Grab His Hand.

There are days, weeks, and seasons where I feel entirely incompetent to parent my children, and this has been one of those weeks.

I see the sin; I see the areas that need growth; and yet I am completely aware of my inability to change their hearts.

I can shepherd, but I cannot save. 

I can direct, but I cannot deliver. 

I can teach, but I cannot transform. 

I can love, but I cannot let loose their sins. 

At the foot of their struggles and in the midst of their sin, I realize my need. 

So as I poured my cup of coffee this morning and grabbed for my Bible, I found myself in a mess of tears.

With overwhelmed tears, I whispered-cried the words, “Father, I cannot do this. I don’t know how to. I need you. Show yourself faithful.”

As I read portions in Proverbs and 1 Timothy for various studies I am doing right now, I felt a strong need to do a study on the following five words:

THE HAND OF THE LORD. 

As I read through each Scripture that contains these five words, I grabbed for a scratch piece of paper and started scribbling.

THE HAND OF THE LORD…

enables (giving me power, competence, and the means to parent),

empowers (giving me the authority to parent),

dwells with (staying, living, and taking up resident in our house and my soul as I parent),

is mighty (giving strength as I parent),

brings deliverance (making a way out, a way through, and a way in as I parent),

is merciful (taking away the punishment I deserve and empowering me to offer mercy as I parent),

brings clarity (offering wisdom, understanding, and a clear perception as I parent),

brings courage (gifting me with the quality of mind and spirit that enables me to bravely face the difficulties and pain in parenting),

is victorious (extending triumphant WINS in the midst of parenting), and

is capable (giving the power, ability, efficiency, and competence to parent with influence).

Friends with kids…friends with NO KIDS…we need THE HAND OF THE LORD to do ALL OF THE CALL. 

In His strength, by His strength, and through His strength.

In His shelter, under His shade, and by His salvation.

We stand needy because we are, but we stand ready because He IS

So as we parent, follow, live, and love, we hold His hand–knowing and trusting that it is a capable, competent, mighty, and merciful HAND that brings deliverance, courage, victory, and clarity for ALL the Lord has asked us to steward this side of glory.

Friends, grab His hand and trust His heart; He is ready to steady. 

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Books, Books, Books: An April Give-Away

WHOA! I just looked down at my calendar and realized several things!

  1. It’s almost May, and the thermometer in Ohio is reading 47 degrees with a Freeze Warning in effect for tonight.
  2. I haven’t done an April give-away yet!
  3. I need to start planning my son’s birthday party!
  4. WHERE DID THE MONTH GO???

So with that, I am going to jump to the chase, cut this intro. short, and go print some invites for a “Super Hero SEVEN” birthday party!

So what book am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away TWO copies of Rewriting Your Broken Story: The Power of an Eternal Perspective by Kenneth Boa.

And why am I giving away this book?

  1. We ALL live in a broken world.
  2. Because we do, we ALL have broken parts of our stories.
  3. And because we do, we need to know how to frame (from a biblical perspective) our problems in light of the Gospel and the victory already-won!
  4. And for me, as both a follower of Jesus and a licensed counselor, I’ just love reading and sharing books that help us (in practical ways) theologically and eternally think through/about our earthly suffering.

 

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

So far, I have loved the following lines:

“All of the pain, sorrow, disappointment, and brokenness in our lives can be used to draw us to Jesus. These times can actually become, as we look back, moments of grace. They can shatter our autonomy, our independence, and our arrogance. They can cause us to walk in dependence on God and in humility. We can learn to help others out of own weakness instead of out of our own strength, depending on God’s strength instead.”

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a recent blessing and at 10AM (EST) on Saturday, I will randomly choose two of you to win a copy of this book!

Happy Spring (or “Happy-it-still-feels-like-winter-but-it’s-almost-May”)! 

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“Mommy, You Don’t Have to Be Angry.”

I was mad. Like REALLY mad.

Driving down the road with my phone to my ear, I unleashed my frustration…a mix of angry tears and hurt sobs…to the soul on the other end.

“I’m just mad. I’m just really, really mad. I just want to be mad.”

Over and over, I repeated the words like a broken CD from 1999.

Truly, I probably sounded like a teeny-bopper, millenial as I spouted my mouth and uttered my angst with absolutely no goal other than spouting and uttering. I was mad, and apparently, I believed (to some degree) that if I kept proclaiming, “I’m mad,” it would eventually solve the problem and fix the fury.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t.

As I ended the phone call, tossing my phone toward the passenger seat, a little voice piped up from the backseat.

“Mommy, you don’t have to be angry.” 

Though I wish I could tell you those words immediately melted my icy-hot soul, they didn’t.

Boiling in the driver’s seat, I didn’t say anything.

Apparently believing I didn’t hear her, she said it again.

“Mommy, you don’t have to be angry. You can choose something else.” 

UGH! Why is the Spirit in cahoots with my small children?!?! WHY?!?!? 

I wanted to be mad. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to stew like a pot of boiling tomatoes. And ya know what? I didn’t want anyone to stop it.

In that moment, I wanted mad.

Still saying nothing, I took a small, deep breath. And as soon as I took that breath, she began again.

“Mommy, you can choose something else.”  

I was the four year-old with my hands on the wheel, and she was the 34 year-old strapped into her car seat with Combos on her lap.

Sighing another sigh of anger (because that’s what my adult tantrum looked like), I simply said, “Evie, you’re right. I can choose something else, but it’s hard.”

In my flesh, I didn’t want to choose forgiveness.

In my foiled soul, I didn’t want to choose peace.

In my fallen-ness, I didn’t want to chose joy.

And in my finite-ness, I didn’t want Him.

Sad, but true, I wanted to nurse my wounds and lick at my anger. I wanted fuel; I wanted fire; and I wanted anything and everything about forgiving grace. In that moment, the only choice I wanted to choose was MORE ANGER.

And if the truth be told, I think that was the only thing I thought I could choose in the midst of that car on the middle of that highway.

I thought I was entitled to my anger, and I thought I was justified in being angry for however many miles I wanted to live and drive angry. I deserved to be angry; I decided to be angry; and that was down-right settled in my heart and actions.

So when the Spirit used the blonde-headed soul in the back of the car to breathe life and truth into the middle of that raging fire, I experienced a merciful grace that I can’t adequately explain.

Rushing over and into me, came a river of soothing peace.

She He was right .

I didn’t have to choose anger; I could choose Him.

In the middle of that ocean of emotion, I could make an active and intentional choice to tap into a source of life-giving peace and mercy-extending joy that can only be explained by the in-dwelling of resurrection power.

And what did I have to do to receive it? To channel it? To engage it?

I simply needed to say…

“Spirit, help me choose you…not me.” 

With my eyes on the road and tears in my ducts, I asked my daughter if I could pray aloud, confessing my anger and repenting in contrition.

And though the memory of anger didn’t go away, the power of the anger did.

“Sweet girl, thank you for reminding Mommy about her choices. I needed some help in making the choice to let go of my anger.”

And without missing a beat, she simply responded, “You’re welcome. Can we listen to some ‘Worship and Praise’ now?”

In that moment, I couldn’t have chosen better.

Confession. Repentance. Praise.

Repeat.

Confession. Repentance. Praise.

Repeat.

Friend, I don’t know what ocean of emotion you are choosing to swim, tread, or drown in right now, but could I make a suggestion?

“You don’t have to be _________. You can choose something else.” 

How?

Because of Him.

Why?

Because He’s bigger.

Oh, and before I forget (because He is in ALL the details ALL the time), as I hit the “play button” on our Seeds of Praise CD, what comes on?

The song lyrics to Colossians 3:12, 14.

Put on then as God’s chosen ones 
Holy and beloved 
Put on then as God’s chosen ones 
Holy and beloved 

Compassionate hearts, kindness 
Humility, meekness, and patience 
Compassionate hearts, kindness 
Humility, meekness, and patience 
And above all these 

Put on love, love love, love, love 
Put on love, love love, love, love 
Put on love 
(Put on love) 
Put on love 
(Put on love) 

Friends, let us put on and actively choose (in the middle of those oceans of emotions) His Spirit… the “something else” that is better than EVERYTHING ELSE. 

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37 Things They Never Told Me About ALL THE POOP

  1. That it enjoys being on the bathroom floor.
  2. That it has the ability to travel up.
  3. That it can be stubborn, requiring grown adults to sit at the foot of the throne and woo it with songs.
  4. That it likes to exit the body during all meals, especially hot ones.
  5. That its spoken name is absolutely and entirely hilarious.
  6. That it shapes itself like “snakes, dolphins, turtles, and bombs.”
  7. That it has the power to make a grown-adult dry-heave.
  8. That it comes in a variety of colors, especially when a small child has consumed “Super Man” ice cream.
  9. That wiping it consumes a large part of a mom’s 24 hours.
  10. That you would use a majority of your extra plastic bags disposing of it.
  11. That removing it to the front porch is sometimes the best plan.
  12. That sometimes it would be best if you used a shovel and your neighbor’s yard to dispose of it.
  13. That its aroma does not discriminate between a 3 year-old child and a 33 year-old grown man.
  14. That it would demand a constant supply of Febreeze and Wet Wipes.
  15. That it feels most comfortable leaving the body when you are in the middle of grocery shopping at the front of the store.
  16. That it has the ability to increase blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate.
  17. That it is entirely okay leaving the body when your hand is already cleaning up its comrades.
  18. That it floats.
  19. That it sinks.
  20. That it likes to swim.
  21. That its stench is 697% worse when your child starts eating meats.
  22. That it prefers leaving the body at night when small children no longer need a third glass of water.
  23. That it doesn’t really prefer a diaper containing it.
  24. That it makes small children cry.
  25. That it makes big people cry.
  26. That it prefers nasty, public toilets as opposed to clean, private toilets.
  27. That it can be smeared, very much like finger paint.
  28. That it rolls.
  29. That it sprays.
  30. That it prefers white clothes rather than dark clothes.
  31. That it feels safest to come out when a small child introduces it announces for all to here, “I have to poop!”
  32. That not even Scentsy has the power to over-ride, cover, or hide its wafting cloud.
  33. That its stench will forever dwell in your car’s upholstery if you accidentally leave it on the floor of your car when the sun is hot.
  34. That it also prefers leaving the body when you are at a park in the middle of winter when all the bathrooms are closed.
  35. That it is responsible for many, many parents losing countless hours of sleep because of its friend called “gas.”
  36. That it enjoys road trips, car seats, and rest stops.
  37. That, truly, it is a friend that “sticks closer than a brother.”

Moms, be a friend.

Don’t hold out on ALL of your “newly, expecting mom-friends.”

They deserve to know.

Surprises are fun; secrets are not.

Don’t be a crappy friend.

Share now.

Share today!

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I Could Learn a Thing…or a Million…from Our Firstborn Son

Sitting around the table at Easter, I was sharing with my parents about a recent doctor’s appointment our little girl had.

“Yeah, and when they asked her to stand on one foot, she was absolutely obstinate and stubborn; I couldn’t believe it!”

I don’t exactly remember what my parents said in response (probably something that a shocked grandparent would say in the face of anything that is anything but 178% positive about their angels that fell from heaven), but I CAN remember what our son said. 

Still sitting at the “adult table” because he’s pretty much a 60 year-old stuck in a 6 year-old body, he pipes up and says, “Well, she was probably just scared, Mommy. You told her she might be getting shots, so she was probably worried about that and afraid to listen. I don’t think she was being stubborn; I think she was scared.”

In that moment, I didn’t say a whole lot because my mama-self kinda lost a whole lot of air to the gut, but I remember uttering, “You’re right, buddy. That’s a great way to think about it. She probably was scared.”

I was humbled by his empathy, and I was convicted by my narrow-minded deductions. Not to mention, the therapist in me wanted to trachea-punch my blind, assuming heart.

Instead of seeing her as scared, I saw her as stubborn.

And as I thought about that throughout this past week (Mama loves to let some conviction simmer!), the Lord has used it to convict me in a handful of other, much-needed ways.

Jessica, you actually do that a lot. 

You know that person you assume is being rigid, maybe they are actually struggling with insecurity

You know that person you have labeled as self-righteous, maybe they are genuinely trying to point you to Jesus

You know that person you have decided is being unintentional, maybe they are simply introverted

You know that person you believe is being difficult, maybe they are actually struggling with fear about change? 

Is it possible, Jessica, that you tend to assume the worst instead of believe the best?

And though it pains my proud heart to admit it, it’s true.

Too often, I see through cloudy-assumed lenses. Too often, I am quick to label the surface-level behavior without thinking through the struggle beneath.

Too. Many. Times.

So when I re-visited the conversation with my son, acknowledging my assumption about his sister’s doctor-office behavior, I had to smile when he sweetly and very kindly responded, “Yeah, it’s good to think about how it feels to be little.” 

Isn’t that true?!

How good it is to think about the shoes another is wearing!

How loving it is to remember the unexpressed stories of others!

How kind and gracious it is to recall the potential, unrevealed struggles of another!

For truly, when we listen with our hearts (resisting the urge to simply see with our eyes), we are able to extend sweet empathy, generous love, and compassionate care.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

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Because. The. Gospel.

Pediatrician appointments, blood draws, virus scans, ultrasounds, EKGs, OT and PT home evaluations, cardiologists, visitations, foster care workers, case workers, trips to the pharmacy, phone calls, weekly weigh-in’s, mileage forms, WIC certifications, clothing vouchers, and medication logs on top of laundry, bottles, midnight feedings, 3 AM feedings, diaper changes, baby baths, and infant-relaxation massages to help reduce Torticollis and enhance feeding.

Intentionally and purposefully, I made the sentence clunky, long, and all kinds of wordy.

Why?

Because that’s a little bit how life feels these days.

Busy. Tiring. Heavy.

In less than 15 days, we have logged over 150+ miles of driving ; we have had 11 different appointments with 7 different offices; and we have been in 3 different hospitals for various scans and check-ups for this little guy we call “SuperMan.”

I have sat side by side with his birth mom for most of these appointments… crying with her, comforting her, listening to her, encouraging her, and helping to educate her on the needs of her son.

As I type, my arms feel heavy and my fingers literally…very truly…feel tired.

And as I think about the exhaustion of the last two weeks and the whirlwind of chaos that has blustered into the doorways of both our hearts and homes, I keep coming back to this statement when I find my weary flesh asking, “Why, Jessica? Why?”

Because. The. Gospel. 

Because of the Gospel, we can pour out.

Because of the Gospel, we can let go.

Because of the Gospel, we can serve when we’re weary.

Because of the Gospel, we can choose humility.

Because of the Gospel, we can rearrange and accommodate.

Because of the Gospel, we can affirm.

Because of the Gospel, we can go.

Because of the Gospel, we can love.

We love, and we give, and we pour out because He did. 

Not because we’re good…

and not because we’re special…

and not because we’re super-awesome at loving…

But because of the Gospel. 

 

So when I end the day weary and spent…and when the enemy prowls at the threshold of my heart, throwing arrows of doubt and lobbing grenades of worries…I can turn my eyes heavenward and proclaim with peace, “Because the Gospel.”

Because of the Gospel, we can choose the work.

Because of the Gospel, we can do the work.

Because of the Gospel, we can rejoice in the work.

Not because we’re capable and not because we’re competent, but because we’re called and carried by the ONE who is. 

Friends, I don’t know what road you’re walking and what load you’re carrying, but I pray you will find a way to frame both your purpose and plodding through the lens of the Gospel.

Because when your sights are set on Him…the road is worth it; the pain is purposeful; and the load is love…even when your arms feel heavy and your fingers feel tired.

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Books, Books, Books: A March Giveaway

Friends, Easter is coming! And though it falls on April Fools Day this year, this celebration is NO JOKE!

As 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 states, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.” 

So, in an attempt, to get us thinking about how we want to remember and celebrate this special, more than an “egg-hiding, bunny-loving, chocolate-eating” holiday, I wanted to give you a resource suggestion as you ready your hearts and prepare your kiddos for this life-altering, game-changing historical event!

So what book am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away ONE copy of Mission Accomplished by Scott James.

And why am I giving away this book?

I am giving away a copy of this book because as believers, Easter is a BIG DEAL, and I want to share that BIG DEAL with my kiddos every. single. chance. I. get. I want them to hear the mercy of His sacrifice, the grace of His blood, and the power of His resurrection…over and over, and then over again. I want them to hear the Truth proclaimed and the Gospel exclaimed in a hundred different ways for the rest of forever…every Easter, every day.

And I want YOU to have that opportunity, too!

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

I couldn’t possibly pick my favorite line(s), so let me share how this Easter, family devotional is set-up.

Each day, for two weeks, there is a short, daily devotional for you to read with your family as you anticipate the remembrance and celebration of Easter!

In the first week, all of the short devotionals are centered around Walking with Jesus to the Cross. In the second week, the devotionals focus on The Risen King. 

Each day, there is a section of Scripture to study, accompanied with the following, short sections:

Think about It, Talk about It, Pray about It, and Sing about It 

Additionally, there are several family activities and crafts that are scattered throughout the two weeks–simple, easy, and nothing that requires a Pinterest tutorial!

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share how you remember and celebrate Easter with your little souls and at 10AM (EST) on Thursday, I will randomly choose one of you to win a copy of this book!

Happy coming of Easter!

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