Do Your Words Bring Life or Death?

By Brittany Rust

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The Power of Your Words

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
— Proverbs 31:26

God has been working in me the power of the tongue. How our words have the ability to bring life or death (Prov. 18:21). That we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Taming the tongue is truly one of the hardest things to master in this world. And Scripture points to the destruction it can bring in your life.

  • A cutting remark to your spouse.

  • A frustrated snap towards your children.

  • A little gossip with your friends.

  • A co-workers idea shot down without empathy.

  • The negative self-talk about your worth.

  • Words doubting God’s goodness in a trial.

If you were to truly take an inventory of your words today, how would you fair?

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It’s amazing how much negative talk you might see once you take an honest evaluation of your words—internal and external.

Are your words bringing death or life to yourself, your family, your community, and your communication with God?

I just want to pause right here and dig a little deeper, practically. And I only share what I’ve wrestled with. Our children are so impressionable and vulnerable. How we speak to them—whether verbal or nonverbal—deeply effects them. Perhaps in ways we might now notice until they’re older. 

I’ve been reading No Drama Discipline and the authors go in-depth about the child’s brain and the large impacts our small choices can make. How you treat your child now will form them into the adult they become.

Think about your words, or even your gestures, towards your child(ren). Are they bringing life or are they tearing down your little one? It’s important that the positive significantly outweighs the negative—as much as 9 positive for every 1 negative. This isn’t easy, which means it will require being on and intentional each and every day. 

James 3 says,

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Bringing Life in Your Words

You won’t master perfect life-giving language this side of heaven but mixing positive and negative talk should be limited as much as possible. And that will take hard work.

  • It will require getting His Word in you as much as possible.

  • It will mean pausing before you speak.

  • It will require intentionality and perseverance.

But if you will pursue righteous language, I firmly believe one can overwhelmingly abide in your life.

It also says in James 3 that the tongue cannot be tamed by a human. But that’s human limitation because with God, anything is possible. Turn your language over to Him. Invite the Holy Spirit to empower you to speak life, not death. To lift up and encourage; not tear down. To talk about the holiness of God rather than spread doubt in His ability. “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” Ephesians 4:29.

Take this to heart today and evaluate your language. Are your words bringing life or death?


Three Practical Ways to Combat Mom Guilt

By Lindsey Racz

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My daughter just asked if she could have some of my sparkling water. You know, the one thing I splurge on for myself at the grocery store so that I can have a treat once a day minus the sugar.

“No, honey…you know this is the sparkling water that you always ask for and never finish because you really don’t like it,” I whine without any level of maturity or authority.

A running commentary begins in my head, reminding me that it’s true—she doesn’t even like it. Besides, she has milk and juice and ice-cream and everything good that her little heart could desire because she’s a child and can eat whatever she wants with no concern for caloric intake, so I shouldn’t feel guilty for saying no. But then that other voice chimes in: “You’re so selfish...way to teach your child to share. Nice modeling, there, mom.” The mom guilt has me again. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

I find myself at least knee-deep in mom guilt multiple times a day. One of my precious and energy-sucking blessings asks me to play. Or to read. Or to buy them something. Or they ask me nothing at all, and my brain is still chattering away about how I should be doing more.

Never mind that we already had a morning walk together, got ice-cream last night, and rented three movies this week. We read devotionals each night before bedtime. I give darn good hugs in the morning. I try very hard as a mom, but it seems whatever I do, it’s never enough for my kids. They always want more (of me) than I have to give.  Or, light-bulb moment, perhaps I am the one for whom it’s never enough.

Mom-guilt is a poor motivator and makes me parent from a place of weakness. If you’re anything like me, you are looking for some practical ways to knock your guilt-o-meter down a few notches as well.

Thankfully, that’s where my job as a therapist comes in handy. It’s not always easy to practice what I preach, but it’s time I take my own advice. The following are a few practical tips to help avoid the guilt-based parenting trap.

1.    Identify the source of your guilt.  

I don’t know when my guilt began. It could have been the birth of my second child. Or my third. Suddenly my time was divided beyond what I thought possible. My love multiplied with the birth of each new child. My time, however, did not.

Any of those sweet additions could have been born alongside guilt, but circumstances alone don’t maintain a mindset. Mindsets are ingrained and maintained through a constant. When constant arrows of “not enough” fly our way, we can be sure they are coming from the same source.

I’m not giving enough time. Not doing enough. Not being patient enough. Not “letting them be little” enough. It’s clear that I’m NOT ENOUGH.

There it is. Once the guilt is whittled down to its moment of origin, I recognize it. I recognize him. The Wizard of Oz who pretends to be all-knowing while standing behind a curtain and magnifying his make-believe power. The enemy. Darkened by shadows, hiding in the recesses of my life, reminding me I’m not enough. He causes guilt. Fear. Sadness. He causes us to parent from weakness. He is not conviction; he is shame. Thankfully, his power dwindles after exposure to light. Identifying this source of unhealthy guilt is vital in ridding our lives of it. 

 

2. Don’t be manipulated.

My personal guilt cup runneth over with any and every “no” I utter. Okay, it certainly doesn’t help that my brilliant nine-year-old has caught on to my tendency to parent out of guilt and now makes guilt-inducing facial expressions the moment the word “no” enters my brain. “But mooooom,” she whines, “we haven’t gotten to bake cupcakes together ever in the history of my entire life.”

How sad. I think. How terribly and painfully sad. I really must be a terrible parent. Wait a minute. Usually, by the time I catch the manipulation, I’m already drowning in a pool of shame. My life raft is to grab a little truth. I grasp for air and remind my child of the good things we’ve done. And bonus, it’s a teachable moment as I remind her of what God’s word says in Philippians 4:8,

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.

Reminding our kids of the good we’ve done together—indeed, just earlier that day—can put a cold, hard stop to that sad little frowny face. Kids can be extremely manipulative. They aren’t evil; they are following the natural order of development. Part of development involves observing and exploring how their actions impact the world around them. Who can blame them for taking note that a particular look gets them that specific toy they want? It’s our job as parents to teach that manipulation does NOT lead to their desired outcome, instead of vice versa. 

3.  Avoid the comparison trap.

Seriously. Look at these Pinterest moms up in here! They’ve been to Target to buy their kids new wardrobes, stopped for a quick vacation to Disney World on the way home, and painted each child’s room a personalized color with sparkles all before 9:00 am on a Monday. Guess what? I’m not one of them.

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: comparison IS the thief of joy! No one’s life is as amazing as it looks from the outside because everyone, and I do mean every single body, has issues. That amazing mom down the street that looks like she has it all together? She’s probably guilt-momming her way to exhaustion as we speak. That one lady at our church who always wears the sweetest and most patient expression while talking with her children? She has a cussing problem behind closed doors.

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There is simply no use in comparing our mothering skills to those around us—things are never really what they seem. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, let’s pray for wisdom from the only parent who gets it right every time: God, the Father.

I actually am enough, thank you very much. My kids are fed. They are sometimes clean. They are safe. They are most definitely loved. I am not always the fun mom. I’m the mom who is trying to be better, but okay with right where I am. I’m the mom who accepts that I went crazy psycho mom earlier this morning because someone had an attitude, but I apologized and modeled my need for Jesus. Today, I’m the mom who is dumping my mom-guilt next to the pile of lint dust that falls out of the dryer each time I empty the trap. Breathe in, exhale, and say it with me: I’m a good mom.  


Self Care: Selfish or Scriptural

By Shannon Toller

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It’s not a secret to anyone that knows me that I love a good self-help book. I like to paint my nails and put headphones in when the girls go to sleep. I cherish drinking a hot cup of coffee, and I may even like it when my taste buds get burned off with that first gulp. But, when it comes to the “self-care movement” of today, I feel like Sandra Bullock before she turns into Gracie Lou Freebush.

I’m all about a mani/pedi day with my girlfriends, followed by lunch and a movie. Except for the tiny baby hiccup that I just don’t have the time for that anymore. I am a stay at home mama to three girls under six, and it’s summertime to boot, so I am using all my God-given energy to figure out new ways to eat turkey sandwiches. I don’t have time (or money) to pay a sitter and take a “me day.” Quite honestly, I don’t even know if I would enjoy a day at the spa at this season of life; I wouldn’t be able to relax because I'd be too worried that the kids lit the house on fire. My head would be filled with more thoughts like, “I should have bought that baby-cam," instead of ideas of Namaste and chill. So instead of working myself into an anxiety spiral at a day spa, I find solace in my time with Jesus.

True Self Care

Jesus Christ and my relationship with Him is MY self-care.

I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but our Lord and Savior practiced self-care. Remember in the gospel of Mark when Jesus told his followers that there are two commandments to follow in their relationship with Him:

Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
— Luke 10:27

Right here in Scripture, Jesus implores us to take care of our friends and neighbors the way we take care of ourselves. We wouldn’t offer our friends the bare minimum: the scraps of food we eat off our kids’ plates at dinner time, or the five-minute bathroom timeout we so desperately need in our mothering journey. We would roll out the red carpet for a friend who was celebrating and break out the tissues and chocolate for the friend who was grieving. We would break out the best china, the best cheese and crackers, and we would fill their cups. We would pray with them, cry with them, and laugh with them. We wouldn’t guilt them into doing “more” or “less.” We would simply be with them. Just like Jesus simply is with us.

Jesus practiced self-care when He took time away from the crowds and the congregations to spend quiet time with the Father. He never had a big prayer session in the middle of a marketplace. He went to the most secluded of places, simply so He could hear what His Father was speaking to him. He never tried to do it himself or put on a façade. When Jesus was scared and reluctant to be beaten, bloodied, and crucified on a rugged cross for our sins, he literally sweat blood. He was as human as is humanly possible, without all of that silly sin stuff.

Jesus never forsook the fellowship. He was always available to his friends and family, but He still knew when the time for prayer and solitude was on the horizon. Like Jesus, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes “self-care” isn’t a spa day: it’s the solitude of reflection and prayer. But in this world of “hustle this” and “hustle that” and “hustle until you’re dead,” being still and quiet and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit is the most counter-cultural thing you could do in 2019.

C.S. Lewis says it best: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Redefining Self Care

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Spa days and comfy leggings and tubs of ice cream are fun and enjoyable. But when you are choosing them over Jesus, that’s when life starts to fall apart. When you focus too much on yourself and your “self-care,” you are neglecting one of the most important commandments in the Bible: Everyone should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Yes, we need to take care of ourselves. Us mamas need to get a shower in more than once a week. We need to wear our hair down instead of defaulting to the “mom-bun.” But, if we are neglecting our families and friends for the sake of self-care, then I think we are all missing the point.

Being a young mama isn’t for the faint of heart, especially in 2019. We need to be kind to ourselves and extend that good, good grace God extends to us. We need to get sound sleep each day. Contrary to popular belief, I cannot run on coffee, and I’m betting you can’t either. We need healthy, nutritious diets to fuel our adventures in motherhood. We need to get out the stroller and take a walk with the kids. We need to play at the park and swing on the swing set. We need to dance in the kitchen with our husbands, and we most definitely need to make out with our husband in front of our children. They need to see love and stability, just as much, if not more than we do. We need to go to the doctor when we aren’t feeling well. We need to ask for help when we are drowning in sorrow and depression and laundry.

Most importantly, we need to rely on Jesus and our relationship with Him. Not just because He is our heavenly Father and our Savior, but because He is our friend. The friend who sacrificed himself for a punishment we so rightfully deserved is a prayer away. The Holy Spirit that rose Jesus from the grave lives in you. How’s that for “self-care” in your daily life?


Be Still

By Lindsay Dryer

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Keeping Your Eyes on the Father

A friend of mine recently shared a somewhat traumatic experience of hers. Her daughter, who is a toddler, has had a habit of tugging on her hair since she was just a little baby. It wasn't really anything to be concerned about until one day, my friend went to get her daughter out of her car seat, and the little girl had wrapped her hair so tightly around her finger that her finger was blue. This was quite alarming for my friend, so she sought advice from her pediatrician, who recommended having her hair cut in an attempt to break the habit (and save her fingers!).

Off they went to the hair salon, and this little almost-2-year old girl went from shoulder-length, wavy hair to an adorable pixie cut. My friend was heartbroken for her daughter. She didn't imagine her first hair cut being under these circumstances or being this short. I can only imagine how I would feel if it was my own daughter.

It never would have been my friend's preference for her daughter's first hair cut, but she was doing what was best for her. A few days after the haircut, she shared the most precious photo on social media that her husband had snapped while they were at the salon. As the tiny girl sat in the big chair getting her hair cut, her mama is bent down, face to face, holding her face in her hands, keeping her still while the stylist cuts, looking into her eyes and showing the sweetest smile to reassure her that it will all be okay.

I literally cried when I saw the picture. I immediately imagined it as me and Jesus. Or you and Jesus. Isn't that the way He cares for us?

When we're facing something really hard, something that would have never been our idea of a good idea, there He is holding our face in His hands, looking us in the eye, and whispering to us, "I know it's hard. I know it's not comfortable. But it's for your good. Lock eyes with Me and trust Me."

There's something powerful about locking eyes with Jesus; about standing still long enough to hear Him speak. It's easy to become so overwhelmed by or anxious about the circumstances in front of us that we forget to look up at our Savior and recognize that He's working for our good. It's easy to get so busy fixing things and covering our bases that we miss out on letting HIM fix it. It's hard to really listen if we aren't standing still.

I love what God commands us in Psalm 46:10. He says,

Be still, and know that I am God.
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Being still almost seems like a foreign concept to us in this day in time. We are a culture of go-go-go. We work nonstop, we fill our schedules, we do everything quickly. It's hard to be still! But that's the only way we're going to really be able to listen to His voice. Look what it says in the CSB version and MSG version.

“Stop your fighting, and know that I am God." (CSB)

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God." (MSG)

Stop fighting for yourself. Step out of the crazy traffic of life. Be still. Look up. Take a long, loving look into His eyes, and know in your heart that He. Is. God. He's in control.

He sees the giant you're facing. He's bigger.

He knows the battle you're fighting. He already won the victory.

He wants to look you in the eyes and tell you, "I see you. I'm here with you. This is not easy, but it's for your good. Lock eyes with me and trust me."

What area of your life keeps you moving nonstop? Where do you feel like you need to focus on being still, locking eyes with Jesus, and listening?

Mom Tip for Holding Your Child’s Attention

Have you ever tried to have a serious conversation with your little one? In my experience, that can be quite a challenge because kids don't like to stand still for very long. When I try to discipline my 4-year old or explain why hitting her brother is not okay, she's more concerned about making sure he doesn't get that toy she was playing with. Her eyes are everywhere but on mine, and her ears might be hearing what I'm saying, but it's highly unlikely that she's listening.

I learned something really helpful a couple of years ago. When I need to speak an important message to my daughter, I will tell her, "Put your hands on Mommy's face." This kind of forces her attention to be on my face. Every once in a while, her eyes will veer off, but for the most part, she has her eyes on mine, and she's not so easily distracted. I can't remember where I even saw this taking place, but I remember seeing it and thinking, "That mom is a GENIUS!" And ever since then, I've been so grateful to have that one in my bag of tricks!


5 Things That Get Easier With Parenthood

By Becky Beresfod

A few weeks ago I was once again battling my tiny army in the great bedtime war, a daily occurrence in our home. Somehow amid the laughing and crying and question-asking, I heard my phone buzz on the counter.  Please let it be my husband saying he’s coming home early with a Starbuck’s latte in hand! The one-year-old was bawling, the toddler was fleeing the scene and let’s be honest friends, who the heck knows where my first-born was? Probably drawing on one of my walls or raiding the pantry or both. Kids are talented like that.  By the grace of Jesus, I miraculously reached my cell and checked the texts.

Not from the hubby. Actually, it wasn’t from anyone I was expecting. My brother-in-law sent the message and his words caught my eye.

You should write a blog post talking about the things that get easier once you become a parent.” 

And snap. I wish I could have taken a picture of my facial expression in that moment because WHAT?   

Was he for real? Things getting EASIER after welcoming little humans into your life? The same little humans who murdered my nice couch and punched holes through my drywall earlier that week? Those babies? He and my sister had just welcomed sweet girl #2 earlier that month.  I’m sure he was delirious and very sleep-deprived; a combination that makes you do ridiculous things. But out of curiosity, I kept reading.

Cause it seems like literally EVERYTHING gets harder after kids, but that can’t be true.” 

It can’t? I physically stepped back in an attempt to readjust my current negative thinking. Was there even one thing I could honestly say gets easier after having children? Help me out here, Jesus. And suddenly, in the middle of all the chaos, He gently took my hand, drew me out from the muddled fog, and placed me in the clear pasture of His grace. 

BE STILL AND KNOW, MY CHILD.

I knew His voice--calm and reassuring. I knew He had a ‘best’ He wanted to show me. And slowly I began to see my surroundings for what they really were.

My eyes saw the little boy running from me, but this time I caught a glimpse of his mischievous grin as he looked behind him, hoping his Mommy would come get him. He wanted me. He wanted my love and attention and cuddles. I saw the little baby reaching up for the one person he knew could make it all better. He needed me and only me. And I looked at the scattered drawings on the floor my eldest boy drew with the most intricate detail and care. He showed it to me a couple hours ago because he was proud. He wanted Mama’s approval. My opinion mattered...I mattered. 

God showed me His beauty in a matter of seconds and I was eager to see more.

I quickly replied.  “I’m gonna do it.  I need to do it.

So here I am, staying true to my word. But more importantly, I’m choosing to see joy in the midst of the mess.  There are only five points here, but I’m pretty sure I could have done more. Yeah, I’m surprised too.

1.)  It’s easier to lose your mind. 

For real. You go crazy when you raise mini-people. I have spent hours looking for keys that were in my pockets. I wake up in the middle of the night hearing screams from the monitor, but it’s dead silent. I can barely make sentences and refer to all items as “that thing over there.” I make no sense and it just comes with the exhausted territory. I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. And yet somehow I am expected to give of myself 24/7 without being able to take care of simple needs like peeing on my own or taking a shower once a week. If they know you are somewhere in the home, it’s over. Checkmate, my friend.  They will find you.

Let it be of consolation to you to know it’s normal to feel like you are going insane because you probably are. But good news! You are not alone. Every person who has a child, especially young ones, feels your pain. We are all in the same circus boat and even if it seems like it’s sinking, just know it’s going to be okay and we will survive. I mean, it’s highly probable.

2.)  It’s easier to let go of expectations because you will have lots of practice.

I always have these grandiose ideas and visions for creating family memories but I actually don’t think I can recall one ever going according to plan. Things pop up, kids freak out, schedules change…life happens. Flexibility is a given in the parent world, but often it’s hard to let that piece of reality sink in. And sometimes it’s even harder to let it become the norm. In an interesting turn of events; letting go can actually be a gift. I know...it’s shocking. But true. The pressure to try and make everything happen the way you want it to can be intense.  If we allow Jesus to step in and remove our self-imposed burdens, the world will look and feel a whole lot lighter.

I have a son with special needs and our plans change by the hour. I used to freak out about it, but now I’m learning to make flexibility my friend. It isn’t easy in and of itself, but when we practice living with open hands and open hearts we give God the opportunity to step in and change our circumstances in a way that goes far beyond anything we could have dreamed. He is the God of abundance and His ability to make beauty out of the ashes will never fail. Trust Him.

3.)  It’s easier to laugh at it all. 

Kids have this uncanny way of bringing joy into the mundane. They see life through their innocence and experience it with fresh, pure hearts. There’s a reason Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16). Kids understand what matters.  And they know that one of the most important things you can do in this life is just to laugh and have fun! 

I love my goofballs. Sometimes I’m in the worst mood and I look at my sweet child’s face. He smiles ear to ear and it completely captures my heart. I’m a sucker for baby hugs and cutie kisses. But man, you add in their belly laughs and I’m gone! Soon my grin is as big as his.

I catch myself laughing during the precious times and the ‘Sweet-Jesus-help-me’ times. When it’s psycho nuts in my home and I’m just standing there not knowing what to do or who to take care of first, I just start laughing! It’s like my brain doesn’t know how to respond so it says, “Okay, this is too much.  Let’s crack up.”  And that’s when I begin to cackle like a crazy person.  See point #1.

4.)  It’s easier to beat yourself up like never before. 

I’ve always had a problem with shame. It’s my thing. But when you are in charge of raising decent human beings, let alone keeping them alive, things get real. I am certainly the hardest on myself when it comes to taking care of my family.  They mean the world to me and somehow each day I think I’m majorly screwing things up. I promise to reimburse them for whatever therapy they may need later on in life. But here’s the thing…every single parent thinks they are missing the mark! I have never met a mom or dad who thinks they have it all together. Instead, they feel like they are not good enough or too much or someplace in between. And the guilt can be so defeating. Luckily, we don’t have to live there.

The goodness of our Jesus is unending. He isn’t about perfection, which is great since no one is perfect. He’s about our transformation and I can’t think of anything else in life that changes you more besides being a parent. Your kids see your rough days. They see you mess up over and over again, but when you come to them and say sorry I truly believe it gives them a sense of relief! Not just because you are pursuing reconciliation, but I really believe this helps them avoid the unrealistic standards of perfection they may place on themselves in order to gain your affection. They will know they are always loved no matter what they do, and that model of unconditional love will stay with them wherever this life leads them. 

We are all doing our best. God knows that and He covers us in His grace. Whenever we feel weak, we know He is strong and more than able to fill in the multiple gaps.

5.)  It’s easier to understand the heart of God. 

The instant you hold your child for the first time, your relationship with Jesus goes to a whole new level. It’s the most surreal, humbling, and scary feeling in the world. God has entrusted this precious life to you. This beautiful creature that you would literally die for…they are your heart walking outside of your body. The love you have for them is nothing less than extravagant. 

In that divine moment, God looks at us, His beloved children, and softly whispers, “I love you even more.” It’s almost unbelievable and yet, it’s the most important thing we need to believe. This is the Love that surpassing all understanding. This is the Love that endures forever. Our Heavenly Father’s love stretches past any human’s capability to love on his or her own, and that includes parents. As much as you love your child, it’s just a glimpse of how much God adores you. You are loved perfectly and wonderfully just because you are you. 

And as if that weren’t enough, when we experience God’s love more fully, He gives us the blessing of passing on His love to our kids. There’s really no greater honor.

We can all agree that parenting is a complicated ordeal.  You don’t get a handbook with all the answers, but hopefully, we can encourage each other along the way. Just like being in love or picking out paint colors, it’s comforting to know that the simple and the hard can coexist.    

So take heart, fellow parenting-warrior.  With all the other complexities you may be facing today, let me reassure you just as my Jesus reassured me.

You are doing well, my friend. Very well, indeed.


Mommy Isn't Fine

By Becky Beresford

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I cry at everything. All the time, all the feels. I wish I could blame it on pregnancy or having three kids, but the truth is I’ve been this way my entire life. Growing up, I used to be ashamed of my deep emotions. I’d hide behind fake smiles and well-timed nods. Happy moods were okay to express, but negative ones were another ordeal. I was labeled “sensitive,” which wasn’t a good thing coming from the labeler. It wasn’t until recently that I took this label as a compliment. It’s how God has made me. I like who I am. I’m thankful for my feels.

As I’ve stepped into motherhood, however, I’ve felt myself struggle again. It’s easy to believe that to raise emotionally “stable” kids, we have to keep it all together. We can’t show them our struggles. We can’t let them know we are in pain. Everything’s fine. Mommy is FINE.

But Mommy isn’t fine.

Mommy is hurt. Mommy is scared. Mommy is mad.

And Mommy needs to know that it’s okay to let it show. It’s okay to look your little one in the eyes and be honest with them. So often we crave authentic relationships with others, ones where we can be ourselves in all our imperfect glory.

But we avoid this same type of connection with our kids. I’m not saying we should spew all of our burdens on our kids, telling them the in’s and out’s of our troubles and trials. But I think it’s okay to say, “Mommy is really sad.”

Our kids are experts at spotting fakes. They know when we are hurting, and they want us to be real. Deep down, I think we want it too. Our hearts need to know there is liberty to express our feelings in truth and love, especially to those in our closest circle. By taking off the mask and giving our babies the gift of authenticity, we teach them holy things. Still don’t believe me? I’ve got you.

Here are three Biblical reasons why we should share our feelings with our kids.

1) It shows them how to approach God.

So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most
— Hebrews 4:16

If our relationship with our children reflects God’s relationship with us, then we need to look at how He interacts with His kids, especially when we are messy. God doesn’t expect us to have it all together when we come to Him. He tells us to come boldly – arms open, feelings flowing. I can guarantee ‘when we need it most,’ we are not calm and collected. Our knees are on the floor, face to the ground, tears streaming down our cheeks as we cry out to heaven. And God wants this.

When we live with unguarded hearts we are showing our littles a crucial lesson: It’s okay to lay it all out there, but then we must lay it all down. Casting our cares before our Savior, we show our kids how to have a deeper relationship with Him.

2) It shows them how to have healthy relationships.

Healthy relationships hold all the emotions. Our kids need to understand that people have many types of feelings. And when they encounter them, we can guide them in knowing what to do. Emotions don’t need to be ‘fixed.’ They need to be felt in order to heal.

I let my kids know it’s alright to be angry. I ask them to tell me how they are feeling. And then I listen. We talk. We pray. We bring our deep emotions back to Jesus. And you know what, my kids are starting to ask me questions too! When they see me crying, they ask why. They don’t say stop; they try to connect. They are imitating what they’ve seen, and when they see mama hurting, they practice what they’ve learned. Authenticity fosters an environment full of compassion, kindness, and empathetic listening.

3) It shows them how to love others well, including themselves.

Starting with ourselves, we need to not get after people for having negative feelings. David was called a man after God’s own heart but have you read the Psalms? He was all over the place! And yet, he always turned back towards God and His promises. David’s emotions were not neat and contained, and neither are ours.

On harder days, they can cause wounding and unwanted harm. But our Father is a forgiver. He is capable of redeeming any situation and every separation. When we sin in our feelings, His grace is there to meet us in full abundance. We can forgive ourselves because God’s love holds nothing against us and covers everything for us. When we understand this truth, it takes the pressure off. It inspires us to offer the same divine forgiveness to others, especially our kids.

Family relationships are the best place to practice the art of apologizing, forgiving, and extending unconditional love. Freely we’ve received. Freely we can give.

Remember, mama friend. God never wants you to feel bad for feeling. Invite your kids into your heart. Be real. Be what you ALL truly need. You’ll be so glad you did, and your family will be better for it.


What's Going on When God Feels Silent

By Mollie Talbot

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[A letter from the trenches]

It’s at the point that the word “season” makes me want to hurl. I stood in my kitchen with one of my best friends the other day, laughing at how one can loathe a completely innocuous word because of its use in Christian circles. I don’t hate seasons, as in the four of them, but right now I hate “it’s just a hard season you’re going through.” I repel most Christianese platitudes at this point too: “let go and let God,” “God must be preparing you for something big,” “He has a plan,” “You just need to trust,” “Everything happens for a reason,” or my favorite, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that’s what our walk with Christ hinges upon--periods of time when we can’t even handle putting our feet to the floor in the morning.

I guess if people can’t sit comfortably with someone IN their pain and do feel the need to say something, I’d rather it be trite but positive rather than comparative or commiserative. They need to understand they’re only saying it to comfort themselves, not the person suffering. As a woman writing from the trenches, these awkward back-pat sayings fall flat, or worse, condescending and offensive. If I could “let go” of this “SEASON,” I would have six months ago. If trust were acquired as easily as, “you just need to trust God,” I’d no longer be seeing a counselor, doctor, naturopath, or acupuncturist.

Here’s the obvious: I am simply incapable of “letting go” of a weight that hits my defeated amygdala upon opening my heavy eyes and moving my exhausted body. I can’t magically muster more “trust” in the moments when I recognize the utter disappearance of healthy coping or muster patience for a child irrationally angry about the way his French toast was cut for him. Now for the more important reality: if I tried to mentally will this discomfort away, I’d be avoiding what God is doing in these moments of thinking and hurting. To “let go” or assign any other platitude to my pain would be disobedient for a human who was designed to think, feel, and grow from doing both.

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John Mark Comer of Bridgetown church in Portland, OR is doing a series on stage theory right now, and his obedience to discuss the dark, discouraging, unattractive but REAL aspects of our Christian journey has been breath on these dry bones. And here in my trench, it makes perfect sense.

To painfully oversimplify some of the information he’s teaching from for the sake of brevity, we all experience a first stage in our walk with Christ that involves what we perceive to be an emotionally near experience of God. There’s an increased “felt presence” in our first spiritual phase.

The explanation given was sweet to my fragmented heart. It’s not that God butters us up just to go distant; it’s that His grace in this first stage loves us by breaking our reliance on the world. He displays the marvel of His love for us by meeting our world-dumbed hearts where they are, fully dependent on fuzzy feelings of contentment. The problem is that in our pleasure principal mentality, we set up camp here in our faith and then question God’s goodness if the fuzzy felt experience of His presence changes. Bottom line: as in any relationship, it does and it will.

It’s to the point in my struggles with dead cat-grief, low testosterone, PTSD, chemical imbalances, trauma recovery, and the demands of motherhood that I might be delusional. But I no longer have any desire for this first phase faith; a season I was in as recent as a year ago. The box-checking and identity masking; the black and white lines I’d draw around the mistakes of others just in the hope of hiding my greys. The belief that I had to be something else to fit the Christian mom mold. Even looking back at it is stifling.

I would rather sit in my perception of God’s absence right now because, with a deep knowing that wasn’t available a year ago, I believe the opposite to be true. He is more with me now than ever. There was no depth in my first phase faith. No call to the creational spice God shook over me at my inception saying, “use these and change the world.” In these depths--in moments it feels like the 20 years of tears I’ve been shoving away are a tsunami breaking over my soul--I’m emptying myself to receive who HE is, what HE made me capable of, and how HE sees others. It’ll be scary, uncertain, and the pain will be bone-deep, but I’ll use the stars He laid to find my way; the compass I’ve been carrying only had me following others anyway. All He wants from me is to stay open; to receive, to change, and to grow.

I’m beginning to feel more powerful in the deep; in this perceived ‘absence’ of God. I don’t have the energy any longer to say “yes” when I’ve wanted to say “no.” I don’t mince words when asserting boundary lines that I previously people-pleased away. And I’m confronting my deepest life traumas with nothing but a butter knife because of the confidence that comes from God reminding me that the giant was already slain by me getting out of bed.

It’s in the reversal of the comfort platitudes that I’m finding focus. He has trusted ME with the depth; I don’t need to shame myself about not trusting Him enough. He believed that even if He changed His voice to a whisper that I would empty myself in order to hear it. He’s showing me that a box-checking, bubblegum faith is never what He asked of me in the first place. He’s even good with my hatred of the word “season.”

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
— Luke 14:28-30

I will not be one who began building just to find their resources foolishly depleted and their project in ruins. I estimated the cost of following Him when He pulled me from the pain of my addiction and when He placed me next to people who have lost babies, lost parents, and those who are losing themselves while saying, “I know He’s still there.” I’ve known the depth apart from God, but now I know depth WITH Him and the difference is that on this side, I’m willing to keep digging.

If you find yourself in a dark night, stop box checking and finish-line gazing and seek Him in the treatment and care of yourself. If you find that His voice feels disappointed, punishing, or despairing, check your volume dials--you’ve got the wrong side turned up. He may be quiet right now but that’s because He’s begun teaching you a language He’s reserved solely for you and Him. Give yourself time and tenderness as you unlearn the voices you’ve come to assume were His. Don’t be afraid to question, cry out, and break down. This is the kind of faith that moves mountains and slays giants; all you need is a broken compass and your butter knife. I’m in it with you.


Finding Your Rest

By Joy O’Neal

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Summer, summer, summertime…the song I’m sure every teacher is singing right now. I surely am! It’s summer! Us moms have a love-hate relationship with summer, don’t we? If your children aren’t school-age yet, then it’s just a warmer part of the year with more opportunities to play in the sun, but if they are school-age, then your entire world just changed for the next twelve weeks into beautiful chaos. The game of tug-of-war between relaxing vs. go has already begun. For me, summer has already whispered a beautiful soul lesson of restoring peace and surrendering to God’s presence inside of motherhood.

The school year ended, and the excitement for a much-needed break was rising throughout my home, but I continually heard the shout of one word, STOP! I knew where it was coming from. I knew why this four-letter word was all I could hear. I knew that my soul was weary, but I resented the wrestling match that would follow. A collision I’ve felt many times as an ambivert. I was empty. I sat the kids down and explained to them that this summer, our theme was rest. I told them other than a few local attractions we wouldn’t be doing much. I was extremely surprised when each one met me precisely where I was. It was clear. We all needed rest.

Cue wrestling match. Each morning I would sit and attempt to usher in the silence. Only a few days passed, and my mind battled between the thoughts of how many tasks I could complete this summer and resting. I would enter my office and see all the lesson plans and books and for a moment contemplate diving into the space. Again, STOP! I knew I needed to go the extra mile. I began to pack up my office and remove everything that called me into teacher brain. I searched Facebook Marketplace for an oversized chair. Once I cleared out my office and found my chair, the word shifted from STOP to SIT. I don’t know about you, but as a mom sitting is hard! Doesn’t it seem like once our bottoms hit a chair our children have an inner alarm system? Then the most beautiful thing happened—it rained! And I love the rain. Growing up in South Carolina afternoon summer rainstorms were a daily occurrence. Each evening it rained, and each evening I would sit.

Once I started to get the hang of sitting the word quickly switched to SEARCH! This beautiful rest and peace that was being restored caused me to search for the deeper why behind its previous exit from my life. How did Jesus manage to stop when He was being pulled? How did He choose to sit when He was sent to this world to spread a message? As I searched through Scripture, I found beautiful similarity between the life of Jesus and the cry of my heart. Verse upon verse, it was clear. Even Jesus knew He needed to slip away. Scripture refers to these places as a Solitary place (Mark 1:35), Lonely place (Luke 5:16), Quiet place (Mark 6:32), and Certain place (Luke 11:1). Jesus knew the importance of having a spot.

How as mothers and professionals do we maintain a quiet spot? How do we bring this certain place into the school year? How do we acquire time of solitude amid so much activity? We can’t. We can’t until we let go of the fairytale quiet place we’ve mentally created and replaced it with Susanna Wesley’s prayer apron.

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Susanne Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley. These two men grew up to lead millions to Christ. Now there’s a mom goal! John and Charles weren’t her only children, though. Susanne had 19 children, but only ten lived through infancy. Studying her life feels a bit like a chapter out of Job. Her marriage was in constant conflict; one of her children was crippled, and another couldn’t speak until they were six. Susanne’s husband couldn’t manage finances and provoked the anger of his congregation, which lead to multiple attacks on their home and livelihood. Finding time to stop, sit, and search would seem impossible in Susanne’s life. When Susanne was young, she made a vow with God that she would never spend more time in entertainment or leisure than she did in prayer with Him. A house with ten kids doesn’t seem like a setting for a quiet place, but Susanne created her own spot by telling her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, they were not to bother her. Two hours a day, Susanne would meet with God in her apron tent and pray.

Just like Susanne, we have to be creative with creating our places of solitude and quiet. Maybe it’s the car ride to daycare? Maybe it’s waking up 20 minutes before the house gets busy? Maybe it’s folding the towels or creating a ‘Do Not Disturb’ apron moment of our own? One of my favorite songs right now is “You Are My Hiding Place” by Selah and each time I hear this song I am reassured that it’s in our moment with God when we are restored. However this practice of stopping, sitting, and searching looks for you, I am convinced that when our hiding place is in Him, then our peace can be anywhere. Cheers to summer!


Tuning into God's Voice in Motherhood

By Brittany Rust

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Washers and dryers running. Kids yelling as they chase each other around the house. Hungry baby cries. The inner to-do list for the day running through your mind. There’s no shortage of noise in the life of a mom. And that’s just the practical. You might also struggle with cultural distractions to mother with a certain finesse and play supermom. Comparison, fear, doubt, and insecurity clamor for your attention. You’re bombarded with voices all the time—and it can be both overwhelming and exhausting.

Elijah was bombarded with great acts that many assume God would be in. Yet, God wasn’t in the fire or wind—He was in the gentle whisper.

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
— 1 Kings 19:11-13
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In motherhood, it’s easy to be distracted by all the things. However, it’s never more important than in parenting to silence the noises and tune into one: His. It’s this intimate connection that gives you strength when you are weak. That gives you the tools to parent in grace. That sustains you in the exhaustion and discouragement. And it’s this connection that leads you in wisdom when it comes to discipling or correcting or leading your child. It’s vital to your role as a mother.

So, how do you tune into God’s voice and push away all the others? They are practical and may seem obvious, but these three practices are foundational to hearing His voice.

How to hear God’s voice

1.Read the Bible.

The Bible is God’s only definitive word we have and by reading it, you can learn about His character, discover what He cares about, and uncover His revealed will for your life. There is no doubt that if you aren’t in Scripture, you will have a hard time hearing from Him.

Even is it’s a few verses at a time, try to get something in you each day. This will help you in hearing from Him and lend to you flourishing in parenthood.

I know when you’re chasing kids around it can be a challenge to carve out a devotional time but it’s also the single most important thing you can do each day. If you’re not in His Word to be refreshed, you’ll start operating out of your own strength and in that limitation, struggle in your parenting. You need Jesus! And your kids will be better off with a mama who prioritizes her spiritual walk with the Lord.

2. Pray.

Regular communication is necessary for any healthy relationship and it’s no different in your relationship with God. Conversation helps to know one’s voice. When you take time to communicate with God regularly, and listen in return, you will be cultivating an ear for His voice.

3. Practice.

If you feel the smallest inkling to step out and act, do it. Put your faith into action. By practice, you will learn what is and isn’t God’s voice. Maybe you step out and find it wasn’t God’s voice—that’s okay. In that experience you’ll learn what isn’t God’s voice. You can learn from what worked and what didn’t work—and the more you practice, you’ll discern what God’s voice sounds like.

If you will start implementing these three practices in your daily routine, I am confident that you’ll cultivate a greater intimacy with God, learn to discern His voice, and have His guidance in the matters of motherhood.

** This blog is based on a portion of Brittany’s new book, Here I Am: Responding When God Calls Your Name. Grab your copy to further learn to discern His voice, how you can overcome doubt and fear, and learn how to step confidently into your calling.