Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Funny Thing About Fear...

The funny thing about fear, is that when you walk in it, it often creates the very thing you were afraid would happen.


For example:

Fear: you are afraid that the people you love will leave you

Fear’s Response: you either smother them and become clingy and needy or you act aloof and uncaring, thinking you are protecting your heart and playing hard to get.

Fear’s Result: Any healthy person, and most people in general will leave you if you behave this way.  Only a co-dependent will allow you to be clingy and smother them.  And only an insecure person will keep pursuing friendship with you if you are never available.

The truth: Some people will leave you.  Sometimes even if you do everything right and love them well and treat them well, people will still leave.  That’s the thing about people and freedom.  But it is still better to have at least loved your best and have no regrets, because some people will stay and you’ll have a beautiful relationship unmarred by fear and regret.


Now I want to say something, and I know I am hitting on a touchy subject, but I feel this is important.  I am not offended if you disagree, and I am willing to listen to comments. 

In the wake of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, there have been voices shouting louder to make gun bans, and I understand why.  People are hurting – how could this happen to our precious children.  People are asking why – what can we do to stop this from happening again.  But I feel strongly that the gun restrictions proposed by citizens, while often with the intent of protecting, are misled responses to fear. 

Fear: If we keep allowing guns to be legal then more school shootings could take place.

Fear’s Response: We ban the sales of certain types of firearms, heavily tax ammo, and push for keeping campuses weapon free.

Fear’s Result: Unfortunately, criminals and mentally distraught persons are more likely to break the law, so they will find access to weapons and cause destruction.  However, now they know where the good guys are unarmed and can cause mass damage with no one able to stop them.

The truth: There are people who are not well and who are intent upon causing harm.  People who want to get a message out and want revenge will go to the places that will get the most attention.  This can happen again – but if there are people who value life, who have integrity, who care for their community, and have been taught the proper use of weapons have access to them or may conceal carry – they can fight back against this evil.  Disarming the population does not stop bad things from happening – it just keeps the good guys from being able to stop it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Light of Today

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of sound mind.” -2 Tim. 1:7

Many, including the president, have said this is a wake-up call.  Changes must be made.  But is it gun-control laws???  Is it better treatment for mental illness???  Is it higher security in schools???  Arguments will be made from all sides, but I think we need to wake up to the cry of ever increasing evil ravaging our homeland.

“Ever since the time of your ancestors you have despised my laws and failed to obey them.  Return to Me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. – Malachi 3:7

God’s Word, His Way is the way of life, of hope, of prosperity even.  We have sat by too long and watched helplessly as our nation has turned away from the Truth and Righteousness that is in God’s Word…and what fruit has it bourne? – this lawlessness, evil, disgusting tragedy after tragedy…our precious children, innocent victims of this heinous crime.

God’s ways are good.  He says time and time again that if we will turn our hearts to Him and if we will turn from our evil ways that He will hear our cry and heal our land.  WAKE UP!!!!  Dear hearts, RISE UP!!!  Stand for the Truth that is in the Word of God, it endures, it is tested and proved to bring about health, life, healing, wholeness.  It is not legalism, it is not bondage, it is life in way that God created us to live it. 


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Testing God

"Prosperity Preachers" or "Seed Faith" doctrine some call promotes the idea that you give to get.  A farmer plants a seed expecting a harvest...that's true, but I think they might have missed the point. 

We give, in obedience to what God actually asked us to do.  Not what you feel like, and definitely not what others think you should be doing.  Give in obedience to God, with thanksgiving for what He's given you, and TRUSTING that HE WILL PROVIDE ALL YOUR NEEDS.

I can testify to this because for the last two years God has asked us to give above our tithe to help our church build to reach the growing needs coming in to the House. 

(For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term tithe – it is 10% of the “first fruits” or for us gross income that we give to our local church to meet the needs of the church and pastors that feed us as well as pouring out to the needs of the community – a “storehouse” so to speak.  For more information – check out Robert Morris’ book “The Blessed Life” – it will rock your world!) 

At the time Scott was working so much overtime he was only home one evening every third day, and we were barely making ends meet.  But we both felt that God asked us to match our tithe amount in a second offering.  Ouch.

Since that time, Scott has worked less overtime, we have literally had less income coming in, Scott has cut our grocery budget by more than 50%, and yet somehow we have had more money.  The grocery budget has gone further – we’ve eaten better and done more in these two years than the years before we were barely scraping by, and on less.  Scott and I have grown closer to God, closer to each other, and built good relationships with our kids.

A couple of weeks ago this was really tested. 
$Net Paycheck - $tithe - $additional offering - $mortgage payment = $10

$10 my friends…yikes! We have little mouths to feed.  We need diapers and wipes.  We need gas money for Scott to get to work!

In a moment of fear we only tithed 10% of our net paycheck.  But that night we were both convicted; we really felt that this was a test – did we really believe that God would provide for us if we obeyed Him? 

God even says that we can test Him in the tithe (Malachi 3:10), that if we obey Him in this that He will pour out on us.
Well…we did.  And literally, all that weekend things we have had listed for sale for months sold in two days – one right after another (we tithed on those too ;).  We were able to make a two hour trip away to visit family.  We made a meal for friends.  And we never even ate roman noodles – we actually had no food go to waste because we ate our leftovers, and they were good.  And we always had cash in our pockets and gas in our vehicles – lights on, heater on, etc.
No, we did not win the half a billion jackpot - although that seemed like really great timing, but God provided for us; He poured out on us, and not just financially, in relationship, in abundance of energy, in abundance of hope and joy, and in renewal of faith.

“Prosperity preachers” as they are called, will tell you that you must give a lot so that God can make you rich.  But sometimes I think they might have mixed up this scripture with their own desire for wealth.  I don’t see that scripturally. 

But that also doesn't mean that God wants us to be poor - He says that we will have an abundance for every good work and that the joy of the Lord is our strength and joy is a fruit of the spirit.  We are not called to a life of poverty. I know both in scripture and my own experience that when you obey what God tells you to do, that He will provide for your needs and give you back things of much more worth than just money in the bank.  He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.  He is in love with us, and when we obey Him, He will make us whole, healed, and fill us with greater joy than we have ever known.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sometimes I can be a Real Jerk Face...

We all want friendships.  We pray for good friends, we pray for close friends, and we try to be a good friend to others.  But when it comes down to it, we so often are afraid of the intimacy, the vulnerability required to build a new friendship.

By we, I mean, me, of course, and I suspect that perhaps a few of you can relate.  But I realized that for me, when I realize that I have begun to care for someone, it sends almost like a panic through my veins.  Oh no, I am suddenly vulnerable to them...and what if I am too much or not enough, or what if they don't like me and they are only being polite.  Seriously, I am an adult woman - and my poor husband has to hear these concerns processed out loud. 

Recently I realized, that, even worse, in attempt to try to be casual, and not seem too excited (or lame) I sometimes inadvertently insult the person/people or try not to be as available to them.  Now realistically, if I'm them and this girl is insulting me and is aloof all the time - I'm not going to think she is very nice or dependable, so do I want to be friends with her? No.

The thing is that I like encouraging others, and those closest to me will tell you that they usually feel awesome around me because words of affirmation are my love language.  And I have to be careful to keep my priorities in order, because I have a tendency to drop everything when someone I care about needs help...I swoop, you know.  But that isn't always necessary.

Any way, but in fear I actually create a cycle where I push away the very people I care about because I'm afraid they won't like me, but they don't like me because I'm acting like a jerk face.  Ugh.

I just don't want to be used, you know?  You know!  Or as my sister and I like to say (thank you Tipper from "What Happens in Vegas") - "You know why!!!"

So I try to be cool, aloof, harsh, judgemental even, and you know what - it's ugly.  And it's even lamer than being really kind and considerate and getting walked over, because, let's call a spade a spade here - it's cowardice. 

But the truth is, when I trust that God loves me unconditionally, will never use me, will always uphold me in His mighty hand, and has got my back - then I'm free to just love others in a way that is truly loving, and let their response be their own. 

God does love us.  He loves you.  He'll never let you down.  And when you love others well, nomatter how they behave, you sow a seed of friendship that will reap a harvest more bountiful than you can imagine.

And fnally, I'll just go ahead and appologize to anyone I've kind of been a jerk-face to - I'm sorry I don't always know how to handle my insecurities, but God's working on me.  Please be patient.  There's a good heart in here (points to herself).  there's a good heart in there too (points to your heart).

Happy December 1 everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

You've Got to Stand for Something or You'll Fall for Anything

Sometimes people will misunderstand you.  Sometimes they will feel angry or offended because of your choices.  While that is not ideal – their feelings cannot be what move your choices.  We have to stand for the Truth if we really want to be in right standing with God.  And we must obey what He tells us to do – that is what we are held accountable for – the responsibilities and gifts and commands He’s given us.  No one else will have to answer to Him – not the offended, not the annoyed, not the upset…only us.  Even among close friends and family, even in the church, people will misunderstand.  We just have to choose to do our best to be considerate and respectful, but first, always first, submit and obey God.

Jesus understands that it’s hard – we care what other people think and feel – we are human, and this is not a bad thing (check out Heb. 4:15), but we still have to place those things under obedience to God.  He understands, and when we ask for help He will help us, but He is still a jealous God and He won’t be put second place to anyone.  And when you resolve to live your life sold out to the Truth, fully submitted to Him, this resolve will definitely be tested.  But don’t fear, we will all be tested, it’s how you know what your made of…and when you see that what you are made of turns out to be not so great (cowardly even), that’s the perfect opportunity to find out about the grace of God, and how relying on His strength is better than anything even the best of you could have contrived.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On my Soapbox

I read another article today about how we shouldn’t say “I have nothing to wear” because we have too many clothes and people in third world countries are lucky to even have one pair of shoes.  It’s about like telling your children they have to finish what is on their plate because there are children starving in Africa.  Guilt motivation is stupid stupid stupid stupid.  And I dislike it the most when people in Christian circles try to use this to get you to do the “right thing”.

I am so sick of “I should” “I shouldn’t” – blah blah blah…doing something because you think you “should” is not good character, and it doesn’t really change your heart, and when things get tough enough you will always compromise!  Always!

Let me tell you something – motivation is driven by belief. 

In the Old Testament, when God gave the Israelites the law to follow He did not say “Thou shall…” and “Thou shalt not…” and just leave it there.  First, He brought them out of slavery, and every few lines or so of Him telling them what to do, He says “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of slavery, to be my own, to bring you into a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Do you know why we do the right thing?  We do the right thing because we believe that our life will be better for it.

Now, let’s get back to that clothing comment – I’m pretty sure every woman on the face of this earth that has the luxury of multiple clothing options has said “I have nothing to wear” while facing a closet full of clothes. 

I have said that – while hoarding a closet full of clothes in about 6 different sizes, praying that someday I’ll be skinny again and get to wear clothes that aren’t covered in spit up stains.  And then I read that stupid article about how people in third world countries don’t have clothes, so I shouldn’t complain, blah, blah, blah…

Well, let me tell you something, I’m not complaining anymore – you know why?  It has nothing to do with people in third world countries.  It has to do with me letting go of some things that I cannot use right now, and trusting, believing that God will provide.  I believe God, because time and time again He has brought me through and provided for me.  I trust that when I let go of those clothes and shoes that I cannot use, and take care of those I can, and submit my desire to look nice (and lose weight ladies) that He will help me.  He shook that poverty mindset off my life that if I don’t hoard it, I’ll do without – my hands are open friends.

And let me tell you something else – God spent chapters describing the precious stones, tapestries, linens, etc to be used for His temple…He’s into nice things.  And you know what – we are the temple of the living God – why would He not want us to be covered in fine linen and jewels?  We are His prize possessions, the temple of the Holy Spirit! 

I believe that He will pour out on us, cover us, and that He wants me to be His vessel to clothe the poor and needy – so He will provide the resources.  And I believe that when I am more interested in people seeing Him than me, then He is free to bless me with coverings that make me feel beautiful.  And I can tell you, this girl prays for outfits on sale, and the Lord provides!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

          Some of you may know a bit about the challenges that I have faced over the last couple of years.  If you follow my blog, I have shared some of the struggles and challenges that God has brought me through.  But last night, our pastor (@LoriMChampion) talked about the story in Daniel 3 of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abed-Nego when they chose to serve only God and King Nebuchadnezzar put them into a furnace.  He released them when he looked and saw four men, instead of three, and the fourth looked like the Son of God.  When he brought them out, they saw that “the fire had no power on their bodies” – not even a hair on their head was singed – they didn’t stink of smoke!!!!  Praise Jesus!  Pastor Lori talked about not wasting our trials, and sharing them, so I wanted to share with you, in case you are hurting too.

          A year ago, I wasn’t sure that my son Mason would remember me, and feared Laurelei might only have fleeting memories of a weary mommy.  I was so afraid.  I remember sitting here on this couch writing letters to my children that might be the last message I could ever give them.  My heart was breaking, what message would I leave them with?  I was so afraid to go asleep – what if I didn’t wake up?  In the middle of the night I would sit at their bedsides crying, begging God to please let me live, to please heal me.

          Anxiety that I hardly know how to describe to you has been a battle for years, but with this pregnancy, it threatened to consume me.  And after Mason was born, and the weight of all the other issues that we were facing at the time came crashing down around me, my body could not handle it all.  I spent my 26th birthday lying naked on my bathroom floor writhing in pain – the physical ramifications of severe anxiety attacks lasting for days at a time, with hardly any release.    For months and months, night after night, day after day I prayed for God to take this from me, I begged and screamed and asked Him why He would allow this to happen.  And then, when I was too tired to pray, to weary to have any faith – the breakthrough began.

          I let go.  I had nothing left.  Literally.  Physically I could not get up, breathing was painful, and I vomited nearly every time I ate.  There was no mental strength, no physical strength – I had nothing.  And finally I stopped trying.  I admitted that I had nothing, and let my husband and others I trust to step in for me and hold me up – pray for me, help me.

          And in the days that followed I found God’s grace in ways I have never imagined.  In that place where I thought I would surely die; where I could not even care for my basic needs let alone anyone else or even try to pretend that I had it together in any way – God showed me that He never intended for me to get it together.  And oh our wonderful church – our small group just loved us – it took every ounce of my being just to show up each week and that was all I had to offer, and that was ok. 

          And God showed me that He did not want me to try to get it together or have a quiet time or any of that, just to admit that I was not enough and ask Him for help – and He did, but only with what He called me to do, not what I thought I should be doing.

          And in the months that followed God convinced me with all my heart of three things that were worth committing to for life whatever the cost, and I promised Him and my husband and myself:

1.   I will let go of the desire to be perfect and allow God to help me be satisfied with progress.

2.   I will not allow anyone to shame me, call me names, or steal my joy.

3.   I will be real about who I am and where I am, no matter what others may say, think, or judge.


And, I think a lot of people give lip service to these traits, but most people still want others to think that they have “it together” or still hold out for perfection in some areas or still let some people make underhanded digs at them.  These are commitments that I have to make nearly every day, again, sometimes several times a day, and ask God to help me let go.  Because my pride, whew, if you only knew…it can be sensitive folks.  But God, oh our precious God, He allows us to be His holy temple – why would we trade that for black-market knockoffs of treasure?

          And this includes being real about who I am, even when I know it will hurt someone’s feelings or make them dislike me.  I am not talking about saying something that doesn’t need to be said - kindness and love and gentleness are fruits of the spirit (self-control too!), but rather remembering that sometimes it is helpful for others to be disappointed with me, it gives them freedom to place their focus on the One who will NEVER let them down. 

          This ride isn’t totally done, but oh thank the Lord that I am far beyond that terrible fear and rather abiding in the confidence of a God who is so incredibly in love with us that I don’t have to fear anything – no matter what happens HE WILL NEVER LEAVE OR FORSAKE US (Heb. 13:5)!!!  Never, never, never, and oh how He loves us.  He is so patient and kind and graceful, my friends.  No matter what you are going through or how you are hurting or even if you are angry with Him – He can handle it, He can handle your lack of faith, your anger, your fear, any of it – if you’ll only let Him in.


Friday, July 20, 2012

People Pleaser

“People Pleaser”…ugh, I hate that word.  Just moving my fingers to type in on this page makes me nauseous.  I’ll probably consider deleting this a few times.  I hate the connotations that come with the term – pushover, too sensitive, weak, etc.  And unfortunately, even the word “nice” makes me cringe; this is what I hear: sticky sweet, too weak to have an opinion, little depth, afraid.  That’s what those words meant to me.

And I have been called this more than a few times in my life…and each time the enemy echoed the lies that I was weak, too sensitive, a coward, etc.  The words just kept reverberating inside my head until I believed that’s who I was.  And the more I felt weak, the more I acted weak…but as it is with internalizing these things, they're bound to burst at some point – usually at an inopportune time.

But God’s been working on my heart for a while now, showing me who He created me to be – and I can assure you, it’s not weak.  And He didn’t make you weak either.  But He did make me very compassionate – I really dislike hurting others, and when I see someone hurting (especially emotionally) I just want to have the answer for them. 

The thing is, that the enemy distorted these gifts that God has given me to cause me to feel guilty if someone is disappointed, or even apologize for something I did just because the other person was upset, or do things I don’t really want to because I feel like I should because someone is having a hard time.  But the fruit of this way is always discontentment, frustration, and anger – it can never last. 

One of the fruits of the spirit (Galations 5:22-23) is joy – and when we walk in God’s spirit, we will experience joy in doing what He wants even when we don’t particularly want to or like the task.  Like when I know I need to clean my house and I pray and ask God to help me, even though I don’t really like to mop my floor, I feel joy while I’m doing it. 

The main thing that God helped me to realize is that I was not loving people well by trying to please everyone or make peace with everyone or make everyone feel better about themselves because I often interrupted the law of sowing and reaping and instead of focusing their attention on God when they were in need or downhearted, they were focusing their attention on me. 

Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. (Galations 6:7-8 Message trans.)

It has been one of the greatest challenges I have ever had to know that I have been honest and real, and someone else is disappointed.  Each day I still struggle not to take it back and just fit back into the box I think will make everything alright and happy, but Galations 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not again be burdened by the yoke of slavery.”  So I must stand firm and fight to keep this freedom, to be authentic.  And let me tell you something, when you walk with Christ, being real, being honest and truthful about who you really are (good, bad, and ugly) – it is messy, but it doesn’t mean airing out your dirty laundry to strangers or an excuse for abuse, but it brings things to light where God can heal them, and when you walk by His spirit He can help you to live peacefully with others, even if they choose not to live peacefully with you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oldie but a Goodie

Still working on my spring cleaning, and I stumbled on some poetry from high school.

This first poem was inspired by the song "I Want to be Beautiful" by Bethany Dillon.

A little dab here, and a small snip there;
every morning is this routine for perfection.
Nothing can be wrong; you must look like "her"
otherwise fear of rejection.

Smile, teeth are yellow, fix that.
Oops it's time to color, my roots are showing.
And all in the race for perfection
the bitterness is growing.

"Her" jeans are smaller than mine;
well I guess that means no eating today.
When will these pills that I am taking
make me whither away?

I want to be beautiful, I want you to stand in awe,
so I'm killing myself to hear you say
that you want to be just like me
because I am perfect everyday.

So many girls feel these emotions...
and keep their secrets hidden deep inside,
but sometimes the burden is too much to bear
and there is nowhere to hide.

This beauty is only skin deep,
and there is no way it could ever last.
but God can change your heart,
and help you make peace with the past.

I want to be beautiful, I want you to stand in awe,
Look inside my heart and be amazed.
God has made who I am quite enough,
and in Him I'm made perfect each day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

For Heaven's Sake

I grew up in church, and I guess it was in middle school that I came to the conclusion that there were three things you needed to do (or not do, rather) to be a good Christian: don’t drink, don’t swear, and don’t have sex before you are married.  I don’t know about you, but, at the time, it seemed like everyone else was doing these things and having way more fun than I was having then.

At some point, I realized that there were not 13 commandments, the last three being: “Thou shalt not…drink, swear, have sex”…so where did it even say in the Bible that we weren’t supposed to do these things.  I remember my mom sharing with me the passage at the beginning of Proverbs 31 that said it is not for kings to drink wine because they might get drunk and forget the law and rule poorly.  But I thought – I’m not a king…

Anyway, at some point, all these rules just started to eat at my insides.  Not just these three, but all the rules I felt that I had to live up to if I wanted to be a good person.  It was a weight I couldn’t bear.  At some point I started intentionally breaking different social rules, just to feel some freedom, then feeling extreme guilt and condemnation, then trying to stringently follow all rules, then feeling bound, repeat cycle. 

When God began drawing me back to Himself, He began showing me that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8), and really just telling me that He really was way more concerned that I follow Him with my heart than by following what I thought the rules were but secretly despising them.  And I began to walk in freedom.  But then I realized by breaking some of these so called “rules”, say swearing for example, I really didn’t like having a potty mouth all the time even though I felt like I had the freedom to do it – just like if I have the freedom to eat fast food every day, I feel sick later, and want to eat better to feel better.  But sometimes I couldn’t seem to stop.

So next He showed me that sin has no power over me anymore because I am in Christ (“It was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life – no longer at sins every beck and call” – Rom. 7 msg), and that if I asked Him to, He would help me to change my habits to healthier habits.  And I desired to obey some of the “rules”.  But I didn’t obey out of fear of condemnation, because I am already approved and loved and accepted, but rather out of love and trust that God’s word is good and following it will lead to greater happiness.

You know, a big one for many young people is premarital sex.  1 Corinthians says that physical intimacy of this sort is meant to be between a husband and a wife.  It seemed like no fun waiting, but now that I have been married for five years and have the opportunity to see other people’s lives play out and marriages play out, I see the wisdom in it – no other relationship can handle all that comes from that level of intimacy.  I didn’t know this, but Vicky Courtney talks about in some of her books that sex actually releases a hormone that gives women a sense of attachment and creates relational jealousy.  It’s a sense that this person belongs to you, and if anyone threatens that then there is a fiery jealousy.  That on top of the possibility of bearing children (we all know good women, amazingly strong women who are struggling single moms), STDs, etc…makes sexual intimacy something that while fun (God created it to be a good thing, it is fun) is not something to play around with – it is meant to be something to bond husband and wife but toxic outside of this relationship.

My aha moment!  God didn’t give us all these rules to make our life no fun!  He gave us the law to guide us into a life of joy and abundance and life and health!!!   

Let me share this passage from the Message translation of Romans 7:8-12:

“The law code started out as an excellent piece of work.  What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of ‘forbidden fruit’ out of it.  The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me…The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up…But the law code is good and common sense and each command sane and holy counsel.”

There it was, right in the Bible the whole time.  God loves us so much, and His instructions are meant to help us make good choices, choices that lead to us having a more prosperous life!  But, if we will be honest with Him, real with Him, and not pretending to be anything we are not – He will show us that we can trust Him and trust His Word and that He will help us. 

Religion can be bondage – that’s never what God intended.  He wants us to be part of the church – it is His bride, but not stringently following rules.  He designed us for intimate relationship with Him and freedom!

Monday, May 14, 2012

You Don't Know the Pain...

…the pain I have endured all these years, and I didn’t either…I didn’t realize the unnecessary burden that I carried day in and day out.  As I have committed to honesty, surrendered to Christ’s unearthing, cleansing and replanting, so many things have washed off my life – there were burdens I was carrying I never dreamed I’d have to live without…freedom, oh sweet freedom.

Today, our wonderful church, in honor of mother’s day, opened up a photo opportunity to take family photos and have them printed.  It was a one shot opportunity…something I used to dread.  In days and years past, a moment like this would have sent me fearful the bathroom for who knows how long trying to perfect myself for this picture.  As we were standing in line I would have been scrubbing my children’s faces and re-fixing their hair and feeling ashamed that I did not more carefully pick out our outfits or cut my husband’s hair or that I did not wash mine that morning.

Utter dread, panic, anxiety would have set it – it sounds crazy, I know, even as I write it I know it sounds nuts, but it was my life.  It was so real to me, and I thought that other people who did not do this did not care about their appearance or taking care of themselves at all.

And then, the worst moment of all – the moment the picture, the one shot opportunity, was printed.  I lifted up the picture, and….it looked like us.  Not the best family picture we’ve ever taken – Laurelei and Mason didn’t smile for us, but it was us.  And the sweetest most glorious moment – I looked at myself, not the best picture I’ve ever taken, I mean I didn’t wash my hair this morning and I still have some extra baby pounds that are showing on my face, but it was ok.

Somehow, today when I looked at that picture, I didn’t feel embarrassed.  I didn’t feel like this one still image captured the measure of my worth.  It was just one shot of my outward self – but my body is in motion and my worth is in the beauty that God has placed inside my heart.  I am His.  I am the bride of Christ.  The King is enthralled by my beauty (Psalm 45:11), and I am in love with my precious family.  It’s a pretty high expectation for a still photo to capture even the essence of that…something so rich and rare and precious.

You don’t know the pain that I endured for years…or maybe you do.  Maybe you are still enduring the pain.  Maybe it’s not pictures or appearances but wealth or degrees or anything other than the approval of God that you are settling for as the measure of your worth.  The good news – God is already in love with you – He already thinks you are amazing!  He sent His son to fill the gap so that we can have an intimate relationship – we don’t have to do anything but accept His Son, Jesus, and surrender to Him – it’s already been done for us.  Those things can never give you real worth, it’s only temporary, a one shot photo of a life in motion.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Picture Perfect

You know sometimes I just see people and they just look so perfect.  Their hair is perfectly coifed, body perfectly toned, and their kids are well dressed sitting politely in a row.  They don't seem rushed or frazzled or worried about how they are going to pay next months bills.  It's hard not to be jealous.  I just get tired sometimes of feeling like I'm trying so hard, and everyone else is just doing better than me.  I know we are not supposed to compare and other people have struggles and blah blah blah, but sometimes...sigh...sometimes it just hurts.

For lent, I asked God what He wanted me to give up.  I always like to give up a certain food group and pretend I'm giving it up for God and being such a good Christian - the truth is I'm usually just hoping it will make me skinnier.  It doesn't always happen this way, but I felt it in my heart, loud and clear - God told me that He wanted me to give up my desire for perfection.  Maybe that's a walk in the park for you, but for me, that's the hardest 40 days of my life.  I am not perfect, never have been, but boy, I like things to be neat and tidy, and if they are not going to be at home I like to at least look like I have it together when I walk out the door - I think we all do to some degree.  Anyway, it's the hardest thing I have ever done, but probably one of the best things.

And I realized, while giving this up, that when I was giving up things being perfect, trading this mental and physical emotional energy for things more imporant like spending time with God, loving on my family, and in general just focusing on what my real priorities were, I felt more relaxed....UNTIL...the worst - I just made it out of the house alive, got where I was going with kids dressed, fed, and buckled, but I had no makeup on, didn't brush my hair, and was wearing a t-shirt again, and some perfectly dressed woman with her perfect children walks past me.  Barf.  And then I felt it, that anxious energy rising again...perfection...I want to look like I have it all together.  But then I got past that, and I let it go.  Then, worse than that, someone I care about or look up to overlooks me because I look disheiveled or comments that I look tired (no I'm not tired, thank you, I just did not have time to put makeup on today, but I'm here aren't I?)  But then I got past that.  And then here's the real kicker - some well dressed woman with her perfect kids who volunteers for everything under the sun and her life just must be stinking perfect dares to tell me "Why don't you just...".  It took all the power within me not to smack that woman, and then cry.  But by God's good grace I didn't and He showed me that they are struggling with holding themselves to a ridiculous standard too and that their "perfection" is really a fascade....sometimes we just think it's better if we can at least convince some people that we have it together - at least that way we can get some respect, right.

A wise woman told me that we are often comparing our "backstage lives" to others' "onstage lives".  It's so true.  We often see people in their element or workplace or at church and they just seem to have it all together, and it just feels like their images of perfection, even their facebook photos and cute tweets are stomping our sense of worth into the ground.  But the truth is that most of that is just image management, very little is real.

Dave Ramsey says not to try to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses are broke - and I think that applies to more than just money.  Many people are broke physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally...and their image is all they have left, it's protecting their shred of dignity.

In the home stretch of lent, God revealed something to me. that if I am going to be His servant and truthfully, I ever just want to walk in wholeness, I am going to have to give up perfection for the rest of my life.  It is freeing, even though it is a challenge, but more than that, I think we have a responsibility to live that way.  I don't want to stir up jealousy over a fake image of me.  And I don't want to spend more time trying to look like I have a great life than actually enjoying this life.

It is challenging to be authentic, to be real, but it is worth it, not just for your own freedom, but for the freedom of others too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Struggles suck!  There's just no way around it.  It just sucks.  And when you have been working and fighting and finally get a breath of air and feel like you are almost above water just to be sucked back down and fighting again, well, that's just...I don't know.  It's just hard.  It's painful.  And then if you are a Christian, you start to think - is it me?  Do I bring this on myself?  --- probably sometimes.  But we are supposed to be overcoming, victorious, prosperous - right?!  Sometimes I feel like - where is the victory?

The victories and glorious mountaintop moments of achievements are special, precious, and wonderful, but they are also rare.  When going through the mountain range, there are many mountains to climb, and much more valley and climb than mountaintop.  And the truth is, that if we never struggle - we are not relateable.  And if we are not relateable - we are ineffective.  We are a once beautiful polished trophy of hard-fought victory now collecting dust on a shelf.  And that is NOT what God created us for.

At some point you have to make peace with the fact: "It is not about me".  You are divinely created with a great purpose, but it is not to promote your celebrity.  It's all about pointing to the God of this Universe who sent His son to earth to become a man and die on a cross for our sins and be raised from the dead - all this so that even in our flawed humanity we could receive Christ's salvation for our sins and be free and once again know the intimacy with our creator that He intended. 

And if we never suffer, if we never struggle, we might have lots of fun feeling self-righteous and enjoying the fact that we are going to heaven when we die, but we are not bringing anyone else with us.  Other people want to know that you get it, that you care.  And suffering makes us aware, understanding and's one beauty of having a relationship with Christ, struggles make us stronger and more tender, instead of bitter. 

"We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." - Hebrews 4:15-16

Monday, April 9, 2012


Do you feel stuck?  You have all these dreams in your heart, and you are working so hard and trying to reach for the sky or even just working to make it day to day and there is hardly anything to show for all your effort?  Do you feel like you are going around and around the same mountain? 

I've felt that way lately.  God and I have been going through some things together, and I feel like I keep coming back to the same issues.  I think, "God, I thought I had already gone through this, why am I here again?  Why am I not further along?"

But He's just been reminding me that one, those dreams are placed in our heart for a reason, submit them to Him, trust in His timing, and I'll see them come to fruition.  But also, for His blessings to be blessings and not a burden, He has to build strength and character in us, or we'll fall. 

Jesus tells all who feel tired to come to Him, to watch Him and work with Him, He'll show us how to really rest.  But the phrase that He keeps playing over and over in my head is His "unforced rythms of grace" (Matt 11 Message translation). 

When I googled the word "unforced" this is the response I got from

    Done by one's own choice: free, spontaneous, uncompelled, volitional, voluntary, willful. See willing/unwilling.
Doing the right think willingly, by free choice?   It sounds almost too good to be true, but I promise this is what God has been trying to ease into my heart.  His way, is unburdensome, and when we come to Him, He will take all our trying and effort, and turn it into good fruit, and a work from willingness and desire, not trying to do the right thing.

Unforced rythms of grace.  It ebbs and flows naturally, we just have to relax into His arms, His current of grace - it's a gentle song, lovely waves, drawing us ever closer to His plan.  Think of a sunny day floating down the river; your lying back on your float, eyes closed, as the warmth of the sun touches your face, and you close your eyes and allow the waves gracefully carry you down the river...unforced rythms of grace.

And as I fall into that, I see progress, but I still feel like I should be further, I'm going around the same mountain.  Tonight God gave me this image - when you look at the roads on a mountain they rarely climb straight up and down, they wind around the mountain, easing you to the top, so even though you may have come to that side of the mountain before - this time you are higher.  And even though you may have been around this mountain before - this time it is a shorter trip around.  And all the while building the strength to be able to stand at the top. 

I'm holding on to this tonight, that I am making progress, and everything is in His time and season.  I need to enjoy this season for now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

God's Word to the Letter

On Sunday, Pastor Joe (@JoeChampion) shared a passage in his message from 2 Kings 7.  In re-reading the passage from The Message translation I wanted to share a few things that God laid fresh on me.

- The king's advisor saw the word that Elisha spoke come to fruition, but he missed out on that blessing  because of his unbelief.

- The army of Aram ran scared from a sound that meant nothing - they were jumpy, easilly frightened.  When we live a righteous life with God we can walk in confidence.  We don't have to jump at every sound or fluxuation of the economy.  There is no need to run scared, we are always confident that we can stand our ground.

- The lepers came upon good fortune.  And even though, as lepers, they were kept out of the city ( left out, mistreated, judged), they were still convicted to share the good news of their good fortune with the city.  They didn't keep it to themselves.  We have all been mistreated, bullied, disrespected, put upon, but when God's good fortune, good grace comes upon us, it should motivate us to share with all - even those who have hurt us.

- And here's the best part - all the things that God spoke through Elisha came to pass.  "God's Word to the letter." (2 Kings 7:16)

If God has spoken a Word to you, you can trust no matter how much time has passed, that His Word will be fulfilled to the letter.  And if you are struggling with unbelief, ask Him to help you believe.  Ask Him for faith.  Otherwise, you might just end up like the king's advisor who saw the good thing come, but then he missed out on it.  He was trampled to death to be precise.  God wants much greater for us! 

The message translation says:

"God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him." (John 3:17-18)

God loves you so much, and He longs for you to reap all the benefits of being His child.  He paid a high price so that you could. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Learning to be the Light

It is exhausting trying to be perfect!  Believe me, I know.  And no one can do it, I’m told, so why do we try?  Sometimes I think that we hope we can at least convince some people that we are if we look like we have it together for a few shining moments…and we pray someone catches it on camera so we can make that our facebook photo - then we can look perfect all the time even if we don’t get out of bed for the next six months. 

          Who can say when it started or why it happened, but this has been a struggle for me most of my life.  And I felt like if I wasn’t perfect then I was letting others down, most importantly I felt like I was letting God down.  But God was just waiting for the moment when I’d finally have enough of trying to do it on my own or worse, the moment when I finally was incapacitated from the trying.  Unfortunately for me, it was the latter. 

          In this process of God re-training me in how to approach life, He’s shown me that when we stop trying to be perfect or look like we have it all together – we have a lot more energy to make progress toward actually becoming the person that we hope we look like.  Example A (now don’t laugh, this is real stuff folks) – I used to spend so much time getting ready to work out: fussing over whether my outfit matched and my ponytail was just right and my bangs were straightened and even wanting to ensure that I looked slim - but then I would hardly ever actually workout because I didn’t have the time/energy to get ready to work out.  Seriously, to some of you I know this might seem ridiculous, but I really just did not feel confident enough in me to just put on a t-shirt and shorts and throw my hair up and go for a run.  I was afraid people were judging me and I felt self-conscious...these fears were crippling me from daily life functioning. 

          God helped me to realize that I have value right now – just how I am, whether or not I look good, work out, eat healthy, clean my house, etc.  No matter what He is in love with me.  And you too, my friend.  And so, for a time, using example A, I would just throw on the first t-shirt and shorts in my drawer and put my hair in a pony and without looking in the mirror, go for a run.  I’ll be honest, the first time I did it was at night – so no one could really see me that well anyway, but it was still a big step for me!  For some of you this example may seem silly, but you know you struggle with these desires in other areas.  And I had to force myself to do this for a time - grabbing the first thing not looking in the mirror and going.
       As God has worked me, this crazy thing happened, I realized that it’s ok to like a cute outfit to workout, but that even if I look crazy, it’s better to at least workout, and I'll workout a lot more frequently when I’m not so worried about how perfect I look or perform, and then I end up feeling better because I took better care of myself...thus even looking better too!

          I read this book “Comfortable in Your Own Skin” by Dr. Debrah Newman, that really helped me in this particular area of body confidence.  She has an exercise where you go through and calculate the number of hours you spend monthly on your appearance (even good things like exercise and skincare), and she talks about a healthy range of time.  Her particular phrase “finding the time to heal” really stuck with me, and I realized that the less time I spent on trying to look well (not just as it relates to my appearance but even trying to make sure my house appeared clean for guests after I just had my second child) the more energy I had to heal and that gave me the energy I need to make progress in the areas that I really desire.

          I began the year with a New Year’s Resolution to avoid looking in the mirror, but God really lay on my heart about a month in that it isn’t looking at my reflection that’s evil.  I did need to stop for a while so that I could regain my sight and focus in on what’s really important, but it wasn't that extreme forever.  So then I changed my resolution to choosing to like what I see in the mirror, but even after a time I recognized that was out of balance too.  I can see that I still have pounds to lose (both literally and metaphorically).    And the Word I believe I heard from God next was profound.  I need to resolve to let go of my desire for perfection and allow God to help me be satisfied with progress. 

Resolve to let go of my desire for perfection and allow God to help me be satisfied with progress.

        The only person who ever was and ever will be perfect is Jesus Christ.  And boasting about your flaws is just a cover up for insecurity too.  We need to get real about where we are hurting so we can help each other, but most importantly so we can bring it to light.  In the light, God can heal it! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Today I read a really candid post from a dear friend of mine that shares some of her own personal pain to help build up the women in her life, and it inspired me.

Living Life One Laugh At A Time!: A thought... or two

She has shared it with me before, but it just struck a deep chord with me, and challenged me to share something personal too. 

She shared some struggles with self-love because of people’s comments about her slim build (she is stunning by the way), and put it in incredible perspective.  Accepting and loving myself has also been a struggle for me, as I think it is for very many women, but the thing I am most particularly embarrassed of may be surprising.

I still remember the first time that I began to feel embarrassed.  I was sitting around a table as a freshman in high school and the girls were talking about what kind of plastic surgery they would have if they could.  I really never remember considering this as an option before.  One girl said she would have a breast enhancement…a chorus of yesses all around the table until all eyes fell on me…”Kandi you better not say that you would, you’re massive”. 

“Massive”, the most terrible word I have ever heard in all my life.  Huge.  Enormous.  And I heard it over and over again.  It’s not nearly as noticeable now, as it was then, because women’s bodies near my age are developed from bearing children, but it still haunts me.  I have always been very busty and I developed very early.

And then the next big attack, a man in my church, who I respected very much told me that I needed to be more careful about what I wore, especially while I was singing in the Praise Band, because I was causing young men to lust after me.  I looked down at my loose fitting cheerleading t-shirt and then out at the other slim girls with their tank tops and I felt humiliated. 

I mean believe me, every summer trying to find a swimsuit, and just trying to find a shirt that is not a turtleneck comes with the anxiety that I might be dressing inappropriately for a God-fearing woman.  And every woman who is not busty feels that she must comment on mine and that it is an appropriate subject of conversation, when I would never say (or for that matter even think about) how “small” hers are.  Women would tell me how my husband is so lucky and how that’s why men are attracted to me and all I could think is that if there were anything attractive about me (b/c I was even skeptical of this) that it must be attractive in a way that causes sin, lust, and jealousy. 

But that is not what God meant for me or you.  Let’s stop putting women down and finding our value in comparison to one another. Things like…

“If I had her body I’d be happier.”

“I’d rather have no boobs at all that have one bigger than another.”

“Pear shape is the worst body type”.

“Thank God I don’t have her ____________”.

“She doesn’t look as pretty without makeup.”

I heard every single one of these exact comments in the last week in casual conversation by women!
Stop it!  Just stop it!  Every last word is poison!  And I mean stop it even about celebrities that we don’t know.  They are women too, flesh and blood, with real hurts and fears and feelings.  God made each of us beautiful, lovely, and yes we have outward beauty, but we have a beauty far greater in that we are created in the image of the Most High God to fulfill His purposes in this world.  We are loved, adored, pursued by the God of the Universe, and we need to start acting like it. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Irritation is Ok

So the hubbie and I had a little tiff today as we sometimes do, but, like many times before we walked away resolved and closer than before.  And I walked away a bit wiser. 

We ended the conversation basically with him saying to me “Sometimes I am going to get frustrated and irritated, but I’ll still do what it takes to take care of you, to take care of the kids, and to take care of our home.”  Long silence.  “Thank you,” I said.

I realized that in all this round and round of the same issue, I was afraid that if he felt irritated or frustrated that he just wouldn’t do it.  I was afraid he’d drop the ball and I’d be left to fend for myself.  Pastor Jimmy Evans ( talks about how the “mega need” of a woman is security.  And I was afraid that he was frustrated that he would leave me hanging.

In the midst of our conversation he reminded me that I can trust him to love me and care for me…no matter how he feels…a mark of mature love.  But I also learned something else…I need to give him the freedom to be irritated.  Sometimes in all our “attitude is everything” thinking we forget that it is ok to be frustrated, it’s just what you do with that frustration that counts. 

The funny thing is that I teach my daughter this every day.  The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26, Psalm 4:4), and also that when we feel angry not to let the sun go down on that anger but to sit and meditate until we can be peaceful.  I tell Laurelei this verse daily, and that this means it is ok to be frustrated, but that we still have to be kind and obey.  Apply this principle to other relationships and we still need to be kind and keep our word, bearing with one another's struggles and weaknesses.

Sometimes we just need to offer the grace to others and to ourselves that it is ok to be frustrated.  Frustration is not sin.  And we can bear with one another (Col.3:13, Gal.6:2).    

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Parenting in the Information Age

You’ve probably all seen it, but if you haven’t let me set up the video for you.  15 year old girl was just recently grounded for posting something her parents didn’t like on facebook.  After it was over she posted a rebellious rant, but blocked her parents from seeing it.  Her dad, who works in IT, saw it anyway and posted his video response to her on her facebook wall where she can’t see it but all her friends can.  Warning: there are curse words used.

After watching the video, I have to say, I have mixed feelings.  There is part of me that joins in with many other “old-school” parents in saying “Amen!”  That girl’s got it easy and here’s a lesson she has coming to her.  But then there’s another part of me, who, at 26 still remembers not so dissimilar journal entries written (but definitely never given) to my parents at that age.  I’m I proud of it?  Definitely not, I had it good, and I had no idea.  Would I have posted it on facebook?  I don’t think so, but I can’t say for sure because I didn’t have any sort of online accounts back then, but I know for sure my parents would have bruised my behind and made all my “stuff” disappear.  And I would have spent every single Saturday morning until I moved out getting up at the crack of dawn and doing manual labor.

Many people attribute the saying “spare the rod, spoil the child” to Scripture, but it is actually more of an axiom based on many proverbs.  The rod, of course, is the rod of correction, discipline.  I don’t think it needs to literally mean a tool for spanking, but metaphorically discipline that proves painful.  Pain reminds us not to do something again.  I still remember as a child the first time I carelessly grabbed the pan on the stove.  My mom allowed me to cook with her and told me time and time again to be careful it was very hot.  And I tried to remember to be careful, but then I forgot, but the moment I burned my arm on that hot pan is etched in my memory.  And I have had little trouble remembering to be careful of pans on the stove ever since.

The burn from the hot pan hurt me, but it did not harm me.  I have no scars from it.  Thus, I believe is the same with healthy discipline.  It is painful to remind us, it trains us, but does not harm us.

“Young people are prone to foolishness and fads;
the cure comes through tough-minded discipline.” 
-Proverbs 22:15 (Msg)

“Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
A spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact,
might save them from something worse than death.”
-Proverbs 23:13-14 (Msg)

And here’s the kicker…

“Wise discipline imparts wisdom;
Spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents.”
-Proverbs 29:15 (Msg)

Scripture is clear that we are to discipline our children.  I often tell Laurelei, “If you can’t remember to obey what mommy told you to do, then I will give you a spanking to remind you.” 

It’s pretty clear that the older generation agree and believe this, and trained up their children on these beliefs.  So why did their children turn from it?  Why have their children trained their own children differently?

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast.  It is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”   - 1 Cor. 13:4-7

…or The Message Translation says it this way…

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
Keeps going to the end.”

This man in the video is clearly ticked that his daughter behaved this way.  And rightfully so.  I’d be ticked too.  And I think he’s a bit embarrassed.  But I heard something when Laurelei was young that’s really stuck with me – if you are capable of being embarrassed by someone else’s behavior then you have your own issues to deal with, and you can’t fully love.  Meaning that we must recognize our children as separate from us, and not become reactive when they misbehave.

It is human nature to be self-centered and lazy.  It is our job as parents to train that self-centered and lazy nature out of them.  And that is just what an older generation did…but in many instances it seems to have left their children feeling cold toward their parents and seeking out a warmer way to raise their children.  They “threw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.

Love, compassion, warmth must be present for our discipline to be a helpful hurt and not harm.  I still remember my own feelings of frustration as a child having to do things I didn’t want to do.  And so when I tell Laurelei to do something that she doesn’t want to I have compassion on her.  And when I discipline Laurelei (not because I enjoy it but because I believe it’s essential to her healthy development) I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t do it in response to my anger or embarrassment.  Sometimes I even tell her that I’m sorry that she doesn’t want to, but that she can either choose to obey or suffer the consequences. 

“We do not have a High Priest (savior in Christ) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  -Heb. 4:15

And we can also sympathize with their struggle.  We have sinned.  We have been selfish and lazy and irresponsible.  We can love them though they are flawed.  But we must make their misbehavior their problem so that they will learn from it.

My thoughts on this video are that his daughter is probably behaving this way because she’s been allowed to, and this dad is probably mad (rightfully so) and probably a little embarrassed.  Instead of recognizing that human nature just is what it is and if you don’t place boundaries on it, it’s likely to play out in stubbornness and rebellion, he’s acting a little vindictive toward her for daring to behave this way.  We all have a selfish human nature, and some of us a little more human nature it seems than others.  That’s just the reality of our fallen world.

But the Bible says that we have a Savior that can relate to our struggles.  He has compassion on us.  But his compassion doesn’t change the law of sowing and reaping until we have a clear heart change and submit to his grace to cover us. 

I think this girl’s behavior warrants her having her computer taken away and her learning to “earn” the things in her life, instead of them just being given, but shooting her computer is money down the drain and just a way, I think for the dad to vent his anger and sock it to his daughter.  Threats are not discipline.  And parents that think that giving their children a look or stern tone or promises of consequences will be effective in training their children, I believe, misunderstand how human nature works.  For some children this may make them try to look like they are obeying, but it fails to cause the pain that trains the heart. 

Instead, the daughter coming home to her computer being removed and having to take over the “cleaning lady” duties without yelling or arguing on the part of the parents, but having these tasks until there is clear evidence of a total heart change, a gratefulness, I think is a more effective solution. 

I know that at 26, with only two children at home, ages 4 ½ months to 3 ½ years, I am not a seasoned parent by any stretch.  I am, as always, open to your comments and thoughts, even if you disagree!