"What's Your Capacity?"... and the First Giveaway Winner

This morning, I woke up, ate my Cheerios, drank my coffee, and then plugged in the numbers to my first ever giveaway. (Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say I drank my coffee and then woke up.)

And the 22nd Comment belongs to:


Who said...
You Rock! I haven't read the book either, but it seems like a great one. I'm thankful for a certain 2 year old running around the house at 7:30 screaming "Morning Daddy! Morning Bru-Bru!" Too cute...
 Yeah Katie! You win! Happy for you! Expect a forthcoming email with all the details.

And now for today's post: It's not a "Made Monday" because, to be quite honest, I haven't had time for recipe experiments or crafts lately. I don't want to post something just to post something. But I have had a whole lot of inspiration going on in the way of encouragement. It's time to start posting them.

So, here it is:

I got a word for you that I have been thinking on a lot lately.


I have a BA in English. I graduated with honors. I taught 5th and 6th grade for 2 years. I left my teaching post and worked part-time as a substitute so I could pursue full-time ministry. I was a children's pastor for 5 years. I led a thriving midweek program that reached out to kids in the community. I mentored up-and-coming leaders in the church and helped run an intern program. I was important. 

I am now a stay-at-home mom. My big accomplishments are when I manage to get the laundry cleaned, folded and put away on the same day or when I get my husband fed and out the door on time for college. My days consist of cleaning juice spills, picking up toys only to pick them up all over again, answering the constant cry for more... more snuggles, more milk, more attention, more snacks. I rarely wear make-up anymore. 

It's been my dream for as long as I can remember to raise children and to stay home with them. I wouldn't have it any other way. BUT... It's an almost thankless job. My great passion in life has nothing to do with cleaning toilets, picking up toys, folding laundry, meal planning or grocery shopping, yet that's how I spend most of my days. I led children to Christ on a weekly basis, I ran a thriving ministry, I was "on top of things," I raised up leaders, I was important! And now I cook, clean, wipe dirty bottoms, remind a little girl to put her toys away, and somehow find time to write a little.

I have a feeling I am not the only one who's ever felt like this. 

So here's where the word capacity comes in.

You are still you. Your talents haven't changed, though you can probably add "able to feed a baby, dice your preschooler's food, and get food into your own mouth all at the same time" to your list of talents.  Your call hasn't changed either, though it now entails motherhood.

Who you are and what you were made for hasn't changed.

It's been added to.

And because of that, your capacity has changed.

Every person has a fire-marshall required sign posted over their abilities.

God is that Fire Marshall who determined long ago what your capacity would be. Everyone came with a unique capacity (so don't compare). And each person came with a maximum capacity (so don't overload yourself). You can only do so much. And when you enter into motherhood, you are adding more weight to your metaphorical elevator. You may have to let some things off the elevator.

As your kids get older and more independent, they will get "lighter" and your capacity will increase. (Though I think it should be important to note, they will be seasons in your life that are "weightier" and will shift your capacity).

So, when you are up to your eyeballs in mundane laundry to fold; when your are tired of your constant nagging to lift the lid and aim straight, to pick up the toys, to eat the vegetables, to do the homework; when you feel seriously under-appreciated and not so very important... know you are doing the most important job in the world. And you are still you. And your capacity to do the other things will return.

So, if I follow with my analogy, there is a certain order to what takes up our capacity:

1. God (Time with Him. You were made for relationship with him.)

2. Husband (You want your marriage to last through the crazy child-raising years, keep him before your kids. This may mean, putting a baby safely in the crib, a movie on for the kiddos, and locking the bedroom door for a short while.)

3. Children

4. Your Job (If you stay home, this is your job)

5. You! (Time to yourself, time for soul refreshing... i.e. friendship)

6. Your Ministry (This is often the thing that you most enjoy and is definitely not limited to something inside of church. For me, THIS is it. It may even be the job you left to start a family.)

It is important to know, the weight of each of the items on the list is in a constant flux and there is often a fluidity to their order... like keeping up your house is actually a way of serving your husband and children. I am finding that for whatever reason, I am starved for friendship so I am currently adding more weight to that item. You can best love your children when you are at your best, so sometimes you need to add weight to the things that refresh you. This list is not exact or perfect, but it definitely helps me keep the most important things, the most important things.

And here's the thing I learned from doing children's ministry for 5 years: I could build a team of teenagers and young adults. I could bring in bouncers and games and slime and water fights. I could put together the most interactive lesson that eloquently broke down the deep things of God for a child. I could lead children in the sinner's prayer. But I could never be the most important influence in a child's life. That's YOU. YOU have THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB. YOU have the greatest impact on your child. You might feel under-appreciated, insignificant, and like you used to do important things that mattered. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

You have the most important job. Right now.


It's time for me to hop to that important job. Right now.

Wishing you wonderful weeks!


I would love to hear from you! Do you ever feel this way? How do you deal with it?

Dreams: 5 Things Every Farmer Knows About Farming that Every Dreamer Needs to Know Too


The farmer goes out. Tills the soil. Plants the seeds. And waits. He waters. He waits. He watches for pests. He watches for weeds. He gets to drive around on a tractor (the most romanticized part of it all... "She Thinks My Tractors Sexy" anyone?? That song... it makes me smile big). He waits.

The farmer works and does so much to try to bring in a great harvest. But really, the farmer knows that he does his part and the rest is up to God.

I think it's like that with our dreams.

A dream is placed in your heart... maybe it's something you've always wanted to do, maybe it was in your yearbook next to your picture "Amanda, most likely to... be a meteorologist" (True story), maybe you stumbled across it while casually doing something you fully intended to do for just a short time or just for fun, maybe you are stuffed full of a thousand things you feel compelled to do before you leave this planet, or maybe you still haven't had your "A-ha! This is what I was born to do!" moment... whatever it is, I truly and fully believe with ever fiber of my being that you have a purpose. I believe God made you with a wonderful, awesome, needful way that you can impact your world. Maybe it'll touch the lives of thousands, maybe it'll touch the lives of a couple children and one handsome husband, maybe it'll change a city, maybe it will encourage those in your circle. No matter the impact, You were made to dream. AND You were made to be a dream-fulfiller.

Dreaming is all fine and good, but means nothing until you put it into action.

Having a pocket full of seeds is all fine and good, but it will mean nothing until those seeds are put into soil.

And God made the seed for the harvest.

{Do you know what seeds you have to plant? Your talents, your passion, your gifts... the things God places in you that forms into a dream so that you could bring glory to your Maker... these are your seeds.}

Embarking upon a dream is terrifying. You could fail. The fear of failure would like to keep your seeds in your pockets... and God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and discipline. 2Timothy 1:7, NASB.

A thousand "what if" scenarios may want to rack your brain, keep you from setting out, make you want to shrink back... but we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:39, NASB.
Thing is, even a farmer knows, that there ARE a thousand things that could destroy the crop, and failure may happen. A farmer knows he has no say so in the weather, the locusts, the birds, disease... a lot can cause a crop to not produce, but one thing is certain... a field will not yield a harvest unless the seed is put in the ground.

A dream will just be a dream until its put into action.

I compiled a list of some things every farmer knows about farming that every dreamer should know too:

1. Know the season- farmers put seeds into the soil at the right time of year. You may need to know that it's not time yet. The best way to figure out if its time? Fasting and prayer. Farmers know to look for the signs of the season... look for the signs in your own life that it is time.

2. Know you may fail- farmers know that some years yield a lot of fruit and some years do not.  You may do everything right, but it may not work out. That does not mean you should stop.

3. Know that it will be hard work- farmers know that just preparing the soil is a lot of work. And so is the daily upkeep. And so is the harvest. A. Lot. Of. Work. Yeah. So is putting a dream into action. Expect this. Anticipate it. Plan for it. When you are frustrated because it is so hard, remember... it's SUPPOSED TO BE.

4. Know that it will take daily work- Farmers don't plant a field and then sit back and watch it grow. They work hard daily. There are daily problems. Daily chores. Your dream will require your day in and day out stamina.

5. Prepare for the harvest- A farmer may not be able to plan for the exact size of the harvest, but he can't collect the harvest unless he's prepared for it. If you are working towards a dream, would you be ready for it if it came to pass?

I may have just caused you to let out a big huge sigh... work. hard. failure. not time. planning. But here's the beauty of this:

I till. I plant. I water. I tend. But it is God who gives the increase.

I can't predict the weather. I have no say-so in the million "what-ifs."

But at the same time, I just do my part and I get to leave the rest to God. I don't have to strive, grind myself into the dirt trying to make this work. I do my part and let Him decide how much fruit I will bear. And truly, even if you are able to touch the lives of even a couple of people, isn't it worth it?

I bet you are with me in saying, yes it is!

So dream.

Dream big. Work hard. Trust God.

Let Him take your beautiful dream-field and work it into a great... or a small... harvest.

You were made for the harvest.

Alright, now, go, pray, and seek God, and get to fulfulling those dreams!


Comparison: Dream Killer, and 3 Ways to Keep Your Dream Alive

The other night, I participated in my first ever “twitter party” in an effort to get out of my comfort zone and meet some other women who are doing the same thing I am. A twitter party is essentially a glorified chat room, with a host, a topic and a bunch of people madly carrying on conversations simultaneously... all using # and @ to identify topic and person. You blink and you could miss 20 tweets. I felt overwhelmed... like sick-to-my-stomach, I-have-no-clue-what-I'm-doing overwhelmed... or, to bring a whole new definition to the word of one wise old owl, “twitterpated”... extremely and completely twitterpated.


What came out of it was this incredible sense of self-doubt. I was amongst twitter-pros, blogging giants, women with experience, know-how, and followings greater than my own. Women who not only maintain a blog but write books as well... and raise a family.

I felt defeated, miniscule, silly, like the 7th grade girl in the bathroom whose nightly prayer is for boobs and a period amongst girls all complaining about their times of the month and their bra straps. I am clueless, but so desperately want to be in the know. (Side note: Why, why, Amanda, did you pray so fervently for those things? Ha!)

Have you ever been there? You have a God-given dream in your heart and desire to pursue it. You pray, you fast, you step out... and then you find others with a similar dream doing what you want to do and doing it 100x's better. You can't help but look at them and wonder what in the world you are doing here. And maybe you even go so far as to wonder why God didn't give you the same measure of talent and overall awesomeness.

The day after the Twitter party, I made the blessed mistake of leaving my Bible within the reach of my son... the son with lightening fast reflexes who can clear a side table with the swipe of one arm. I came running as I saw the boy reach for the Bible, and by the time I got to him he had already made quick work of three pages. 

As I was putting the torn pages back into the Bible, my notes in the margins from ages past struck me. Big time.

God talked to me in my mess.

So let me give you a frame of reference for the notes:

Saul was the current and anointed King of Israel, but because he was disobedient God had appointed a new king to take his place, David. In this passage, David is running for his life from Saul who wants to kill him. My little revelations are from how David conducts himself when he finds Saul (who wants to KILL him, mind you) unarmed and completely helpless on two different occasions. Instead of killing Saul, David attempts to prove to Saul that he means no harm.

1 Samuel 24:6 “So [David] said to his men, 'Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to [Saul], the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed'.”

my notes: It even bothered David to cut a piece of robe off of the one who was trying to kill him. David allowed God, who anointed them both, to be God.

David led by following God. He was NOT a man-pleaser. He didn't do what his men encouraged him to do... he sought God. Followed God.

1 Samuel 26:9 “But David said to Abishai, 'Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be without guilt?' David also said 'As surely as the Lord lives, surely the Lord will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down in battle and perish'.”

my notes: Once again, DAVID ABSOLUTELY TRUSTS GOD. Be patient, honor God's way.

David knew that he was anointed to be King... that God had a plan and a purpose for his life. And David trusted God enough to bring it to pass.

In the pursuit of my dreams I have gotten worried
-that I am not enough
-that others are better than me
-that I don't know enough
-that I need to go about everything a better way


It's like the track runner who looks into the lane of his competitor and begins to accidentally step over into the other lane. A sprinter has to keep his eyes focused forward so that his foot-steps are sure. A sprinter has to run his own race... in his own lane.
Ultimately, comparison will dis-qualify you from your God-dream. And reminder: it is God who does the qualifying in the first place.

David knew that God had chosen him to be king. He knew that Saul was still king. He knew he had to wait. He knew that God was going to work it out. He knew that he could trust God.

And there it is.

He knew that he could trust God.

He could trust God to destroy his enemy (by the way in case you are following the parallel of my circumstance or even yours... other women bloggers are not my enemies. Those with similar dreams are not your enemies. But if there is an obstacle, know that God will see you through it).

Three things to learn from David about God-given dreams:

David knew that he could trust God's word for his life. He was called. Anointed. He never questions this.

David knew that he could trust God's timing. David might have wanted it to be time, instead of running for his life. But he waited. He didn't try to rush God. Be patient and honor God's Way.

David knew that he could trust that all the waiting was full of purpose and just as important as the dream itself. David grew so much in that time of running for his life. He might not have seen it at the time, but he became a sure-footed, strong leader who trusted God fully. Also, during this time God gave David allies in his hiding places, a smoking hot wife named Abigail, children, and mighty and faithful men whose loyalty and friendship stayed with him during his reign as King. This time of my life may not be the most productive in terms of writing and pursuing the God dreams in my heart... but they are important, wonderful, purposeful, needful... and who am I anyways to determine what productive is? Is it not a God-dream that I pursue? This husband, these kids, this home, all that I am here and now IS the dream, don't miss it by looking at what other people are doing with their lives. Different people. Different times of their lives. Enjoy the NOW. Live in the NOW. Thrive in the NOW.

And Trust God.

No really, Amanda, TRUST GOD.

Run YOUR race. Be the woman you were called to be. Trust God, His Word and His timing. Know that HE will make a way.

I've got a post, maybe a couple, in the works about pursuing dreams... somethings God has totally downloaded into this brain. If you want to know how to pursue your dreams, do return!


A Pink Sock Covered in Cheerios

Two days ago, my day looked something like this:

My husband returns home from work. I hear the jingle of keys, a familiar deep voice calling down to someone from the stoop, the turn of the dead bolt, and then the sound of tromping boots... man has entered the abode.

"Hey, Amanda, do you mind if Martin uses our bathroom to change before we go study?"

"Um... sure... lemme just, uh, grab some stuff out of it." And by stuff I mean, picking up a pile of clothes complete with bra and underwear, shoving all things on the counter into the drawers in one mad sweep, and throwing a fresh roll of t.p. onto the back of the toilet just in case the current one runs out. I glance at the pile of bath toys and the baby bath I haven't used in months but haven't had the time (or memory is more like it) to put in storage. I choose to let them stay put. It's not ideal, but I only have so much time before Martin makes it up the stairs.

I exit the bathroom, my eyes peeking over the top of laundry pile in my hands to see not just Mike's classmate but his cute, young wife as well. My eyelids expand to take in the extra bit of reality while my nostrils widen to breathe in that same reality and let it back out.

My house is a disaster.

I have two doe-eyed newlyweds standing in my disaster.

I walk back into the room and try my little heart out to be warm, welcoming, conversational, but it's almost as though my brain turns into a camera seeking out messes in autozoom:

I see the baby's snack tray on his jumper crusted in browned avocado slime from the day's lunch.

I see the car seat that for some reason is in the middle of the living room and upside down.

I see the pink Disney princess blanket haphazardly lying over couch and floor.

I see every single one of my pillows I just made to make my seating "warm and welcoming" warming random places on the carpet.

I see every toy from Elmo to the play broom scattered on top of the office desk, on the recliner, on the dining table and sprinkled across the carpet.

And then, I look down and see, in all of it's glory, one pink little Addy-sock covered in gooey Jed-cheerios lying in the middle of the room... right below the black leather boots of my new acquaintance.

Don't look at the mess. Don't clean it up. Stop apologizing for the mess it just draws attention to it. Stop feeling uncomfortable you'll make them uncomfortable. Focus on your  mess  guests. Focus on your guests. Focus on your guests. I know. These are the first rules of being a good hostess with surprise guests. I couldn't help it. I cleaned. In my own defense I was cleaning when they arrived. I had been out of town the day prior and out of town a few days before that. I had only gotten my daughter's room picked up, organized, wiped down and vacuumed... if only we could have hung out in there. I see the vacuum cleaner that is out in the living room and waiting for order to be restored to the great room so it can be used. Maybe they will know that I am in the middle of cleaning. My mind continues. I am really not a messy person, well, not this messy anyways. Can I tell them that I have been out of town? Maybe they won't notice. Stop thinking your the center of everyone's mind, they probably aren't thinking of you or what kind of housekeeper you are... right?

And the deep underlying thoughts: They won't think I am a bad mom/housekeeper/wife, will they?They will know that I am enough, right?

I sometimes wish I had seen a few more cheerio-socks in other women's houses before I had kids. I have these dang expectations that somehow I have to be able to do it all because the hundreds of women's houses who I grew up going to, scrambled to shove their short-comings into their "mess space" (you know, the room, the drawer, the closet, the under-the-bed... everyone has their last minute cram space). I know some people are immaculate housekeepers and some are the polar opposite, and, as I get older and wiser, I am finding that most people are somewhere in between. Living happens in their living spaces.

So, here's the honest, hard, cold truth of it. That pink sock might want to speak to me and tell me that I am not enough. Why can't you love on your kids and your husband, cook dinner, do laundry, keep the house clean, make time for God, friends and yourself, keep up your writing, do the little projects, wear the make-up, do your hair, never wear pajamas past 9 am, and return from out of town without missing a beat? And how in the world does one end up with a hot pink sock covered in Cheerios in the middle of the flow of traffic in their living area... and on the one day they have surprise company?! But...Everyone lives in their living spaces. Cheerio-crusted pink socks are just the beautiful evidence that God blessed me with a little girl who is free-spirited and comfortable enough to run through our house barefoot, and the evidence of a healthy little 9 month old boy who has gotten the finger-thumb-to-mouth down and is crawling and cruising all over the place...and taking his Cheerios with him. That pink sock covered in cheerios is a monument (albeit one I will quickly clean up) of God's blessings on my life.

I have two small kids. They are healthy. They are active. They make messes. I am blessed.

I am blessed and I am enough.

I can't do it all. But I am enough.

I am enough whether my new friend, Mrs. Martin, thinks I should win housekeeper of the year... or not. I am enough even if she visited and made a mental list of the things she "will never do" when she has kids. I like to think that one day Mrs. Martin will have small mess-making machines for children (I am convinced most kids just come that way), and she will remember that pink sock in my great room and know sometimes messes are reality. She is still blessed and not any less of a woman/housekeeper/mom/wife for having them.

Your welcome Mrs. Martin! I am linked up at

"... As Yourself"

I am still alive!

I have been working on a bunch of projects for the last 2 weeks. I made 4 pillow covers, one bench cushion, finished my bench/toy storage, and completed my beautiful-enough-to-sit-in-my-dining-area-but-full-of-all-my-crafting-sewing-and-preschool-stuff-and-best-thing-I-have-done-since-birthing-my-kids cabinet (um, I have no idea what to call it. Cabinet all by itself just doesn't say enough... and after 5 weeks of hard work and a wrecked house, cabinet all by itself might just offend me. Ha! It's awesome!). I have also been studying 2 topics that I need God to speak to me about. I can't wait to share all this stuff with you!

Today, though... I just wanted to share a simple thought.

I had a rough week and a half. I think I shall share main reason why another time, but also because my husband's schooling is in full-swing and I am tired. Exhausted. I have gotten the hang of the routine, the ironing, the extra laundry from his extra uniforms, the rushed dinners during the week, the "I am really tired from the week and need easy dinners" during the weekend. In spite of the adjusting, I suppose some weeks are just simply going to be harder than others. This is a harder one.

Last night, I went to a women's Bible study. It was led by a pastor's wife of another church in town. I adore her. I got to work with her for a couple of years doing community vacation bible schools and I fell in love with her and her husband's passion for the church, for unity, and their "life of action." They don't just talk about it... they do it.

She had a fairly simple point that was simply something I really needed to hear. Christian has become a ugly word with negative connotations. It has become synonymous with the words hypocrite, bigot, and occasionally self-entitled jerk. I sometimes hesitate to call myself one. Not because I am ashamed of Christ. I will gladly claim Him... it's just all the people walking around pretending to follow Him that I don't want to claim. I could probably trail off here, but I shall attempt to stay on topic and share the simple point.

The Bible sums up what we are to do in 2 simple commandments: Love God. Love others as yourself.

As yourself.
Love others as yourself.

Perhaps it is, and as my friend pointed out last night, that many Christians simply don't love themselves enough. For how can you love others well, if you don't at all love yourself?

When you don't love yourself, your reaction to someone's good news looks more like jealousy than true rejoicing and your response to someone's talent looks more like competition than appreciation of diversity. We become the notorious middle-child in the family, acting out because we are completely unsure of our role in the family and our parents love for us.

As a reminder, God loves you. All of you! You are his creation. You are beautiful. You need to take care of you. You are worth it. You are worth the agonizing death of His son so you could know Him. You don't have to wonder if He loves you... HE DOES! You don't have to wonder if you have a reason for being on this planet... YOU DO!

Perhaps it sometimes takes great faith to see that you are beautiful and that God loves you. Perhaps it sometimes takes great faith to know that God could use a flawed person and to know that those flaws are perfect for what He has in mind.

Pray for an increase in faith. And dang it, woman, love yourself.

This world, your family, your husband, NEEDS you to!

Confidence is attractive, confidence draws people, a confident person can offer the best kind of love because a confident person isn't worried about being replaced. They can show the love of the Father to others--without holding back--because they know how much the Father loves them. They are secure in His Love.

Love others... AS YOURSELF

Start by loving yourself better.

That's my pep talk for the day. (If you need a little more pepping up on this matter, see this peptalk from a few months ago. I know I am the one that wrote it, but I totally pull it out every now and again because it totally boosts my confidence.) And after this demanding week, this girl is in need of some love. I think I shall do my make-up. Ha!

Rejoicing and Complaining

This morning I had an "Ah-Ha!" moment. I love those moments. I thought I would share this one.

I decided to read my Bible while feeding my son this morning. I am in Philippians 3. I would love to be all high and mighty and just say Philippians so you might think I read a couple chapters at a time. But I am committed to being real here. I read just one; sometimes half of one; sometimes none. I often read while I breastfeed because I have to sit (or at least it's a really good idea to sit, ha!). God gets my first feeding of the day. Sometimes, when I am up extra early He gets me reading His Words without a kid attached to me.

Anyways, sorry for that aside, I just felt the need to make sure you knew the person you are reading. I may be many things; but I am definitely going to be REAL. So here's the "Ah-Ha" moment:

"Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith." Philippians 3:1

As I read this, I am not going to lie, I suffered from what I am going to call "eye-glaze syndrome." My eyes glaze over sometimes when I read. My brain wanders; my eyes scan the words, but I forget to actually read them. So this morning I missed the first sentence, but then I got to "I do it to safeguard your faith" and I realize I have no idea what it is Paul, the author, does to safeguard the Philippians faith. So I went back and re-read it, and this time make it a point to actually read the words. "Rejoice in the Lord." Paul tells the church at Philippi that rejoicing in the Lord safeguards their faith.

(By the way, this revelation is brought to you because of my "eye-glaze syndrome." I may have missed the simple truth I am about to share had I not needed to go back and reread it. So whatever your short-comings are; know that God can use them =])

Rejoicing in the Lord safeguards our faith. I looked up the word safeguard in the original Greek and it means to keep our faith unable to fail. So, the opposite of this statement would also be true: complaining causes our faith to fail.


Paul knew that if the Philippians kept complaining and kept a negative attitude, they would lose their faith. He must have been really concerned for them because he tells them 4 times in one letter to rejoice in the Lord. I think he was almost a bit obnoxious about it too: "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. Apparently the Philippians needed it pounded into their skulls.

I think I do too.

I think of the pair of my husband's chonies I pick off the bathroom floor EVERYDAY because he never remembers to put them in the laundry bin. I think of the pieces of food I pick off the floor because my daughter is not only a picky eater, but she also plays with the things she will not eat. Our house is almost fully carpeted save but the bathroom and kitchen and I gripe about that too as I clean up the food in the dining area, because I also have to scrub the mess out of the carpet. I think of long lines, stupid drivers, crowded parking lots, bad weather, bills, messes, and the crayon I left out that my daughter found and used to create her latest artwork on the wall. I think of the stairs I climb everyday with a baby in a car seat in one hand, trash from the car in the other hand, the diaper bag on my back, and the daughter in front of me that acts like she doesn't understand the simple instruction, "Go up the stairs" especially if she manages to find a lady bug or snail nearby. I begin to think of the serious complaints: the job losses, the miscarriage, and the stuff I am afraid to type because I desperately fear it happening to me and worry that you are perhaps going through it or have already gone through it and, though I may try, I just simply cannot relate.

Complaining: it's really easy to do and wealth of subject matter to do it over.

But, according to the Bible, it kills our Faith.

And, according to Limp Bizkit (whatever, they were totally cool...), you "gotta have faith."

Faith fills our deepest of hopes and the dreams we barely dare to mention with the substance to happen. Faith gives us the wings to fly over difficult circumstances. It's the navigation system in the crazy storms. It gives us a reason to live. Faith gives our lives purpose. It makes us want to be better and do more good. It is one thing that actually SHOULD define us. It keeps us from getting lost in the crowd; from getting lost behind the million things a mom needs to do, and from feeling like the K-mart blue-light special rather than a unique and special one-of-a-kind garment. Faith is precious. Faith is guaranteed to, alongside hope and love, last beyond death into eternity. Faith (I almost even hesitate to write this because I know someone may be reading this going through or having gone through something so difficult or painful) keeps us from blaming God or others for our struggles and difficulties.

You gotta have faith.

Rejoicing grows it. Complaining kills it.

I think I better remember to Rejoice.

I shall rejoice in the underwear I pick up off the floor for they are evidence that I have a man who works hard, loves me, and showers daily (can I get a "woot woot" for good hygiene here?!). I shall rejoice in the food my daughter puts on the floor for I have been blessed with two beautiful kids and food to feed them with. I will practice ignoring irritations or laughing through them. I may even choose the longest line and call a friend, pull out my phone to check my Facebook, or sing silly songs with my kids, and remember that I have money in my checking account whereby to buy the things I stand in that line for.  I will choose to think about the time I had something or someone rather than that I lost them. I will know that a miscarriage will never let me forget how precious and miraculous life really is. Instead of trying to explain the loss, I will rejoice that I got to hold for but a moment the unexplainable mystery and treasure of life. In difficulties, I will dig deep into my faith and trust that it will all work out someway, someday. I will think back on the difficult times and be thankful for the strength I acquired through them and the miracles I got to see because of them. I do not have all the answers and really no matter how much my human brain would like to make sense of things... sometimes they just don't make sense and that's okay. That's what faith is for.

Assignment: Because I would love to know you better and because I think it could be fun and maybe even funny, I would LOVE for you to write in the comments "a rejoice through a complaint" statement. Men are welcome to chime in too. And... even though this entire post is pretty much a rejoicing through complaints, I will start us off. =]

Keep Pressing!

After having brought 2 children into the world and coming to terms with the “fluffier” state my body was now in, I decided I had complained enough about my weight; now it was time for action. I decided to take up running. I have always loved running. There is just nothing quite like the feeling of going somewhere with your own two feet, nothing attached to you (except for a couple extra pounds, hence the running). It's just you and nature. It's your willpower up against your bodies limitations. I hadn't ran in at least 4 years, and after bringing 2 children into the world... out of shape is a severe understatement. Not only were me and “shape” not in the same town, we probably were not even in the same hemisphere! So, with the greatest of intentions and full of weightloss hope, I started running. First day... not so bad. I got farther than I thought I would be able to, according to my car, 0.7 miles of solid jogging (you better believe I went back and checked the distance!). Second day... all right. My body was stiff, and it was much harder than day one, but I did it. Third day... somebody shoot me because I am going to die! I think I got the length of block, I am guessing 0.1 miles maybe, and my entire body gave out on me. Sore muscles, stiff joints, and stomach ready to hurl. Alright, so I realized my dream of a tight figure and becoming “Fitness Woman,” was going to be much harder to achieve than I had realized.

The process of getting back into shape and the exercise of running got me thinking. Every long distance runner knows this secret: Endorphins. The word endorphin literally means “the morphine within.” Very simply, endorphins are a chemical the body makes when it is put under a great deal of physical stress or pain; it “raises the pain threshold.”1 When you run, your body reaches a certain point when it must begin to push through soreness, stiffness, fatigue, cramping, pain... (depending on how out of shape you are this may happen 3 miles in or it may be tragically instantaneous). A wise runner knows when to stop and rest, walk a bit, or drink some water and when to keep pressing onward. As the difficulty of the run is pressed through, something amazing happens... a new found source of energy and strength wells up... the runner has wings! Endorphins!

If you don't happen to be a runner, but have brought a child into this world naturally, then you too have most likely experienced endorphins. You see, when you should have passed out from the sheer exhaustion of shoving something the size of a watermelon (also lovingly referred to as a baby) out a hole the size of a grapefruit (fully dilated to a 10) and instead of exhaustion, you felt this overwhelming sense of euphoria, excitement and wonder over the miracle of life and the triumph of overcoming to bring something so precious into this world... yep, you experienced endorphins. Gotta love those things!

Okay, so I really don't want to actually talk about endorphins, and I am no marathon runner or trainer. But, I have been through some grueling times as life seems to be famous for. Motherhood, particularly beginning when Addy turned 2, has brought and will continue to bring challenges. I just survived 9 months of potty training—and that doesn't count the time when we just had the potty chair and talked about poo-poo and pee-pee and where it should go. No, I am talking about 9 months of panties and putting her on the potty daily. I have a feeling that's a long time, maybe not, but I really don't want to compare it with any other child's experience (so kindly keep your “poo-poo wonder child” stories to yourself! Ha!) My nine month potty-training marathon taught me to be consistent, taught me that sometimes you got to take a break especially when big sister is adjusting to baby brother and so is mommy, and taught me that sometimes you just got to keep pressing even when the OxyClean is almost out because it has been used on countless accidents and some “accidents” that you could swear weren't accidents at all but rather your strong-willed child exerting her will to go in her pants. (Can I just take a moment to say “Thank you OxyClean! You kept my house smell-free and stain-free through potty training!”?!)

It seems long distance running and child-rearing have a lot in common: they both take consistency to be successful and the art of pressing through difficulty, and, yes, sometimes the occasional rest is needed. I don't know about you but part of me wants to just claim to “need” to be in a state of rest all the time. Has anyone else noticed how in disciplining your child it is really you that seems to learn to be disciplined more than your child?!

But here's the thing, the reason I brought up endorphins: When I run, I always start off with some stretches and warm ups. I try to set myself up to be successful by making sure I am hydrated and ate the right food the meal prior. And when I start my run, eventually this out of practice girl has to dig deep. I run, and the cramps begin. I feel the shin splints. My knees ache. I try to keep at the same pace; sometimes I have to slow down. Sometimes my run looks more like a putter. But I press onward to my mark. I keep going. I don't give up. I know that eventually I will be in shape, and my mile will increase to 5 miles. I know that if I keep running eventually those God-given endorphins will flood my body and give me a new found energy to finish my race.

I think parenting can be a lot like running. We as parents need to warm our kids up to the changes we want/need to make in their behavior or routine. We as parents need to set ourselves up to be successful by making sure we get sleep, proper nutrition and time to ourselves. Addy refuses to nap most days, but I still mandate that she lay in her bed for one hour. She needs the quiet time; and so do I! We as parents need to expect parenting to be rough. Making sure my kids eat right is much more difficult than just running thru the drive-thru or turning to easy mac (not that I am saying never do this, just that perhaps everyday isn't the best idea). It is hard to get Addy to eat her vegetables, but nevertheless I enforce that one bite rule and keep enforcing it no matter how big the fit. Eventually we will arrive at the vegetables that she likes. I maintain that I am Mom; Dad is Dad; vegetables ARE good for you; and if you aren't willing to try your vegetables, you can take your time-out. I keep pressing.

I have heard this promise of the Bible quoted my whole life. In fact, I remember it verbatim, because I grew up singing it in a song.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like an eagle. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” -Isaiah 40:31

When I was contemplating endorphins, this verse just seemed to continuously run through my brain. Perhaps a crazy thought here: I think God is like endorphins. We press and press through the difficulties of life; and at the exact moment that we feel we can go no further, have given all we've got, we somehow manage to keep going. We are filled with a new-found energy. God gives us wings. The thing is, though, you gotta press through first. According to Isaiah, you gotta wait. By the way, I looked up the word wait in the original Hebrew. It means to “wait, look for, hope, expect.”2

So, girlfriend...

Keep pressing.
Keep pressing through temper tantrums, poo-poo accidents, sassy talking-back, vegetables spit onto the floor...

Don't give up. Don't just live with the things you know you need work on with your child.

Be consistent. Or at least start practicing at consistency.
Take a break if necessary. Pick one or two battles at a time.
Don't be lazy. Don't become complacent. Be the kind of parent you want to be.

Know that maybe every one else has it all together, but, at the very least, you and I do not. And that's okay. Love your kids, do your best and expect that God will fill you with the strength you need. Maybe not when you want it, but definitely at some point, in His perfect timing. You can expect that!

By the way, in case you are wondering. I am two months into my running routine. My running goal is now set at an attainable 2 times a week. I am now able to run 1 mile solid and I power walk another half mile. Sometimes I struggle to get out there. I just took a 2 week break unintentionally, because, well, life happened and I got lazy. But still I putter along. I shall do this! I can do this! I press forward!

Also, in case you are wondering, in the battle of food, I have successfully gotten Addy to decide she likes carrots and I have learned that if I puree squash and put it in homemade macraroni and cheese, she has no idea it's there. Shh... don't tell her. I have yet to convince her that anything green is worth eating. But still I putter along. I shall work at having healthy kids! I can be the woman of my house! I will rule my roost! I press forward!

One of my first attempts at getting Addy to eat her carrots. Silly face didn't work, but, after faithfully enforcing the one-bite rule on carrots for 3 months, she one day turns to me and says, "They're not too bad, Mom."