Words like “perfect body,” “dramatic results,” “fit mom,” “ideal body,” and “fit and fabulous” are everywhere we scroll. EVERYWHERE.
The hashtag #perfectbody on Instagram yields 4.7 MILLION images. 4,700,000 images, most of which feature nearly naked women, flaunting bronzed skin, apple bottom booties, flat stomachs, perfect breasts, thigh gaps, and long flowing beachy waves – all of which I am without. Type in the hashtag #weightloss and you’ll find 60.9 MILLION images. Sixty freakin’ million. The hashtag #beauty garnishes a whopping 353 million posts, most of which feature the same style images as the #perfectbody hashtag yields.
But when I looked up the hashtag #innerbeauty, I was greeted with a lowly 828 thousand images, most of which still featured some gorgeous woman showing off her perfectly flat stomach. One even came up of a stunning woman holding a needle filled with Botox. I swear. I can’t make this up. How does Botox or a flat stomach have anything to do with inner beauty?
The thought baffled me.
It is no wonder that I and millions of other women struggle to feel comfortable in the skin we’ve been given….to continue reading, click the link below.
“Be sober-minded, alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
Maybe you’ve heard the verse above?
Maybe you read it just now and thought to yourself “great…another reminder that the enemy is lurking around every corner looking to devour me. Fabulous.”
You may have even said “Ugh…been there, read that…next!”
But stick with me a minute, I think it will be worth it.
Sitting in my living room with several women during a small group, someone read this verse aloud. She was sharing her thoughts when my own began to speak so loudly inside my brain that I could no longer make out what she was saying. My brain clung to the word “anyone.” Never before had that word stuck out to me, but in that moment, it was alarmingly loud.
You see, in the eyes of the enemy, you and I are not anything special. We are “anyone” … “a dime a dozen” … “nothing to write home about.” In the eyes of the enemy we mean nothing. He is looking for literally anyone who can be distracted from their duties in Christ long enough to be devoured.
I, all too often, fall victim to the distracted mentality that quickly becomes a breeding ground for the enemy. I am a work-from-home mom to a busy toddler and the distractions of simply parenting all day can easily keep me far removed from my duties in Christ. That’s where the beginning of the verse comes into play. But what does it look like to be sober-minded and alert? If I’m honest, the sound of it just makes more tired than I already am.
What I often fail to realize is that this call to be alert and of sober mind should be my utmost priority. I should place this above everything else in my life. Before I clean the kitchen, before I make the 8000th snack of the day, before I make my beloved coffee; I should be controlling my thoughts and returning them to my Creator.
During the first couple years as a new mom, I felt anything but alert. In fact, I more often than not, just felt extremely exhausted and on the verge of failure. I didn’t comprehend that in order to be the parent that He called me to be, I had to invest in myself first. I had to show my son what it looked like to struggle, who to turn to in my time of need, and how to correct my course, in order to gain that alert and sober-minded mentality.
It helped that as I matured in motherhood, my boy was maturing in age and comprehension. We grew together during this wild ride. We created a space where he can learn by example and share in my struggles and my growth.
Are you alert and sober-minded? Take a minute and evaluate your spiritual life – what is distracting you and causing you to fix your gaze on something or someone other than Christ? Even good things like our children, our jobs and our church can pull our gaze inward instead of upward. Take a minute and pray this prayer for sober-mindness, and trust that God is eager and ready to give it to you:
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the reminder that the enemy is looking for anyone. Thank you for letting that word stand out to me that day. I realize that being alert and sober-minded is a moment by moment choice. I know that I easily get distracted and derailed by the chaos of this world. Please help me to surrender my thoughts to you in an effort to remain alert and sober-minded. Please help to keep me more in step with You and less distracted by the chaos of this world. Thank you for the reminder that failing isn’t really failing so much as it is learning. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for creating me unique. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for making me your most prized possession and not seeing me as “anyone.” In your eyes, I am someone. I am your beloved child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I overuse exclamation points… to the extreme. So much so that I once addressed an envelope and accidentally placed an exclamation point after the zip code. Years later I had a boss come to me and ask me to start using periods more frequently when writing emails. She wasn’t wrong, but it still felt weird to that hear about myself. Was I too excited? Was I too bubbly or happy? Not “business-y” enough? I wasn’t sure. I guess I just figured that I wanted everyone to be able to contextually understand me and an exclamation point was the best way to get that point across. Nevertheless, I began using more periods when drafting business emails. Her small request allowed me the space to still be me, but also to develop a level of maturity and growth.
Because of my adoration of exclamation points, whenever I see them used in the Bible, I kind of squeal with excitement. The Bible is packed full of sentences that end in boring old periods but when there is an exclamation point, I know there is something powerful there. In my searching through the Word I have only found a handful of exclamation points. Total.
In Ezra 10, the Israelites were admitting that they had sinned. They had married the foreign wives that they were specifically instructed to NOT marry. As Ezra prayed and confessed to God the sins of the people, he wept and fell face down, as others joined him. They lamented their actions and made a plan. Then decided it was time to GET UP! Notice that pretty little exclamation point!
They were admitting that this matter was their responsibility and they were there to support each other. The charge to be strong and take action is twofold. We aren’t called to only demonstrate strength. We are also called to take action.
Right now, in this uncertain season of immense changes, we are to be strong and take action. Action can look different to every person we know. For some of us our action is staying home and protecting our family and loved ones. For others our action is continuing to work at our essential jobs, serving the community by providing healthcare, food, or housing. Whatever action may look like in your life, we are called to be strong and take action.
Let’s pray now, to be men and women who are, in God’s strength, strong, taking action in the places he calls us:
Thank you, Lord, for equipping me with your strength; a strength I don’t deserve and could never be capable of on my own. Thank you for carrying me when I am weak. Thank you for holding my hand when I am too scared to take the next step. Thank you for lighting the way in the bleak darkness of my reality. Thank you for the instructions to be strong AND take action. I know that these two go hand in hand. I know that I must not only be strong, but I must also take action.
Thank you for the strength that motivates us into action. I know that without action, I am simply stuck in a holding period. I know that without action, I am simply stuck. Lord, I pray to be like Ezra. I know that I am sinful. I pray for the audacity to confess boldly, repeat loudly, and lament intensely in front of others. I want to be strong and take action. I refuse to live in a holding period.
I pray that you equip me with your strength that can carry me into action, and I pray that I can use a whole lot of exclamation points to describe how amazing You are. Thank you, Lord, for designing me to be exactly who I am. Thank you for Your strength that leads to action, especially in such uncertain times. Amen.
After a week of pure parenting torture, I hit my limit. It was a solid week of tantrums, defiance, meltdowns, hitting, kicking, screaming, refusing to sit in a time out, teachers telling me that his behavior was poor in school that day. I reached the precipice of Mount Overwhelmed, when I had to carry him out of Christmas play practice because he was sobbing in the front row of the church.
He had hit his limit.
The next day was the worst day of parenting I have ever experienced. Everything above happened in rapid fire sequence in a matter of minutes. My husband and I tried everything to calm the chaos, literally everything. You name it, we did it and none of it worked. When my husband took our son for a “car ride” that we hoped would turn in to a nap, I broke.
I began wandering around my house aimlessly. It was a disaster. I had to step over toys strewn all over the floor in order to clean up the art supplies and activities that were on every single surface. Puzzle pieces peppered the floor in the living room. It felt like the playroom had sneezed and my house was the tissue.
I had to capitalize on my alone time and make some semblance of normalcy in my home. As I meandered from room to room, I began to stare off in the distance. I knew I wasn’t ok. This week had done me in, and I had nothing left to give. I tried to do the housework. I tried to clean up the toys, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt as if I was about to walk out the front door and never return. I knew that was not possible. I knew I could never run away, despite how desperately I didn’t want to exist in that moment.
I grabbed my Bible. I begged God to reveal truth to me. I pleaded and petitioned. With one hand on my Bible and the other on my tear-soaked face, I flipped open to the place where my finger had naturally gravitated. Nahum. Great, I thought. This should be really good, God. Can’t wait. Despite my sarcasm, I continued to read.
I will admit, Nahum has never been on my must-read list. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading it in the past. But that sorrowful day, Nahum became my sanity, my comfort. As my fingers spread across the words on the page, I felt like my Daddy was giving me a big squeezy hug. “The Lord is good.” Yes, He is. I know that. This is a truth that I can hang on to right now. He is a “stronghold in the day of distress.” Ok, Dad. You’re talking about today, my day of distress. “He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Ahh…I see what ya did there, God. Today, I am taking refuge in You because it is my day of distress.
The conversation swirled through my mind. After reading and processing the words, my tears began to dry up, my shoulders began to feel lighter, and my mind was able to stop racing. The Lord, who is good, became my stronghold in that day of distress.
Did you know that Nahum in Hebrew means “comfort?” Wow. It is so incredible to me that my Father knew that Nahum’s words would reach me, thousands of years later, during my day of distress. As I reflect on this day and the way my Dad stepped in and showed me such limitless love and comfort, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, but my heart can’t help but wonder why it took me getting to the place of debilitating desperation to take refuge in Him. What could my week have looked like if on day one, I turned to Him? Why do I wait? Why do I try to figure it out by myself first? The glory of God is that He wants me to seek Him FIRST. Not as a last resort. Not when the thought of abandoning the beautiful life He gave me is at the forefront of my brain. First.
Are you in a day of distress? Seek Him. Petition Him. Beg Him to reveal truth and comfort to you. And after He does, stop taking the weight of the world on your shoulders, girlfriend. Stop feeling the need to do it yourself first. We serve a God who tells us that isn’t necessary and it’s time we believe Him.
Originally featured on iBelieve.com via the link below:
I have a pretty spot-on, artificial southern accent. In the past, I’ve been known to order food from a drive-thru with the deep drawl of the south in my mouth, as my friends make their best attempt at stifling their laughter. When my husband and I were dating, I would joke that as soon as we had kids, we were moving south so they could call me “mama” in that thick-as-molasses cadence.
My affinity for all things southern hit a real peak when I was deciding what college to attend. I found a very small private university in a tiny mountain town in North Carolina and it was love at first visit. It was all sweet tea and southern hospitality. I was hooked and couldn’t imagine my life anywhere else.
Within the first week of school I knew something was a little “off,” but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I was 18 and had never lived on my own. Being hundreds of miles away from home made me feel free; as if the drama I had left behind didn’t exist. I moved to a place where I knew nobody and not a single person knew anything about me. There was no historical playbook of my actions or anyone to gossip about the person I once was. The proverbial slate had been wiped clean and I could be whoever I wanted…..click the link below to continue reading.
“You expect too much from your friends and it’s unrealistic” the words flashed across my cell phone screen, my heart quickly sinking.
This single sentence would make me question my every move and every motive going forward. Will this put too much pressure on her? Or, Does this set up an unrealistic exception for her? My brain was full of questions when interacting with every one of my friends, not just the one who expressed her discontent with my expectations. When the person you have been the closest to for the longest length of time rejects you and tells you that you expect too much from people, you listen.
Was I really expecting too much from her?
I went through the full circle of emotions with this single sentence. Fear that it was true; guilt that I could have done that to anyone; shame that I could possibly make someone feel that way; doubt that it was true; denial that there was any validity to those words. It took me YEARS to process these words. After questioning my every interaction with my friends, I became a super friend. I became the doer, the checker, the planner, the helper, the fixer. I was the glue of every friendship I had, and I was determined not to put expectations on anyone. I was determined to be the very best friend that I could be. I was determined to prove this sentence wrong.
And yet, the only thing that I gained from my overachieving friendship skills was busyness and loneliness…..Continue reading by clicking the link below:
Years ago, while in a particularly challenging season in my life and marriage, there was one person who I intentionally avoided. Now, she lived out of state, so that wasn’t too difficult a task to accomplish. It had been quite some time since I had taken one of her calls. I knew she would know my secrets without me sharing them. I knew she would tell me my behavior needed correcting.
I knew she was right.
My avoidance ended when she called my office. Yep. In the days of text messages, snaps, DMs, and FaceTime, she looked up my office phone number and called me at work. I was forced to accept her call that day. I didn’t have a choice but to fess up to my behavior and listen to her wise words. I knew she was right and as much as I didn’t want to take the call that day, I’m glad I did.
My husband and I were heading down a path that the enemy would have loved to see come to fruition. We were slowly starting to separate. Up until that season in our marriage, we had lived a very pleasant life together. However, we weren’t speaking truth to each other. We were placating, enabling, and concealing. When Mrs. Jones called me that day and spoke truth over me, it allowed me to speak truth in my marriage.
Her truth allowed for mine to be spoken. Her truth allowed for my husband to speak his truth.
After a particularly difficult stay-at-home-mom week, I managed to escape to the grocery store ALONE. Solitude at its finest. I ran so fast out the door, I didn’t even look down to see how filthy my shirt was. The ride to the grocery store was filled with silence, tears, and prayers. I wasn’t in a great place. Self-care wasn’t on the top of my priority list; I was in survival mode. I made my way to the store successfully, despite my teary-eyed prayers. I sat in the parking lot, trying to get myself together enough to exit my car. I looked down at myself. Wow. What kind of hot mess express was I and how could I walk into this store?
Ironically, my shirt was white with big sparkly gold letters that read “Not today, Satan.” Boy, did I need that reminder. I said the words out loud. Then again and again. I put my hand to the handle and exited the vehicle with trepidation. I didn’t want to be seen. I wanted to be invisible – but I am not a person who easily walks in anywhere and is invisible. I have a presence that precedes me, and I often feel pressure to live up to that presence, even when I’m feeling too low to do so. The longer I was in the store, the more stains I noticed on my shirt. Every time I saw another stain, another memory flashed through my mind. Peanut butter and jelly smeared here, the bright blue remnants of the Play-Doh that was smashed into my shirt, there.
Then someone caught my attention and chuckled. “Great,” I ruminated, “they are going to have some stupid comment about ‘mom life’ or some other ridiculous way to point out the stains on my shirt.” But to my surprise, the chuckle was followed with, “I love your shirt!”
After my son was born, we began to research new vehicles. My husband was looking for the highest safety ratings, and was adamant that it have a backup camera. Adamant.
I was indifferent about the backup camera, but humored him. We settled on an SUV that I loved and was rated safe enough for his standards. Of course, it also had a backup camera. Little did I know at the time how much my son would love that back up camera, or the life lesson I would learn from it.
As he grew and began to be more observant, my curious toddler noticed the backup camera as we were backing out of our driveway one morning. He was mesmerized. As soon as I put the car in drive, he freaked out. Screaming, shouting, and all the tears! I had no clue what his issue was, so I just assured him it was ok – whatever “it” was. The next day upon backing out of the driveway, we had the same problem.
When I finally realized he was enjoying the view the camera gave him while in reverse, I exclaimed, “Aww baby, I’m so sorry! But we can’t go forward if we are looking behind us!” Then I stopped myself and thought, “Woah, that’s some heavy Tuesday morning life lessons…I kind of needed to hear that, too.”
You can’t go forward if you’re looking in reverse….
Our son is rowdy. He is rough and tough. He thunders through our home. He doesn’t walk, he runs. He is challenging to parent. We never know if we are doing the right things or saying the right things. I can’t begin to admit the number of articles I have read on the “strong-willed child.” Pfft…strong-willed. He is far greater than strong-willed.
He came crawling into our life when he was 13 months old. After 10 years of infertility struggles and all the pain associated, God answered our prayers and obedience to his Word with this adorable, squishy ball of blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. We were mesmerized, overwhelmed, overcome, and felt slightly in over our heads. We skipped the sweet, snuggly newborn stage and moved straight into the crawling, walking, curiosity-that-gets-into-everything stage.
Our entire home was baby gated. We had gates around our TV stand, gates separating each room, gates at the tops and bottoms of the steps. By 18 months, he could open almost every gate we set up. I knew then, something was up, but never being a parent before, I had no idea what to expect…..