The Hope of Advent

The Hope of Advent

Christmas was always special to me growing up. It didn’t matter how awful my year was or what I was going through, there was some joy in the air.

There was such a palpable, real holiness to the season that I could feel. The magic in the lights and the tree, the coziness of a fire and stockings.

No matter how cold the wind is or how dark the night, there’s a warmth we are invited into in the Christmas season that has always truly been there… because its the Light of the world beckoning us.

I learned about the season of Advent as an adult. If you, like me, didn’t grow up familiar with Advent, here’s a quick synopsis.

In the liturgical Christian calendar, it is the feast that begins four Sundays before Christmas, ending on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve begins the 12 day Christmas season.

One catechism describes Advent spirituality beautifully: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’”

Christianity.com

(You can read more of the interesting background and what it looks like today on https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html)

 Advent is meant to get us ready, not for a present-opening party, but for a transformational celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a season of expectation.

In the years before Christ, the people on earth were yearning for a savior; the Jews waiting for their promised Messiah. Every human ached for Him, whether they realized it or not.

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” Its a celebration of the anticipation felt then for the coming of the Savior and the anticipation we feel now for His return, for our home, reminiscing how much we needed Him to come and still need Him now.

 “Jesus did not come to establish a new religion, but to fulfill the deepest needs and richest promises of our God. Jesus is the Spotless Lamb, sacrificed in our place. He is the Bread of Life, satisfying our deepest hunger. He is the Great High Priest, reconciling us to the Father. He is the Light of the World, which darkness cannot overcome. And those who follow Him will never walk in darkness because Immanuel has come, and He promises to come again.”

Source Unknown

Christmas is the celebration of His birth, but Advent is preparing our hearts for that very celebration, yearning and hoping and taking comfort in His peace no matter the darkness of the world.

When I discovered Advent a few years ago I was in a really dark place. I could feel Jesus beckoning me into this space of desiring Him and yearning for Him, while creation groaned for Him it was as if a lightbulb went off in my heart. My soul was groaning for Him too.

Ever since then its been a really special, tender time of year I look forward to; while we should always seek His face, it was a time specifically set aside to dive in deeper. It became a time to settle in and focus on Him more diligently in this season rather than get wrapped up in the stress of family gatherings and present buying.

While preparing for a youth lesson a few years ago, I was reading a blog written by a reverend who had also grown up without Advent – He only discovered it as an adult in Theological Seminary when his professor gave a lecture on worship and the beauty of the Church Year like Advent, Christmas, Holy Week, Pentecost etc.

The professor was excitedly talking about how the seasons of the Church Year could enrich the worship of a church as well as a person’s own private devotions. The reverend had never heard of this growing up and, much like me, decided to explore Advent as a personal devotion time with the Lord.

He came to love Advent because he found that observing Advent enriched his celebration of Christmas. Rather than a materialistic holiday, he was finally experiencing the spiritual depth of the season in his closeness with the Lord and celebrating His coming to rescue us.

For so long after Adam, the world lived in such brokenness. Humans tried to fix the pain and emptiness but it wasn’t the actions of men that would bring relief and change.

The world waited.

In Advent we don’t just anticipate the coming Savior, but the “making new” creation has longed for since the fall.

God always had a rescue plan, and it all began with the birth of His son. The One who would bring order, make things new, heal and restore us.

The One who pull us from brokenness into wholeness.

“For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

Each Sunday in Advent has a theme and the first Sunday of Advent is Hope. The hope and longing our ancestors felt waiting for the coming of Christ, the hope we can feel in knowing He has us, even now. 

The dictionary definition of hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or, a feeling of trust.

Biblically hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you – 1 Peter 1:3-4

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Hope can be scary sometimes, have you ever been afraid to hope for something? Afraid to put your faith in something and it not come to pass? I know that I have.

Jesus is a safe bet for your hope.

We can hope for things and situations to go a certain way but know that when you hope for Him, you are not putting your faith into an empty impossibility. He will come through. He will meet you there. 

Challenge: Take time this week to meet with Jesus. Give Him your hopes and dreams and place your hope in Him. He wants you to come close to Him this season, so think about ways you can make time with Him a priority. Hope for wild things with Him, dream with Him about how you want to grow and what you want your relationship with Him to look like! Look up some verses on hope this week to meditate on.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Affliction comes in this world but like this verse says we can be joyful in hope, because our hope isn’t in this world and the people in it. Our hope is in the Light that overcame the darkness.

What Is Biblical Womanhood?

What Is Biblical Womanhood?

What does “Biblical womanhood” look like to you? When you hear those words, what comes to mind?

Do you picture a woman tucking her kids into bed, cleaning her sink? Maybe you see the Proverbs 31 lady rising before dawn.

Maybe Jesus shows you a picture of yourself, right where you are, in the very spot and season that you’re in.

The picture you see might be heavily influenced by the denomination you grew up in or the current culture you find yourself in now.

The image of a devoted, Christian woman is unique and subjective to each person, right?

I am a homemaker. I don’t have a profession outside the home; I raise children and homeschool them and make sure they have happy, full bellies and hearts.

To some, that image may be their view of biblical womanhood. We say prayers at bedtime, I read my children bedtime stories, I teach them about the heart of Jesus etc. I make a safe, cozy home for the next generation.

On the flip side of this coin, I have a friend. She is not in a season of her life where she wants to have kids or be married. She is a “career women” being used in incredible ways in the field God placed her in. She loves the Lord and serves Him at her church and loves her community hard.

Is she a Christian woman in right standing with the Lord?

Who gets to decide that?

I’m seeing a trend in faith-based media that worries me.

I love being a wife, and I love being a mom, so please hear my heart in that. I just don’t believe those are the only callings God has in life for women.

If a woman is led to be a stay at home mom, I absolutely stand behind her. Obviously, that’s my life!

But if God has designed a woman with the aspects needed to be a brain surgeon, who are we to say that’s not what the Lord wants her to do?

Or, is this only a topic for debate if the job isn’t white collar, but is ministry focused instead?

Is it fine for a woman to work outside the home for a noble cause, just not leading a ministry? Is it okay to save a man from cancer but not lead him to Christ?

Just this week I read an article in the New Yorker about evangelical women in their “linen sundresses.” I won’t lie, I do love a good sundress!

What an observation of current Christian social trends right now, they sure do have us pegged haha… Linen and wicker and thrifting, oh my!

Listen, if linen dresses are how you outwardly express your femininity, that’s wonderful and should be enjoyed.

But in no way does that make professional suit pants and a sharp blouse any less feminine. Or the Carhartt another woman wears to care for her livestock.

In light of eternity, none of that matters.

We need to stop anchoring womanhood to an aesthetic, because it goes far deeper than your fashion or home decorating style.

I’m seeing this Instagram glamorized homemaking image that does not serve all women that –hear me out– might lead to even more dissension in the Body of Christ.

Here’s why: You can be a devoted woman of God and work outside the home. You can love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and not be a mother.

Your worth in the Kingdom, your calling to “go forth and make disciples” will not look like everyone else’s. We MUST stop this glorification of personal preference or conviction to be the convictions of ALL women.

All of this *waves broadly at social media* does not define your womanhood.

That page you follow is someone’s life portrayed online, the captions are their opinions and perspective, their lifestyle might be something they enjoy or even something they’ve been called to do…

But if those pretty little squares and practiced-to-perfection reels make you doubt where the Lord has you– that’s a stumbling block, dare I say it.

I am seeing women bicker online about “well women shouldn’t do this, women can’t say that, here’s where God designed you to be” etc and truly, it makes me sick to my stomach.

“Well God may have called Deborah, but you’re not a Deborah.” Who is anyone to speak for the Almighty God and tell a woman her calling isn’t as powerful or huge as Deborah’s? Because it doesn’t look like your domestic view of womanhood, and that makes you uneasy?

Let me be the one to free you right now, someone else having a different calling or a different conviction to how they live does not mean your calling is wrong, and it doesn’t negate your personal convictions.

And if you feel uneasy or threatened that a woman is living differently than you and calling herself a Christian, that doesn’t mean she’s disobeying God; you need to take that to Jesus.

We waste time arguing about Scripture and context and translation and it is the resounding annoying sound of clanging cymbals.

We can nitpick Bible verses till we’re blue in the face, debate whether it was written to all of Christianity or a specific church, but is that going forth and making disciples?

Is that healing the sick and casting out demons?

I don’t recall any of Jesus’ dialogue at the end of Mark and Matthew being gendered. “These signs will accompany those who believe.”

People debate online about a few Bible verses about women, but neglect the many directives and statements made about the body of Christ that don’t differentiate male or female. It’s the Bride as a whole.

Scripture can be twisted and used for any agenda or perspective, but I wanted to throw a few things out there before I share the core of Biblical Womanhood.

Women were in the room during Pentecost.

“All these were continually united in prayer along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.”  (Acts 1:14) When the day of Pentecost came “they were all together in one place.” The Spirit fell on all in the room.

When Peter stands before the crowd mocking them for speaking in tongues, he quotes Joel-

In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

Still, I see other women downplaying the female prophets and ministers, telling women that they can’t “preach” because people take a few stories “out of context.” Yet they will also take a few verses out of context to make it seem completely unbiblical for women to lead ministries.

I have linked an indepth list of all the female prophets (Old and New Testament) by Marg Mowczko, a theologian with both a theology degree and a Masters specializing in jewish and Christian culture. You can read her full post on the female prophets here.

(When Paul listed ministries and spiritual gifts, he also did not mention gender. In fact, he writes about women prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11, and does not silence them. He is often misunderstood for being against women in ministry, but he knew several. You can read more about Paul’s writings + women here.)

We don’t gloss over the biblical stories of men with little detail and completely write off their worth or existence. So why do we invalidate the stories of church leaders like Phoebe, Lydia, or Junia, simply because their mentions are brief? (Just the beginning of the ladies I’d love to write about in this space.)

Paul often refers to people in his letters as diakonos, which translates to “brothers and sisters” and “servants” but also “ministers.” Paul also uses diakonos to refer to Phoebe in Romans! Same word he uses to refer to Timothy. Brothers and sisters in ministry.

Another female theologian I respect recently shared a post that checked my heart. She essentially said we get so hung up on female heros of the Bible that we aren’t paying enough attention to Jesus.

So while I share the names of female prophets and ministers in the Word, my heart behind it is this:

Women are feeding right into the divisive hands of the enemy by using platforms to argue and debate what a woman can do, rather than just focusing on pointing people to a Savior.

It’s all for naught if we aren’t showing people Jesus.

Ultimately, biblical womanhood is rooted in ministering to others and leading them to Jesus.

We are all in ministry, whether yours is a titled position in a church, raising the next generation, showing up like Jesus at work, or launching a podcast to share the gospel.

But the Great Commission is clear and ungendered. Go and make disciples!

How do you make disciples? Learn together. Teach through life. Talk about theology over dishes with your kids, tell your neighbor how God healed your knee, share with your subordinate the testimony of your salvation.

Dear women, sweet sisters in Christ, can we not get caught up in vocation as the core of our femininity? Our identity cannot be founded in earthly titles that shift in seasons.

I hate to sound cliche, but our identity is above all—redeemed daughter of the King.

Our calling is to point others to Him, and disciple them to grow as they become like Him. Just as we are still growing to look like Him!

Even if this post has not changed your heart on women’s biblical role, we can agree to disagree on theology/doctrine/translation… Can we agree on this?

The never ending debating and division on social media, in church buildings, in family living rooms– none of this points people to Christ.

A house divided can’t stand, so why would someone look in through the murky windows of a divisive faith and want to stay?

Telling women on the internet HOW they should minister in their obedience to God is wasting time that can be used to disciple and glorify God. We can’t hypercontrol what other people hear from God.

Instead of using an internet platform to berate women who might stand on a physical platform, point your following to Jesus.

Let us seek connection and a unified Bride in our pursuit of Jesus and making Heaven crowded!

Motherhood is a beautiful gift unique to women. Likewise, fatherhood a unique gift to men. We can take pride in those roles! Here’s the thing though… Not all people will be parents.

To make blanket statements towards women that motherhood is the greatest vocation you can have is a sharp slap in the face for the woman who can’t conceive. It’s presumptuous towards the woman God has called to celibacy, like Paul.

There seems to be a war in our faith both of identity and value. I have value as a stay at home mom or I have value and I work outside the home. My identity is homemaker or my identity is single.

It’s all a distraction!

Every single one of you is doing Kingdom work!

And your worth, value, and identity is not found in your vocation or marital status.

If you are a homemaker your season is amazing; pouring into your home, using your creativity to foster growth and warmth and giving your all to support your husband and kids is incredible. You get to show them Jesus.

If you are a single woman putting herself through grad school, your season is amazing. The connections you’re making for the future, the people God is giving you community with… You get to show them Jesus.

If you are a divorcee working with your kids in therapy to overcome trauma, I see you. This season might be hard but it sure is holy as you get to lead your kids towards wholeness and healing. You get to show them Jesus.

The list is neverending! Wherever you are in life, your role in womanhood is glorifying your Father.

So here’s my request for you:

Take pride in where God has you, and celebrate your sister who is somewhere else. This is not a competition.

Ask Jesus to highlight a woman to you, who may or may not be in a different season of life or vocation, and pour into her heart this week. Pray for her, lift her up with some encouragement, and ask how her heart is.

Point her to Jesus.

Hi friend! Thank you for reading today! If you feel led, I’d love for you to consider sharing this post. I’d also love to connect with you! You can contact me here on the blog, subscribe for new posts, or come hang out with me on Instagram. I hope we can chat soon!

A Day in the Life of Homeschooling: Tuesday & Wednesday

A Day in the Life of Homeschooling: Tuesday & Wednesday

I’m including two days in this post, simply because our days were easy enough that they didn’t need their own separate posts!

Tuesday

Our Tuesday started off on a great foot! As it was the first day of Fall we made some apple cinnamon oatmeal and pumpkin spice coffee.

Tuesdays are our Tea Time Tuesday, so I set up our tea on the front porch to enjoy the cool morning.

We donned our sweaters and wrapped up the baby in her bouncey and head out for school outside.

B read us a book, I led our devotions, and we did some more lessons while we snacked and sipped and listened to classical music.

We eventually came in and I helped E with her kinder math nursing a baby haha. See? No formal desk, we school where we’re comfortable and can focus.

Tuesday was a really great day this week! Everyone stayed in really good moods, worked well, and had helpful attitudes.

Because we got an earlier start in the day, we got done with all our school work fairly early. Some friends were getting outside to hike and get wiggles out and we joined them!

We went for a decently long walk in the woods, about a mile! I’m surprised the 5 year old made it haha.

We had a nature scavenger hunt, thanks to one of our friends, and stick sword fights, and identified poison ivy!

All in all, a really lovely Fall day. Simple and sweet.

Wednesday

Wednesday is our co-op day! This week was our first official meet, so we mostly let the kids get to know each other and play.

We met at nine am and were home by lunch time. E was super into her lessons so we worked until she was done, and we got ahead of “schedule.”

(Homeschooling can be working at your own pace, but our books do have a general schedule of which lessons per week to work with if you’d like.)

This day was a schoolwork at the dining room table day. When the girls are having a hard time focusing it seems like sitting at the table helps us all hone in a little better.

We did all of our lessons and got done for the day by 3 in the afternoon. A later day, but expected due to our meet in the morning.

Perks of Homeschooling

As you can see so far, our days are not always the same. We have a general-ish schedule, but the flexibility is such a perk.

Each family that chooses to homeschool has their own reasons, but one of mine is the time I get with my family.

Spending 8 hours away, homework, dinner, and bed 5 days a week leaves the short weekend and breaks to fit the rest of your life into.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to homeschool my girls, to pour into them and guide them, and enjoy our days together.

Of course there are hard moments, days even, but it’s so worth it to me. To work at their place, to apologize if I’m harsh, to see them light up with pride when they learn something new…

The joy and the good outweighs the hard. Like anything in life, it’s worth working through the growing pains to reap the benefit!

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Celebrating Joy in the Midst of Depression

Celebrating Joy in the Midst of Depression

2020 has brought on a “silent rise” in mental health crises.

It’s no secret that it’s been a rough year, but viruses aside, the job losses, bankruptcies, and isolation has had devastating repercussions for mental health.

People already struggling with anxiety and/or depression may feel like they’re barely treading water with their mental health. Others who have never (or rarely) experienced anxiety or depression have, unfortunately, begun having their own bouts.

I know for myself, dealing with end of pregnancy and postpartum, on top of dealing with repressed trauma responses… Covid depression has been the icing on the cake.

Of course there are good days. We feel a camaraderie, like we’re all in this together! We got this! It sucks but we’ll get through it.

Other days though might feel really dark. Numb and apathetic. Lonely and weary. What is the point of x, y, z?

Last Fall was a very difficult time for me, a lot of joy was stolen. As this season has approached I’ve entered it with a jaded attitude. A lot of pain is resurfacing for me to face, and I’m learning the dance of holding space for pain but holding on to joy too.

Both//And

What I wanted to talk about today is the in-between of those two extremes. The both//and space.

You can hold space for hard emotions and bad days, and still look for the light shining through, for the joy moments and the silver linings.

You can also hold space on your fantastic days for the trauma that you’re still working through. You can enjoy things and still recognize that you are wounded and that there’s work for you to do.

Your joy doesn’t have to erase your pain.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’ve ever worked through traumatic situations or had to process hard emotions, we can almost sort of gaslight ourselves if we have good days.

Like, oh I’m having a really good day maybe this isn’t bad as I thought it was. Until something triggers you or you’re faced with more emotions that you haven’t processed through yet.

Likewise, when you’ve dealt with depression or anxiety and have felt like you’re spiraling, we can become consumed with those difficult feelings as well.

Our vision can become clouded with everything that is wrong in the world because of the hardship that we are working through. It feels impossible to “choose joy” because everything is painful, or we are numb to everything.

We do need to be cautious in those circumstances though. We are not victims to our mind, and though we can deal with mental health issues, we must take authority over some areas as well.

Becoming consumed with our depression or anxiety, not seeking help or utilizing tools that can help us, can be destructive not only to ourselves but to those around us too.

I’ve seen depression and anxiety steal away so much from families; I’ve seen it in my own family growing up and the repercussions that it had for me as a child.

This has been the number one driving factor for me in trying to grow and heal, so that my problems would not negatively affect my children.

In that same vein however, we can also be consumed with running from our depression and anxiety, or our trauma that needs to be dealt with. This is also unhealthy.

Rather than communicate our pain, or face difficult emotions, we try to be happy and bubbly and ignore the pain. “Fake it til you make it” can be as damaging for some people as it is helpful to others.

Because pain that we swallow down instead of facing and processing will absolutely come back to bite us. It can look like rage, depression, fear and anxiety, and many other things.

So where is the line? How can we not let depression and anxiety rule our lives and steal all our joy, yet also not force happiness and joy when we are in the midst of pain and grief?

I’m no expert, I’m just a mom who’s done a lot of reading and praying haha. But I would love to share what I’ve learned, and what helps me.

1. Grace

Have grace with yourself. Have you ever heard that phrase? What does it look like though? I’d say it looks like being kind to yourself and what’s going on in your head.

Don’t be a bully. Don’t make yourself feel bad for what you’re going through. If your inner dialogue is making you feel bad, you need to reroute that language!

Even if you have to over and over, tell yourself no! And talk to yourself like you would talk to a hurting friend or loved one.

Would that dialogue be uplifting or edifying for a beloved friend? If not, than don’t speak that over yourself.

Another thing to consider here: when we are numb we might not even be able to give ourselves grace. But we can receive God’s gift of grace.

All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ. If troubles weigh us down, that just means that we will receive even more comfort to pass on to you for your deliverance! For the comfort pouring into us empowers us to bring comfort to you. And with this comfort upholding you, you can endure victoriously the same suffering that we experience.

2 Corinthians 1:3‭-‬6 TPT

This might look different for the person or by the day, but we can sit in His grace and comfort when we can’t give ourselves grace. He can hold you, just rest in Him.

2. Choose Joy

I know some people get super irritated by this phrase. I get it, being told to be happy when you’re suffering is upsetting.

But choosing joy in spite of your circumstances isn’t forcing happiness when you’re miserable.

It is tapping into a supernatural gift and a fruit of the Spirit which is yours to have when you know Jesus. The joy of the Lord can be your strength when you have no strength of your own left.

Choosing Biblical joy and gratitude isn’t faking happy, it’s a deep-seated soul joy, soul rest, to enter into.

I wanted to pick a Bible verse about joy but there’s so many!! Let me just reference a few:

  • “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” James 1:2
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Galatians 5:22
  • “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Psalm 16:11
  • “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22
  • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
  • “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7

The list can go on and on! The Lord has joy for you that goes far beyond surface worldly happiness, another verse called it “inexpressible joy.” To me, that goes beyond a circumstantial emotion like happiness.

Joy is like a pressure washer.

A lot of people don’t really know that though.

Pressure washers are wonderful inventions, in seconds, they can remove years of build up. Years of caked on dirt in the most walked on areas around our homes.

We all have these areas, and I don’t mean around our homes. Around our hearts. Places people have walked all over us. Trampled on our hearts. Brought their dirt (and other things) into our lives. The areas that have become not only dirtied, but hardened from so much traffic.

Much of the time, we think we have to get everything cleaned up before we can be joyful. We think we have to have it all healed before we can get out of feeling down and dirty.

And those who think like that often never become joyful. They stay depressed. They stay bitter. They stay hurt. They stay is self-pity. All the while protecting themselves from the very thing that can remove it all.

The pressure washer of joy.

God wants to give us His joy to remove the years of build up. To quickly blast away the years of pain. To clear up the places that seemed impossible to clean.

Is. 35:10 says…”those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

It’s joy that’s makes the sadness and sighing flee. It makes them run from us. It’s joy that blasts it all away.

Don’t wait to be joyful. Don’t fix everything before you smile and laugh again. Don’t wait. Don’t even hesitate.

Receive joy today and watch what happens as you do.

Seth Dahl

3. Glimpses of Gratitude

A few years ago I tried to keep a gratitude journal. I’d sit at the table and try to comb through my day to recall and write down everything I was grateful for.

While it was a good suggestion, it wasn’t realistic or sustainable for me. I often forgot to pull the journal out or just sat there with my mind wandering trying to pull out something to write down!

And on my bad days? I honestly couldn’t think of things. Of course there’s the I’m grateful for my home, my family, food in the fridge, etc.

Sometimes it’s really hard to see beyond that when depression has a grip on your feelings and everything is numb.

I wrote a post about taking every thought captive; intrusive thoughts, depressed thoughts, spiraling thoughts, and tips to help you realistically take those thoughts captive! Read that here.

Instead, what has been helpful for me is momentary glimpses of gratitude.

It can happen any moment of the day, but it’s something that lights you up. Morning sun dancing on the hardwood floor in my kitchen. My girls giggling and dancing in the living room. The way my warm coffee feels in my hand.

It doesn’t have to last long, but pause and sit in that moment and feel the gratitude. Thank the Lord for that glimmer in your day.

Instead of reciting off everything you’re supposed to be grateful for, look at your day or those moments with your God lens on.

You can even ask Him! Lord help me see with Your eyes today, help me see the beauty. Feel His delight in the moments around you.

Just like joy, there are so many verses about gratitude and thankfulness in the Word!

  • “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
  • “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” Colossians 3:15
  • “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
  • “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7
  • “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

Gratitude is the key to a heart posture towards Jesus and walking in joy regardless of outward circumstances.

4. Victors Not Victims

Feelings aren’t facts. It’s one of my mantras this year. I talk about that more in the above mentioned post about talking all thoughts captive.

One of my favorite podcasters, Blake Guichet of The Crappy Christian Co. recently wrote about this topic and it’s so good!

 “It’s not that our feelings don’t matter or aren’t valid – we should honor one another’s emotions and bear each other’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. But the line gets blurry when we start treating those emotions as though they are the facts of the situation.

I know that the reason I personally function this way is because of my generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis. Through years of therapy, I’ve learned to separate how I feel from the truth to avoid spiraling out of control. And for the most part, it really serves me well.

The truth without love is harsh.

Love without truth is enabling.

That’s why we tell the truth in love (Eph 4:15) This a necessary maturity of faith so that we are no longer tossed to and fro by our emotions, but deeply rooted in what God says about us and others.

I’m honestly thankful that our feelings aren’t facts. When things feel hopeless, we know they never are. When we feel isolated, we have the knowledge of God’s nearness. When it seems like the world is out of control, we know the One who holds it all.

Your feelings aren’t facts, friend. And that should provide you with peace. Let’s stop allowing our emotions to run the show and instead turn to the truth.

Blake Guichet

We are not victims, and living with a victim mentality will steal your joy and suck the life right out of you. Maybe you were wronged, abused, mistreated. That’s valid.

But staying a victim in every area of your life, not growing or healing, is super damaging.

The Word tells us we are more than conquerors, in ALL things. That He works ALL things together for our good. That the Lord can make beauty from our ashes. The ashes of abuse, trauma, accidents, pain, etc.

We see what’s right in front of us. But the Lord sees an entire atlas of roads leading from our current circumstances. We have no idea what He can do through us and our stories!

A note on victimhood…

Mental health struggles are not a free ticket to be a jerk.

Yes it happens. I’ve experienced this. I have seen awful, atrocious behavior justified because of where someone was mentally. This is wrong.

We still need to take responsibility for our actions; mental struggles cannot be a crutch or excuse for bad behavior.

Victimhood clouds judgement and can cause immense pain, for others, and yourself too.

You are not powerless, you are still in charge of you.

5. Validation

“You can sit here but you can’t stay here.”

Validation is important, but dare I say, needing validation can also be a crutch. Some feelings can’t be validated if they are skewed or untruthful, but they can be acknowledged.

Having safe people, trustworthy friends or family, who can lead you back to your foundational truths when you are blinded by pain, apathy, or spiraling thoughts is so important.

Staying somewhere unhealthy and stewing in negative thoughts is a counterproductive narrative that will keep you bound up. Stewing and processing are not equal.

We can sit with grief. We can sit with hard things that need to be processed. Ignoring doesn’t help!

But staying there is when it becomes dangerous. We can miss the steps towards healing that God has for us. We can miss the beauty that’s transforming by remembering only the ashes.

Don’t run from your pain, but don’t let it swallow you either.

You don’t deserve to be consumed by dark thoughts and days of sorrow. There’s a bigger plan for you!

Depression is real, I have felt it’s nasty claws. Anxiety is real, I have experienced is vice-like grip.

We can acknowledge our hard and still see the joys. We can find delight in little things, even when bigger things are going wrong.

Remember the both//and my friend, and remember you are never ever alone.

Take Every Thought Captive

Take Every Thought Captive

Refining.

It feels like such a Christianese term nowadays… “I’m being refined.”

Do you know how silver is refined? It’s a process to be sure. Yet afterwards, the metal is gleaming and shining with all the impurities removed.

Despite the overuse of this term, I feel like I’m being refined right now. This season is hard.

I’ve been struggling recently. I don’t want to call it postpartum depression, maybe it’s the baby blues or hullabaloo of hormones and emotions…

But I’ve been experiencing my first depressive episodes since my time of healing five years ago.

There are days that are good and easy and joy-filled. There are also days that I am so weepy and morose.

On those difficult days my emotions try to spiral. Negative thoughts, lies, fears and anxieties abound. It’s exhausting trying to keep my mind in check. This is when “taking every thought captive,” as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, comes into play.

What we feel is not necessarily truth, feelings aren’t fact.

Not everybody hates you or is out to get you! Not everything is going to go wrong. You’re not a failure.

My logical brain knows this. In those times of mental spiral and negative to thought, we need to stand on our foundation of truth to keep us steady when we feel shaky.

What’s Your Foundation of Truth?

This is a place in your mind that you can come back to when you’re struggling. It’s your core, unshakable beliefs.

This can be things like-

  1. Jesus died for me and rose again.
  2. I am chosen, redeemed, and loved.
  3. God is for me, not against me.
  4. I am a child of God.
  5. My family loves me.
  6. _____ is not my enemy.
  7. God will never leave me.
  8. I am safe.
  9. I was created with purpose.
  10. God is not taken by surprise and knows what’s ahead of me.

When thoughts come into our mind like “I can’t feel God, He’s left me, He isn’t speaking to me” we have a baseline to come back to to correct ourselves and align our thinking with the truth.

No I am not alone, because the Word says God will not abandon me, leave me, or forsake me.

Let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 10:5, where Paul tells us to take every thought captive. This passage is so important and addresses the battlefield in our minds.

As the Enduring Word Commentary says (really awesome insight into this passage), we are not helpless victims to our thoughts! This might be unfathomable to you, but hear me out for a moment.

You cannot help what pops into your mind, but you are in control of what you choose to dwell on.

An example of this for me is when I drive. I often have intrusive thoughts about getting t-boned when I go through intersections, or getting in an accident on the highway.

Can this happen? Of course. But if I give space to these thoughts in my mind I can easily be consumed by fear. I might even get to the point of not driving at all out of my fear!

Instead, I need to take those thoughts captive and reroute my thinking.

For me this looks like reassuring myself, and if those thoughts are really loud, I sing a song or talk to my kids to shift my mind, I even pray out loud.

If your thought life is damaging to yourself or your relationships, you might need to think about how you can take authority in your mind.

Maybe on your bad days you have thoughts about your spouse not loving you, or your friends hating you. How can you take those thoughts captive?

Think about your good days. How do your friends make you feel when you’re with them? Do they uplift you, edify and encourage you?

Remind yourself of the good things and assume the best.

All couples have moments of conflict and experience times or even seasons of struggle. But like above, go back to the moments on good days. Assume the best of their words or intentions.

We can’t live in a constant state of offense or victimhood. This is dangerous and so damaging to our mental health and relationships.

(This is not meant to simplify or condone abuse or toxicity in anyway, of you are truly experiencing that in your relationship consider counseling and help! Consider separation from friends that aren’t safe or take advantage.)

When we entertain negative thoughts again and again we can develop patterns. We can also develop positive patterns overtime as well! It just takes practice.

According to Dr. Athena Staik of Psych Central, an independent mental health information and news website, our thoughts create “inner standards” that spark neurochemical dynamic processes that govern our choices and actions.

Thoughts spark emotions and drive decisions to take action or no action at all. Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts are very much linked to our reality.

Her Style of Tea (tap to read more)

If you’re having a bad day where nothing is going right it might be tempting to sit with those self-pitying feelings, but that’s some swampy territory.

A bad day doesn’t make a bad life! Let’s shift the focus and make the best of what we can.

Part of this journey of finding delight in my daily life has been taking control of my thought life. This feels like hard work sometimes!

But it’s worth it, because what you allow in your mind affects SO much!

If we continue to allow negative thoughts to reign it can affect our daily outlook, behavior, relationships, jobs, and more.

You are not a passive bystander. You can train your mind just like you can train your body.

Taking thoughts captive might seem impossible, so what are some practical ways to retrain your thinking?

  1. Reach out to a friend.
    • Call someone you can trust to remind you of those foundational truths when you’re having doubts.
    • Text someone when you’re having anxiety and ask them for an encouraging word or reminder.
    • Facebook Messenger and Instagram DMs have a voice message feature. Ask a friend to pray over you!
  2. Journal.
    • Write down your thoughts and fears, and then write another column of scripture that pertains to that line of thought or fear.
    • Make a gratitude list. Gratitude is the key to joy. Shift your focus from your complaints to the good things in your day or your life.
    • List your foundational truths and read over them. Maybe place them on a wall or mirror so you can see them!
  3. Get in the Word.
    • Read scripture and focus on Biblical truths, meditate on what the Lord says about your mind.
    • Memorize verses! This is so helpful when you’re having a hard day, to call to memory a timely verse in a difficult moment.
  4. Worship.
    • Feeling all over the place? Put on some quiet worship music to calm yourself. I love the Peace album from Bethel Music for this!
    • Have a worship dance party. Blast some upbeat worship music or even some Christian rap and dance! This kills two birds with one stone; you’re shifting your focus and moving your body – endorphins!
  5. Pray.
    • Pray out loud, talk to Jesus in your heart, or even write your prayers down.
    • Speak Biblical truth over yourself, ask for peace, for discernment, for insight into God’s plan if He would allow, and for contentment.
  6. Move.
    • Move your body. Get some exercise; Jesus dance party, go for a walk, mow the lawn.
    • Change your scenery. Get out of the house and get some fresh air. Do a lap around the office away from your desk!

Does choosing joy or shifting my mindset cure my anxiety or depression?

No. But I guarantee you it can turn my entire day around. We don’t need to suffer and just barely survive.

We can thrive.

There are some really hard days where I need to have a lot of grace with myself; I lean on my husband for help and friends for encouragement. I slow down and let a few things fall off my plate.

I know the power of my mind. If I allow those lies of failure and assumptions of others fester I can start to live out of that and let those things become my identity and baseline.

An especially weepy day. The baby wouldn’t be put down, so I wore her and decided to find delight in cooking my family dinner.

When you start working out it can feel uncomfortable as you stretch parts of yourself that aren’t used to moving that way.

Likewise, when you aren’t accustomed to changing your thinking, it can feel uncomfortable too.

Just like you build muscle and lift more than when you first began exercising, after repetitive effort, taking your thoughts captive can be second nature!

You can do this friend! Make yourself a fresh cup of coffee or grab some water, and conquer your day. Choose to shift your thinking and take on your day as victor, not a victim.

I’m tired in this refining season. But I am taking heart that as my spirit is being refined, I am growing and maturing and becoming shiny and gleaming.

Take courage, dear heart. Let’s do this together and be more than conquerors 🧡

To read more about the spiritual aspect of taking your thoughts captive, please read this amazing, in-depth post by Shanté Grossett, at Her Style of Tea. Her words really resonated with me!

Realistic Homeschooling

Realistic Homeschooling

When you start homeschooling and follow these fun, amazing accounts on Instagram and mommy blogs, it’s so easy to get swept up into comparison.

I know I did! Big school rooms, gorgeous posters covering the walls, big whiteboards, desks, cubbies upon cubbies for organizing, and every educational toy or manipulative you could think of.

It was overwhelming to me and made me feel so inadequate because I couldn’t give that to my kids in my “small” house.

But here’s the deal. You don’t have to have a designated school room to homeschool your kids. If you do, that’s so awesome! You are blessed by that space you get to utilize! One of the beautiful aspects of homeschooling for me, though, is doing it wherever you feel comfortable.

We mostly do our schoolwork in the dining room. Sometimes we do our reading on the porch, our math on the couch, and on one rainy day we even did school from my cozy king-sized bed with cocoa to sip.

Homeschooling gives you the versatility to make it what it needs to be for your kids.

If you’re concerned about homeschooling taking up space in here to show you it doesn’t have to! Here’s my homeschooling space…

This bookshelf and craft cart hold everything we use for our school! I’ve even reorganized these shelves since starting this post.

I have a shelf for –

  1. My grown-up books about homeschooling and parenting.
  2. A shelf for Bible/devotions and read aloud books.
  3. A shelf for my oldest’s curriculum.
  4. A shelf for my middle’s curriculum.
  5. And a resource book shelf for miscellaneous things like topical books and dictionaries.

That’s it!

If you take a step back you can see that our homeschooling supplies only take up one small corner of our dining room!

I have room on the walls to hang some things and actually started putting up our chore chart from The Peaceful Press on the big mirror we have. Take advantage whatever space you have!

We have magazine holders to separate some binders for art and projects, and I love using baskets and trays to organize. I have one I keep on the top shelf for scissors and glue, and another for smaller items like flash cards, Play-Doh, and the like.

Simple and easy. If you have a smaller home, an apartment, or even just don’t too much space to give up – you can still homeschool.

Now that I’ve created a space for me and my kids that suits us, I can appreciate my favorite Instagram homeschool mamas even more. I might not have the space they do BUT they still offer incredible advice and perspectives. And I even snag some of their ideas too!

If you are new to homeschooling, I know it can be a lot. But you’ve got this! You know your kids better than anyone else in the whole world. Cut down to basics and find a place that will make this the best experience it can be for you and yours. 🧡

And stay tuned, coming soon I have some cool tips and products to share from a momma whose designed some really helpful printables and bundles for distance learning and homeschooling families alike!

To follow along my homeschooling mama journey, let’s connect on Instagram!

New to homeschooling? Check out my free homeschooling starter kit!

Let’s Do Life Together

Let’s Do Life Together

Have you heard the phrase “do life?” Like “I love doing life with you?” I like it… It makes life an action, a verb, which it kinda is, right?

This post today was inspired because I saw a meme about homeschooling, something akin to “homeschooling isn’t about lesson planning, it’s about doing life with your kids.” It got me thinking.

I often see posts from people in regards to a spouse or friend, that they love doing life with them. So what is “doing life”?

It’s the nitty gritty. The everyday. The mundane. People present for the real stuff, the good and the bad. Who you choose to do life with, your people, are your village. A little like family, blood or not.

Part of doing life with someone, inevitably, is conflict. Conflict is an opportunity; you can push through the uncomfortable, grow from it, and experience increased intimacy in a relationship, or the hardship can be avoided and the pain cause withdrawal or separation of relationship.

Here’s the thing about conflict. It is yucky and weird and hard, but it is normal. When you’ve grown up in an unhealthy or toxic environment, conflict is scary. Conflict often means trouble, even hatred. When you’ve grown up in trauma or dysfunction conflict isn’t a gateway to grow, it can mean someone leaving or someone hurting you. Once you’ve “grown up” its really hard to shift that mindset!

For the longest time I was terrified of conflict, because for my family it meant someone didn’t speak to the other for a few years, or punishment, or the silent treatment. (Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain. Read more about that here. Or just Google, theres a lot to read on the topic.)

I thought if I wasn’t perfect or had a disagreement or did something wrong my friends would hate me, forget me, my husband would leave me… the list goes on and on. But as I have been working towards healing my trauma brain can I share something with you?

I have learned, through some deep intimate friendships, that true love doesn’t walk away because of conflict. True love isn’t specifically romantic, though it can be. True love is agape – the steady intention of the will to another’s highest good. Love that goes beyond feelings, but is a choice. The people that have chosen me over and over since I became an adult have shown me what this looks like. People can disagree with you and still love you.

My husband and his family were my first experience in this. Like I said before, my family didn’t have the best track record in conflict. I married into a family that loves HARD. They can fight but they forgive easily. I’ve seen my husband and his siblings fight and then a few minutes later they’re hugging it out and forgiving – and they let go and move on. We’ve been through our own conflict with them when we eloped at 18 & 19 years old and it wasn’t received well. Still they loved; they pushed through the awkward and hard to restore connection. It was mind blowing to me, I felt so emotionally stunted because I couldn’t grasp their love for each other. And so began my journey, I am learning to love through conflict rather than allow it to destroy. (There are times obviously where forgiveness is necessary but restoration is not, there is a difference between healthy people and conflict with toxic people.)

We live in a world that fights hard to show we can stand on our own two feet! We hustle and slay and can make it without any help! Yet we were designed for connection, we were designed to do life with others. Humans need each other, and its okay to need help and support along the way.

Another aspect of “doing life” is discipleship. If you’re a believer we are called to disciple others. When I was younger that seemed impossible and a bit above my level, like only super wise people who had it all together could disciple others. But when I heard Annie F. Downs speak at IF Gathering a few years ago she totally changed my perspective. We don’t need to make discipleship something harder than it is, we just need to come alongside people and love them well.

Discipleship, loving and teaching someone, can happen as you do dishes and someone dries them. It can be over coffee, or while your toddlers play, or after school. In that day to day life, connecting, showing up and letting Jesus shine through. You don’t have to be 60 with your life all tied up neatly in perfect little bows to help someone on their journey. Discipleship doesn’t only happen on a scheduled hour in a cafe. You can have your own mess and still meet someone in theirs.

Doing life with someone is a sweet space. It’s tender and vulnerable. It’s your friend helping you grocery shop because you’re pregnant and herding two kids. It can look like your friend coming over to clean out your fridge and stock it when you’re a week postpartum. It’s taking you out to dinner to have a hard conversation. Loving someone else’s kids as much as your own, helping you paint, offering your couch to sleep on, running an errand, calling you out (lovingly) on your stuff. Bringing cheesecake over and playing board games because doing life also means having fun! Getting through it all together. The glorious and the disastrous.

So let’s do this life thing together, let’s share our mistakes and experiences and help each other grow. I invite you to find those people you can do life with and show up, be kind, and love well. You aren’t meant to go it alone.

And just in case you didn’t know, you are worthy of love, you deserve good people in your life who show up for you, no matter your mess. Cause we all got some mess!