{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 9~My Life is My Offering

We are in the middle of a conference at our church. This means longer hours at the church and lots of introductions and get-to-know you conversations. Brad is all in. He shows up early. He uses the meal breaks between sessions to meet with people. He stays late. He stands and talks to conference-attendees until every last person has been attended to.

 Photo courtesy of Brad Sheasby

For me, it's a juggling act. I am attending as much as I can. I participate hands-on when I'm needed. I attend his sessions and give him constructive feedback. But there's a whole other side to our life that still needs my attention. We have 5 children who still have to be fed, driven to school, picked up from school (we have 3 different pick-up times this year). They still have homework and need to go to bed at a somewhat decent hour. We have a dog that has to be fed and let out a few times a day.

We had a talk over breakfast at the beginning of the week, explaining to our kids that we have a conference happening this week and why it's important to serve people and allow them to come to our church and learn and be refreshed. I laid out the schedule for the week so that they would know when they would be at the church with us and when to expect to see their dad. I finished by thanking them. We have wonderful kids. They love our life and they really enjoy being at the church...something I am so thankful for. When I finished thanking and encouraging them, Caleb smiled and said "Mom, we're there so much it's like our second home."

And it is. Yesterday one of our friends made an observation about our youngest two. They were laying on the floor during one of the sessions, watching a movie on Brad's phone. (I love technology!) He said, "You can tell these are pastors kids. This lobby was full of people and yet they were comfortable watching their movie. They act like they own this place." I love that. They are comfortable and they love it and we love them.

Honestly, it's been kind of hectic. It's a bit crazy trying to get them all settled after school, making sure that I have a change of clothes for those that don't like to wear their school uniform all evening. I make sure they have a snack after school. I make sure they have dinner. Caleb borrowed a staff computer (thanks, Shannon!)and did his homework in one of the nursery classrooms last night. They're tired and I somewhat rushed them out last night to avoid the meltdowns that I knew were inevitable if they didn't get to bed soon.

And God sees all of it. And I know He's pleased as He's watching me carry my too-big-to-be-carried 4 year old to the parking lot. I know He smiles as He watches my children introduce themselves to our visitors. Our family is living out ministry...the hard and the fun and the long and the love.

I entered the worship service last night, after settling everyone in their classes. As I took a deep breath, God reminded me of a retreat a few years ago. We were up in the beautiful mountains of Colorado for a retreat with our School of Worship students. It was the first time in a while that we brought all 5 of our children with us. I remember that during one of the evening meetings, I kept trying to engage in worship and my children kept interrupting me. I finally settled in the back of the room with them and then watched as Brad and the other leaders prayed over the students. I felt a bit of resentment as I sat there...one child in my arms, another on my lap, 3 being too noisy as they played with toys and coloring sheets.

And then I heard that familiar whisper. And He told me He was pleased.

He doesn't see my ministry and my mothering separately. He sees me pouring out my heart for the people around us, even when it's through prayers from the back of the room. He sees me caring for our children and loving them and making them feel secure and comforted while their Daddy operates in his gifting and calling. He sees us all making sacrifices...even when we're doing it joyfully, they are still sacrifices. In that moment, He told me that He was happy with me being right where I was and that it wasn't secondary to being at the front of the room praying for students.

I now know that it is all my offering. The caring for my children, the praying for people, the cleaning my house in preparation for conference guests, the leading of worship from the stage, the hugs and smiles as we're heading out the door...it is all my offering to Him.

We as people sometimes elevate certain ministries above others...worship leading, praying, preaching...above mothering, floor sweeping, administrating. But it doesn't work that way in God's Kingdom. He sees us all the same. We are all responsible to steward what He has given. Whether it's a gift for speaking, worship leading, mothering, administration, serving...we are all important and wanted and valued.

And He sees it all and He smiles and loves and accepts our offering. No matter how small in man's eyes, it is our offering of the heart and intention that He is focused on. He is more pleased with an assistant who smiles and serves whole-heartedly than a worship leader who is haughty and arrogant. He accepts the offering of a life-laid down, whether it is in the public eye or from the rocking chair in the nursery.

We are all the same, though different in deed, the goal is the same for us all. Sacrifice, offering, serving...all done as worship to our God.


 This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.


{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 8~Imperfection is Worth the Help

I love perfectly folded bath towels.

When we were first married, I read a tutorial by Martha Stewart on how to fold towels perfectly. I really enjoy folding them and stacking them neatly and placing them on our guest bed in preparation for guests.

I also really enjoy my organized pantry. And the smell of lemon-scented dusting spray. And a shiny bathroom sink.

I really like it when my kids dress in cute outfits. I like trendy and cute without being fussy or too dressy.

And I can have all of these things when I'm willing and able to spend my time doing them.

Or I can delegate. I can let my husband fold the towels. I can let my older children dress the youngers. I can let the kids clean up after lunch, resulting in the peanut butter being placed on the wrong shelf. I can let my 5 year old dust the tables with a dry towel.

When I delegate, I am letting go of my control over these things. I am also allowing myself some rest and breathing space. Most importantly, I am training my children to participate in stewarding our home. They learn to pitch in, to help each other, to serve others.

I've criticized their efforts in the past. "Why can't you do it MY way?"

This criticism results in frustration, irritation, tension. It doesn't make them want to help me. It turns their labor of love, their willingness to help, into a drudgery. They are no longer happy to help because they are anticipating the criticism that will follow.

So now we have "chore charts". My kids do their own laundry. They clean the bathrooms, empty the trash, dust the furniture. And it's rarely done perfectly...or to my desires. But it's done. And I hold my tongue. And we function like a family rather than like a dictatorship.

The imperfection is worth the help!


This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.


{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 6~God is the Ultimate Family Planner ~ Part 2: Timing is Everything

This is a continuation of last week's post. Read here for Part 1. 

When Emma was about 7 months old, I started having the feeling that someone was missing. Brad and I knew we wanted a fairly large family, so "we" decided it was time for another baby. I was pregnant with Paige 2 months later.

Paige was born in the fall, just a few weeks before Caleb's 3rd birthday. She was such a happy, peaceful baby. I was SO exhausted ALL the time but I was also really enjoying being a mom and somehow rested in the chaos.

We nicknamed Paige "smiles" because she just smiled all the time. Emma was too little to pronounce "smiles" so she called her "miles". I look back on those times and remember how hard they were in so many ways, with 3 small children, but I also remember how sweet and innocent those years were.

We loved our little family, but we longed for more children. More specifically, we longed for another boy. When Paige was about 6 months old, I did some research and we began to "try" for a boy.

This time was different than the others. Not only did my system for getting a boy not work, but I wasn't getting pregnant at all. A few months in, I gave up my system in hopes that God would bless us with another baby, boy or girl.

And so went the next 10 months. Every month was the cycle of hope and disappointment. I began to wonder if our family was complete. I felt I should be thankful for the family we had, but I still longed for more children. I couldn't understand why God wouldn't give us more children. Didn't He think I was a good mother? Why had it been so easy before?

I had a good friend who walked this road with me. One time, as I was crying and pouring my heart out, she said something that was so comforting. She said, "You know, God knows your next child's birth day already. He knows exactly when that child should be born. It affects that child's school year, childhood friends, what year he/she will graduate from high school and what opportunities are available at that time. God's had it all planned for a long time. You just be patient and watch what He does."

It's funny how up to that point I really thought I had a say. I thought my pregnancies were planned. And they were. But not by me. Not by Brad. By the Creator of the universe. The One who knew them way before I did. He timed each birth exactly according to His plan and will for each of their lives! This concept still amazes me!

That Christmas I got the news I had been longing for. That darkening pink line on a pregnancy test. I was so happy and excited! God had finally answered my prayers!

A week later, I was devastated when I experienced another miscarriage. I didn't really feel a loss for the baby because it was so early, but more a loss for the family I had envisioned. I began to think we would never have more children.

I remember sitting in the doctor's office and Brad said, "Maybe this just cleared everything out and you'll get pregnant again right away." I looked at him thinking that was about the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard.

But he was right...or at least it appeared he was. I became pregnant again the next month.

When we came to the 20-week mark, we went in for our routine ultrasound. We were so excited to see the pictures of our baby. And yes, we were still hoping for a boy.

When the ultrasound tech told us it was a girl, we were completely silent. We weren't upset, but more in shock. As happy as we were to be welcoming another child into our family, our family was not looking at all like what we had pictured in our minds.

A few months later, we found ourselves in transition. We had prayed and processed and felt the Lord was prompting us to move our family from Colorado Springs, the home of our family and the church we loved so dearly, to Birmingham, the home of a new and rapidly growing church.

We listed our home without even considering the idea that it wouldn't sell. This was the very beginning of the economic downturn and the housing market was declining rapidly. After a few months on the market, we moved. We left all of our furniture behind, hoping it would help our home sell. It didn't and we began what would be 18 months of moving from house to house, unable to settle while we were still paying our mortgage in Colorado.

At 8 months pregnant, I sat in the living room of our 3rd home in a month. I was so thankful that I was not having to worry about a newborn. It was so much easier to care for her while she was still in my womb, unable to feel the uneasiness and stress that her parents were feeling. We had 3 small children already and I was relieved that we might be somewhat settled before she made her entrance into the world.

If I had had my choice, we would have had 4 children at that time and she would have been an infant. Moving across country and from house to house was much easier with her on the inside!

Brooke was born on a beautiful fall day in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember noticing all of the bold autumn colors of the trees as we drove to the hospital. Whatever hopes we had of another boy were so small and in the distance as she arrived that day. She was beautiful and perfect and born on the day God had chosen.

3 weeks later, while my husband was overseas on a mission trip, I received the devastating news that the pastor of our home church had a moral failure. As I fed and rocked Brooke in the dark hours of that night, I looked into her eyes and knew that I was holding a miracle. How could I doubt God's sovereignty? He was the God who created this perfect child. I knew I could trust Him to work for good all of the emotions swirling in my heart.

In the months that followed, every time I felt scared or lost as I was dealing with the grief of all that was happening at home, I would look at Brooke. My miracle baby. My baby who came at just the right time by the God who holds it all.

That next June was the first time I felt a little nudge from the Lord, that it was time to have another baby. I simply reminded God that I was done. Finished. 4 healthy, beautiful children. Wasn't that enough?
The nudging didn't go away and only grew stronger. I told God that I would mention it to Brad. Surely he knew we were done, too. We were still in a temporary housing situation with no hopes of selling our house any time soon. Life was too crazy. We were too busy. I was done having babies!

Brad's response was not what I expected. He didn't seem surprised at all! He said he would love to have another baby. He was not cooperating with my "see, God" plan!

So, we again "stopped preventing". The next month we traveled to Romania on a mission trip. On a drizzly, romantic overnight layover in London I watched the light pink turn dark once again. I was too awestruck to be upset. I knew this was God's baby. He had planned it and I was cooperating...and so happy to be.

We found out a few months later that this God-baby was a boy. I was so in shock that I asked the doctor to perform a second ultrasound a couple weeks later. He did and confirmed that yes, this was a boy!

Through a series of (many) events, we found ourselves back in Colorado that spring and Micah was born 2 months later. We were so happy and thankful to be welcoming him into our family. Caleb was so excited to have a brother and the girls were just so happy to have a little baby to snuggle.

As Brad drove me and Micah home from the hospital, I had a feeling that I had never felt before: completion. I reached over for Brad's hand and knew he felt the same way. Even more important, I knew God was pleased. It had been a fast but long, emotional 6 years of pregnancies and miscarriages, feedings and diapers, triumphs and heartache...and we have 5 perfect, God-creations to show for it.


This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.


What was Supposed to be the Last {Uganda} post

Thank you all for all of your encouragement over the last couple of weeks as I've been focusing on these Uganda posts and the {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} series. It is so encouraging to hear that God is using my heart and my experiences to speak to you.

I was planning to wrap up our Uganda trip today. I can't wait to tell you about a wonderful experience I had on a long bus ride home on our 2nd to last night in country.

Unfortunately, my computer is freaking out. And rather than cry or scream, I'm just going to say that I'll save it for next week (Thursday). You can still plan on the {Lessons} posts on Monday and Wednesday, even if it means I have to snag Brad's computer for a bit!

I have some exciting news coming up having to do with missions and New Life Worship...which I can't share yet...but may be able to include in the last Uganda post!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends. See you Monday!



{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 5~God is the Ultimate Family Planner ~ Part 1: Pain Can Bring Hope and Peace

The Lord has entrusted us with 5 beautiful children. See, that's us right there at the top of the page. At first glance, it looks like we had 5 pregnancies, 5 deliveries, 5 miracles given back to back. They do look like "stair steps" when they're lined up, although the oldest seems to tower over everyone more and more.

We were married for about a year when we "decided" it was time to start having children. We didn't really even know how to "try" for pregnancy...we just stopped preventing and I was pregnant 2 months later. I never took any special tests to tell us when the "time was right" and I didn't take a pregnancy test until I was fairly certain it would be positive. There we stood, in the bathroom of our starter house, crying and laughing and so overjoyed...and scared.

Caleb came that fall, just after the twin towers fell. I was in love with him immediately.

I immersed myself in being a mom. Those first couple of months are somewhat of a blur of feedings, diapers, sleepless nights...mixed with grief and insecurity about what our future held as our country went to war.

Four short months later, as I awoke from a nap while Caleb slept, I had an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. My body felt so heavy and unable to wake completely. It was very similar to how I felt when I first found out I was pregnant with Caleb. I remembered I had an unused pregnancy test in my bathroom cabinet. As the line on the test turned from faint to a bright "plus sign" I began to cry. I was so overwhelmed and tired already. I couldn't imagine bringing another baby into the world, so soon.

By the time Brad came home from work, I had somewhat come to grips with the idea and wrote a note "from Caleb" announcing that he would soon have a little brother or sister. Brad was surprised but overjoyed. I decided to be as well.

Three weeks later we began telling our family, friends and youth group. I remember so clearly being at our youth choir rehearsal on that Thursday night with squealing girls around me. Everyone was so excited...why wasn't I?

Friday morning was our scheduled appointment with the doctor, to officially confirm the pregnancy and talk through prenatal care. As the nurse performed the ultrasound, she became very quiet. She didn't say much except that maybe it was just very early and they'd like to do a different kind of ultrasound to get a better look. My uneasiness about the pregnancy quickly turned to panic. What was wrong with my baby?

The doctor came in shortly after the second ultrasound to break the news. There was no heartbeat. It looked like our baby had stopped growing two weeks earlier. We had a decision to make. We could go home and wait through the weekend for my body to "take care" of things naturally or we could schedule surgery for that afternoon. By this point, my body was showing signs of cooperating, so we decided to go home.

My mom met us at home so she could help with Caleb. We decided to keep Brad's scheduled voice students for that afternoon...he would be in our home office in case anything happened but I didn't think it was necessary for him to sit around and wait with me. What if it took all weekend?

When it happened that afternoon, my body delivering what was once a baby, the wail that came out of me was uncontrollable. I sat on our bathroom floor, overwhelmed with grief. Brad came to my side, saying he had sent his voice student home. We hugged and cried and sat, in shock.

I remember the rest of my family coming over with their quiet, but calming, support. My father-in-law called and spoke words of comfort. We watched "America's Funniest Videos" that night and I laughed and laughed...to this day that show is sentimental to me for that reason.

Friends brought flowers and planned meals for that first week. We felt so loved. Then life went back to normal. For everyone but me.

My body didn't feel normal. I felt the effects of the miscarriage physically for over a month. Emotionally, I felt sad for the loss of our baby. I felt guilty for not wanting the baby in the first place. I wondered if I had caused this baby to die. I felt confused. Did God kill my baby? Everyone kept saying it was probably for the best. How could this be God's best? And why didn't Brad seem to be grieving like I was?

To this day, I don't know the answers to all of these questions. But I do know that I didn't cause the miscarriage of our baby. I know that God's doesn't choose for any of His children to suffer. And I learned that a mother's grief is different and goes deeper than can be explained with words.

I found peace in a small ceremony. I named our baby. I wrote a letter to our baby and then gathered all of the paperwork...the letter "Caleb" had written to Brad, the pregnancy calendar I had purchased, cards & letters from friends...and placed them in an envelope. I said goodbye to our baby. Brad held and comforted me as I sealed it and placed it in our file box.

I became pregnant again 3 months later and delivered Emma that next spring.

She was so beautiful and I felt a connection to her that was different than Caleb. Caleb is my buddy and will always have claim as the first-born, the strong one. Emma is to this day so peaceful and loving. She has a strength that is so different from his. And while she was not a replacement for the baby I lost, I was overwhelmed with love and so thankful for the little family God was building.

10 years later and we still have that envelope. I haven't looked through it in years. Now, when I see it I am in awe of all that God has done since then and all that I have learned about His sovereignty. Looking back, I realize that this was a small piece (that felt huge at the time) of a large puzzle of my life, our lives, the life of our family. I absolutely believe that our baby was a person...although not very developed, that baby was not an accident and she was created in the image of God. I look forward to the day we meet face to face in heaven and I will get to hold her.

This is our reward...the HOPE, the PEACE that comes with a relationship with Jesus.

"Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your 
hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:7

...to be continued...


This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.


{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 4~The Work is About the People

Mondays are my catch-up days.

Well, I should say Mondays are *supposed* to be my catch up days. But my catch up day often seeps into Tuesday and then I try again on Wednesday. By Thursday I'm already headed for the weekend, so I'm usually rushing to get things somewhat in order before I rush out for worship practice that night.

Recently, as I was throwing in an extra load of laundry...

(Aren't we thankful for modern conveniences?)

... I found myself asking, "What is the point?" What is the point of all these tasks...these mundane, menial tasks? Is there a point to wiping counters, scrubbing toilets, folding towels? Does it really matter if the house is tidy?

I keep up on laundry okay. I am good about dishes and keeping the kitchen in order. I am worse at bathrooms and bedrooms. And really bad at dusting, mopping, vacuuming. I'll save you from the torture of going on.

And when I get behind, what does it affect most? Me. My attitude. My disposition. I suffer the most from my own procrastination. If I'm running behind on my mommy-duties, I tend to feel more agitated and easily frustrated. I wake each day feeling behind before I even get out of bed.

And who does that affect? The people. My family. My friends. Someone in need. I have sometimes been so blinded by my "responsibilities" that I'll forget the point of doing them in the first place.

When I can keep order, I can handle more. When I know exactly where my keys are, where my shoes are, when my clothes are hung neatly...my tasks go smoother, faster. If I need to leave the house suddenly to help a friend (or husband or child) in need, I am able to with ease.

When I am able to keep up with the everyday, God can surprise me with the unexpected and, instead of it stressing me, I can be happily surprised. I can go into each day ready to accept unusual challenges.

And it goes even beyond that. I try to choose order and planning so that I can accommodate our family.

My husband never complains about coming home to a messy house. But I know the peace and comfort he feels when a tidy home welcomes him at the end of a busy, sometimes stressful, day. I know he likes it when he asks me 'what's for dinner' and I actually have an answer.

My older kids appreciate it when I clean their snowy, muddy boots or do an extra load of laundry so their favorite school clothes are clean. My littles love it when they can find their favorite toys and books.

They are learning to do some of these things on their own, but I am here many times when they're not. And doing these mundane, mindless, many times thankless, tasks are my gift to them.

 Getty Images

I've had many seasons when I couldn't keep up and then I have given into frustration. I've sat in the middle of a messy basement and cried, feeling like I am a failure of a mother because I haven't trained my children to clean up after themselves. These are not my proudest moments.

It works much better when I take it one step, one day at a time and let God's grace cover. I have to pray for patience...for me and for all of us. And if I can chip away at it...at least have the dishes and laundry done, the counters wiped and a clean table for dinner, it gives our family a place to gather, free of clutter and distractions.

Because that's what it's really about. My life as the wife and mom is not about keeping it all together. It's about creating time and space for the people He has gifted me with. I recently read this:

I don't always get it all done (okay, okay. I really never get it all done.). And there are many times when a friend drops by and witnesses all that I have not gotten done. But it's not about the appearance of having it all together. It's about the constant balancing act of tasks and people. Doing and being. Too much of one and everything is off kilter. It's about working at the tasks so that the people know their importance. I can work hard while my family is off learning, working, studying and then truly have time to focus on them when they come home.

I once heard of a woman who worked at a church, scrubbing toilets. She would get the toilets clean and then lock the stalls so that no one could dirty them! She was so proud of her work but she had missed the point of doing the work in the first place!

It IS good to work. And to work hard. But the work exists to serve the people.

This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.


Seeta, {Uganda}

After traveling all over the country and seeing so many amazing sights and meeting so many wonderful people, we headed to our final destination, Seeta.

We spent the majority of our time at Adventure Village, an orphanage housing around 1000 orphans.

You may remember we went there last year.

I got to see the kids that laid claim to my heart a year ago...

 Farida and Hanifah...

 and many more that I love so much. Enoch, Anet...too many to name here.

I made some new friends...

It was so wonderful to see my husband love these kids. Many of them have no earthly father and while Brad isn't a substitute, it's so good for them to receive love from a man.

Caleb and Emma had so much fun here. They played with the kids and chased chickens. They really enjoyed the slowing and the freedom to run around.

Our pace during these 5 days was much slower and we really just focused on the kids and the mums.

We worked on a brick perimeter fence that will surround the orphanage and provide protection for the children.

 We hung mosquito nets.

Mostly, though, this part of the trip was highly relational...planting seeds and creating moments for these orphans to hold on to when they feel alone and abandoned.

To be able to hug an orphan, pray over them and tell them Jesus loves them...well, I can't even put into words how very emotional and fulfilling and heartbreaking this is.

It affected our entire team and many of us were brought to tears when it was time to say goodbye. Our hearts are knit with theirs and I pray that they remember the love that we showed them, even when we can't physically be with them. How precious these children are. My only comfort comes from knowing that He loves them far more than I can imagine. So when they are sad, sick, hungry, cold, lonely, discouraged...He will send them a Comforter. I pray that He will use the short time we spent with them to bring hope.

I wish I could end this post happy and "up" and with encouragement for your day. What we experienced...although we laugh and love, much of it is heartbreaking and hard. These children are proof of the fallen world that we live in...they are the innocent who are suffering. Will you join me and pray for them? Will you consider sponsoring a child? If we each were to do our part~only what the Lord directs you to do~we could radically change the life of a child. Maybe you are one who supported our team in going. Maybe you are planning a trip yourself. Any and all of these are wonderful. Thank you for giving...for loving...it does not go unnoticed and I have had the privilege to see first hand the impact that these actions make in the life of a child.

On behalf of the abandoned and forgotten, THANK YOU.


Photos once again provided by our team members: Krista Bobo, Angela White, Cameron Daniels and Katherine Hughson


{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 3~Nobody's Above the Fall

We all have them. People we look up to. People we think are "more spiritual" than us. She's written a book so she must have a perfect relationship with God. He's such a great speaker so he must know everything there is to know about the Bible. He's such a good pastor so he would never speak an unkind word to his wife. We rarely verbalize them, but they're there. These high expectations we place on people. We don't do it on purpose. It's a result of our human nature...to make famous those who have been gifted with certain talents. Really we're all very much alike...I'm human, you're human, we're all human (can you hear Natalie Grant singing? *wink*)

One of the funny and not-so-funny stories about our marriage is that when I married Brad I thought he was perfect. We didn't have the typical get-to-know-you dating circumstance that is allowed most couples. The full story is one for another post but for now I'll just say that we learned about each other through ministry, working together and mutual friends. We had become friends ourselves which is what led to our engagement, but we never dated as a couple or argued and made up as a couple or grew in comfort as a couple until after we were married.

I had watched him for 4 years...
the traveling "artist" who had finally settled down,
the talented singer and worship leader,
the pastor who loved people and took time to really listen,
the speaker who spoke in such a relatable way,
the funny, outgoing, sometimes-crazy guy who made us all laugh.

photo by Erick Todd

So when he proposed I thought I was the luckiest girl on the planet...
And I was. And still am!

The unfortunate thing for him, and for me, is that I assumed because he had all these gifts and abilities that he just naturally operated in them at all times. I didn't give him much room, if any, to make mistakes. I thought he would be the perfect husband...always knowing what I needed, always knowing what to say, always "on".

Poor guy!

The first time he forgot to call to let me know he was running late, you would've thought he deliberately took my heart out of my chest, threw it on the ground and stomped on it. I was so upset that he "didn't think of me". I can promise that he thought a lot of me after that conversation....like "who is this girl that I married and can someone please help me??"!

And so went the first few months of our marriage. Until I came to the realization that HE'S NOT PERFECT. He's not JESUS. He's my husband. And he's doing his best just like the rest of us. I came to realize that he makes mistakes, just like I do, and that every action that he takes is not an intentional message sent my way! Whew! Glad we're over that! For the most part anyway...*wink*

Several years later, I realized I had once again put really high, unreachable expectations on someone. When I heard that our pastor had had a moral failure, I was devastated. How could he do this?

I was such a lost, angry teenager when my best friend had invited me to church. Okay, her mom had made us go to church after a night of senior-year celebrating and crawling into bed in the early hours of the morning. I stood in the service that morning, a bit hungover, and tried to keep the tears from spilling down my face as the worship music played. I had never experienced the presence of God like that before. I just had to go back. So I did and a month later I made the whole-hearted decision to follow Jesus.

I had been in church nearly every Sunday since that decision. Ten years of sitting under the leadership of our pastor...

I went through an internship,
became part of the staff,
married one of the pastors
and dedicated our babies.

I experienced retreats,
worship services,
prayer movements
and missions trips.

We had celebrated marriages,
and anniversaries.

We had laughed together,
cried together
and been angry with each other.

He'd had dinner in our home, we'd had many at his. He had visited us in the hospital when Brad had surgery, when we'd had babies.

Nearly every significant event I had experienced since that teary Sunday morning included this man. He was my spiritual father and I respected him very much. But my view of him went beyond respect. I trusted him. I knew he loved our family and that if we ever needed anything, he would be there. But even beyond trusting him, I thought he could do no wrong. If I disagreed with something he did, I assumed it was my lack of maturity. I rarely second-guessed him or evaluated him for the man that he was. I was positive he had a direct line to the Lord that was shorter than mine and that he would never do anything out of God's will. I had an "if all else fails, he (and the church he pastored) would always be there" way of thinking.

All of that changed that Thursday night. This man, or super-human (in my mind) had made a mistake. If he could make this kind of mistake, who could I trust?

I walked through the next couple of years...healing and processing. In looking into my responsibility in the situation, I realized that I had put such high expectations on this man. I assumed he would never falter. This assumption led to such heartache. Such disappointment. This assumption made the situation immediately about me...instead of about a friend who was going through an extremely difficult situation.

The reality is, we are all tempted and we all have choices to make each day. The fact that some fall harder, or further, than others is decided by our response. The higher the expectations we place on others, the higher the consequence. I am not referring to the natural consequences that occur with position, but consequences of the heart.  

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. ~Prov 4:23

Let's not forget that we ALL need God's grace. We are ALL in equal need of salvation. Let's give people room to be people. Let's accept them for who they are and not try to make them into super-human perfectly perfect people. None of us will reach perfection this side of heaven. This view isn't to look down on anyone, but to give everyone the space...permission...grace...to grow in their personal relationship with Jesus.

We all desire this kind of grace for ourselves. While we are watching those in leadership positions, let's remember to pray for them. Let's remember that we are all in this together and that we ALL need the help and support of each other. Those who are in leadership positions (myself and my husband included) have been placed there by the Lord...not by some super-human-perfect strength of their own. And when one falls, let's give them grace and offer forgiveness.


This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.


{Book Review} :: Guardians of Purity

In the Christian, church-going world, we hear a lot about purity. We hear a lot about guarding our hearts. We hear a lot about parenting.

When I was asked to read Julie Hiramine's book Guardians of Purity: A Parent"s Guide to Winning the War Against Media, Peer Pressure, and Eroding Sexual Values, I was prepared to hear about these things.

And Julie didn't disappoint. She takes on many topics from television to music to internet and social media to the role Hollywood plays in our lives.

She gives many practical tools and guidelines (that I REALLY wish had been available 11 years ago when I was pregnant with our first child!). She challenges us to be deliberate and intentional about the hearts of our children from an early age. She encourages us to have a plan early on, when our children are 2 or 3 years of age, for how much tv, what kind of tv and how to talk about the difference between girls and boys. She shares about how long to let siblings bathe together, how to instill modesty into our children and how to model purity for our children.

But Julie goes so far beyond these topics. She challenges us to be proactive in the battle for our children's hearts. She discusses what it means to have quality family time, how important it is to allow for individual time for each child and how to encourage our children to pray and seek God. She gives tools for instructing our children from God's Word. She encourages us to go against what modern culture would say is normal and instead opt for God's truth and desire for a pure life, set aside for His purposes.

While Julie's goal is to encourage us toward purity, she encouraged me in other areas as well. She takes on the topic of social media and the role it takes in our lives. This doesn't apply to my children (yet!), but it definitely applies to me! What is the purpose in the time I spend tweeting, posting, instagramming? It is to bring glory to God or to myself?

"This is the online worship factor. Is it all about me or about truly being a representative of God's mighty army and making advances for His Kingdom? So much of technology centers about my life, my pictures, my friends, my little world. What happened to our calling and destiny to be world-changers for the almighty King? We get sucked into this vortex of self and the "me" factor that is all about me getting worship from my friends. Last I read in the Bible, Lucifer fell from heaven because he wanted the worship that belonged to God." pg 20-21
My very favorite part of Julie's book was the last few chapters. As a mom of "tweens", I know that we need to be intentional as we head into the next few years. What I don't know is how to do that! How do I explain to our children our goals for their future...their dating, their courtship, their marriage? Do I even know what I think about dating? About kissing before marriage? About how far is too far? This book gave me so many things to think about and process...Brad and I spent much of our last date night talking through these topics. Neither of us were perfect before marriage, and I don't expect perfection from our children, but shouldn't we set the bar high? In an atmosphere of grace and love, we want to help our children guard against the temptations that surround them.
One of the sweetest parts of the book is when Julie talks of "Developing a Love Story With God". She shares the story of a young woman who is struggling as she "waits for the one". Through some reading, this girl comes to the realization that,
"God created marriage and singleness for the same purpose. Both equally teach us about the love that God has for us. They do it really differently, but one isn't better than the other." pg 164
What a beautiful picture!
I'll be honest and tell you Julie sets the bar really high. She and her husband have chosen to live an unordinary, unusual life and they have encouraged the same in their children. If they take the same tone with their children as she does throughout this book, I'm confident their children know they are loved and protected. There is no blurring of the lines, no guessing when it comes to their standards.
One thing I've learned in my oh-so-short time as a mom, is that children respond best when they know what is expected of them and even more so, when they know you have their back. Julie's book is 12 chapters worth of tools to help us live a life of purity and in turn communicate such a life to our children...a life set apart.
Guardians of Purity is definitely a book to keep around, one that we'll be referencing for years to come. I would highly recommend it to soon-to-be parents and parents (and grandparents) of children of all ages!


{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 2~It Goes Beyond Skinny

I've never been super skinny. It's never REALLY bothered me, though.

Not enough to do anything about it. In high school, I was average. I had a cute little teenagery body that I did little to maintain. I didn't pay much attention to how I ate and I wasn't involved in many sports. The physical activities I participated in were simply because I liked them...never really for the purpose of working out.

When I went to college, I paid a little more attention to what I ate in order to avoid the "freshman 15". It was not an obsession though...ok, not even really a focus.

When I got married, I still had the cute little teenagery body. Then I got pregnant.

I gained 45 lbs with my first pregnancy. I kept the habits I had always had...I ate what I wanted and I never worked out. It didn't even occur to me that I might KEEP the weight after I had my baby.

I didn't keep all of it, just about 20 lbs. And then I was pregnant again. I was so happy being a mom and I really enjoyed being pregnant. I knew that I was overweight but I just assumed it went with the job. I was too busy thinking about all of my responsibilities as a mom...I just "couldn't" find the time to work out regularly.

After we had our fifth baby (in 6 years), we felt our family was complete. I knew I needed to lose some weight but I still wasn't ready to focus on it.

About eight months later, I went in for a routine physical. It wasn't a good feeling when the doctor asked me to come to his office for a chat. He gently challenged me to lose some weight. A few days after that, our insurance physical came back. Brad received a "superior rating" which resulted in a discounted cost. I, however, did not get a superior rating due to high cholesterol.

These two events, occurring within the same week, were the wake up call I needed. I didn't want to live the rest of my life overweight. I wanted to have energy to keep up with my kids. Even more, I wanted to be AROUND for my kids and grandkids!

After some research and asking around, I found a program that worked for me. (If you are needing to find a program, here is my thought: I feel most programs work about the same...they are reliant on you to be consistent and patient! Find one and stick to it!) I lost most of my "baby weight". Am I super skinny now? No. Am I back to my prepregnancy weight? Not quite.

BUT I am healthier. I am no longer in the "overweight" category. My cholesterol is normal. I have more energy. Working out is actually enjoyable (you know, in the best way it can be). I love working hard and sweating and knowing that I am making my body cooperate with the life that I want to live.

Do I ever look at super skinny girls and wish I could look like them? Yes, I do. But is it the focus of my life? No! I want to be healthy, I want to be attractive for my husband and I want to have energy to play with my kids.

Maybe someday I'll have the time and focus to work out every day and lose the last bit of the baby weight (I don't really think I can call it that anymore...my baby's now four years old *wink*). But for now, I try to fuel my body well with foods that give me the nutrients I need. As far as working out, honestly, I go in phases depending on how busy we are. I am still a work in progress. It still doesn't get ALL of my focus, but it gets enough.

We've been given these bodies as a gift...a gift to steward and use in order to accomplish all that the Lord has for us. I want to do the best I can with EACH gift He gives...why should my body be any different?

This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.