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when it feels like more than you can handle

when it feels like more than you can handle

“I just don’t know how I’m going to get it all done”, I said out loud, not really meaning to. I was picking up or dropping off and sat in my car with the window rolled down chatting with my friend and her teenage daughters.

“Auntie Emily,” sweet Piper responded back quickly, looking me straight in the eyes. “God wouldn’t ask you to do all of it if He were not going to help you.”

I’ve been carrying those comforting words with me all weekend.

How is your to-do list looking? A touch overwhelming? Neverending? More than you feel capable of handling? Mine too.

I’m reminded, once again, (this time by the cutest 14 year old) that no one says we have to do it on our own. We don’t have to pretend we have it all together or prove our worth by what we do. We are just asked to do it faithfully, patiently, humbly, cheerfully.

Let’s take a deep breath, my friends, and remember that we are but jars of clay.

I love how the Message paraphrase puts 2 Corinthians 4:7:

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.”

If he asked you to do it, surely He will be there to help. And let it be His power within you that receives the glory with each checkmark on your to-do list.

DELIGHTFUL ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOUR WEEK

the newsletter

Included each week:

  • lovely links to good, true and beautiful things to read, listen to and watch
  • behind the scenes peeks from the studio
  • free phone wallpaper

our hope is an anchor

our hope is an anchor

One of my best friends asked me how I was doing and my answer surprised me.

I make it a general practice to answer the “how are you?” question with more than “fine”. It feels like we walk around all day answering fine when that’s not really the case. At some point over the last couple of years, I decided I was no longer going to hide behind fine.

Once the produce manager at my little market asked how I was doing and I made the split-second decision to be honest with him. I ended up with teary eyes saying that I was not having a great day and the poor guy didn’t know what to do with me. But I see him often enough and know him just enough to not lie to him with pleasantries.

Anyway, when my friend asked this past week how I was doing, a rumble of emotions fell out of my mouth that I didn’t know were there.

“I feel upside down, somersaulty, unsettled,” I answered.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent hours researching and second-guessing and ultimately choosing to homeschool and while we’re good with our decision, it just took a lot out of me to get there.

There’s a subtle grief stirred up with school and sports and events no longer looking how they’ve always looked. It’s not a super big deal, and we know it won’t always be this way (will it?!) but the disappointment is for real.

COVID has everything heightened and confusing and disorienting. Politics feel the same.

We’re tearing up our house to make changes we’ve been planning for years which is very exciting, but it meant moving my office and uprooting routine and while this is all wonderful, it is different and different things make me feel unsettled.

I’m still finding my way with this new way of writing and sharing more of my faith and dealing with the consequences of changing how I present myself and our life online. Disappointing people is my very worst thing and so my insides have been in tension – trusting that this is the work God has for me, however unpopular or vulnerable it might be, even though it is the harder option.

There isn’t anything inherently bad or wrong about any of these. They just leave me feeling topsy-turvey.

I know well enough by now that unsettledness is not a thing to be feared (I talk so much about this in my upcoming book). I know that changes and transitions are held firmly by my God who loves and sees me and is worthy to be trusted. I know that when I feel this angsty feeling of upside-downness, it is just revealing my lack of control and perhaps this is the very best place to be because it leads me back to a surrendered trust in the one who actually does have it all under control.

So if you are feeling as I am – a bit tossed about, somersaulty and dizzy and having a harder time than normal finding your footing – let this truth reorient you:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

He is our anchor and He will not let go. May we reach out and take hold of this hope.

DELIGHTFUL ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOUR WEEK

the newsletter

Included each week

  • lovely links to good, true and beautiful things to read, listen to and watch
  • behind the scenes peeks from the studio
  • free phone wallpaper

growing their faith

growing their faith

When the kids were little, we read from the Jesus Storybook Bible and listened to Seeds of Worship (such a great music-scripture combo!). I tried to get them to like Psalty the Singing Songbook but they didn’t take to it in quite the same way as I did when I was their age. We read from sweet devotionals and watched Veggie Tales.

Then they grew out of these things.

But our desire for them to grow in their faith and fill their minds and ears and eyes with truth remained. Over the years and as they have grown (now ages 10-16), I have found many resources that are great for building faith in slightly older kids.

Here are our favorites:

The Action Bible

Mason, our third son, especially loved reading through this graphic-novel version of the Bible. It captivated him and kept him engaged through the whole thing.

Kids Read Truth

I am so thankful for the team at She Reads Truth for putting together such well-done, beautifully designed and thoughtful products. I have done many of their studies, Ryan and the older boys have used He Reads Truth and the kids have enjoyed the Kids Read Truth products.

Jesus Calling for Kids
This is a very kid-appropriate devotional with truths that resonate with adults just as much!

Polka Dot Girls
Audrey did a study called Who Am I? last summer with a group of 3rd and 4th graders and it was a very sweet workbook. There are many different studies available as well as a division for boys called Bazooka Boys.

Defined Bible Study
I put this study in each of the kids’ Easter baskets and appreciated that there are versions for each age group. They all did the same study, but in words that resonated with their age.

Bible Infographics for Kids and Bible Infographics for Kids Volume 2
These are very fun books.

The World Jesus Knew
I ordered this for the kids, but I actually like it just as much!

The Bible Project Book
This clothbound book is beautiful and big and the perfect thing to keep out on the coffee table. Each book of the Bible is illustrated and outlined to help see the whole narrative arc of the books of the Bible.

The Bible Project Videos

We are such big fans of the animated Bible Project videos. They do such a good job of explaining and illustrating concepts in understandable ways.

I’d love to hear if you have any family favorites! Please share in the comments.

DELIGHTFUL ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOUR DAILY FAITH

the truth for today newsletter

Included each week:

  • a pretty image of a Bible verse and watercolor illustration
  • a thoughtful story about the scripture
  • a question to pause + ponder as you move about the week
  • free phone wallpaper to keep the verse at the forefront of your mind
  • links to good, true and beautiful things from around the internet

clothes of a different kind

clothes of a different kind

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 NIV

Summertime draws out the worst of my body insecurities. Swimsuits and shorts and sleeveless shirts that expose my pale skin and less-toned-than-I-wish arms and tummy that stretched out too many times to ever be flat again.

When I get insecure, I reach for the easiest forms of self-comfort: comparison and consumerism.

First, I compare. Who looks best in a swimsuit? Who has better skin? Who has cellulite? Who has skinnier arms? I play this ugly game in my head always looking and assessing and trying to figure out where I stand.

Then, I consume. Maybe I just need a cuter dress or sunglasses or sandals or nail polish or coverup or sunhat or tank to feel better about myself, even if just for a moment.

Compare and consume. Compare and consume. On and on, trying to make the insecurities go away.

Cultural wisdom would tell me to stop comparing and instead turn my gaze to how strong and beautiful and capable my body is. I birthed four kids! I can run! My skin will age well! 

Cultural wisdom would also tell me to buy the things that make me feel better about me. Self-tanner! New cut-off shorts! Little chunks of silicon you stuff into your bikini top!

Trust me, I’ve tried all of these. There is value, of course, in both positive self-talk and choosing outfits that fit. But these tactics alone are insufficient.

One morning a few weeks ago, I became aware of the ugly compare and consume habits that were happening inside me. The good news about God is that He is full of grace. He knows this tender part of me. He’s faithful to pull me out of the pit and realign my heart.

That morning on my bed He reminded me that I was caught up in looking to outward things to heal the inward muck. I was self-focused and self-consumed and kept grasping for a shiny new thing to make the insecurity go away. A new dress is nice and finding a swimsuit that flatters is reasonable, but my inner dialog was getting out of hand. He made me and loves me and has far more important things for me to do than obsess over skinny thighs and a closet full of adorable outfits.

The truth is, all of our insecurities are made obsolete when we remember our unchanging, forever identity as deeply wanted and valued children of God. With His help, we can clothe ourselves with compassion, not comparison. Kindness, not judgment. Humility, not pride. Gentleness, not criticism. Patience, not perfection.

And whether we put on the cutest summer dress or not, we can have all the confidence in the world that we are chosen, holy and dearly loved.

this is the day

this is the day

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NIV

She burst into tears. “I don’t like school! I’m never going back!”

This was so out of character. First of all, Audrey isn’t one for overly-dramatic emotional outbursts, and second, she LOVES school.

After some consoling and wiping tears and taking deep breaths we got to the bottom of it:

Her beloved Mrs. K. had taken maternity leave and the brand new Miss B. was doing everything differently. The kids were noisy and disrespectful, the regular, comfortable routine was shifted, everything felt strange and messed up and she just wanted things to go back to how they used to be.

She’s a girl after my own change-resistant heart.

The next morning when I went in to wake her for school, she looked up at me with her wild bed hair and barely awake eyes. “Mom, I’ve been thinking about it and decided that I’m just going to keep reminding myself that today’s going to be a good day, today’s going to be a good day, today’s going to be a good day.

Positive self-talk is important and valuable and I’m not here to dismiss it. Keeping those words in her mind all day would surely help her look for the good instead of focusing on what was going terribly wrong. So I smiled back and told her that was a great idea.

But I couldn’t leave it there.

On the way to school, a song popped into mind from my childhood. Perhaps you know it too?

🎶This is the day (this is the day), that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made) I will rejoice (I will rejoice) and be glad in it (and be glad in it) 🎶

I sang it to her and she giggled and for a brief moment in the school drop-off line, the Lord reminded me of something so simple, but so profound: It’s not actually about having good or bad days. Surely there will be both and more often than not, good and bad will show up on the exact same day. No, we can’t put our hope in having day after day of good days. I can’t set my daughter up for that.

Instead, that little song taken from an ancient song reminds us that whether life is smooth and comfortable and the way things “should” be or whether it has turned upside-down and feels strange and disorienting, it is still a day the Lord made and we are wise to rejoice in it.

BUT ALSO, the psalmist in 118 is referring to one particular day that changed every day after … the day when Jesus died and defeated death and made a way for us to be healed and set free and no longer bound by our own efforts to save ourselves. THIS is the day we celebrate because that one day changed every day going forward. It points to the greatest act of God on our behalf and this is worth rejoicing and being glad about.

So whether a day is good or bad or a mix of both, we can live and breathe and move confidently in the truth that Jesus has and will and is continuing to redeem what is broken, restore what is lost, and renew all things.

This is the truth I hope sinks down deep into my daughter’s heart. Mine too.

be still

be still

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

If asked if I’m picky, I’ll answer no. That’s not my style of control. I like to be flexible and open-minded, and I hope most people find that I’m easy and pleasant to be around. But ask me if I’m particular, and that’s a different story.

I’m particular about how the dishwasher is loaded because obviously, the bowls fit best on the lower right rack. I’m particular about the sleeves of the t-shirts facing the same direction when folded because they stack better that way. I’m particular about eating my food while it’s piping hot, and get a little grouchy when I have to wait at the dinner table for my less temperature-concerned family members to arrive. I’m particular about practically every aspect of my work that might reflect back onto me: graphics, emails, packaging, branding. I’m particular about how the kids look when we go out, especially when we take family photos.

Being particular is normal. We all have our preferences. It’s when those particularities become cemented in our minds as the only way that they cross over to the arena of control. Ouch, right? Control is especially ugly when I prioritize my own preferences over my care for another person. It’s what happens when I rearrange the dishwasher, huffing under my breath about my son’s incompetency in doing it right. It’s the urge to take over when my daughter is not folding her clothes properly and the self-righteousness that comes out when I take a bite before we all gather to pray because I just spent all this time making food and I want to eat it while it’s hot. It’s the overworked and stressed-out result of not asking for help or trusting another person to do what I mistakenly think only I can do and not caring if the sweater is itchy or the pair of pants is uncomfortable because it is what I want you to wear, and you will wear it.

My preferences are usually harmless, but they can creep in quietly, and soon enough I find myself being particular about more than just the day-to-day things like promptness and how the pillows are arranged on the couch. Instinctively, my eyes search and my hands grasp for opportunities to express my way. Control makes me feel powerful, and I like feeling powerful. It puts me and my great ideas in charge, and I think me and my ideas are pretty great. It allows me to be responsible for me, and that feels better than trusting. But control can also cause me to hurt and disregard others and make poor choices. Control assumes that I know best, but what God whispers (or sometimes hollers) is a knowing of a different kind.

“Be still and know,” he says.
Know what?
“Know that I am God.”
Oh yeah. 
So I humble myself and find my rightful place once again.

Relinquishing control reminds us that we’re not truly in charge. Letting go of the need for things to go our way allows space for God to have His way in us. Releasing control is just one of many small ways we make room for new growth. Life with God is the very best partnership, and it’s one big, amazing lesson in collaborating, considering, and giving up control. This is what leads to real rest.

(This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of my upcoming book, an illustrated memoir about identity, transformation, and Jesus’ invitation to real rest. I can’t wait for you to have it in your hands next spring. If you want to be on the waitlist for early notification, please leave a comment and I’ll add you to the wait list!)