitting in this booth a long time talking, so I hope you don't need this table any time soon."

The waitress looked a little baffled, but smiled and shrugged her shoulders. Then she left to get my friend's bottomless cup of coffee.

The woman who had invited me to breakfast didn't just want to eat and dash. She didn't have an appointment she needed to get to. I don't remember if she even wore a watch, but I know she never looked at it if she did. She never once glanced at her phone or looked restless. She had come to linger.

We ordered eggs and bacon and fruit and such. But by the time we pried ourselves from the vinyl seats of that booth, our waitress was serving the people behind me hamburgers and fries and colas.

Don't you just love it when someone wants to sit and talk and linger just as much as you do? So often we feel that we've been squeezed into a calendar or schedule, we're on the clock, we're one task on a list of to-do's. So when someone makes it clear that they have all the time in the world for you...doesn't it just melt your heart a little?

Before we even delved into deep conversation, my heart was already soft and tender toward this woman who wanted to do nothing more than spend time with me on this weekday morning. And then she listened...with her ears, her eyes, her full attention. I felt valued and loved and interesting and humbled.

She wanted to linger...with me.

What a gift.

Think about the last time someone carved out plenty of time for you. Not just a few minutes on the phone or a quick lunch. Those meetups certainly have their place. But think about the most recent time when someone let you know up front that you were their priority. How did that make you feel?

Nice, huh?

Would you be willing to give that gift to someone in the next few days? You may have to move some things around on your calendar or even cancel something. You may have to get the kids taken care of. You may need to state your intentions up front so that the other person does the same. You may need to take your watch off and turn your phone to silence.

It's worth it.

Lingering. It's one of the sweetest, most precious and rarest gifts of friendship. Perhaps some of us have lost the art of lingering altogether. That's a shame. It doesn't cost much, and it does you as much good as it does the friend who sits across from you. Lingering speaks volumes, even beyond the words you say during the time you converse.

Indeed, we drank a lot of coffee. We said a lot and listened a lot. We prayed together. We ate heartily and laughed and wept and sighed. I don't remember all the words (although I do remember many of them). But I will long remember the message my friend spoke to me when she chose to linger...with me.

How does it make you feel when someone chooses to linger with you in conversation? Would you like to share a for instance? I'd love to hear all about it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is Something Eating at You? Walk with Me...

Is something eating at you?

My bet is it's an insecurity. We all have them, you know.

That's right, even Angelina Jolie has insecurities. We all do. Beth Moore said "so long!" to hers here, but they still show up occasionally.

Insecurities are those nagging thoughts that eat away at our confidence, our joy and our sense of purpose.

They quiet our voices when we're supposed to raise them. They stop us in our tracks when we have somewhere to go. They tie our hands behind our backs when we need to lend them to others. They turn our eyes inward and focus on what's missing. They loudly shut out the Still Small Voice that bids us "look up."

You have insecurities. I do, too.

But do you know what your insecurities are? When you learn to call them by name, you sap some of their power right then and there. When you identify them they can't sneak up on you quite as easily.

Tell you what, I'll go first. My insecurities include loneliness, fear of failure, feeling awkwardly different, an insatiable need for affirmation, and the fear of being left behind. Yeah, I've got those...

How can you know what your insecurities are? Examine your thoughts about yourself. See if they fit these stymying credentials:

  • They call you names. They label you, giving you no room for change or growth, no grace for mistakes. Perhaps they call you "a bad mom," "a nagging wife," "a fatty," "a failure," or "a dummy."
  • They focus on what you can't do instead of what you can do.
  • They remind you frequently of the past.
  • They make you feel inadequate, less than, inferior, hopeless.
  • They take God's power and grace out of your equation.
  • They lie. Oh, but they're so good at telling you lies that you often don't recognize the lies. You may have become convinced that they're telling the truth.
  • They trip you up frequently, causing you to stumble into sins you swore off just yesterday...and the day before...and the day before that.
  • They're often the very same insecurities you can easily spot in others. And when you see someone else wearing them, you're disgusted or offended or saddened. Hmm...
Yes, we all have insecurities. But we don't have to let them rule and reign in our lives.

Today I encourage you to spend a few moments with the Lord, asking Him to lovingly and gently show you your insecurities. It'll be ok. I promise. He won't berate you over them. 

Allow Jesus to graciously speak truth over them. It might sting a little at first, but my bet is that His truth will feel more like a soothing ointment on the wounds they have inflicted.

Then, now that you've identified these sneaky parasites, refuse to feed them any longer. Oh, that will be hard. You may be used to feeding them. After all, these are the unwanted guests that linger around the buffet when you have a pity party. They're the feelings that enjoy those self-indulgent little forays and encourage you to throw another one sometime soon.

But sister, that party's dead. The real party happens when you quiet those intruders and start revelling in the grace of God instead. 

You have insecurities. I do, too. But we don't have to let them get the best of us. In fact, we don't have to give them an inch. And it all starts with letting those suckers know that you've got their number. And you're not feeding them anymore!

How do you live aware of your insecurities, but without allowing them to rule? How have you successfully stopped feeding those nagging thoughts?

Each Wednesday I post encouraging thoughts on Walk with Me Wednesdays. I link up my words of encouragement with other bloggers at Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why I Kept Staying Home

We were munching on chips dipped in salsa and sipping on sodas, but our conversation had taken a more serious turn. Sadness and confusion made her beautiful brown eyes look even darker.

Her third child had reached kindergarten age and my sweet young friend now faced the same dilemma I encountered about 15 years ago.

Do I return to the work force now? Full force? Is my job at home done?

I posted Wednesday a little about my choice to stay home as a full time mom and homemaker for the duration of the time my children were under my roof. But that post wasn't really about that choice; it was simply about staying the course on whatever path God has called you to.

But today I'm stepping out on a little bit of a limb and sharing with you why I chose to continue being home even after both of my kids had started school. Still I'm not stepping up onto a soapbox. It's not my intention to load guilt or stress onto any sweet mama's shoulders.

If, however, like my sweet young friend, you're wrestling with what comes next after dropping your last child off at kindergarten, I would like permission to gently bend your ear. I simply want to weigh in on your own contemplations. I don't want to "start something." OK? No mommy wars, no condemnation, no comparisons. But if you're already feeling a gentle tug toward remaining home after your children have gone off to school, I want to share with you the very things I shared with my friend over chips and salsa.

Because everyone else will tell you why you certainly need to go to work, I want to tell you why you should consider staying home.

Your Job is Far from Over

Just yesterday I drove by a billboard that touted that the first five years of a child's life are the most important developmentally. The sign had a picture of a physician on it, so I'm assuming this is some sort of medically proven fact.

But my experience is that there is still significant development left to take place after year five. I'm all for encouraging moms to stay home at least during the first five years of a child's life, but I think many parents miss the point when they assume that most of the job is done by this stage.

After age five your children are still learning how to take instruction, how to treat other people with respect, how to yield to authority, how to manage their time wisely, how to handle finances, how to eat and exercise in a healthy way, and so much more.

Sure you can continue to teach your child these developmental lessons even if you return to work outside of the home, but you'll find your focus and time limits you.

Keep reading...

Your Focus Still Needs to be on Your Children

Whether they work outside the home or not, parents need to continue to pour everything they've got into training up their children in the way they should go. This doesn't become a part time role just because the kids are now at school a portion of the day. The job is no smaller, but the time and energy and focus allotted to it often are. I think that's a problem of which we're reaping the results in this country.

My mom was a school teacher when I was growing up. And she and my dad gave their all to parenting my brother and me. I do remember her lying on the couch to rest a little most afternoons, but my mom managed to stay focused and energetic enough to engage with us in the evenings and weekends. Truthfully, I barely knew she worked.

That's why I do agree that some careers are better suited to raising children than others. And only you can know if you truly have enough left over after working all day to engage with your children sufficiently in the evenings and on the weekends. But I encourage you to think about this balance carefully.

Parenting Becomes More About Your Child's Timetable

When your children are little, you get to dictate when and where and how you will engage with them. But as they head toward the teen years, their body clocks demand a different setup. Teenagers tend to be hard to crack in the mornings and more eager to talk and engage in the early afternoons. That's not just my experience; many parents and even scientific studies have noted this inner clock phenomenon.

I found that when my children first got home from school they were more likely to open up about what happened to them that day than they were later in the afternoon or evening. I was thankful that I was there to take advantage of that window of opportunity. And you'll find with teenagers that there is no prying the closed window open. Once they've retreated to their rooms, their laptops or their game systems, it's difficult to get them to engage in authentic conversation. Sure, you can make them sit at the dinner table with you or go for a walk (and I encourage you to do just that), but you'll be more successful having real and honest conversation if you engage on their timetable.

There's More for You to Do

I'm so thankful I was available to go on field trips, take cookies to an after school rehearsal, volunteer at the school and participate in my church's week day ministries. Sure, those aren't necessities, but aren't you thankful that at least some moms are available for school parties and chaperoning opportunities? You can be that mom. And that's no small role. It's important.

Plus, this is a great season in life for you to invest in a weekday morning Bible study, participate in a Christian exercise group, volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center, spend a little more one-on-one time with the Lord in the mornings, or serve as a mentor mom for that MOPS group you just outgrew. Those investments are not frivolous. Read that out loud this time. Those spiritual investments are NOT frivolous. They are the good part.

But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Mary had chosen to spend time at the Lord's feet, listening to Him, focusing on Him. This is no small priority. This is a choice that bears fruit in your own life and in your family. Don't let our culture demean your choice to invest your time and energy in spiritual matters. You are not wasting your time by attending Bible study group or serving at your church. You are investing in eternal things. Do you believe that?


I know not every mom can afford to stay home at all, much less all the way through their child's education. But I do encourage moms who are facing this decision to carefully count the costs and the benefits. Don't simply assume that this is a no brainer. Don't just get on board with the culture and follow the same route as the majority.

Look, even my husband grappled with this issue. Quite honestly, I think he would have liked for me to get a job some days. And I did work as a substitute teacher for a period and eventually began freelancing as a writer and speaker. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to continue to focus on parenting my children. And I'm so thankful I did. My husband is grateful I did, too.

Do you have anything to add to my thoughts? I'd love to hear from you. And while I want to reiterate that I don't want this to be an argument or debate, I'm open to hearing any opposing views as well. Let's just keep it encouraging and friendly, though. Right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Struggling to Follow Through? Walk with Me

Even before we married, my husband and I decided I would stay home with our children while they were young. At the time, in the early 90s, that decision was even less popular than it is now. And on a newbie pastor's salary, it wasn't easy to follow through with financially. But with prayer and a step of faith, we made it work.

Still, I cannot count the number of times I must have doubted that decision. Not only because we had to watch every nickel and dime, but for a long list of other reasons as well.

Some days boredom drove me to doubt my choice. Other days the voices of our culture mocked my "career" choice. Loneliness, isolation, restlessness, and discontentment raised their taunting voices as well. And more often than not, I just felt like I "wasn't doing it right." I felt inadequate for the creativity, energy and warmth I felt like the job called for. And being a fulltime mom and homemaker simply didn't play out according to the script I had conjured in my mind.

But I pressed on. I prayed... a lot. I sought out the company of other stay-at-home moms. I engaged in the tasks at hand. I reminded myself that even if others did not value or understand our decision, my husband and I had carefully and prayerfully chosen this path...and it was worth staying on.

I'd like to tell you that there came a day when I woke up and knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was doing the right thing and just plain ol' enjoyed my calling from that day on. But that didn't happen. Quite honestly, I doubted the choice to be at home off and on throughout that phase of my life. I wrestled with my commitment all the way through. 

Until it was all said and done.

Today I can look back and tell you without any hesitation that staying home with my children was the right decision. It was a blessing...for me and for them. Good things, many good things, came from that commitment. In retrospect, I wouldn't change a single day I spent engaged with my children and taking care of my home and family.

Today's encouragement has nothing to do with convincing you to be a stay-at-home mom. It has nothing to do with persuading you to invest more in your family. And it certainly has nothing to do with exalting my choice to stay home over others' choice to work.

I simply want you to understand that there are some decisions we make--good, prayerful, and careful decisions--that, once made, are difficult to follow through with. Due to the very benefits and blessings these commitments guarantee in our lives, the enemy will pursue us with doubt and frustration and fears and restlessness from the moment we endeavor to keep them. He will seek to convince us that we've made a mistake, that the price isn't worth it, that there's a better and easier way, that we're not doing it right, and that we might as well throw in the towel.

If you have made a decision--prayerfully and carefully--stay with it. If God has set you on a different course than those around you, if He has asked something from you that others are not giving, if He has planted a passion in your heart that does not grow in the hearts of others, or if He has called you to a ministry that requires great and even unusual sacrifice, press on. Follow through.

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.
Galatians 6:9

You may not feel it every day. You may not receive the affirmation you expected from others. You may not see immediate success or reward. It may not always be fun and exciting. You may have days filled with doubt and restlessness. Others may drop their batons and quit.

You hang in there.

The reward is coming. The commitment is worthy of the price. God has not left you out on a limb alone. Trust me, the day will come when you look back and know without hesitation that God has rewarded your diligence.

And those days when you didn't feel so diligent, when you lost your vision, when you doubted and almost quit? God's grace takes care of all those days. Don't you worry about those. He knows we will sometimes grow weary and doubt. But He calls us to press on.

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
2 Thessalonians 3:13

I hope these words of encouragement will help you to press on and follow through with whatever God has called you to do. And I'd love to hear about it if there is a particular calling you are struggling to follow through with. I'd be glad to pray for your perseverance and success.

Press on, sweet friend. Press on!

Today I'm linking up with Holley Gerth and other bloggers, offering you encouraging words at Holley's Coffee for Your Heart.

You'll find other encouraging posts in my Walk with Me Wednesdays series.