My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 1: Relationships

As promised, I am back with a post about my goals for 2018! In my last post, I talked a little about the word I have chosen to be my theme for the year: GROWTH. All my goals this year center on that idea of slow, steady progress. I have divided my goals up into a few different general areas: Relational Growth, Personal Growth, and Professional Growth. This first post will focus on my goals in growing the relationships God has given me.

Goals for Relational Growth

  1. Be more intentional about showing love to my husband in ways that mean a lot to him. After a very stressful year with our move and all that happened leading up to that, my husband and I are closer than ever. We have learned to lean on each other through difficult times. In 13 years of marriage we have had our share of ups and downs, but I can honestly say that my husband is my very best friend. Still, I know that without constant tending, even a good marriage can start to grow weeds. The demands of work, child-rearing, ministry commitments, etc. can take their toll and cause husbands and wives to neglect their own relationship with each other. I do not want that happen, so I am committing to continue finding tangible, creative ways to be intentional about showing my husband the love and respect I have for him. One way I am planning to do this is to start having weekly at-home date nights because we are in one of those life stages when it is hard to get away for an evening out.
  2. Continue working on parenting with more consistent discipline and more grace. For a long time I have struggled with inconsistency and anger in my parenting. I hate to admit it, but there it is. I know I am not the only one. But over the past several months, I have come across a few excellent books and other resources that I am slowly reading and mulling over in hopes of learning and applying more grace-filled but consistent discipline with my children. My heart is that my relationship with my children will be one that will draw them to Christ, but, oh, I have such a long, long way to go. One action step I am taking to move in the right direction is to complete Lisa-Jo Baker’s Temper Toolkit e-course over the next month.
  3. Get together with friends (outside of church functions) at least every other week. This might sound odd to all the extroverts out there, but I am guessing my fellow introverted mommas will understand! As a natural homebody, it is already very hard for me to want to get out of the house more than a few times a week for church and running errands. Add to that the fact that we are still the “new folks” around here and have very few friends, and it is harder still for me to be brave and proactive about scheduling time to meet up with other moms and their kids. But my kids do keep my accountable in this area, because they miss having play dates when we go without for a long time! The winter has been hard because of holidays, illness, and cold weather putting a halt to some of our regular homeschool park days and such. I also have the new added dilemma/blessing of a childcare job at our church one morning every week, which will mean that day is out of the question for hanging out with friends since we will have to do school in the afternoon. But I know I am in better emotional health when I spend time with other women in community, so I am committed to make it work somehow!

Now that I have shared a few of my goals for growth in 2018, I want to hear about yours! What are some of the areas of growth you want to work on in the coming year?

Exhausting Expectations and the Gospel of Grace

Last week I hit a wall emotionally, mentally and physically. My husband was out of town for 4 days on business, and even though this is nothing new for our family, it was a long 4 days. I took the kids to a new homeschool group outing, which was a good experience, but very draining. And we were trying really hard to finish up the school week on schedule so that we could start our holiday-themed fun school books and projects this week. I had not had any good quality adult conversation in a while, and the time zone difference between my husband’s location in California and ours in Tennessee made daily calls with him challenging. Nothing traumatic happened all week, and I even managed not to completely lose my cool with the kids during that time. But by the weekend, I was completely worn out. I felt depleted and depressed.

My husband knew I was struggling. He and I had a long conversation, and I cried a lot. It took me a long time to talk through all the things I was upset about, all the hard things that were dragging me down, but at the end, it all boiled down to this: I had been setting my expectations for myself too high again, and I was exhausted from trying and failing to measure up. You see, as a perfectionist, I have unreasonably high standards for myself and my performance. And when I do not meet my own standards, I often beat myself up for being such a big, fat failure. I walk around in defeat because I know I can never be good enough. But the ridiculous part is that no-one else has these outrageous expectations for me. My kids don’t. My husband doesn’t. My friends don’t. And most importantly, God doesn’t.

That is the hardest one to wrap my mind around. God does not expect perfection from me. He does not demand that I perform to a certain set of unattainable standards. He knows I am human. He expects me to make mistakes, to fail the test, to sin. And yet He still loves me. How can it be that this Holy God who is himself infinitely good and perfect still love me when I fall so far short of perfection time and time again? Because of GRACE. Because of Christ’s work on the cross. Because He has taken my sin as far as the east is from the west and left it there to be seen no more. When God the Father looks at me, He does not see my sin and my failure. All He sees is Christ in me, a new creation, beautiful and blameless.

This is so hard for me to get through my head and sink into my heart. But it is the Gospel. It is the Truth. And it is what I need to hear and read and speak and believe day in and day out. I need to eat, drink, sleep and breathe the grace of God. Because when I don’t, I live in a place of defeat, irritability and depression. I am open to the attacks of the enemy. And I am not a very pleasant person to be around. When I am living in the light of grace, on the other hand, I can have peace and joy, knowing that my value as a person does not depend on my performance. I can go through each day without guilt about unfinished tasks, admitting my faults without beating myself up. I can repent and ask God for the strength and help to do better tomorrow, knowing that He does not love me any less when I fall. He just picks me back up and dusts me off, hugs me and sets me back on the path, holding my hand as I go. I have a long road to travel to learn to give myself grace in my imperfection. Thank the Lord that He will be with me all the way!

Faithful with the Small Things


Do you ever wonder if what you are doing really matters, if the mundane tasks of everyday motherhood and married life are really of any eternal consequence? I do. Sometimes I get to looking around at women who have big, visible ministries with nation, even international platforms. I see them making a big impact on the lives of thousands of women through speaking, writing, singing, teaching, etc. Then I look at the sink full of dishes and hear my toddler dumping a bin of legos in the other room while her brother yells at her to stop, and I think, “Is this it? Does this repetitive, monotonous work of child training and housework and homeschooling really make much of a difference at all in the world?”

A radical life for Christ is not always visible to outside eyes.  ~Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life

Yes, I have chosen this role as a wife and mother, and I do feel called to stay at home and teach my children full time, but there is still that nagging little voice that tells me that this is not enough, that I should be doing more, or doing better, at the very least. After all, I have a Bible college training and a degree. I could be teaching more than basic math facts and proper table manners. But then, there is another small voice that speaks to my hearts, this time gently and softly, and He says, “This is what I have for you to do right now. Do it well. Love these children. Teach them with humility and diligence. Love and support your husband, encouraging him daily. Be faithful in these seemingly small things, my child. They matter to me.”

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  ~‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am reminded then that it is not about what the world sees, or what even the modern church sees, as successful ministry. It is about being obedient and faithful in what He gives me to do today, and every day. It is about being willing to do whatever He leads me to do, great or small. It is not about being seen or being recognized for what I do.

It’s not about the size of the serve. It’s the willingness to do what he asks.  ~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

My role as a wife and mother is about being Jesus’ hands and feet to my family. My ministry is like that of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It is not glamorous or even well-respected in society. It is dirty and tiring and mundane. But I have the opportunity to show my children the love and grace of God in how I discipline and serve and teach them each day. And if these two precious little souls are the only two I ever can reach with the gospel of Christ, then so be it. I am following the Shepherd who went looking for the one that was lost and rejoiced greatly when it was found.

In God’s economy, the thousands are just as important as the few.
The few are just as important as the one.
The one is why He came.
Because He cares.
~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

Maybe someday the Lord will add to my ministry and enlarge my circle of influence to extend beyond my family or even my local church. But for now I need to learn to be faithful in the small things, so that when He wants to give me bigger things, I will be strong and prepared to handle them well. I pray I will learn to be His obedient and gracious servant, to be a reflection of Christ in both the monotonous and the monumental tasks He sends my way.

For more information on authors mentioned in this post, see Sally Clarkson’s website, her book Own Your Life, or Suzanne Eller’s website and her book Come With Me. (Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you click through them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commision, at no extra expense to you. This helps support the blog, so thank you for your help!)

The Comforts of Home: Thoughts on home, heaven and the local church

As I write this, I am sitting at a plastic folding table, surrounded by moving boxes in the middle of our new dining room. Last night as I was making cornbread from a mix I had brought from our other house. As I set everything up, I realized that the one thing I was missing for the process was a mixing bowl! Thankfully, I had brought the mix in a large Mason jar, so I simply stirred all the ingredients together in the jar! We don’t have any of our living room or bedroom furniture moved into our rental house yet, so there is nothing to sit on except the floor or folding chairs. I want to unpack some boxes, but without any bookshelves for books or dressers for clothes or bins for kids’ toys, it is hard to really do much of that. Moving over the long term is an adventure, and we are making the very best of it, but at times I do miss the ease of having all my belongs and my family in the same place at the same time. You could say that I miss the comforts of home.

Ever since we knew where we were moving, we have been researching churches in the area and wondering where God will call us to serve next. We have seen a few different “styles” of churches and are not sure just where we should even begin looking. We know that God has made us with specific gifts and talents to fill a place in His local body of believers, but we don’t know which place that will be yet. I started out asking the Lord to give us, just this once, a place to belong where I could feel comfortable being myself and feel like I fit in, somewhere I could be fed while also serving and being useful, with minimal discomfort of uneasiness. After all, we often refer to the local meeting place of a specific body of believers as our “church home,” so why should we not look to that place as having all the comforts of home a church could offer?

But then the Lord began to gently prick my heart. He reminded me that this world is not my home, and that includes the church. Heaven is my real home, and no matter how blessed and abundant my life here on earth may be, it will never truly satisfy the longing of my heart to be home with the Lord. Only there will I truly enjoy ALL the comforts of home. So while we may search for a place for corporate worship, a place in which our gifts can be useful to the local congregation to serve and uplift, we ought not be seeking comfort. In fact, we should expect discomfort, challenges and difficulty. We should expect to be stretched, to be called out of our comfort zone into deeper waters and tasks beyond our current abilities. This does not necessarily mean we have to go out of our way looking for a local church that does not fit our doctrinal beliefs or practices in a way with which we do not agree. We still ought to hold to our beliefs and gather with others who share those basic tenets of the faith. However, we do need to be willing to go to a place that feels too big or too small, too loud or too quiet, too new or too old, too this or too that, for us to feel totally comfortable. If we sense God calling us to a specific church location, we must follow His lead. He wants to use us for His glory, not for our ease. So I am learning to let go of my wants so that I can be filled with His desires instead. I know that wherever He places us, it will be better than whatever I might choose. I might will be uncomfortable for a time, but I then I will be reminded to look forward to my eternal home even more.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” ‭‭~Philippians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When you feel like a failure

It has been “one of those days.” I think everybody knows that being a parent is not all sunshine and roses. We all have difficult days when it seems that our best efforts to discipline in love, to stay calm when our kids are tantruming on the floor, simply are not enough. We snap back and punish harshly. We throw a big fat tantrum ourselves. Our children fail on a daily basis, and so do we. And often we get to the end of the day and wonder, does that mean that we are failures, too?

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way, but I doubt it. Because I am responsible for setting the tone in my home, I blame myself for a lot of the kids’ mistakes. After all, they do learn from what they see me doing. If I don’t always respond to them in love, I cannot really expect them to do so very much of the time, can I?

Yet, I also know that Satan loves to heap guilt and shame on my hurting mama heart, causing me to feel defeated and discouraged. His accusing words that I am a failure, that I will never change, that I am ruining my kids, all pile up with so much weight that I can easily feel as if I might as well throw in the towel and give up before I’ve even begun. My tendency to perfectionism does not help. If I cannot do something without messing up, I am prone not to even attempt it at all. What is the point if I know I am just going to fail?

But in motherhood there is no giving up, no choice but to attempt to do better tomorrow than I did today. So what is a beat-down and discouraged mom to do? That is the question I am asking myself tonight. And here are some of the answers that the Holy Spirit is bringing to my weary heart and mind.


Seems obvious enough, at least if you are a person of faith, right? But other than a quick, “God, help!” right before freaking out over a child disobeying for the 500th time that day, do we really take the time to stop and pray over the matter? I, for one, know that I have not spent enough time truly praying for wisdom and discernment as to how to deal with specific behaviors; nor have I prayed enough over my children, that they would have tender hearts open to my guidance and teaching and to the Holy Spirit’s own work in their lives. Busted! Yeah, I definitely need to pray more.

2. Find my identity in Christ.

Satan’s lies are just that: LIES! In order to combat the negative, defeating thoughts he has planted in my mind and heart, I must fill myself up with TRUTH from Scripture about who I am in Christ. Jesus says I am victorious. He says I am an overcomer. He says I am more than a conqueror. He tells me I am His. He will be faithful to complete the good work He has started in me. When I was in counselling for post-partum depression after my firstborn, my counsellor gave me a list of Scripture references for just this purpose. It had all the statements made in the Bible about the believer’s identity in Christ. I guess it is time for me to dig that out and start doing some intentional Bible memory in this area.

3. Seek godly counsel.

I have a stack of parenting books on the end table beside me. They all deal with topics related to grace-filled discipline and reaching the heart of my children instead of just correcting the outer behavior. I need these words of wisdom from parents who have walked this road before me. I only wish I would have started reading them long ago before some very bad habits got so ingrained in my parenting. But it is not too late to start the change.

I also am thinking about asking some older homeschooling moms for resources and book ideas for some specific attitude and behavior problems we have been having with my oldest. I think we need to really focus in on some character traits that are weak (in both me and him!), even if that means taking a break from our regularly scheduled school books to do so. And since many moms have been through these stages before me, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I just need to seek out that good advice and take it!

4. Breathe. Relax. Slow down.

The good news is that my children are young yet. They are still moldable and not set in their ways. A lot of the problems we are having are just ages and stages issues. We will get through this. And tomorrow is a clean slate. Sure, we have been through some rough patches lately, but that does not mean we have to let that define our family culture. We are in the midst of a move, a financially tight period, and a lot of change and upheaval is yet to come. It is ok if some things slide for a little while, if the school work gets a little behind or if we eat a little less healthy for a short time or if the kids have a bit more screen time than normal because I need to pack and clean. We can relax and breathe and have a little fun instead of always trying to push through and be perfect in the midst of the stressful time. Just take it one day at a time, I tell myself. Breathe. Smile. Look around and count your blessings. Tomorrow is a new day.

I am not a failure. And neither are you, weary mom. Maybe you had a bad day. It’s ok. Give yourself grace. His mercies are new. Go get some sleep. Pray for yourself and your kids. Find your value in Jesus love. Listen to the voices of truth, not lies. And breathe. We can do this! I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me, too? ❤️