When the Journey Is Not What We Expected




journey trust praise and coffee

I look at my life and never could have imagined the journey that brought me to this place in my life.
I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t love every twist and turn and re-route along the way. I took some detours and jumped right into a few ditches along the way. BUT I love that God has been with me through it all and when I look back on even the most confusing and painful times in my life, I see Him.
I see His hand, I see where He was loving me and guiding me towards His plan.

Take a look around and see where He is in your current circumstances. He is there. He is loving you right now.

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” NIV
 My dear friend and ministry partner Ronel Sidney has shared some of her testimony, broken roads included, in this radio broadcast. I invite you to grab a cup of coffee and take a listen:

When You Think You’ve Gone Too Far

As long as you’re still taking breaths…you haven’t gone too far away from His love.

No matter where you’ve gone or what you’ve done, He’s been pursuing you with His love.
Stop running…

god love is fierce copy

Fierce: /fi(ə)rs/

Adjective: having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.

 

1 John 4:9
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Proverbs 3:3
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Psalm 71:20
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Six Ways To Connect With Our Kids

six ways to connect with our kids

Taken from my “Real Moms of West Michigan” segment on Star 105.7 every Tuesday at 7:05 AM…

We have never had more information about parenting available to us, but often we’re still baffled about how to deal with situations with our kids.
I think that is because the more important part of parenting is not WHAT we do but WHO we are to our kids.

All the parenting skills in the world can not compensate for a lack of connecting with them as a parent, as an authority and as the one who is most reliable to care for them. Listening and letting them know that you care.

A lot of parents today are shrinking back because we don’t feel qualified to help or understand our kids and what is happening is that they are reaching out to each other, looking to peers to fill that void of connection. They’re looking to each other for social cues and direction but their peers are not equipped to guide them which can leave our kids on very unstable ground emotionally.

And yes, social media plays a huge role in this today. Instead of kids looking to parents as their compass and their validation, they are looking at “friends” and “likes” on their pictures/status’s.

The good news is that it’s not too late. Children want connection with us, they want to look up to us, no matter what they say or how they act, they have an internal instinct to need their parent.
So what do they need from us? They need us to lead with love and authority. Give them guidance. Be their parent.

I am doing a series on my Real Moms segment on Star 105.7 with Tommy and Brook, it’s about the Six Ways to Connect with Our Kids. We will go from the most shallow and most basic type of connection to the deepest level of attachment with someone because understanding attachment/connection is the single most important factor in knowing how to help our kids become confident, secure and emotionally healthy adults.

Much of this information was learned through reading “Hold On To Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld.

1. The first one is SENSES.

Children have an instinctive need to sense who they are connecting with: sight-smell-sound-touch. Physical proximity is the most basic way we connect. Even though this is considered the most basic level of connection, it is extremely important in all relationships; and that hunger for closeness never goes away.

To apply that to parenting: spend time together, make eye contact, and make sure you still have physical contact with them. Hugs, high fives, wrestling when their little, touching their arm or shoulder or patting their back as they get older.

They need this from us all through life.

If you’re feeling distance from your child, you might want to pay attention to who they seem to need to be around. Are there peers whom they are driven to be with and at the same time putting up walls with you? Are they making some poor choices as they follow their friends?

This is not the time to just draw back and say– “well they’re growing up and this is normal that they want less to do with me.” Especially if you see their character changing for the worse.

Yes, they will grow up and leave the nest, BUT parents still need to stay engaged until they do leave the nest and remain connected because often they are searching for outside connection because they’re not feeling it with us.

Even and especially through the teens years they need to have connection with us…they need to know we are there for them and believe in them.

So, stay connected to your kids in the most basic of ways which is through their senses.

2. The second one is SAMENESS.

We start to see the need for sameness when our kids are toddlers as they mimic those who are closest to them. They are essentially trying to discover who they are so they start to assume our identity. They want to be just like mom or just like dad, so they copy us. Our words our actions our responses; they are paying close attention to everything we say and do.

This is an important part of connection and it continues on in life. It is a very strong drive for children to be the “same” as others. This breaks down on so many levels; it can be about them wanting the same brand of shoes that everyone is wearing or in extreme cases gang affiliation.

Parents, we really need to pay attention to who our kids are emulating and trying to be the same as. As they grow we see a pulling away and they want to be the same as others. Some of this is normal progression of a child becoming who they are…but be careful not to dismiss rebellion for individuality.

A child who is truly becoming their own person will be an individual in all circumstances and not just individual from their parents.

If you are feeling your child being sucked away from you, it’s time to step up and work on fixing that connection with your child because that is not normal or healthy. It is almost like we’ve just taken for granted that our kids will become teens and rebel, but that’s a mistake because true individuality does not mean rebellion.

So parents, let’s pay attention to our kids need for sameness, give them space to be individuals but also nurture their uniqueness and encourage their individuality by validating who they are. They will be drawn to those who accept them.

We’re seeing a generation of kids that are terrified of being different. They feel that “different” is wrong, it’s our job to give them a secure foundation to let their unique personality and individuality blossom. They need to know that they have a place to belong and be loved- no matter what.

3. The third is BELONGING and LOYALTY

Again we see this unfolding in toddlerhood as they lay claim to whatever they feel is theirs.
“Mine!”
This is all part of connecting, they even do it with us; MY daddy, MY mommy, they jealously seek to possess us.
We see this as they get older with BFF’s, and the tight knit relationships they form in junior and senior high school. Along with that comes loyalty; sharing and protecting each other’s secrets, taking their friend’s side.
This is a crucial part of attaching and connecting, and the thing we need to watch out for is if our kids are finding their sense of belonging and becoming deeply loyal to friends or peer groups and those relationships are becoming more important than the sense of belonging and loyalty that they feel in their family.

A child will be stronger emotionally and socially if their deepest ties and loyalty are to their family first.

Let them know how important they are to your family, that home is their first place of belonging and show them your loyalty to the person they are becoming by believing in them.

 

4. The fourth is SIGNIFICANCE

This is that sense of knowing that we matter, that we are held dear to someone’s heart.

It’s all about our deep need for approval.

Our kids will gravitate to those that will accept and approve of them.

A child can tell by our countenance if we approve of them, if we are glad they walked into a room.
Are we happy to see them? They will know it.
They desperately want to know that they matter, that they are seen and valuable.  They need to know that they are significant. Just like we all still do.
A few things to help our kids feel significant:
*Don’t minimize their feelings. Home needs to be the safe place for them to allow their feelings to be heard and understood.
*Encourage them to pursue their dreams. What do they love to do? Help them get better at it.
For those of you that said- they only like video games…get them out of the house, expose them to more things and places, opportunities.
*Listen to them, give them eye contact when they’re talking. Put down the phone when they’re trying to tell us something.
Our kids want to know that they are significant and the healthiest place for them to find their significance is the home. When they have the solid foundation of who they are at home, they can become strong, determined young adults.

 5. The fifth is FEELINGS

Kids and adults find closeness through feelings, warm feelings, loving feelings, affectionate feelings. We want to build solid connections with our kids and emotion is strongly tied to connection.
When a child connects emotionally to their parent, it forms an intimate attachment that is not easily broken. Even when there is distance between them AND even when there are challenges and peer relationships that might be interfering with our parenting. We need to have emotional attachment with our kids.
This is when connection goes from the shallow end of just being in proximity to each other TO connecting through a loving relationship.

This includes being vulnerable with one another and it is a riskier form of connection.

If you hear a child say to a parent, “yeah, whatever” or “I don’t care” – that’s defensive sign of a lack of attachment – it means the child is afraid of getting hurt by the parent so he becomes defensive against vulnerability – he protects himself from feeling vulnerable by putting up a wall.
As parents, we want to create a safe emotional environment for our kids to FEEL our love and affection.
Sometimes we get off track when parenting trials come along and we think we need more information. We feel we are not good enough parents because we don’t know enough about parenting, but that is not true. Parenting is not about being skilled, it is about the relationship we have with our children.
Parenthood is not a skill to be acquired.
Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought.
Parents- you are fully equipped to raise your kids- even if you’ve never read a book about parenting. Trust your gut, follow the instinct that IS in all of us and nurture your relationship with your child as it works best in your family.

 6. The sixth is BEING KNOWN

To be close to someone is to be known by them.
This is closely related to last week- feelings. The feeling of being loved is so important…especially coupled with being known.
When a child is vulnerable to their parents and feels loved even in their failures, they are known deeply and the attachment/connection is powerful and they don’t fear rejection.
They put down their guard and let you in. This child will not want to keep secrets from their parents, they will trust that they will be accepted, loved and invited to be themselves.

Being known is the deepest level of attachment and connection.

This kind of relationship does not happen by chance and you can not assume that it will happen just because you are the parent and they are your child. This level of connection is nurtured and developed over time and trial and situations that show our children we are there for them and love them without conditions.
I’m not saying that it doesn’t involve discipline, but the focus of this relationship is not about just dealing with wrong behavior and correcting them. The focus is training and teaching our kids how to make the best choices.
Ultimately, a deep attachment with parents will help your kids become emotionally secure and independent.
REMEMBER Parenting is above all a relationship, not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought.

 

Listen to segments here: Real Moms on Star 105.7

Can Time-Outs Hurt Our Kids?

Taken from my weekly segment on Star 105.7 with Tommy and Brook

time outs logo



All month we’ve been talking about how to have happy kids and help them overcome anxiety, this week we’re going to continue that by helping our kids have a sense of significance and value. We want our kids to know that they are an important part of not only our family but also their community and world. All of us want to feel like we belong and our kids are no different, especially when they are growing up and looking for their place.

A key to our children’s security is showing them that they have value. Today I want to talk about a way that we might be DE-valuing our children without even realizing it.

Time-outs.

We all know that there are times our children need a minute or sixty to process and consider their actions, but how we give them a time out could make all the difference. We have to be careful that when we give a child a time-out we are not telling them, “I am angry with you, I reject you, and you’ve lost the invitation to be in my presence,” which inadvertently says to them, “You are no longer valuable to me.”

Much of this will depend on our tone and the circumstances.

We may need to consider if they really need a time out or if we’re just overwhelmed and maybe we need a time-out. Sometimes, if we are honest about it, we are the ones that need a break from all the questions and commentary that our little ones can drown us in. So, we want to look at each situation and ask ourselves if it’s a punishable offense or just a frustration. Our reaction could be telling our child that they are not valuable or significant and that they don’t matter to us right now.

Of course we know that is not the truth, we love our children and want them to rest securely in that love. Our kids need to know that our love for them is unconditional; proximity, contact and closeness speak volumes to our children about how much they matter to us and the world around them. When we want them near us it tells them that they are significant. When we hastily send them away from us it could be telling them that they are not valued.

Yes, there will be times when one of both of us needs a time-out, but be careful not to crush their spirit in the process. Let time outs be a discipline for actions but not a rejection of them personally. Sending them away from us out of frustration will send the wrong signal. We don’t want our kids feeling like we don’t like them or that our love for them is conditional based on how good they “perform.” We will have to discipline our children, but we don’t have to de-value them in the process.

Can time-outs hurt our kids? I believe it all depends on whether we leave our kids feeling rejected by us (which is not good) or remorseful for their actions (which is good and beneficial). Of course this is another age-and-stage topic and there is no magic formula for how to handle each situation. Time-outs can be helpful and give a child some time to collect their thoughts, reflect on their actions or just calm themselves down. Follow your heart and instincts, they seem to know how to do this better than the emotions at the moment.

How do you handle these Real Mom (and Dad) moments?

If you’re not in the West Michigan area you can listen live on iHeart Radio anywhere in the world!

Check out Tommy and Brook’s page online at West Michigan STAR: Tommy and Brook

Their Facebook page: Tommy and Brook

And their Twitter: @TommyAndBrook

Helping Our Kids Deal With Separation Anxiety

separation anxiety praise and coffee

In the world of winning ball games, honor roll and weather related Facebook status’s many moms are not letting on that there is a deep and painful struggle going on in their homes.  Children are dealing with anxiety at alarming rates and its affecting families, schools and the lives of good Moms everywhere.

At some level all kids deal with anxiety, but when it hinders our families from functioning in a healthy manner, we need to pay attention and help our kids through it.

I will be talking the next several weeks on my segments with Tommy and Brook on Star 105.7 about helping our kids through anxiety. Today I’m talking about separation anxiety. You might think that this is just a toddler issue, but it can affect children into their teens and honestly even adults.

Often parents think that if their child is dealing with separation anxiety then they just need more separation, but child psychologist feel that the opposite is true. Kids were not meant to be OK without us. They need us to be their anchor. Their safe place in a storm and comfort from the world around them.

Children, and all of us really, crave connection. Children are especially sensitive to the connection with their parents and in fact they’re entire well-being counts on the parent-child connection. But we can’t be with our children 24/7, so how can we help our kids deal with our leaving them?

There are going to be many age and stage appropriate helps, but one way to help them through the transition of separation is to focus on your next connection with them. Tell them, “I’ll see you again in just a little while.” This way, instead of them thinking about you leaving them, they are focusing on the next connection with you.

Think of it as building bridges with them. Take them (emotionally) to the next connection instead of leaving them at the end of a dead end road. Talk about what you’re going to do when you see them again. “We will be together for dinner.” If it’s night time, “I will see you in just a little bit when the sun comes up.”

Moms, the stronger the connection you have with your children, the easier it will be for them to deal with the temporary separation from you. Physical touch, eye contact and listening are excellent ways to strengthen the connection with our kids.

Build bridges and focus on the next connection.

Luke 18:15-17 NLT
[ Jesus Blesses the Children ]  One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

If you missed this segment you can listen to it and more on my Star 105.7 page.

Earning God’s Love ~When Minstry Gets In The Way

Gods love praise and coffee The story of Mary and Martha used to fill me with guilt for being busy until I realized that it wasn’t a story about a woman who was busy. Jesus basically (in my paraphrase) said, “Martha, you’re a worried mess and you need stop trying to get everything perfect for me. I want you, not your performance.”

Whether or not she was trying to earn His approval, love or just impress everyone; she missed the point and I know that I have too.

Anybody else?

Mary knew that the most important thing happening was at His feet. Listening, learning and resting in His love.

Shouldn’t this be easy??

Shouldn’t it come naturally??

Yes, I think it does, but many of us have forgotten how to live instinctively. We know in theory that we should put our family first, that God has given us the gift of family and they matter most. But we are busy meeting everyone else’s needs, sometimes even at the expense of our own families. We’ve lost touch with His still small voice that is always speaking to us about priorities.

When my grown children were younger, I spent so much time away from them doing church activities and it grieves me to think that the church even used to pay our babysitter so we could do the work of the ministry. I left my own children OFTEN, too often, and even though they were in good care (excellent in fact), they were not with their parents. I thought I was honoring God, but now I think I was looking for His approval through performance. I thought I would be a better Christian if I did more for Him. And yes, I enjoyed the accolades and approval of others, though it took me a long time to admit it.

I did not know how to be anything but busy. I did not know how to rest at His feet. I was striving to earn His love.

Yes, I was doing good things, God things. I would compare it to having the whole family home but busy in different rooms doing different things and never spending time together. You can call that family time, but without connection, we’re just existing together.

Of course there are busy seasons, but I encourage you to ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?
Who is benefitting?
Does it strengthen my family?
Does it draw me closer to God?

Our walk with God will not grow while we’re trying to earn His love. God’s love for you is not based on your performance, you can securely rest in His love when you stop trying to earn it.

Gal 2:19-20 The Message
 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.

From Angry Moms to Happy Moms ~Part 1

Taken from my segment with Tommy and Brook on Star 105.7. Tuesdays at 7:05 AM.

angry moms happy moms copy

 

First off let me say, I get it, I understand. I’m with you in the trenches of this one friend! We can all relate to being an angry mom at times and it doesn’t feel good to us or our kids. There is no doubt we have a tough job- I think it’s the toughest job there is. The kids are bickering, they’ve disobeyed or talked back and we’re yelling or worse…and then we feel awful. We feel like a failure.

For the month of February we’re going to talk about how to go from being angry moms to being happy moms.

This week we’re going to: admit it.

If we’ve blown it, we should own it. Pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t change the fact that we lost our temper and yelled at the kids.

Whether we do this alone in front of the mirror, in prayer, or with a trusted friend; we need to admit it. Being in denial doesn’t help; it just creates a bigger weight on our shoulders. The heaviness of guilt is miserable so getting it off our chest and putting it out there is freeing, even when we’re just admitting it to ourselves.

Taking responsibility for our actions can be difficult and humbling but it helps us start over. We may need to apologize to our kids. There is nothing wrong with asking our kids to forgive us, it gives our kids a great example of how they should handle their own mistakes. We can say, “I blew it and I’m sorry,” and if we said something cruel and we’ve torn away at their trust and respect, we need to use our words to do some repairing. It is a powerful way to teach them about what to do with guilt and bad behavior.

So, let’s take a step towards being a happy mom by admitting it if this is a struggle for us.

I admit it and will tell you that I need God’s help to overcome it. I can’t do it on my own and I have often stepped behind a closed door to pray and ask the Father to help me calm down and forgive me for losing my temper.

My friend Lysa Terkeurst wrote an excellent book: “Unglued~ Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” I highly recommend it, you can get it at this link, on Amazon or anywhere you buy books.

Here is an excerpt:
“In the quiet, God lifts us up to a more rational place. When we are in the heat of tangled mess, crazy emotions drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution, so ‘that God may life you up in due time’ (1 Peter 5:6.”

Moms, if you struggle with anger, you are not alone! I’m praying for you and for me and trusting that God will fill us with peace and joy and help us be happy moms.
I’d love you to leave a comment and let me know about your struggle or remedy to help you with anger.

 

If you’re not in the West Michigan area you can listen live on iHeart Radio anywhere in the world!

Check out Tommy and Brook’s page online at West Michigan STAR: Tommy and Brook

Their Facebook page: Tommy and Brook

And their Twitter: @TommyAndBrook

I’m Still a Recovering Pharisee

I’ve noticed something lately. I suppose it’s not a recent “thing” but it seems to be ramping up, or at least I’m just seeing it more.

NickMom calls it “Other Mothering.” Jon Acuff calls it Jesus Juke. I refer to myself as a recovering Pharisee. It takes on many forms and has been around since the dawn of man but I think that social media has propelled it to a whole new level.

It’s that attitude of needing to right all the wrongs (or in the Christian community-spiritualizing everything). It’s the desire to interject your opinion and make sure that others know how misled, misinformed or mistaken they are.

It’s as if Facebook has given us carte blanche to blurt, spew and puke our opinions out when we disagree with what someone says. It feels like we’ve become a world full of Lucy’s from the Peanuts cartoon. We’re the crabby, complaining know-it-alls putting up ‘The Doctor Is In’ sign and blurting our opinions out on flat screens around the world. It wouldn’t be so bad if we did it with the motive of actually helping or encouraging someone, but it appears to be more about attacking a different view than ours.

lucy-the-doctor-is-inDon’t get me wrong, I have no problem with dialogue of opposing ideas. I love it really. Let’s hash it out! I enjoy talking about the different ways we process life and what we believe. I am open to the discussion, but I want it to be a discussion, not an immature shouting match while hiding behind a computer screen. I think we’re a lot more gutsy behind the keyboard than across the table from one another, which doesn’t lead to connection, only division.

It feels fruitless and empty to me.

I shared a picture recently on Facebook of a deer that my Father-in-law shot. He was told just a few months ago that he may not ever walk again, but he is walking and he was able to go hunting with his son and shoot a trophy buck. I was so proud knowing that this was a big deal to him and what it represented in his life.

I posted a picture from my phone because I knew that so many of our family friends would be thrilled for him.

But.

Those who disagree with hunting felt it more important to share their opinions than allow me to celebrate this great moment. I was going to just ignore it until it got to the point that I knew when my hunting friends saw the comments they would rally back and a full-on argument would break out on a post that was supposed to be about my Father-in-law… so I pulled it down. I didn’t regret that I posted the picture or feel that I was wrong but I took it down because I was so irritated with those who high jacked my FB to tell the world their opinions.

I heard a conservative Christian leader say that we have to be extremely careful who we quote and make sure that we know that the person we are quoting is reputable and that we agree with everything they say or it will come back to bite us. I understand the philosophy behind his statement, but I disagree with him. Although I admit I have been bitten, especially when quoting someone like Oprah in the Christian community.

Why are we so afraid of different opinions?
I can remember when I was researching my challenged beliefs…I felt guilty for even questioning what I had been taught.

Rachel Held Evans, Elizabeth Esther, Rob Bell and Wayne Jacobsen are just a few who are stoking the fire and waking us up to conversations that we need to have. This doesn’t mean that I agree with everything they say, but I love the dialogue they are inspiring.

I can’t think of one person whom I agree with 100%. Does that mean I can’t listen to what they have to say? Does that mean I have to argue every point they make that I don’t like?  No. The Lord spoke though a rooster when he crowed 3 times but I don’t agree with everything roosters say. Same goes for donkeys.

I enjoy Beth Moore and Anne Lamott’s books. Quote either of them and you’re sure to tick someone off. Mother Teresa tends to be quite safe, and usually the Bible is too, but be careful with the Message translation because the King James Version only people are sure to let you know that you’re skating on thin ice.

Our world gets really small when we limit the voices around us. You don’t have to agree with everyone, and you don’t have to tell them when you don’t. But if you can further the conversation and be ok with not always coming to an agreed conclusion, than please do. I’ve found that the things I was once so belligerent about were usually based in my hope that the loudest voice wins. I was so wrong. But don’t be surprised if I blow it again…I’m still recovering.

Can we care about each other enough to listen?

 

You might like this one too…Is It Our Job to Point Out Sin.

You Were Not Created To Be Perfect, You Were Created To Be His

Excerpt from our online study: Becoming Me Through Him

button Becoming Me copy

Perfectionism.

I spent a lot of years wanting to look like I had it all together with the perfect little life.

Wife and mom…bible study, worship leader….I was hiding from my past by being good.

The enemy loves perfectionism because it halts our healing. A woman who struggles with shame will often use perfectionism to conceal her pain. It’s a giant wall that we hide behind, thinking it’s keeping us safe but it’s really just keeping us captive.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of shame and no one will know that behind that pretty church face is a scared little girl who desperately wants approval.

In the church world perfectionism can take on a few different looks:

  • The church lady who “lives at” the church taking care of everything from the office to the nursery and leading Bible study.
  • The Bible “know it all.”
  • The beautifully dressed woman with the perfectly manicured nails and smooth hair and the kids who look like they star in a Macy’s commercial.
  • The house, neat as a pin, in fact the pins even have their own special drawer…nothing is ever out of place.
  • The good wife or mom who leaves all other women feeling “less than” in her presence.
  • And I’m sure you can think of more…

Please don’t feel beat up if this is you, we are just peeling back another layer of lies…with the goal of getting free and finding out who He created us to be.

There is nothing wrong with a clean house or nice clothes, but if we are living this way because it gives us a sense of security or we want to impress others, then it is perfectionism. The question is, what drives or motivates us? What is behind our actions? Do we feel better about ourselves when we “perform” well?

“Acting” like a Christian makes you an actor. Living an honest, imperfect relationship with the Lord makes you real. When perfectionism is our game, we never really feel worthy of love because we know that we’re being fake.

We are all imperfect. But, when we see that TODAY He loves us and He believes we are worthy of love…we start to accept ourselves and we can live authentic lives and let Him redeem the broken parts.

The desire for perfection is another sign of brokenness. We think that being “perfect” will bring us comfort and happiness but nothing could be farther from the truth. It sets us up for failure, promising something that it can never give us: love and belonging.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” NIV

Now read it in the Message translation:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Religion has a way of pushing us to perform. Jesus did not come to bring us more religion, in fact he exposed religion for the lie that it was…

Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Jesus exposed perfectionism and called it wicked. He knew that it will only keep us from a relationship with the Father. Jesus came to show us a better way, He came to teach us about relationship not religion.

Religion is man’s best way to figure out how to perform better for God. Relationship is about family.

Having it all together on the outside while inside we’re striving for love, is empty and lonely. Let’s put perfectionism behind us ladies. We can’t be “good enough” to deserve God’s unconditional love. Unconditional =no conditions, no performance, no earning it.

I pray that the heavy weight of perfectionism is lifted off of you. Stop struggling to “get it all right” and start living. You were not created to be perfect, you were created to be His. Relationship first. Rest in Him. Let Him show you the ‘unforced rhythms of grace.’

You are loved.

Why Big Conferences and Mega Churches Are Not Enough

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed its’ the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

If there is one thing we are figuring out in the past ten years, it’s that systems and bullet point aren’t enough. We’ve been doctrined to death. We have access to more Bible studies, commentaries and guides than Justin Bieber has Twitter followers.

But we’re still hungry and unfulfilled.

So we go to conferences. We travel meeting to meeting, getting there early to snatch a good seat. We stand outside the door smiling at the other ladies in line all the while implementing: “Operation Get Down Front” that was hatched in the minivan on the way to the coliseum. We spread out, putting two women at each door because Jesus always sends us out in twos. We make sweet small talk with the ladies around us asking where they traveled from and how many kids they have, all the while pretending that we’re not in a cutthroat race against these capri wearing, Bible toting, scripture quoting, sleep deprived women. The doors open and it is game time. We keep our plastic smiles painted on as we swiftly walk, careful not to actually break into a jog, to the seats we want, swerving around the pokey women who obviously have no idea how this works. Finally, we settle on a spot, one woman on one side and another on the other and we throw coats purses and Bible onto all the seats in the middle.
Whew, we made it, time to fall in love with Jesus!

Is that still working for you? Me neither.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some conferences, and I will probably still attend a few, but I want more, I believe you do too. Crowds of Christians are stepping away from traditional churches/venues to find something more. Sadly I don’t think that stepping away really solves the heart of what we’re missing. I think we just need to get across the table and start connecting instead of lining up in rows next to each other listening to a speaker only to feel shame six months later when the life changing conference didn’t really change us. I’m not blaming the conference, I blame us. We want the easy fix. We want ten steps to freedom.

If we forget everything we know about church and church life, pretend we have never experienced any of it, then pick up a Bible and start reading the Gospels and book of Acts, and were asked to describe what the Christianity should look like, would you describe your life right now?

I think most of us would have to admit that we’re missing something.

Connections are what make life worth living. God is all about connections. Sometimes we get messed up in our thinking and we look at the Bible and see a set of rules, but it is a book about connection.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt 22:37-39

Connecting with God and connecting with others.

Connection requires taking the risk to care about someone outside your own skin.
It’s the willingness to lower the gate on our heart and experience new possibilities. New places for us to unfold and come alive with a realization that we’re not the only one weary of these roads we travel. There are women just like you, overwhelmed with marriage, motherhood or maybe just getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

John Cacioppo considered by many as one of the fathers of social neuroscience says:

“Our survival depends on collective abilities not our individual might. Our very health and well being depend on our ability to form and maintain satisfying social connections with one another.”

Studies show that those who are connected with family and friends are happier and healthier people. The emotional brain feels safer when we belong and have a connection with others; our brain has a basic need for security and protection. We are social beings. We feel better when we have friends and do things that we enjoy together. The way people respond to us is often a cue for telling ourselves “How lovable and acceptable I am.”

God created us for connection; our bodies and brains are hardwired for it. The brain is a social brain. We have neurons constantly firing; processing new experiences, creating pathways in our brain that information and emotion can travel.

Rascal Flatts were (was?) right , life IS a highway!

But if the neurons are not being used, if they’re not firing, they die off, by the millions. When they die off, connections in our brain are seemingly left at the edge of a cliff without a bridge. Eventually these neurons prune, shrivel and die just like we do if we are isolated and disconnected. Our experiences and relationship are powerful interventions that keep us alive and thriving.

When we feel safe in relationship, we engage, we interact and we bond or attach. This process releases oxytocin in us and that calms the fear center in our brain. It causes us to relax and rest in the comfort of relationships.

When we are wounded in relationships, we can quickly become apathetic towards the idea of connecting with people. When we become apathetic, our brains essentially go “offline,” it’s similar to the act of playing dead so the lion won’t eat us feeling.
It’s paralyzing to our relationships and ultimately our lives.

Social isolation, has been linked to an increased risk of infectious, cardiovascular, and many diseases.

When we can’t or won’t socially engage through friendships involving eye contact, meaningful conversation or emotionally connecting, our brain goes off line and the fear part of our brain takes over. It leads to stress and anxiety and produces an increased amount of cortisol in our body.

Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small amounts of cortisol are good for us. It’ gives us a quick burst of energy for survival, it helps us run from lions and lift cars off our children, it heightens memory functions and lowers sensitivity to pain. Cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important for the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.

Did you know that higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress and isolation) have been shown to have negative effects, such as: impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density and muscle tissue, higher blood pressure and lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences.  Over time, this seriously accelerates an age-related decline in health and well-being.

Most important, it also leads to increased abdominal fat.

Hello?! Healthy connections, are the key to losing our muffin tops!

God created us to live healthy and part of that is through meaningful connections. To keep cortisol low and oxytocin high we need to be connected to others. Family is one of the most important earthly connections we need but it’s not the only one. We also need friends. We need to connect with other women, especially those on similar journeys.

This, THIS is why I am so passionate about women connecting, encouraging and inspiring one another.

We’ve had a lot of interest in women starting Praise and Coffee groups in their community. It seems that once they realize that they just need to invite a couple friends out to a coffee shop or over to their kitchen table, they relax and jump in.
No centerpieces, door prizes or tackling women for a good seat, just real women, sharing life and stories around a table.

We believe wholeheartedly what the Bible says in Matt 18:20, that when 2 or 3 gather in His name, He comes.
No, you don’t need to call it Praise and Coffee, who cares what you call it, just do it!

But if you are interested in learning more about Praise and Coffee groups, we are holding a live chat in our online group for Praise and Coffee leaders. There is no cost, or sign up.
Click here to join us Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 9:00 PM EST for one hour or so. Ronel Sidney and I will be giving you ideas and answering questions. By joining us that night you are not committing to anything, we DO NOT want you to feel pressured to do one more thing unless God is leading you that way.

You are loved.

More: Loneliness is Not About Being Alone

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