Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Winner of the Year :)

I am still in shock that 2016 is coming to an end. Honestly, how did this whole year go by already? When I look back at things that actually happened, it feels like forever ago, but at the same time I cannot believe a whole 12 months has already come and gone. I feel sad that a year is so short to me now, and I despair imagining my kids will be adults in what feels like a day. However, all of this reminds me to cherish my time with them amidst homeschooling chaos, fatigue-induced melt-downs, and accidental messes.

Alright, enough of my reminiscing and self-reminding jabber, you want to know who won, right? Of course!

Congratulations to.....

Chickie Brewer!!! I will email you, get your address and ship that giant, beautiful, bible out to you this coming week.

Thanks to all you lovely readers, to BlogAbout and The Blythe Daniel Agency.

I will have a moving update for you next week, which will mean fewer book reviews and giveaways the first couple months of the year, but I hope my blog will still contain some wonderful gems and surprises. You all have made my writing better, my blogging sweeter, and my ambitions more clear while reading and encouraging me throughout 2016. May 2017 be another year of growth despite pain, joy despite hardship, and love despite the challenges of life.

See you all next year ;)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Last Giveaway of the Year!

You guys, we are at the end of 2016! Can you believe it? I am still trying to figure out how this happened. A whole year has come and gone since I decided to blog here regularly and I feel like I am living in a different world than the one I inhabited last January. A lot has changed, and not just my circumstances (though some are very much the same), but I have changed too.

Today, I do not have a warm, inviting, Christmas or Holiday post for you. I'm much too off in the head for something as typical as that. Instead, I'm going to share some tid-bits about the fabulous bible I am giving away and save the Christmas shenanigans for another day. This post is made possible by The Blythe Daniel Agency and BlogAbout, and there are some affiliate links tucked in here too.

I used to own a really cute, pale-pink bible when I was a young girl. Later, it was upgraded by my parents to a thick, black bible with my name in gold letters printed onto the front. I still remember waiting at the book store with my dad while it was done. That black bible was my "go-to" for a long time, up until I was married and beyond actually. Pages are crumpled, highlighted, coffee-stained, and falling out from the spine. I now own a lovely red bible with a gorgeous floral print on the cover. It's a standard ESV bible, without any study-notes or space, and a concordance at the back that leaves me wanting. All this to say, I was very excited at the opportunity BlogAbout gave me to review this lovely NKJV Journal the Word Bible.

I ended up buying an ESV Study bible about the same time my Journal the Word bible came, and that made starting our church's bible study that much better! It was perfect having several different bibles and using as a reference to understand the Greek Paul originally used when writing to Titus.

First off, the beginning of this bible has several pages of explanations - the purpose of the King James scholars,  format of the bible, the old and new testaments texts, stuff like that. Then, it jumps right into the actual bible - just the bible, with lots of room on the side for notes. My bible is large text, which made making notes even easier. There are lines in the margins so it's easy to make your notes clean and orderly (as long as you have a steady hand - gulp). At the very end of the bible, there are several lined pages for notes, and that's it! So simple!

Here are a few pictures of what I've written in my bible from my time studying Titus.

I just love seeing those margins start to get filled in and words highlighted in vibrant colors!

Taking the time to look at what these words are in Greek was so helpful for increasing my understanding of what Paul truly meant when he was writing to Titus. It was pretty mind-blowing, actually. 

The outside of this particular version has a black, hard-cover, is large-print, and comes with a built-in, ribbon bookmark. It also has an elastic band that wraps from the back cover and loops over the front, to keep your bible in the best shape possible. That might be my favorite part besides the large margins. Don't you think it's super handy? Well, if you don't think so now, you will if you win this bible and start using it!

So how can you win this? I'm so glad you asked :) It's super easy. Click below to see what options you have and share, share, share!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Did you enter? I hope so. I will draw a winner on Saturday and hopefully one of you will have a great opportunity to study the bible more deeply with this beautiful version and be able to keep track of the things you are learning from God's written, Holy word.

As for my commitment to write weekly, I'm not sure if I will continue this year. I thoroughly enjoy writing, I love to speak, and I cannot help sharing what I learn, but I am finding myself torn between so many endeavors lately. I have a few book projects I'm working on, schooling my children is not only close to a full-time job, but it is mentally exhausting, and I recently started sharing my love of Essential Oils intentionally, running a business with one of my little sisters. There are many more endeavors I wish I could pursue and it's hard to constantly sift through all of them, but I do want this space to be a help, and place of encouragement, and a blog that leads people to knowing God more deeply. I want all my readers to live with courage, pursuing the things the Holy Spirit leads them into, and I'm just too unsure of what that will look like for me this year to commit to anything specific in regards to the blogging frequency I hope to maintain. Besides all of this, we FINALLY bought a house and will be moving at the end of January (I love packing and unpacking, and I am going to say that a hundred times to try and make it true). Don't worry, I will give you a nice update on all of that soon enough.

Anyway, all this to stay, I hope you keep coming back here, and I hope I can inspire you to live for God in whatever your hands find to do. I will do my best to keep you updated on all our family's shenanigans, and we'll see who our lucky winner is this Saturday! Enjoy the end of 2016, and tell me what your favorite resolution this year will be. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Broken Winner!

Thank you to The Blythe Daniel Agency, BlogAbout, and Zondervan for making another awesome giveaway possible!

It seems a little contrary to win something about being broken. I mean, it's not fun to admit you're broken, much less being willing or even excited to work through that brokenness. But actually, our random winner is someone I know and love, someone who works hard not to hide her brokenness from me...

Congratulations Darlene Fleary!! You won a copy of Ann's The Broken Way DVD and Study Guide! I know you'll love it.

For all you other eager-beavers, I have another giveaway next week that I'm a little behind on. It's the NKJV Journal the Word Bible. It's huge, and large print, but perfect for studying God's work carefully and taking notes as you go. Stay tuned for that.

I will try to post a little update next week between my giveaway and winner post - my kids will be with Grandma and Grandpa for a bit, so I'll have some time to study, write, and even think in peace and quiet. Hallelujah, right?! Thanks again for sticking with me during this season of busyness and often silence. I hope it won't always be this way, but I am striving to be willing to live well in whatever season I find myself - broken, busy, failing, barely scraping by, thriving, whatever! Maybe not today, maybe not next year or even next week, but someday I'll live like that forever. What a relief!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Another Broken Day, Another Broken Giveaway.

Life often feels broken, especially in this age where we can see tragedy unfolding across the world via the news and social media. It's easy to find heart-wrenching stories, to watch people suffering unimaginable circumstances, and witness death all from the comfort of our homes. What do we do with that? How can we go about our lives, participating where we are able, and yet still function for the sake of our family?

Obviously, there are no clean-cut answers to these questions. We can detach, we can become consumed in good endeavors, and we can pray, but none of these ways of coping really give us much guidance as to what we can do right this minute to help ease the ache inside and make sense of it all. This is why I loved Ann's book so much. She doesn't give quick, simple answers to the overwhelming amount of pain suffered about the globe, but she doesn't ignore it either.

Ann Voskamp's book The Broken Way really exposes the life-long scars that brokenness brings. She also shares the life-long hope we have in relationship with God, and how He can use all our brokenness to bring about joy and communion we might not experience without having been broken first. It's a scary thing to lay your brokenness before others, and it can often lead to more heartache than feels worthwhile, but Ann's courage in sharing her struggle and her experience grows a unique hope and bravery in my own heart, causing me to share my brokenness less reluctantly.

Lucky for you, I have another giveaway, another way for you to dive into understanding how you can look at your brokenness in a way that will bring healing and sweet fellowship to the dark places you try to hide or forget about. I've browsed through the study guide and it is such a fabulous reminder of the goodness we can all receive when we share our heartaches, trauma, tragedy, and despair with those around us. Not only does it tell you of these things, it forces you to stop and think about your life, the things that feel hard, the ways you either avoid or cope with brokenness that are not healthy or life-giving. Then, it asks you to share them. Maybe not all your broken pieces, but baby steps, right?

Lately, I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. Everything people want from me feels overwhelming and threatens to lead me to tears and into a heap of inability. I know life won't feel this way forever, and I strive to trust God to give me the energy and means to meet all these requests and even demands, but I don't go to bed encouraged most days. However, I'm learning that my discouragement doesn't mean what I'm doing isn't worthwhile, and lack of motivation doesn't mean I'm messing things up. God uses all these struggles to help me know Him better, and the more I share it all with my dear ones, the closer I will be to them as well. Because of all this, and because of my desire to be more purposefully transparent, I am really looking forward to popping in my DVD and hitting this study guide with intention. It'll likely have to wait until after we move (haha, I need to update you guys on the house-situation!) but I hope that some of you will join me!

Next Wednesday, I will pick (or rather, will pick) one of you lucky folks to win a Study Guide and DVD for Ann's book The Broken Way. You will definitely need a copy of her book in order to work through this, so if you win and don't have the means to get a book, let me know! Enter here by participating in some or all of these little tasks...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much to The Blythe Daniel Agency and Zondervan for providing me and one of my lucky readers with this incredible source of encouragement! I will be back next week with a little update, some encouragement for you, and to announce our lucky winner. You get the most entries for sharing this blog post, so share shamelessly please :)

I love you all so much for sticking with me and reading my blog when I feel at a loss for words. It strengthens me to know that you actually want to hear my thoughts and read my words! Praise be to God for giving me people who encourage, motivate, and support my little endeavors. Enjoy your weekend, be a blessing to others, and be alright with being broken.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Regular Life.

It's been a while, huh?

I'm not entirely sure why I haven't written for a couple weeks. Life has been pretty ordinary, and my feelings are ever changing. One hour I am grateful and feeling undeservedly blessed to be living this life, then the next hour I am miserable, exhausted, complaining, and angry. Call it hormones, call it sin-nature, call it the insanity that stems from being with your kids 24/7, call it whatever you think it is, it's super annoying and becoming an old, frustrating story. 

I was going to say I never feel totally unable to cope, but that's not entirely true. I have my moments, maybe minutes, or even close to an hour every once in a while, but the demands of homeschooling and mothering a toddler force me to wake up & get stuff done, even if that stuff is wiping a bottom or helping another kid with some school-related task. I long to never feel overwhelmed, to never feel exhausted beyond repair, or to never feel crazily angry over the needs rising from those around me, kids or not. However, that longing has not been fulfilled, and I am not sure it ever will.

I have other times where I feel shamelessly awesome. I see my ambition, my creative ideas, my desire to run a successful business, my kids doing well with their learning, and I cannot help but feel pretty stinking incredible. But I know it's not because of me. It's not because of my efforts, or any innate goodness or brilliance I have. All of these good gifts are from the Father of Lights. Still, I don't know how to balance the easy and the difficult, how to endure the down periods without despair and to enjoy the wonderful times without attributing them to my own efforts. 

This struggle between these two extremes gives me constant conversation in my brain, incessantly picking apart everything I'm doing, weighing all the choices I'm making, and almost forcing me to consider each and every tiny step of my day with far too much weight of importance. Some of the thoughts that continue to linger are ...

- my readers will resent me for being ambitious. 
- my friends will fear being real with me, or asking me for help. 
- no one will support my endeavors. 
- my downfalls will look too silly for anyone to want to help me. 
- my desire for success will cause me to pursue something I shouldn't.
- my weaknesses are too awful and I will never overcome them.
- my ambition for excellence will appear as pride.
- maybe people really just don't like me at all.

Maybe these seem silly to you. Maybe you don't know me well enough to see me as someone with these kinds of insecurities. Maybe you think I'm a wimp for being unable to cope with many of these simple fears. Or maybe you can relate. Silly or not, fears take hold and guide our decisions unless we direct them to where they belong. God can defeat our fears and He wants to. All of my fears are about things that might happen, or thoughts unknown to me. Fear exists in the unknown, but God knows all. I'm seeing more clearly that overcoming my fear is rooted in trusting God with every single, tiny little thing.

As I read a devotion with the kids this morning, I read part of Psalm 139 and was reminded again how much God loves me and watches over me. 

"Oh LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
And are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, 
Behold, Oh LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, before and behind, 
And lay your hand upon me."

The Psalm goes on to talk about God knowing our motives, our life, our complete existence, and how little we understand of it all. This Psalm was written with David, having his own motives, earnestly telling God what he desires but ending with the same intention Jesus had: not my will, but yours. 

In all the wishy-washy ways I am wandering through my life, I hope to always end there, as David did, as Jesus did, and many other saints along the way. I want God's desires to be my desires. I want my desires to be earnest, truthful, coming from a pure heart. I know it's not fun to see my yucky motives and my bad coping mechanisms, but I want a renewed life, a free spirit, and a bold willingness to endure whatever God sees fit. Most of all, I want to do this with a joyful faith. I want to trust God enough to love it, even when I kind of hate it. 

I don't know how to attain this, and actually, I don't think it's possible without God's divine intervention. But the more I meditate on it, the more I focus on God's ability, presence, and absurd love for me, the more I see how it can happen. Then the chaos of kids, changing friendships, and an uncertain future is less scary. I'm more excited to see the next day, and less sad that it might be filled with more of the normal, average, stay-at-home drama. 

I know this doesn't give you a ton of practical use, but hopefully it will still help you strive toward being with God more often and more deeply. I'm not actually amazing, nor I am I complete mess. I am what God is making me, and I am hopeful that it will be better a year from now. And what really brings me courage and joy is knowing 100% that someday, I too will actually be perfect! Sure, it'll be the day I die, but it is also the day I will live perfect in peace, light, and love forever. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Hi again! Thanks so much for participating in my giveaway and sharing my blog with all your Facebook friends. You've made this giveaway my most successful giveaway yet!

Also, I have some more great news... In a couple weeks, I will be giving away a Study Guide and DVD for The Broken Way to another lucky winner. I'm so blessed by BlogAbout for connecting me with so many great sources and wonderful books and allowing me to be generous with them, giving away all sorts of goodness. If anyone is interested in doing a Facebook group with me while I go through the Study Guide, let me know!

Okay, so you are probably itching to see if you are the lucky winner...

Congratulations to... Heather Beissinger!

You will thoroughly enjoy this book. While it can be hard to swallow, and downright impossible to give yourself away over and over again in the face of pain and struggle, you will be reminded of God's truth and His promises toward you.

As I spend more time thinking about what it means to share my brokenness, I am reminded of the first place I should be doing this: my home. My kids see a lot of the ways I am broken, but I don't always allow them to see how my sinful nature breaks me and often causes me to despair. They see the results, and witness the fallout, and I do my best to repent to them when I've sinned against one of them, but I often internalize a lot of the struggle in-between.

This week I was purposeful with texting a friend or two about my struggle, and it was really helpful just to get it out into a safe place. Then I had some frank conversations with my boys about my desire to live better and how discouraging it can be to keep on sinning and keep desiring things I should not desire. Success, prestige, accomplishment, and control all call my name incessantly, and it often feels easier to cave, to pursue those tangible goals and not consider why I am chasing them. But talking about it with my kids, admitting my struggles out loud has really helped me see my own skewed perspective.

It's almost comical how that works. Being honest about myself and my desires to other people helps my mind trust the path I knew was best but was fighting against. Why don't I do it more often? Why do I wait until I've wrestled for two weeks before talking about it? I'm not exactly sure, but I'm becoming more brave about it and I'm witnessing some of the benefits already. I'm less nervous to admit my downfalls to my kids and husband, less scared they will think I'm too sinful to love, less afraid that these sinful parts of me are beyond repair.

God is so gentle toward us. If nothing else, I'm seeing His sweet kindness toward me in deeper ways much more frequently than when I try to wrap my mind around my struggles all on my own.

How about you? What broken parts are you hiding, working through, or trying not to admit? What will you do about it?

I hope these insights are encouragement for you. And if you ever want a listing ear (or a reading eye), hit me up. I'm here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Best Way, The Broken Way.

Thanks again to The Blythe Daniel Agency and BlogAbout for providing a copy of this incredible book for me and for one lucky winner. This post includes my two cents on Ann’s newest book, as well as a couple affiliate links. Enjoy!

Earlier this summer, when I first saw that Ann Voskamp had a new book coming out, I added it to my wish-list right away. There was a bit of build-up in my heart about reading this book, and I was not disappointed. The Broken Way is a book you need to read now. Ann has a way of explaining truth from the gospel and truth about life in a poetic and moving way, without any hint of condemnation or comparison. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I read the first few pages, but I was quickly pulled in and left reeling after just one chapter. I wanted to keep reading long into the night, but I also felt the need to stop every few pages and think hard about what she was saying. 

Ann has certainly had more broken in her life than most people I know, but she never holds that pain up as a badge of honor, or puts herself on a pedestal for having endured. She talks about tragedy in her childhood, the uncertainties she faced growing up, the painful roads she took in an attempt to cope with the pain life kept giving her, and she gives us glimpses of how those affected her life then and what it is doing now. Overall, she depicts a beautiful picture of restoration, but teaches us that it is never found in the ways we expect or even hope. 

I’ve been struggling with my own selfishness lately, and while Ann never addresses this directly, she shows me through her own example that living for my own desires is not the way of Christ, nor is it actually the way to find happiness, fulfillment, fellowship with others, or even my own identity. Being broken for others means giving in a thousand different ways: giving your patience when all you want to do is freak out, allowing yourself to be kind when everything in your heart feels mean, not holding back the love you feel in case something goes wrong. 

In her book Ann uses a bunch of ideas to explain the abundance that can be found in brokenness. These ideas are based a Greek word she finds in the Bible - koinonia, meaning, communion. She gives us a perspective of what communion really is through the recent circumstances of her life. The way this word kept coming up over and over again, almost always mingled with brokenness, is truly a beautiful story despite the tragedy mixed in. She points out that we forget what to expect from life, and we are often wrong in assuming an abundant life is a "happy" life, full of pleasant circumstances. Happiness doesn’t come from ease and comfort, but from sharing, from being broken open and spilling out into the lives of those around us. Oddly, pain is the route this takes most often. Life is full of pain no matter what, and sharing our pain, giving others the chance to bear our pain, is actually a gift. When we keep the pain inside and refuse to allow others to see it, we die a slow, painful death of loneliness, heartache, and confusion.

What will stick with me most from her book is seeing that perfection does not grow us into better wives, better friends, or better people. Brokenness is where we grow, where we meet with God, where our friends become life-long safety nets. You cannot avoid being broken, and it really will bring about fruit in your life. The amount you are willing to be broken will determine the amount of growth you see in your brokenness. Being perfect, always speaking from a place of knowing fully, always having an answer for every question… these things seem good, but they are not life-giving. 

This is a lesson I need. Purposeful or not, I like to wait out my hardship until I share all about it. My friends are not fooled when I am in a dark place, my husband knows I am having a hard time, and it is easy for me to just disappear from pretty much everyone else until I can straighten it all out in my head. How do I walk that line, that little beam of being broken but not in despair, of having a hard time but not allowing it to suck me dry, and be able to share that with others from a place that isn’t filled with complaint or selfishness? Ann’s book has helped me to gain a better perspective in my broken places and I am trying to put koinonia into practice. I know reading this book and attempting real, broken, honest communion and fellowship will bless you as well, even if it is painful and difficult. 

So, do you want to open this book up? Do you want to flip these pages, get a glimpse of Ann’s heart and see God working in all of her pain? And seriously, how blessed are we that she was willing to bare it all for our benefit? 

I’m using a new little plug-in to make entering this contest super easy for you! So start entering, and I will post a winner on Saturday morning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned this week for a little glimpse into how I am putting Ann's insights into practice in my life, I hope they will be a blessing to you and not just a giant complaining session, or a silly story about being ungrateful for the challenges of my (undeserved) privileged life. 

I feel like I should also say thank you to all you faithful (or first-time) readers. It's not easy to bare my heart here, to put my thoughts into my computer, beam them up to the blog, and not let their popularity determine my value. I appreciate that so many of you encourage me to keep doing it, no matter the outcome. I pray this blog is a blessing to you and I am grateful for your many kindnesses! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

When You Would.

Would has been the most difficult of these three words to wrap my mind around. While should and could definitely haunt me from time to time, would is often my fallback, the word easiest to use when I am feeling a little guilty over things in life I haven't done, events I have not participated in, or ambitions I left lying in the past.

When I first started playing around with the idea of blogging about these three words, my husband and I also started brainstorming a bit about a book. We even came up with a byline! Should, Could and Would: Learning to Live Free from Obligation, Regret, and Excuses. Sounds awesome, right? I want to live that way... until something hard comes up, and I'd rather find a really good reason to not participate, to spend my energy on myself, or do something else that seems more beneficial.

Diving right in here, take a minute to think about the full sentences you use with would.

I would have come to your event...

I would have brought them a meal...

I would have pursued that career...

In my life, would usually precedes the word but, and it's often used with an excuse. Don't get me wrong, sometimes your excuse might actually be a legitimate reason, but if you are using would regularly, there are probably some unresolved issues lingering in your heart and mind.

What I am seeing more clearly about would is helping me feel more grounded in my decisions. I have to come full circle again when I am wrestling with would and ask myself several questions to reach the heart of the issue. Did I really want to? Was I actually able to? Can I do something about it now?

For instance, your friend has a family crisis and someone sets up a meal-schedule to help them out. It's a crazy week for you and you end up missing out on being a meal-bearer that week. Before anyone questions your lack of participation, you are making excuses and giving reasons in your mind, and while it's all very understandable and legitimate, you are still struggling with guilt.  Here is one way I've found to get my heart and mind to a better place.

Did I really want to bring them a meal? Yes.

Was I able to bring them a meal? No. (insert the fact that many women might struggle with feeling guilty over it at this point)

Can I do something about it now? Yes!

If you are feeling torn up about what you were unable to do, take action now! It's never too late to call, email, or text and tell your friend you were unable to help a week or so ago, but are ready to help now. In fact, many people facing sudden crisis actually feel a bit lost and forgotten weeks after an incident, so a two-week-late response might be the timeliest act of love.

Let's use another example. If you are feeling would poking and prodding you about a missed opportunity, these questions can help you analyze if that opportunity is really gone forever or is as important as you think. For instance, I go through seasons of struggling with regret over not cultivating the artistic side of my life, specifically, learning how to paint. I took classes throughout my schooling years, but never did much beyond that. I long to do it, but somehow I just never seem to make it happen. So, I ask...

Do I really want to pursue being a painter? Maybe. I think so, someday?

Was I able to pursue it at one point? Yes.

Can I do something about it now? Yes!

I may not have the same opportunity as before, but answering these questions helps me see how much of a priority this really is, similar to the way we handled should.

What has really bothers me about dealing with would is the fact that I have to face the realities of my own laziness. Many of the things I feel frustrated about when I'm using the word would are things I kind of want, but not enough to do the hard work required. It's difficult to be that honest with myself, and I'm not exactly sure how to deal with these realities. Some pursuits are shallow, born out of a fleeting desire to find fame or fortune (more or less) and it's easy to see why they die on the side of the road. But other pursuits that are more worthwhile, endeavors I find good reasons to work toward, still find themselves being passed by because I am too lazy, too busy, or too tired to move forward with them.

Would is where I find myself at genuine crossroads. It's time to decide, to move forward, and to take action toward the goals I want to pursue. To be done with would is to make a choice and follow through. Would is where I feel paralyzed, afraid, and wondering if what I am doing is making any sense to the One who designed me. The only way I can move past these anxieties and unknown troubles is to trust in God's plan completely.

In order to take take action on the things we sit and think about, we have to know what we are doing is good and right. We have to trust that God uses even our mistakes and problems to eventually bring glory to Himself and allow us to know Him more deeply. Instead of simply thinking about what we would do, we need to consider what God desires. We can ask ourselves if pursuing specific endeavors are a pursuit of God or a pursuit of self. We can stop looking at what we would have done and instead look toward what we are able to do, seeking His will instead of our own. Then we have to get going. There's no getting around that - trust me, I'm an expert at planning, planning, planning, then avoiding, forgetting, and missing out, and it is not the better option.

As I make more and more effort to stop living with should, could, and would pestering me, I am finding more parts of myself I don't exactly like, or habits that are kind of shameful. But if I can turn all these shoulds, coulds, and woulds into reasons to look for God's will in my life, I receive His peace, His forgiveness, and His power to live free from obligation, guilt, and regret. I'm no longer looking to justify my actions, but seeing His glorious plans unfold in my life and the lives of those around me. The less amazing parts of me are shadowed by God's goodness showing up in unexpected places and I can see the progress He's made in perfecting me slowly.

This is what it means to get rid of should, could, and would. We take our eyes off ourselves, our plans, our abilities, and seek out the Creator.

What do I want? To know God and make Him known.

Can I do that? Only by His power.

Will I do that? Only by His faithful grace.

He promises we have all we need to walk uprightly, according to His will. Take Him up on that offer, dare Him to change and move you. I won't lie, it will be painful to rid of your fleshly desires and trade them for God's plans, but when you find yourself facing the day you were made for, the day you enter eternity, it will definitely have been worthwhile.

I hope these posts have been a good mix of practical and philosophical. It's important to think about the way we act, make decisions, and think, but it's also important to get to the actual doing. If you have any encouragement, questions, feedback, or other insights, I'd love to hear them! Feel free to comment here or email me directly. Maybe someday, I can sort this out enough for a book, but for now I pray that these posts are a small blessing to encourage you in your daily striving. Thanks for sticking with me and being patient :)

Friday, October 28, 2016


Thanks again to BlogAbout and The Blythe Daniel Agency for helping make this giveaway possible!

What a privilege it was to read this book and I'm super excited that one copy will go into another person's hands. Congrats to comment #12, Bridie White!

Go somewhere cozy (note, I love reading by the fire) and spend a teensy bit of time reading from this lovely, truth-filled book. Not only will you be reminded of God's love, but you will also see better how the bible makes it clear the great lengths God goes to show His love for us. 

Thanks to all of you for coming to my little blog and participating in this giveaway. Learn more about Jennifer Rothschild here, and The Blythe Daniel Agency here

Come back over the next few weeks to enter to win a NKJV Journal the Word Bible and Anne Voskamp's newest book The Broken Way. Seriously, so many great books coming! Much love to all of you - have a great weekend!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Feeling the Love from 66 Ways God Loves You.

I have been so blessed to be a part of the BlogAbout Network through the Blythe Daniel Agency. Thanks to them, I was given two copies of this beautiful book - one for me, and another for one lucky reader (it could be you)! And just so you know, this post does contain some affiliate links.

This book was kind of like God saying "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

In my spiritual life, I tend to focus on considering God's eternal plan and reminding myself of the truth about who He is, while spending very little time considering God's love and how He has shown it to me. This book has been such a refreshing journey of looking at each book of the bible, in a super concise format, and being reminded of what He's done throughout all of History and how I can see His loving hand in all of it. 

First off, the book is beautiful! There are delightful floral prints, shimmering foil embellishments, and an intricate design on every page. The book is small and perfect in every way for leaving out on your coffee table. Children and guests alike will reach for it without thought, and if they read even one page, they will be receiving a message of God's love in action. Jennifer Rothschild has done a fabulous job keeping each chapter brief, but I didn't feel like any of them were lacking depth or meaning. This certainly isn't a book you would study in isolation to learn about the bible, but it is a wonderful supplement, a perfect reminder and encouragement for challenging days. 

Here are a few of my favorite parts...

I loved the chapter on Joel. Jennifer says "God may not replace what you have lost, but he will redeem what you have lost." I found this incredibly comforting, especially in a world where we expect our lives to have an outcome more like Job's, receiving back in abundance the physical possessions we may lose in life. She encourages us not to focus on the pain in our circumstance, but the deliverance that will come. Her title for this chapter is "In Joel God Restores the Years the Locusts Have Eaten." Isn't that wonderful to think about? God restores us. He doesn't leave us disciplined and destitute, but uses even our own mistakes to bring us closer to Him. 

I've always loved the song by Matt Maher called Sing Over Your Children. I didn't realize this idea or phrase came from verses in Zephaniah until reading this book. Jennifer tells us that despite being a stern prophet, completely willing to call out Israel on her sin, Zephaniah insists that God delights in us. To think that God so loves me, that he beams with joy and bursts with song about who He has made me to be is almost shocking. It's hard for me to sit still and take it in. I feel humbled, relieved, and completely undeserving. It's already hard for me to sing that Matt Maher song without getting a little choked up, but now when I hear it played, it is even sweeter to my soul. 

I have always had a stronger-than-average yearning for eternity. I remember dreaming about Heaven ing grade school, then pondering it even more in Jr. High after reading a book by Joni Eareckson Tada. I loved looking at the sunset and imagining I could fly right up through those peachy clouds into the presence of God. In difficult seasons, I have to remind myself often that I am made for eternity, and not to expect an easy life one earth, so naturally, I loved what Jennifer says about 1 Thessalonians. The promise of Jesus' return is real. We are made for that day! It is our purpose, our promise from God, and our hope should rest upon it. In this book, I am reminded that God's love for me is a promise in the wings, waiting for the right day for me to be taken to Him and presented as righteous through the blood of Christ. What else could possibly top that? It is truly a comfort to know that I am made specifically for that glorious day.

Again, I am so grateful for the privilege of reading this book. I read about five or more chapters in each sitting, but I now will be going back through, reading just one a day with my family to have more consistent reminders of God's love. It will always reside on my end table, or my coffee table, or my kitchen counter. If you come over, don't forget to take a peek. 

Now for the really fun part - one of you can win this book! And it's so easy. 

Leave a comment on THIS blog post. Your comment can be about anything! 

To win bonus entries, leave an additional comment telling me if you have:

1- Followed me on Instagram


See? So easy :) I will draw a winner on Friday night - try to contain your excitement until then!

I hope this review has sparked a desire in you to know the breadth of God's love for you. It certainly has encouraged me and changed the way I seek to know God more deeply. 

Come back next week for my long awaited, over-thought, incredibly procrastinated post on would. It may not be my best work ever, but it'll be done! Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Greatest Delight.

During our church's sermon last week, I took note of what portion of scripture we'd be covering the next week. In some ways, I love Matthew 16:24-28 and I was excited to get to it. But in my heart, I was also a little nervous to dive in.

"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone should come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'"

That last verse is odd, and our pastor addressed some of what Jesus might have meant by it, but I'm not going to talk about that part today (sorry). 

What I really want to talk about is losing our lives. 

It is not a surprise to many of you that I've been struggling a bit since we moved. Nothing serious, but just learning to cope better with the daily grind after having such a chaotic, unpredictable summer that ended with a bit of disappointment. In one sense, our family was not disappointed with how our move ended up, but it would be a lie to say we weren't frustrated to not have found a home to purchase. We really do strive to love whatever life God has for us, but notice the word I used: strive. Our goal is not always achieved, not something we always feel like doing, but we honestly desire to be content with God's plans over our own. 

I have certainly been wrestling with contentment. I have searched for peace in my circumstances, sought out solutions to my problems, and even tried to change how I do things all in order to achieve a greater sense of happiness with the way my life is right now. I often feel like I am failing, or maybe that I am incapable (without medication) of being that content. Then I struggle with feeling extremely guilty over my lack of joy when almost every need I have is met. It often feels like a problem I have no right to complain about. 

During our time of worship this past Sunday morning, a few phrases from a song stuck with me and got the wheels turning in my head. Psalm 62 says things like "for God alone my soul waits in silence" and "pour out your heart upon him" and I instantly knew that this Psalm does not describe my own heart or my own actions. In the song we sing at church (which is a variation of Psalm 62) the chorus says "O praise Him, Hallelujah, my delight and my reward" and again, I was struck by how true this ought to be in my life and yet how false it has been. 

What is my heart set on? What joy am I pursuing? Is it death to self and life in Christ? Is it really to know God and make Him known? 

It has become obvious that I have been trying to pursue a lifestyle of sacrifice but I have been unwilling to let go of my personal desires. I hang on to the idea that I can sacrifice for my kids without actually giving up certain things I want. I strive to merge this self-sacrificing task of homeschooling with still having all my personal needs met, and it just isn't working. 

Jesus said that I cannot pursue self and pursue Him. 


I see what I'm pursuing, and it's really hard to give it up. None of it seems bad, or wrong, but I cannot love the world or the things in the world and still serve God with all of my heart. I have to follow Him with no strings attached, with no personal agenda. Only God can revive in my soul the joy and faith needed to pursue the glory of Christ above my personal gain. No self-help book (no matter how religious) can accomplish this, no amount of meditation nor medication can deny the extent of my selfishness, and no noble endeavor can compensate for putting my goals for self above my love for Jesus' kingdom. 

Our pastor said some very helpful things today about how we can move forward when we see our lives headed in a direction that opposes losing our lives for Jesus. He said number one, repent. Admit your pursuit of self is wrong. Note here, that most of the world will tell you it's fine, healthy, and needed for our sanity. Come back for that can of worms later. Second, he said, we need to trust God to change our hearts. There's no way around that. You have to love God more than self in order to be willing to endure handing your dearest hopes over to Him. You can't grow to love Him on your own but He wants you to love Him. When you ask Him for help and He stirs that love up in your heart, your selfish ambition will seem juvenile, pointless, maybe even silly. He does not disappoint.

This month I have been wresting against my own soul but have been unable to put it all into words. Now that I can see my folly clearly, I am actually relieved. My own ambitions make me miserable. God knows my heart better than I do, and I can trust that giving up my ideas of success will result in greater joy and fulfillment, even if it results in less money or prestige. The world will oppose the thought of giving up what you love in order to serve, sacrifice, or share. Certainly, you can serve Christ and still have good things, but you cannot serve Christ and set your hope on your own fulfillment and desire. 

It is good to consider what your delights and your rewards really are. What do you ultimately want? If you could gain peace today, what would that look like? In my mind recently, delight has been clouded with uncertainty and frustration as I could not name a single thing that would make me feel at peace. But now it has become clear why. My idea of delight revolves around feeling a certain way, which is silly, because feelings are fuzzy, unpredictable, and often totally out of whack. What a comfort it was to be reminded that taking delight off of myself and onto what Christ promises is the only way to life. 

The practical reminder that following Christ is a road of self-denial is actually a great comfort. You are not responsible to find great delight in your life. Any good you can comprehend is from God and found in God. He contains immeasurable amounts of peace, delight, freedom, fulfillment, and more. While here on earth we will be denying our own ambitions and serving those around us, but the delight we find in His presence is more than worth the trade-off. If you believe the gospel, you will find only frustration and regret in a life of selfish pursuits. But by setting your desires aside and trusting in God's beautiful redemptive plans, your soul will be saved. The peace and delight you will find along the way will cause your soul to thank you. 

*I want you to know, dear friend who takes depression medication, that this post is not intended to address your needs. If you need to analyze whether you are following self or Christ, by all means, do so. But this post is not in regards to the medical needs of those struggling with clinical depression. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Favorite Things!

After so many posts about spiritual issues and the like, I thought it was time for a lighter topic :)

As a semi-organized, artistic homeschooler, I have problems with wanting too many cute, colorful, helpful household items. Journals, cards, pens, clips, drawers, baskets - you name it, I'd love to have it. I pick up stuff from pretty much anywhere - Amazon, The Container Store, Papyrus, Target (I mean, who doesn't?), Office Max, Etsy, and Barnes & Noble. So here are some items I have recently purchased and simply adore! Some are organizational items, others are things people in our family enjoy, and of course, some are books that I have fallen in love with. Many of these are affiliate links, so you can help endorse my purchasing habit. Thanks!

First off, I use these cool Sharpie Brush-tip Markers a lot more than I thought I would. Many people use them for special hand-lettering projects, but they can be used for pretty much anything you would use a regular Sharpie for. They are great to use when you ship a package to add a beautiful little message or doodle on the outside. I actually used them a bit on our boxes when we moved too, just to add something cute to all the piles of boxes and junk we hauled around.

Next up, we've gone through a few iPad cases since the boys are using it so much for their Khan Academy many days of each week. After failing to find a case I liked in stores, I found this one on Amazon and totally love it. It's durable, comes in awesome colors, super lightweight, and it's also a great deal!

Speaking of cases, I also bought these iPhone 6 cases off Amazon. Again, great price, durable, and there are several colors for whatever mood you are in that day :) They have lots of other great color options too!

I love to write real letters. I don't do it as often as I'd like, but I bought a bunch of stationary back in the spring with the intention of writing letters each and every week. I probably write once a month, so my purchase is justified, right? Anyway, Amazon is actually a great place to find cute stationary if you don't feel like leaving your house. Here's one pack I bought and love.

When we moved, we lost a lot of space in our kitchen. What was once in the junk drawer doesn't even have a drawer anymore. Things like pens, scissors, rubber bands, and chip clips were all being stored in the laundry room and it was driving me crazy. I went to The Container Store with a plan to buy something that could sit on our counter, that looks lovely, and would store all my helpful junk. I lucked out and found this adorable Bisley drawer locker on sale, in turquoise! It's been perfect. 

I never feel like I have all the books I need. I could probably list 20 books I've added to my wish list this month (while I struggle to get through several others I've been reading for over a month). Here are a few of my recent recommendations: 

Extra Yarn - I posted about this on my Instagram account. Love it!

I've already raved a bit about Madeleine L'engle, but I borrowed her book A Circle of Quiet from the library, then immediately purchased a copy for myself. As a writer, her perspective and "me too" is such an encouragement. 

I recently went to a Noonday Collection party at a friend's house and she had this amazing book! I went home an promptly purchased it, knowing it would benefit our homeschooling tremendously. Well, I'm sure it will serve many educational purposes, but it has definitely satisfied the part of me that loves to learn and loves to look at beautiful things. And this is $15 less than you'd find in most bookstores! It's big, hardcover, lovely, and filled with rich history and information on each location inside. 

I know I've talked to several friends and family members in person about this book, The Accidental Creative. Once I finished it, my husband breezed through it in just two days. It was a big eye-opener for why we both often feel frustrated with work and life. The way creative work is done and the way we are expected to produce creative work are vastly different. Before you dismiss yourself as "uncreative", consider that a creative person is anyone who thinks for a living, and practicing good habits of how to schedule thinking time, production time, and enrichment time make a huge difference in what creative solutions or endeavors come out of you. I recommend it to pretty much anyone! Especially if you create anything or manage projects for a living, you really need to read this book.

I have so many more things I could share, but I'll just tell you about one last thing. I had used regular old plastic pencil boxes for storing all our pencils and crayons the last several years. They were fine, but I saw something on pinterest that gave me another idea. I found these tins at Target for only $1 and bought some... mostly black, but a few other colors too. I use them all around the house for storing pencils, pens, scissors, and crayons... pretty much anything longer than it is wide :) They have been a great solution! Plus, they look much cuter than my dingy pencil boxes. Add a strip of Washi tape around the top rim (another addiction to talk about another day) to make them more original. 

Well, I hope this post has been fun! Now you know what I spend my time doing on my computer... pretty much looking at stuff on Amazon. Ah well. 

I have been trying to think more about would so I can write up a beautiful, well-thought-out blog about not using excuses, but I am terrible at living that way. It has been SO hard to wrap my mind around it. So, this post is kind of a distraction from that, but I hope you've benefited from it anyway. Fingers crossed and prayers said that my brain can function well enough for more schooling next week and that I can make some progress on that last post about would. It might not be all I am hoping it will be, but I trust that God works in all things, big and small, awesome and decent. And really, God working through my blog and my writing is the goal, not some vague idea of what qualifies as "worthwhile". If I applied that concept to the rest of my life, I'd have far fewer emotional breakdowns! Haha! 

Have a fabulous week, and tell me if you love any of the great items in this post. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Obeying With Doubt.

I cry in every Disney animated movie. Literally, every single one I've watched. Often, I even sit there for the saddest five minutes while my kids watch because I am so intrigued by whatever sad event is happening. I got excited one day saying "Oh! I don't cry during Kung Fu Panda! Shoot, never mind, that's Dreamworks." But really, I have this odd attraction to sad stuff, and the waterworks cannot be withheld.

I've learned to curb this emotional part of me when I need to. For instance, so much of the news and my Facebook feed is littered with depressing stories with no redeeming value in sight. Children kidnapped, infants neglected, moms dying of cancer, and the list goes on. I cannot look at too much of this before I find myself in a full-blown funk, unable to think about the practical duties of my day.

My most recent encounter with sad movies (not even Disney this time) happened when my kids were watching Prince of Egypt, the inspired story of Moses. Right at the beginning, the movie shows slavery, abuse, and then Moses' mother leaving him in a basket in the river. I cannot fathom a world where you have to choose between known slaughter and unknown drowning for your tiny baby boy. This was it for her. She'd exhausted the option of hiding him and now she had to make her choice.

I've seen this part of the movie quite a few times, and still the tears arrive. This time however, while my eyes still welled up a little bit, I saw something different. I saw a woman who decided to trust God by doing something crazy. I don't know what the likelihood of survival for a baby in a woven, tar-coated basket was on the Nile in 3000 B.C. or what possessed her to take action initially, but the only way a woman could do something that sensational was if she had no better options. Instead of succumbing to fear, abusive authority, or despair, she turned to a sliver of hope.

She must have had a substantial amount of bravery. She chose to put her child in a river and probably feared the worst. Exodus 2 doesn't say anything about Moses' mother except what she noted about her baby and what she did for him. But really, can you imagine doing such a thing? I can't stop thinking about this story and wondering what Moses' mother was really like. Stay with me, because here's where my mind really gets going.

Maybe she was brave, confident, even demanding about what God would do, should do for her baby. But perhaps she was actually fearful, upset, or despairing. In either scenario, God came through. God saved Moses, gave him a place of privilege, saved his life, brought Moses close to Himself, and used him as a preview for what Jesus would do for us. Moses' mother was a part of God's great plan, regardless of how she handled her situation, regardless of how much faith she had in the outcome of her choice.

This gives me peace and courage. Peace because I can trust that even when I am despairing, freaking out, and totally unsure about how God will come through, it doesn't affect God's faithfulness. I also gain courage from this example. I see how worry does not ensure any particular outcome, and that God fulfills promises to all people, not just the spiritually mature. I might as well be brave, confident, and toss my worries into the wind if the outcome does not rely on my emotional stability.

In the movie, Moses' mother asks for deliverance, for Moses to find a life of freedom somewhere else. She seems sad, but poised, perhaps trusting God to do something better for her baby. But even if she went home completely losing her mind and shocked at her own actions, she still followed through. She still took action, hoping in God's ability, not her own.

Our pastor pointed out a similar example from a sermon by D. A. Carson. In his sermon, Carson gives the example of two different men waiting for God's spirit to pass over the Hebrews who obeyed Moses in Egypt. One man prepared the lamb and spread the blood over the doorway exactly as told, but he was scared, sleepless, and hoping beyond all hope that what Moses promised would come true. The other man did all he was told with unshakeable peace, fully confident in God's willingness and faithfulness to save his family. Which one saw God's promise fulfilled? Both.

Amazing, right? Whether you follow through with God's commands scared stiff or full of peace, He fulfills His promise. Don't fret over whether you are trusting God as fully as you should, or as filled with peace as the next person. I do think God often rewards our trust in Him, but we cannot take credit for His promises based on our actions or our faith. As Jesus tells Peter in Matthew, the Spirit reveals God to us, and our faith is a gift from Him.

If there's one thing I've learned this summer that has really stuck with me, it's that obedience is important. God wants you to obey in faith, but mostly, He wants you to obey. Obeying scared or doubtful is better than not obeying! Your fear is never going to be a good enough reason to not obey the voice of God, no matter how big or small your decision is. He is a fortress, a place you can run to for protection, and wandering out in disobedience is asking for an ambush.

I cannot count the times God has spared me from my own destruction simply because I chose to do the right thing. It's not always easy, and I often do it begrudgingly, but I have never regretted it. I've regretted my own poor choices 1000 times over, but never following God's commands over my own desires. So whether you are debating following His instruction, or just dealing with fear from following with very little faith, simply take action. Scared or confident, God desires your obedience, and your faith will grow from either timid or bold steps. Both are forward motion, both are covered by His loving kindness toward you, and both still count as trust.

Ultimately, obeying God is trusting God, and there's no reward or punishment given for obeying scared versus obeying in boldness. My hope is to obey with complete confidence and tons of courage, but if all I can muster is timid obedience, I will still take it. I truly believe the more I obey when I am still unsure of the outcome, the less unsure I will be the next time I am called to obey. It's a growing process, and we might as well start now instead of waiting on our feelings to cooperate. We can't possibly know what role our obedience in little things plays in the larger events happening in the world, and I would always rather have said yes to obeying, whether I was doubtful or confident, than waiting for the right amount of courage to participate in God's plans.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Let That Be Enough.

It's been a weird few weeks in my head. Moving has taken a greater toll on my disposition than I expected; that and getting thrown into the boys' sports routines, starting up schooling again, and still trying to unpack while staying on top of laundry... the list never ends, and mouths are always hungry, or so it seems.

I've been trying to nail down exactly why I am so out of sorts. I know new adventures can throw a kink in life, and leaving places I love has been difficult too, but over the last several weeks I've felt this internal grasping for something I can't quite put into words. The biggest problem is always that I don't quite trust God with my life the way I know is right and good. I'm only human, but I'm learning and growing in this, and I am sure I always will be. But there seemed to be other things I couldn't wrap my mind around.

While I have not suffered much personal loss in my life so far, I have quite a few friends who are enduring tremendous loss right now or are coming upon it quickly. Miscarriages, loss of children, and cancer seem to be wreaking havoc in too many people's lives. My mind is constantly whirling back to these friends - some are my best friends, and some are more like acquaintances, but all are on my mind every hour. I find myself entertaining all kinds of questions and scenarios on their behalf for quite some time before I remember to pray.

My prayer life is undisciplined to say the least, and while I talk to God frequently, I rarely set aside time specifically for this. When I do talk to Him, my requests are sort of scattered, not entirely specific, or even very inquisitive. As I been more intentional and detailed with what I ask and hope for, I am finding more fulfillment in my soul, along with greater confidence in God's plans.

However, praying for others and feeling a small portion of their pain is only part of what has been troubling me.

On my way back from CrossFit this morning, I heard a song that not only expressed my emotions perfectly, but also offered a way to pray about it.

I wish I had what I needed
To be on my own
'Cause I feel so defeated
And I'm feeling alone

And it all seems so helpless
And I have no plans
I'm a plane in the sunset
With nowhere to land

And all I see 
It could never make me happy
And all my sand castles
Spend their time collapsing

Let me know that you hear me
Let me feel your touch
Let me know that you love me
And let that be enough

These are the lyrics to the song Let That Be Enough by Switchfoot from their 2nd album. I listened to this quite a bit about 12 years ago, and I've always loved this song, but today is truck me differently. 

I realized that I feel torn almost all the time. I want something, but I know it won't fulfill me. I want to be on my own and independent much of the time, but then I often feel sad and lonely. I want to do big things, but I don't have any solid plans. I want to go somewhere else, but I don't know where that is. And it's true, nothing I can think up will make me happy. There's no "problem" there to find and fix. Life is hard, bad things happen, and my emotions leave me questioning the best of situations. 

But God, He is the one I can rely on, and it all seems so easy, and so obvious now. I am longing for the things in this song. I want to know He hears me, that He's close to me, that He loves me. And what I really needs is for all these things to be enough to soothe this raw and tender soul of mine.

I know it's hard to ask for a change of heart, for a spirit of contentment, or for peace in relentlessly stressful situation. It's far easier to ask for a change in circumstance, for the things we think we need to be content, or for more control in bad situations. But the more I do this, the more I search for fixes outside of my heart, the more despair builds inside. The more I commit to changing the outside in an effort to fix my insides, the longer my insides are neglected and the more they shrivel. 

My heart needs God, and my soul needs to find peace and contentment in Him. I need His love to be enough. I need to see that all the solutions to my problems are pointless without Him. And on days when everything feels overwhelming and yet not enough, I can ask Him to make Himself enough for my weary heart. These are the things I am longing for all my hurting friends to know as well. It is my hope and prayer that God's love will be enough for them during their darkest hours.

God, make yourself enough in our hearts. Let all You have for us be the perfect medicine for our broken souls. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dying from Could.

If should is the master of obligation, could is the master of potential. I don't mean potential in a good way, like when a coach or a teacher looks you in the eye and promises great things if you just stay persistent and keep trying. The potential in could is a harassment about poor choices, guilt over where you are, and a cruel voice insisting you will never get farther in life than where you are now.

Ever heard could being condescending? I have. I do almost every day, but I'm trying desperately to fight back instead of just plugging my ears or tuning out.

So what is the deal with could? The tricky part I'm seeing is that could reaches into our past, present, and future with the biggest insecurities we attempt to conceal and makes us question not just our choices, but the deepest parts of who we are. Could makes us question our existence and purpose in a way should and would don't quite manage. What makes it worse is the vagueness in which could often operates.

I could have done something really amazing with my life.

I could be doing so many more important things right now.

I could become someone great, if only I could change.

These types of vague phrases can follow, haunt, and paralyze you unless you take them captive and shove them into the truth. I'm actually a terrible example of this, but it's something I'm working hard to conquer. When Paul talks about "taking every thought captive" in 2 Corinthians, he is not talking about simply thinking positive thoughts to make your life better, or to be a happier version of yourself. He is talking about the battle we are in, the war in the spiritual realm we find ourselves fighting by simply being aligned with Christ. He's talking about taking our thoughts and surrendering them to Christ, to be willing to listen to the truth instead of lies.

You see, this battle with could is not just a battle to control your thoughts. The struggle to get could to pipe down is actually the struggle against the sinful state of your flesh and of this world. When you claim allegiance to Christ and give up being a slave to sin, you keep the evil in this world from influencing your decisions and actions. Your flesh will keep you stuck, cause you to feel hopeless, and paralyze you by the shame of your past choices. But when you shut the doors on could, you shut the doors on Satan's voice in your head and the stronghold of sin in your thoughts.

The first thing to know about could is that it is not real. Literally, could doesn't exist. What you could have been is a myth - never happened, never will happen. What you could be doing right now is only true if you actually do it. Who you could be, or what you could accomplish, only exists if you take steps toward it and see it come to life. You have to get brave and be ready to totally throw could out the window.

Right now, the only place I'm going to address how to conquer could is in the present tense, to change could to can. Since you can't change the past, and you can't control the future, you have to completely wipe out and forget about could in the past and the future, and change could when you encounter it in the present. Still with me? Good :)

Like I said before, I am pretty terrible at this. If I don't have a plan for my day, I get overwhelmed really fast, especially if my kids are asking and begging to do something specific that wasn't already on my radar. I see all the ways my day could go and start trying to figure out how to fit all the necessary things in. I'm not sure why, but some days the list seems so long and the kids seem so uncooperative, that instead of jumping in and making progress, I move like a slug and start to feel depressed. We can all guess what that results in. Lots of nothing, at least nothing good.

What I find works best, and what I usually forget to do, is to just get started. I have to stop thinking of what I could do, what could happen, or how the day could go, and simply choose something. On days where I have a huge amount of computer work or writing to accomplish, it doesn't do me any good to be thinking about what I could do to make it happen, or how I could arrange my desk to make things more accessible. It's no help at all to think about what I could accomplish if I paid a regular babysitter, or what I could post on Instagram to help with my social platform. I just have to start. I have to get going.

There are times for thinking about the best way to do things or to plan how to deal with your responsibilities, but at some point we all have to make a decision. Google indecision and you will find hundreds of quotes about how indecision really is a decision, and I see it wreak havoc in my life every week. When I don't make a decision about dinner, I end up spending more money, eating junk, or wasting food. When I don't make a decision about a volunteer opportunity, I miss out completely, and I often make myself look bad by not responding either way. You see how this works?

Time comes to pass no matter what we do, and our days fill up no matter what decisions we make. Even worse, when our days fill up with activities resulting from indecision, we then have to struggle with the regret of not having done what we actually wanted to do. If we aren't careful and intentional, we end up with days or weeks heaping with regret, a bundle full of coulds, and a to-do list that will put you into the fetal position, guaranteed.

So how can we stop saying could? As you look at your options for what you could do today, or what you could be doing right now, or even what you could plan to do next week, try to minimize the importance of your choices. I am overly fearful about the impact one decision will have on my day, or even my life, but we have to recognize God's control over all these things. In our culture, and especially in mom-circles, we emphasize how our little actions and small decisions can make a large impact, but we don't always notice how this can paralyze us when making a bunch of these seemingly small decisions throughout our day.

You have to remember, God controls the outcome of your decisions, not you.

Sometimes you make a decision to go to the store with all the kids in the morning, then you are so exhausted later and struggle to accomplish anything. It feels like you made the wrong choice. Or what if you put off grocery shopping, then your husband doesn't get home until after dinner, forcing you to take the kids out shopping later in the evening? That's not good either. You look at what could happen and are fearful of a lousy outcome. But the truth is, lousy outcomes can happen regardless of how good your decision is. Don't let this haunt you, instead use it to remember who is actually in control. What we see as a lousy outcome, or a day filled with struggle, is often a sharpening type of day, where we can see God working in us if only we can step back and calm our minds for just a little bit.

You can't mess up God's plans. If he wants you to be tired in the afternoon, there is probably something you can gain from it. If he wants you to be on-task at home during the morning and then you have to succumb to a 2nd-rate dinner, there must be some goodness to be found there. He already knows, He already has a plan figured out, and His love isn't confined to good decisions only.

Remember, there is no could. I mean, there kind of is, but you really can just throw it out the window. You will find greater peace in your struggle with could and all of your decisions when you hold them a little more lightly. Look at your options objectively, choose one, then trust God with the outcome. It feels too simple, a little trite even, but sometimes we need to shut down our brain and just get to living. Don't follow outcomes to their end, or assume one choice will always determine a specific outcome, but make your decisions knowing God will have His outcome, no matter how badly you mess it up. His plans are often different from ours, but they are always best.

If you want to read more about making decisions, I highly recommend the book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. It's a fabulous, Christ-centered, empowering book. And just so you know, this is an affiliate link, just like all the books I post about :)

Thanks for taking the time to hear a few of my thoughts on could. I'll be back in a week or two with some ideas on would, and hopefully, you will be empowered to take some control over your mind, live more fully in God's plans, and be more at peace with your decisions.