Thursday, October 5, 2017

When C's Won't Cut It




If you read my previous post, then you know I struggle with discipline in just about every area of my life.

In my housekeeping...
the way I discipline my children...
keeping up with this blog...
my business...
my schedule...
fitness routines...
eating....

I could probably go on, but I think you understand.

I have allowed the many hats I wear to serve as an excuse to be undisciplined. "I just have so much going on? Who can possibly get everything done?"

It doesn't help that many well-meaning people serve me excuses on silver platters. Everyone is very eager to give me grace because of the number of children I have, homeschooling, etc. And to some degree, they're right: I do need to be able to give myself grace and know there are times I just can't do it all. 

But here's the crux of the matter: somewhere, deep inside, we know when have crossed the line from God-given grace to self-given excuses. It's a fine line, but it exists, and if you're honest with yourself, you know.

When I was in school as a child, I was not allowed to get C's. It was unacceptable. To some people that was crazy, over the top, parenting, but I always understood it. I wasn't a C student. I was capable of more. If I was getting C's, there was a good probability it wasn't because I didn't understand, but because I wasn't putting in effort.

However, as a senior, I had one class I could NEVER get an A in, and more often than not, I got C's: AP English Composition. To this day I hate the words "passive voice" because I saw them written on my papers so often (not that it stopped me). I truly tried, though. I worked diligently on my papers, but for whatever reason, I wasn't able to perform beyond "adequate." 

Because my parents knew I was trying my best, earning a C in that class, while disappointing to me, was acceptable. It was my efforts that determined their view of my performance, not necessarily the results. And that, my friends, is the point of all this.

It's all about knowing what you're capable of and whether the effort you're putting forth is truly your best effort. 

In my case, many of my failures have come from a lack of organization. God has seen fit to give me responsibilities in a lot of different areas. I have known for some time that I needed to be more organized in order to thrive, but...even thinking about trying to organize myself was daunting challenge.

Who has the time? I said. I have too many other things to do!

So instead of taking the time necessary to get my life together, I plodded along haphazardly. And when that got too overwhelming, I didn't do anything at all. Scrolling facebook seemed like a much better option than trying to wrap my tired brain around getting more important things done.

I've been acting like an A student making C's and D's, giving the teacher every excuse in the book for why I couldn't get my work done. I was riding the waves of mediocrity like a pro, but the sea of excuses started drying up, and every facet of my life, including my walk with God, suffered.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Proverbs 13:4

My diligence and discipline were lacking, and my soul craved, but got nothing - until now...

I'm finally making a genuine attempt at organizing ALL aspects of my life. Thus far, I've seen some improvements in a few areas and less in others, but I've seen progress!

Recognizing that progress is actually a big step for me. In the past, I would have ignored any forward progression, keeping a laser focus on the areas where I wasn't progressing. I was an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I would become discouraged and then, like clockwork, I would give up because "it just wasn't working."

Praise God for direction and His amazing grace.

Where in your life are you making progress? Where do you need to? Do you struggle with discipline and organization?

Pray today that God would guide you and order your steps. Pray that He would give you the strength and clarity to make the necessary changes and incorporate HIS discipline into your life.

It may not be easy, and it may be messy, but I promise it will be worth it. 


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What is God-discipline?




Most of the time, if I had to choose one topic to write about for twenty-something days, it would be tortuous. I'd waffle back and forth between multiple topics, and finally just choose the one that I felt suited the moment best...or I could say the most about.

This time, however, when I saw the #write31days challenge, I knew exactly what my topic would be: self-discipline. God has been writing the words diligence and discipline on my heart for a while now: every day in a myriad of ways.

And yet...

Self-discipline still didn't seem right for what I wanted to convey. The Bible has plenty of verses on discipline and self-control, but for me, it has a different meaning.

When I think of self-discipline, I think of white-knuckling my way through life, independent and strong. I see a self-made woman, plowing her way through life with steely determination, plenty of grit, and great accessories (shush, it's my vision).

But that's not what my walk looks like.

Don't get me wrong; I've tried desperately to make that happen. I have charged into countless situations determined to succeed, independent and strong. Sometimes, that's worked out great. But more times than not, I've fallen on my face and succumbed to failure.

My walk has looked a lot like smeared mascara on tear-stained pillows and crying out to God in the shower. It has been messy, and not without casualties.

I am not self-disciplined.

Nevertheless, God is teaching me how to lean on him to become disciplined...so I'm calling that God-discipline.

More and more, I'm learning that white-knuckling my way through things on my own just isn't me.

I need His strength to get me through the moments when I just can't get through on my own. 

I need His faithfulness when mine is on the run.

I need His grace when, despite His perfection, I mess it all up.

I need His strong hands to help me back up when I fall.

Over and over, I have sought perfection, and when I couldn't achieve it, I've given up. Why do anything if you're not going to do it right? But that simply meant I wasn't getting anything accomplished because I'm far from perfection.

I used "perfectionism" as an excuse to quit. I have gotten overwhelmed and abandoned countless causes.

But not now.

I heard a quote today by Jim Rohn that said: "Success is steady progress toward one's personal goals." That sounds pretty simple, but he put a lot of emphasis on the word PERSONAL. He said you can't let anyone tell you what success looks like for you. Your goals have to be yours; you can't take on someone else's goals as your own. In that, he echoes loudly what God has been whispering to me for quite some time.

For me, progress, not perfection, is the goal, and successful for me may look entirely different than it does to the world. He is teaching me to lean on Him and trust Him in ALL things, leaving what the world thinks far behind.

That's the hardest part for me, you know: abandoning others' perceptions and opinions, letting my the tapestry of my life take on the colors of His will instead of the those of the threads of public opinion.

Thus, I'm abandoning self-discipline; by myself, I'm not disciplined at all. God is teaching me to look to him for the strength to be disciplined and to His grace and mercy when I'm not. I'm embracing God-discipline.

If you're one of those people who executes goals flawlessly, my posts for the month of October probably won't interest you much.

However, if you're someone like me - one who falls down a lot in the pursuit of God's plan and often has difficulty finding the strength and courage to get back up - I hope you'll follow along. We may just learn and accomplish a lot together.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

31 Days to God-Discipline



I've been thinking about writing more for a while.

Just thinking...

I've felt like God is calling me to write more. I've considered trying to come up with something regular.

Just considered...

Then, while scrolling Instagram the other day, I saw a post about Faith, but more importantly, it was a challenge to WRITE.

Every day of October. #write31days

The point is to write about one subject, every day, for 31 days.

Obviously, I'm late to the game, but in the name of embracing progress and not perfection, I'm jumping on anyway.

My topic? What better than the words God has been writing on my heart for the last month: diligence and discipline.

I'm excited. I'm nervous. But I'm stepping out anyway because God says it's time.

If you want to read each day's post, you can bookmark this page, and all the links will be here:


3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.


Has God been writing words on YOUR heart recently. Why not link up! All it takes is a blog (easy to create), a simple image (also easy), and a visit to Write 31 Days! But do it before October 5th!



Sunday, August 27, 2017

My Heart's Report Card


I could feel the sadness creeping in. It was heavy and thick, like Mississippi mud, and I tried to swallow it down, but it rose up, a knot in my stomach that threatened to crawl through my chest and escape as a ragged sob.

Sometimes, you just don't want to lose it in public...but sometimes you do anyway.

This weekend at church, we continued our "Rooted" series. First, we talked about being rooted in the word, and then in our relationship with God. Last week we talked about being rooted firmly in relationships with other believers, and this week, we talked about being rooted in our purpose.

It didn't really affect me until then end...until the worship team was singing about moving forward and Pastor Freddy prayed about clarity of vision. That's when the knot started forming.

Five years ago, I received a calling from God (and you can read about that here). He didn't ask me to do anything specific at the time. He just told me He was calling me.

I know it was real. I know He's calling me. I know He wants something very big from me.

But I still have no clear vision of what that is...and somewhere, deep in me, that weighs so heavily.

I remembered feeling like that another time at FLC, just over three years ago, when we visited on a Saturday night on a whim.

I was pregnant with Avery at the time, and Pastor Freddy was preaching on GOING: praying hard for God's will, but MOVING. I wrote a blog post about it because, even then, I felt the indescribable urge to move forward, but felt the hand of God holding me back until the time was right.

And once again, last night, there I sat on the front row, tears streaming down my face because I'm so ready for my vision.

Or am I?

Cognitively, I'm very aware that I'm NOT ready. I have six children. Five of them are still in our home, three of them are ages four and under, and we have yet another baby on the way. Taking care of them is most important right now, and I know I'm not ready for any huge responsibilities beyond that. Raising them is part of my preparation process.

Furthermore, I know that, should God give me more of His vision, I wouldn't wait for His timing. I like to jump in with both feet, and I would jump straight into the wrong thing. It's almost certain.

I think that's what made the overwhelming sadness so difficult to contend with: I felt like there was no reason for it! God's got this! I'm very aware...so why the heavy heart?

When I got home, I did some digging. I went back to the blog post I wrote three years ago, and it ministered to me.

First, it brought back to mind a verse that I should truly plaster all over the walls of my house just to make sure it gets plastered on my heart:

For the vision still awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end-
it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come;
it will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:3

It is exactly what I am sure of in my heart, and there it was, staring right back at me from God's Word. He is so good.

Secondly, however, it reminded me to look back and see the progress that's been made in the last three years, as well as completing a sound assessment of where He's still doing some major work on me.

I started two pages in my prayer journal: one for "lessons learned" and another for "lessons He's still teaching me." Then, I went back through almost every, single blog post I've made since the one in May of 2014. The results were both uplifting and sobering.

I was able to fill an entire page with lessons I feel God has worked solidly into my heart, lessons that have become part of my daily walk, part of who I am as a follower of Christ.

However, there was also 2/3 of a page of lessons He's still teaching me - areas where I may have picked up part of the lesson, but have continued to fumble or have just dropped altogether.

I felt both deep conviction and sincere gratitude. God has already given me my next steps: complete the ones He's already given me.

There are areas in my life - diligence, household management, self-doubt, confidence - where He's still teaching me lessons, and if they are not tended to before I go into ministry, I will crumble and fold under the pressure of the enemy.

Pastor Freddy even preached on that last night! He said, "Sometimes we have to go back and complete what God has already asked us to do in order to move forward into what He has next." At the time, however, I was unable to see how that applied.

I once was blind, but now I see - thank God for His amazing grace. It's time for me to move backward and pick up some things I've dropped in order to make sure I'm fully equipped for the road ahead.

I made a report card for my heart: in some areas I've got O's for outstanding and S's for satisfactory, but I've also got some big fat N's staring back at me for areas in which I desperately Need Progress. 

The main verse we've concentrated on for our Rooted series has been Colossians 2:6-7:

Therefore, as you have received
Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him,
rooted and built up in him
and established in the faith,
just as you were taught,
overflowing with gratitude.

And very appropriately, that's where I ended up last night. I laid my head to my pillow overflowing with gratitude, knowing all God has already done, grounded in what He's still doing, and excited for what's to come.

That's another lesson from the past that He's still writing on my heart:

My adventure doesn't start
when I become the person I'm supposed to be;
my adventure is in the BECOMING.
Alissa Shea Coburn
December 30, 2016

And I'm enjoying my adventure. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Tie that Binds


Earlier this week, I wrote An Open Letter regarding the recent events in Charlottesville, racial tension, and what I feel we do from here.

One of my suggestions (which came from people far wiser than me) was for us to seek out "the other:" find someone who looks and thinks differently than ourselves and listen very openly to their feelings and try to come to a place of understanding.

However, in giving counsel to the world, you place yourself in a very precarious position. You either learn to take your own advice or risk becoming the worst kind of hypocrite. I know I don't want to ever be considered hypocritical, so I decided to be brave and reach out.

But in all honesty, I totally cheated.

I reached out to Raniesa, my new friend from church. She certainly looks differently than I do, her skin a lovely, rich, dark shade of brown, but our personalities are so similar that it hardly felt unsafe to approach her.

As a matter of fact, I quite literally told her I wanted to talk to her because I trusted her enough to be honest with me if I said something dumb, knowing she would love me regardless. As I said, that seems to be cheating, but maybe we'll just call it baby steps.

We plopped down on her bed last night right around 7:30, and before we knew it, more than 3 hours had passed. Those 3 hours impacted me more than I ever could have imagined; I think they impacted us both.

I already knew our minds worked similarly and have joked that we're really the same person
in different bodies. What we didn't see, though, was that it was the combination of some remarkably similar and some vastly different life experiences that led us to that point.

And as much as I think we both thought we knew, we were shocked by certain revelations.

For example, we both attended Denbigh High School (and barely missed attending with one another), but where my experience was one of relative racial integration and harmony, hers was a much more segregated experience. With few exceptions, her friends were black, and she rarely saw people "cross the lines" into other groups.

We also have some similar family structures and issues, but many of the conversations in our families were vastly different, and led us, early on, to have contrasting assumptions about people of other races.

One thing, though, was very much the same: coming to Freedom Life Church changed us. Both of us encountered grace and truth in a way we hadn't up until that point, but also, because of its very eclectic congregation, it challenged and changed many of our racial assumptions.

Last night I confessed that, before coming to FLC, I felt like most black women tolerated me but really didn't like me. I really had no problem with them, I've just always felt like I annoy them. There were obviously exceptions to this, but generally, that was my perception.

FLC introduced me to amazing, beautiful, spiritually deep women who love me, listen to me, and value me...and a good portion of those women are black. Perception changed.

For Raniesa, growing up in church meant growing up in a "black church." For the most part, races worshiping together was unheard of for her, and she remembers vividly being hugged by Carrie when she first visited, a very southern white woman. She said she froze in that moment, wondering if Carrie was confused and if she knew that she was black; until that moment she had never been hugged by a white woman.

I don't know how it's possible to laugh and have your heart break at the same time, but hearing that caused both reactions in me - so close and yet so far. But now? Perception Changed.

We talked about so many things last night: her deep fear for her son as a black man, my fear for my sons' futures as white men (believe it or not, that's a thing); the term "white privilege" and our perceptions of it; church; experiences with racism. It was deep and personal and beautiful and so much fun.

On the way home, the words our youth pastor, James Wilson, Jr., posted on facebook earlier this week struck me in an entirely new way:
When you love someone you realize their story is a part of yours and what they experience effects you. Because you love them you are willing to be vulnerable with and for them, you are willing to use your platform to stand up for them, your are willing to lose your reputation for them, you are willing to give your life and its comfort for them.
Before last night, I liked Raniesa a lot as a person and loved her as a sister in Christ. When I left, knowing her much more intimately, I loved her. Why does that make a difference? Because I fight for people I love. 

She has claimed a piece of my heart, and once someone truly has real estate in your heart, there is an undeniable shift: I would fight to the death for the people I love, any hour of any day. Love is the tie that binds.

This realization energized me to my core. I started trying to think of all the people I wanted to know on a deeper level. It brought to mind so many individuals I've always thought I've known, but have probably only scratched the surface. It made me want to get in contact with and truly know people who not only don't look like me, but who don't think at all like me.

I'm not in any way under the assumption that all encounters will end like last night - I'm not that "sunshine and rainbows." However, I sincerely believe that even if I come away from an encounter still in disagreement, if I listen to understand their experience, I will still come away with an empathy and respect that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and that is always a worthy endeavor.

I hope reading this has touched you. I hope it's opened your eyes at least a little. But more than anything, I desperately hope and pray it moves you to action because the only way we know we belong to the truth is if our love is not just in speech and words, but if it moves us to action (1 John 3:18-19).

Here is your call to action: contact someone today. Don't put it off until tomorrow. Tell them you want to know more about their experience and who they are. Ask to be part of their world. 

After all...


The world is changed by your example,

not your opinion.

Paulo Coelho

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Regarding Charlottesville: An Open Letter



Once upon a time, long, long a few years ago, when significant world or national events occurred, I would jump into the fray, quick to let the world know my viewpoint, absolutely positive that I was right. I just knew lives would be changed. I was in for disappointment.

Instead, I rapidly became thoroughly convinced that just about NO people's minds are changed by a social media post, and the only thing gained was a mixture of angry or supportive comments and maybe a few "likes."

The outcome was nowhere near worth the energy it took to navigate the resulting calamity, nor the wear and tear on my thumbs. 

Since then, I've spent most of my time sitting back and watching the world burn, which is certainly what it feels like. Every now and then, I have forgotten myself and waded into someone's comments section. It didn't take long to remember why I'd kicked the habit.

I like to think I've gained some perspective since then, just from listening - a little bit of listening goes a long way. But I haven't really considered jumping back in. The water looked cold and crowded, and I could see the sharks circling.

Then, over the weekend, in Charlottesville, VA, armed,white supremacists and counter protesters clashed at the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, with tragic consequences: three people lost their lives and several others were badly injured.

Many of the subsequent responses that passed through my news feed saddened, angered, and perplexed me...but I still wasn't wading in. Everyone else had plenty to say, and I saw no need for me to add my two cents to the already deafening din.

I watched with pride and sorrow as my pastors managed their social media accounts in the aftermath. As leaders of a very intentionally multi-racial and multi-ethnic church, they were obviously and understandably hurt, grieved, and outraged by the events. Nevertheless, for the most part, they spoke words of strength, solidarity, and unity into what otherwise could be a very polarizing situation.

Still, for the last two nights, instead of sleeping, I have wrestled with internal questions over how we, as Christians, should respond, and whether we might be missing something. The Bible definitely calls us to seek justice for those oppressed, but it also calls us to seek peace, speak with wisdom that is pure and gentle, and to love our enemies.

At times, it seems impossible to pursue each avenue equally: on which side should we err?

I knew the answer I felt pressing into my spirit ALL NIGHT LONG, and today, I sought to share that with one of my pastors. When I walked out, I had gained some insight into his heart and philosophy and he into mine, but where we agreed when I walked in, we still agreed, and where we differed...well, that hadn't changed remarkably either. 

However, there was one thing he said that resounded in my heart like a gong: I have a voice, too, and it's my responsibility to use it.

I am overwhelmed and convicted by the fact that I am more than aware of my calling to speak the words I feel God has put on my heart, but until now, I've been too scared and fearful to address racial tension, and instead, generally stuck to what was safe: my all too often realizations that I have jacked something up and the lessons God has taught me in the mess.

Today is no exception.

I have felt for some time that I had no right to speak about racial tension: after all, I'm the whitest of the white. But today, Pastor Kyle taught me that to withhold my voice from the dialogue is wrong because only when we share our hearts with love and humility can we truly make a difference.

So, without further delay, here are a few of my thoughts and feelings regarding our current racial climate:

To my friends and family of color...
I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry to see you hurting, and I'm so sorry for what you have endured, what you are enduring, and what you almost inevitably will endure in the future. I am praying for peace and love. I am hoping beyond hope that you will not allow roots of bitterness to strangle your hearts, but will instead, throw yourself  into the arms of Jesus and grow your roots deep into Him. It's a tall order, I know, but a worthy pursuit nonetheless. If I can help you in any way, I will -- but you'll probably have to let me know how to do that because I don't always understand fully. I try, but I'm pretty sure I get it wrong. I love you.

To my fellow white folks with noble hearts and pure intentions...

Keep trying. You might jack it up, but some effort is always better than no effort at all. It's confusing for us, I know. For me, there's some level of shame and guilt, particularly as a southern, white girl because I'm no stranger to our history, but at the same time, I'm proud of my heritage, too -- a daughter to the home of bluegrass, hard work, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps until you make it work. I like that about my roots. Added to that, while each of us of every color have inborn biases, I try to be as nice as I can to everyone, no matter their race, and sometimes it feels like getting lumped into one giant, white clump is unfair because, after all, I HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING! 
Also, can we just lay it out on the table that we've experienced racism, too. I know it. You know it. It feels good to say it, right?! Holding it in forever has felt like being the kid who has to pee really bad, but is too intimidated to ask the teacher to go to the bathroom until, finally, it leaks out at the MOST inopportune moment (I'm not going to say how I know what that feels like, but let's just say...that was one time I was really grateful we moved). However, like that unfortunate lack of bladder control, if we don't just go ahead and address it, it's going to leak out at the worst possible moment, like when our friends are already hurting. 
One of the things I tried to convey to Pastor Kyle today is this: I believe, our inability to express that we, too, have been harmed by racism is feeding an undercurrent of bitterness. It feels, sometimes, like our hurts and experiences don't matter, and while we understand the deep hurt felt by our friends, understanding their hurt doesn't negate ours...it doesn't make it go away...in the same way that knowing other people are starving to death can never satiate the roar of a stomach that hasn't eaten for two days. 
But here's the key: we wouldn't turn around to the starving person and complain about our grumbling tummies. It would be an insult. It would hurt. I'm really hoping this metaphor drives it home to you like it does me because, frankly, while I'm glad it's been discussed, I don't want to discuss it further here. 
Instead of nursing our own wounds, I think it's high time we put more time and attention into healing others. That means having some hard, transparent, awkward conversations with the intent to learn about those who are different than us...and I DO NOT mean on facebook. Forget social media. Treat someone to coffee. Take a walk. Have lunch. I don't care what you do, but listen to learn and understand, not to respond. Ask questions. 
That's how we learn, and that's how we heal.

 Finally, to the men and women who call yourselves the Alt-Right/Neo Nazis/whatever you're calling yourselves these days...

I know most people are calling you monsters. I know they say they hate you. However, this is probably where I will depart from others and, were this little diatribe in person, I'd probably get a rotten tomato to the face. 
I don't hate you. I feel for you very deeply. Broken people seek to break people, and healed people seek to heal people, and you are so obviously hurt, broken, and fearful. I don't know if it's a fear of losing your voices or your power. I don't know if it's a fear of what you don't understand, but somewhere in you there is so much hurt and fear, and somehow, it has manifested itself in rage and hardened hearts. I am praying for you, too. For you, it seems the root of bitterness has already strangled any roots you had to Christ, or even human kindness. Nevertheless, I am more than certain that no one is beyond the reach of my Savior. No one is beyond the reach of love. No one is beyond the reach of hope. 
And therefore, I love you. I hope for you. I pray for you, not with half-hearted words, but with the DEEP conviction that like the one sheep who strays from the ninety-nine, your heart, too, is worthy of pursuit. 

Inevitably, that last section will anger some people. I know that, and I accept it. I firmly believe deeply that it may be anger and indignation that change social policies, but it is only through love and patience that we will change hearts...and the latter can do far more to heal our nation than the former ever could.

Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,
with all humility and gentleness,
with patience,
accepting one another in love,
diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit
with the peace that binds us.
Ephesians 4:1-3

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Come On In


"Not today, Satan. Dear God, help me."

I just kept saying it. Over and over. "Not today, Satan. Dear God help me."

When that didn't feel like it was bringing me to the peace I needed, I thought about the power of worship and praise, so above the din of my bickering children, I started singing.

(singing) "Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder..."
(turmoil) "Why do we have to listen to what YOU want all the time?!"
(singing a little louder) "Consider all the worlds thy hands have made." 
(more turmoil) "Yeah, well One Direction is dumb." 
(singing louder still) "I see the stars I hear the rolling thunder," 
(It's like WWE up in here, apparently) "Ouch, you pushed me! You're a jerk!!" 
"Hands off and no name calling!" (singing ever louder) "Thy power throughout, the universe displayed."

It felt ridiculous, trying to sing over their outrageous behavior, but it brought a smile to my face, even if out of nothing more than sheer defiance.

Honestly, I am not a very patient mom. I wish I could say the above scenario was just how I handled things...with grace and worship and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

But then I'd be a liar. Plus, let's face it, if that was really how I normally handled things, this wouldn't have felt so foreign, and we wouldn't be having this little conversation.

But on this particular day, despite my children's best effort's at making me a nut job, the Holy Spirit rose up...and let me tell you, it was sweet.

I finally had to separate them because things were getting out of hand, but when I did, I didn't raise my voice. Even when they argued about going to their rooms, I didn't raise my voice (if you know how loud I am naturally, you know what a gin WIN this is.)

God is GOOD, ya'll. What this led to was pretty amazing.

It led to a conversation with Ryan about how we can be a household of people who build each other up or tear one another down, and I asked him to consider how we accomplish each of those things and where he really wants to live.

It allowed me to have a separate conversation with Emily about something that had really been bothering her that had NOTHING to do with anyone in our house, but was something she really needed to get off her chest.

And it allowed me to do all this without having to make it about me because, when I lose my mind, that's what happens. We lose a lot of time making it about me because I have to go back and apologize for my ungodly behavior.

I never realized what I was missing.

I've been doing a devotion called "Overwhelmed by My Blessings: Encouragement for Moms." It's written by Robin Meadows, a mom who raised seven children, and I love it because it is REAL.

In today's devotion she said:

What if we began to rename these challenging daily "opportunities"? What if we began to see that these disappointing situations are actually the hand of God in our life , and in the lives of our children?

WOW. Challenging right? What if every time my kids are acting all cray cray I thanked God for the opportunity to teach them about Him, His grace, and His love?

But then she went on (and this part REALLY got me).

He is giving us opportunities to make hard, right choices of love, patience, and self-control; to choose Him. He is present us with teachable moments for our children, and for our own hearts. He is giving us occasions to become more like Him. He is giving us special moments to teach our children that anxiety can be controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and it begins with us controlling ourselves.

Did you feel that? Like the wind being knocked out of you by a supernatural punch to the gut?

I sure did.

Consider this:

A man who does not control his temper
is like a city whose wall is broken down.
Proverbs 25:28

The breaching of the wall of Helm's Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

None of us is perfect, but by allowing my children's behavior to influence my behavior, I have been showing them that it's acceptable to lose your temper and forego self-control. I mean, sure, I've taught them a lot about humility and going back to apologize, too, but you need a lot less of the latter when you're able to do the former.

In church, we often talk about breaking walls down and demolishing strongholds. But by losing my temper, I've been breaking down all the wrong walls - like walls of protection I pray over my family. I'm making a way for the enemy to come into my home and relationships.

Every moment of every day, we stand at the door of our hearts and decide who we're going to invite in. When you pray and praise, you intentionally invite God into that moment.

However, when you allow your anger to take control, you've taken your eyes off what's important and left the door wide open to the enemy. 

The next time you feel overwhelmed, invite God into that moment. Ask Him to take it over. Thank Him for the opportunity for growth and teaching. Lean into Him.

And goodness knows, sing His praises. Go a little praizy crazy. Worship will help you conquer any enemy you face - the enemy within, or the enemy without. (It also makes you look pretty crazy, and that's always a good time).

The Fresh Prince getting a little praizy crazy.