Author Archives: jeanneharrison

3 Things to Tell Yourself When Others Prosper While You Suffer

how-to-deal-with-jealous-peopleHave you ever noticed that suffering makes us keenly aware of the blessings of others?  It’s the woman recovering from a miscarriage who’s the first to notice all the pregnant bellies in the grocery store.  The laid-off employee who feels like every Facebook friend is celebrating a fulfilling career.  The spread-thin single mom, who watches husbands hauling baby carriers into church.

There was a season in my life when it felt like God said, “No,” to every request I asked of Him.  I stored up those “No”s in my heart like an old woman in a house full of cats, daily nursing my grievances with God.  Finally, out of nowhere, I received an unexpected blessing.  It was a very small thing, so when it fell through a few months later, my husband couldn’t understand why I took it so hard.  As we cooked in the kitchen (well, technically he was cooking and I was sobbing on a stool), I finally managed to choke, “It just felt like it was a sign that God still loved me.”

In the weeks to come, God impressed three truths upon me that deeply comforted me and radically changed my perspective.  The first was this:

I do not need a single blessing from God to know that He loves me.  I only need to look to the cross to know that He loves me.  When we look solely at the circumstances of our lives, it often feels like God plays favorites.  Like He loves sweet Susie Jane with her happy family and easy life more than he loves you and me.  I used to comfort myself by thinking that one day the boot may drop on Susie Jane’s perfect life, too.  But it may not.  People really do face varying degrees of suffering while on earth.  And even if the boot did squash Susie Jane for a season, is it really biblical to delight in her suffering?  To hope for it, even?  Of course not.

I still remember the day God whispered those bolded words above into my heart.  All at once I saw the cross again.  And just like that, I had proof…MIGHTY proof that God had not forgotten me.  Just like that, I didn’t need to test Him anymore, because the test had been given on a hill long ago, and He had passed with flying colors.  Months later, my insecurity was triggered all over again when a sweet friend received the very blessing I ached for.  As I cried to God in bed, I could almost hear Him pleading with such earnest passion, “Look to the cross!  I promise I love you–look to the cross!”  You know what?  In a thousand years I wouldn’t trade that intimate and powerful moment for a fleeting, earthly blessing.  Which brings me to lesson #2:

In God’s economy, spiritual blessing always outweighs earthly blessing.  In the allegorical book, Hinds Feet on High Places, Much-Afraid embarks on a journey to the High Places.  As she is about to set off, the Shepherd promises her, “I have most carefully chosen for you two of the very best and strongest guides.”  Much-Afraid is horrified to learn that the guides are named Suffering and Sorrow.  But later in her journey, when the Shepherd asks her how she feels about them, this is what she says:

“I never could have believed it possible, Shepherd, but in a way I have come to love them…They do truly want to get me up to the High Places, not just because it is the commandment which You have given them, but also because they want a horrid coward like myself to get there and be changed.  You know, Shepherd, it makes a great difference in my feelings towards them not to look upon them any longer with dread, but as friends who want to help me.”

This is exactly what passages like James 1:2-4 want us to see!  God designs suffering to make us more like Christ.  Much as I despise encountering Sorrow and Suffering on my own journey, they are the most excellent tutors I have ever known.  And nothing is more encouraging than looking back over my life and realizing that because of them, I am no longer the cowardly girl I once was…or the arrogant teenager…or the idolatrous young adult.  That is the truest blessing.  Becoming like Jesus is more valuable than birthing children, or winning awards, or finding a spouse, or any other earthly blessing we could ever beg for.

I am not called to evaluate the lives and circumstances of others.  I am only called to follow God myself.  The final stop on my journey to accepting personal suffering in light of other people’s prosperity was John 21.  Right after Jesus prophesies about Peter’s future death, Peter glances at John and says exactly what I would’ve said: “Lord, what about this man?”  To which Jesus beautifully replies, “If it is my will that he remain (alive) until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me!”

Wow.  And ouch.  If it is My will, that she receive the blessing you wanted…what is that to you?  If it is My will to write the story of your life completely differently than you wanted Me to…what is that to you?  If it is My will to say “yes” to him and “no” to you…what is that to you?  You follow me.

Dear believer, you and I are called to one thing only.  Jesus Himself.  To love Him enough to follow Him…no matter whatAs Much-Afraid finally came to see in the Valley of Loss: “Right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for Himself.  All she wanted was to be allowed to follow Him forever.”

Sometimes only valleys and deserts can teach us that.

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5 Secrets for Surviving Disney with Preschoolers

disney-magic-kingdom

This summer we spent one magical day at the happiest, sweaty-est, most crowded place on earth.  When my 4-year-old asked if we could go home before we even made it out of the parking lot, I felt the first wave of dread.  In the end it really was a special day, but with all my newfound Disney knowledge, I feel compelled to share the top 5 things that can make or break your next visit with Mickey.

#1: Arrive at the Park One Hour Before it Opens
Did you know it takes nearly thirty minutes to get from the parking lot to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom?  Yeah, me neither.  Those thirty minutes include one shuttle ride followed by either a monorail or ferry ride.  If you’re in the parking lot one hour before the park opens, you’ll probably be through in twenty minutes.  If you arrive when the park opens you’ll find yourself waiting in the parking lot with hundreds of people who are more than willing to shove a 2-year-old out of the way to beat you onto the shuttle.  If (like us) you are also trying to cram a jogging stroller onto said shuttle, you may as well just set up camp.  Now I know what you’re thinking: if we make it to the entrance so early, what are we going to do until the park opens?  Before the ropes drop, the very front of the park is actually open.  Characters often greet guests, and if you go into the visitor’s station, people celebrating a special event—even if it’s just their first time at Disney—get a free button, guaranteeing a little more attention from staff.  And just imagine how many rides you can get in when the ropes do drop and everybody else is elbowing their way onto the shuttle in the parking lot.

#2: Reserve Your FASTPASS Experiences Ahead of Time
Every guest is allowed 3 free FastPasses.  This means, you may choose 3 attractions in which you bypass the regular line.  A-mazing.  The FastPass line usually takes 5 minutes or less.  But if you wait until you’re at the park to sign up, you’ll find yourself standing in line at a FastPass kiosk for hours.  Moreover, the only times available for the popular rides will probably be after 8pm.  Instead, you should reserve your FastPasses online or through the My Disney Experience App.  Guests staying at a Disney hotel can book their FastPasses up to 60 days in advance; all other guests can book them 30 days in advance.  When you enter your selections, you’ll be given different time options.  If you’re vacationing in the off-season, choose early time slots because as soon as you use up your 3 FastPass experiences, you can reserve more.  If, however, you’re vacationing during a hot, busy season (like summer), choose afternoon time slots when you’ll be the most exhausted.  If the park is crowded, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reserve additional FastPasses.  My last piece of FastPass advice—don’t waste them on older rides like “It’s a Small World” or “Dumbo.”  Those lines are always relatively short.

#3: Book a Character Lunch
If you’re vacationing in the busy season, make a lunch reservation!  There’s nothing like bypassing a monstrous crowd and stepping into a gloriously air-conditioned restaurant.   We opted for a character lunch, and it surprised me how much our preschool (and even school-aged) gang loved it.  Back when I was a kid, characters roamed the streets of Walt Disney World, but not anymore.  Now, you have to stand in line to meet virtually anyone.  Greeting characters while you eat is the best of both worlds.  It entertains the kids and makes you feel less bad about skipping the 2 hour line to meet Rapunzel.  As far as options for character dining in the Magic Kingdom, there are only two: The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh’s gang, or Cinderella’s Royal Table with several princesses.  Both have pros and cons.  The Crystal Palace is cheaper and easier to book.  (Cinderella’s Table usually fills six months in advance!)  A lot of reviewers think the food is better at Cinderella’s palace (for $60 a plate, it ought to be!), although the Crystal Palace is buffet style, which is nice for starving, impatient preschoolers.

#4: Visit Dumbo’s Secret (Indoor!) Playground
This is the best kept secret at Disney.  If you need an afternoon pick me up that doesn’t involve money or sugar, go to the Dumbo ride.  The line begins outside, but quickly takes you through a tunnel into a blessedly frigid play place.  It was designed to entertain kids while they wait for the ride.  On busy days a hostess offers you a buzzer (just like at a restaurant) and your kids can play while you wait for the buzzer to go off.  But even though we went at the peak of summer, the line wasn’t long enough to necessitate the buzzer.  So the hostess simply gave us the option of playing or riding Dumbo.  I literally watched kids sobbing as their parents hauled them away from the playground to ride Dumbo!  That’s how appealing a cold playground can be on a scorching summer afternoon!

#5: Go Lightweight with the Gear
I packed a backpack you’d need American Ninja Warrior biceps to budge.  I wanted to be ready for anything, but we quickly learned less is more when you’re hiking through a hot theme park on foot.  Skip the Gatorade bottles and disposable water bottles.  All you need is one refillable bottle because every restaurant is required to fill your water bottle for free.  Hot, melting snacks aren’t as appealing as you’d think, so only pack a few.  If it’s summer time, it’s worth investing in a pair of real UV sunglasses for the kids and packing sunscreen.  Finally, (unless you plan to rent one) bring a stroller.  We opted for a jogging stroller thinking it’d be more comfortable, but the truth is, exhausted kids aren’t picky.  Take the skimpy umbrella stroller and it’ll be much easier to maneuver, especially on and off the shuttle!

Any tips to add??  Leave them in the comment section below!

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A Different Kind of Book about Lust

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I used to view lust like an ugly garden snake, lurking behind bushes to snare the unsuspecting.  I was always surprised to learn that so-and-so was battling a pornography addiction, or such-and-such friend read those kind of novels, or sweet Lucy-Sue from our youth group was texting…wait, what kind of pictures?  

Then life happened.  And with it came exposure…to people, and college, and dating, and marriage, and ministry.  Gradually, my ability to be surprised eroded entirely.  And I was glad.  Because when a timid teenage girl sat down to confide in me, I could confidently promise, “You can tell me anything.  I won’t judge.  Trust me, I’ve heard it all.”  I preferred this un-shockable version of myself because she had far more compassion and humility than the naive girl I’d left behind.

The only problem was, the “new me” began to teem with doubt.  Somewhere along my road to awareness, the sneaky little garden snake had morphed into Godzilla, and try as I might, I couldn’t muster much hope for those struggling with sexual sin.

Then one day this summer I found Heath Lambert’s new book Finally Free sitting on our doorstep in an Amazon package.  The book is specifically geared toward breaking free from pornography, and my husband (who’s counseled several men battling porn) planned to read it with a friend as a ministry resource.

“You want to read it, too?”  Clint asked when he caught me perusing the back cover.

I shook my head.  “Nah, how’s a book about porn going to help me?”

But one boring evening when Clint was completely engrossed in some theology blog, I picked it up again.  “Wow,” I said, twenty minutes later.  “This book is incredible.”

“I know,” Clint remarked without looking up from his iPad.

“Do you know what I’m reading?”

“Yup,” he said.

What the Book is About
Like most Christians, I’ve put in my due time with purity books, especially as a teenager.  But what makes Finally Free different is its approach.  So many books about purity enlist outward techniques as tools in the war against lust.  But Lambert’s book enlists one far mightier tool: the gospel of Christ.

I know what you’re thinking: impractical.  Actually, it’s just the opposite.  Chapter one teaches that grace is the foundation in the fight against pornography.  While most people recognize the importance of forgiving grace, Lambert points out that there is also a deep need for transforming grace.  In the remaining chapters, he explains eight essential strategies for fighting pornography, each rooted and saturated in Scripture.  To win the battle against porn, Christians must use sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, their spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.  Each chapter covers one of these principles, faithfully tied back to the need for forgiving and transforming grace as the power behind the principle.

Why You Ought to Read It (Even if You’re a Girl)
We all know girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.  We smell better than boys, organize our stuff better, and certainly don’t struggle with pornography, right?    Maybe.  But sugar and spice notwithstanding, you and I have been touched by the Fall.  Whether we realize it or not, sin has marred virtually every aspect of our lives, including our understanding of sexuality.  So the first reason you ought to read this book is…

Because everyone battles lust to some degree.
You can apply 95% of this book to your life if you simply substitute the concept of “pornography” with the concept of “lust.”  For instance, pretend you struggle with watching romantic movies that make you discontent in your marriage.  Yearning for somebody else’s love story is a form of lust.  For the sake of brevity let’s just call it “fantasizing.”  Now consider this excerpt from chapter 8, and substitute “porn” for “fantasizing”:

“If you struggle with porn, one of your greatest needs is to grow in the grace of gratitude.  Porn is only consumed by thankless people.  The desire for porn is a desire to escape from what the Lord has given you into a fake universe full of things you do not have and will never have.  Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed.  Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not.  Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.”

Do you see how easily (and powerfully) the principle of gratitude applies to the temptation to fantasize?  In fact, you could take almost any sin stronghold, sexual or otherwise, and bear fruit from the principles in this book.  But another reason you ought to read it is…

Because you know (or will know) someone broken by pornography.
The greatest thing this book did for me was restore my hope.  It made me see that lust may be Godzilla, re-orienting our world in the wake of its destruction, but the gospel of Christ is mightier still.  If you know someone struggling with pornography, especially if it’s a spouse, this book can give you great insight into the battle so that you know how to partner with him.  (There is also an appendix specifically written for families of men struggling with porn.)  It will also equip you to engage in the war against pornography that may one day threaten your own son.  Or the teenagers in your church.  Or your best friend’s husband.

As believers, we are called to engage the culture with a biblical perspective on all aspects of life.  Before reading this book I lacked that perspective on lust, and as a result I approached it with a multitude of wrong attitudes: self-righteousness, pride, fear, doubt, and discouragement.  But with Heath Lambert’s help…or more accurately, Scripture’s help…I now look at this mighty beast with two new attitudes: FAITH and HOPE.

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What Kids Really Want

busy kids

America has long been hailed as the land of opportunities.  Every decade they seem to grow exponentially.  Do you want to start your own business?  Self-publish an e-book?  Become a YouTube rock star?  It’s never been easier.  But we aren’t the only ones with ever-widening opportunities.  Our kids are growing up in a world few of their grandparents could’ve imagined.  No longer is summer about trading baseball cards and kicking around a soccer ball.  It’s about science camp, ballet lessons, downloading Apps, online gaming, and gluten-free, dairy-free, GMO-free snacks in BPA-free containers.  Options.  If there’s one thing we have as parents in the 21st century, it’s options.  Which is a good thing, right?

A few months ago we went to a restaurant in Kentucky that served only grilled cheese sandwiches.  How they took America’s simplest sandwich and came up with 58 options on their menu is beyond me.  But I’ll say this, I felt like my brain cells were shrinking as I spent twenty minutes trying to pick a grilled cheese sandwich.  Yes, options provide opportunities, but they also complicate life.  As parents, they create an undercurrent of pressure.  We want (and often feel compelled) to give our kids everything.  Every advantage, every opportunity, every collectible My Little Pony Equestrian doll.  We want to nurture every talent, support every interest, cater to every preference.  Because after all, isn’t that what the Jones’s are doing?

This summer I agonized to the point of insanity over school options for my eldest.  Did I mention she is entering pre-K?  As in pre-Kindergarten.  As in the grade before the grade in which you spend 30% of the day coloring.  But you know what?  I love my daughters.  This is why I agonize.  But it’s not the only reason I agonize.  I also agonize because I don’t trust God.  And because I idolize my children’s well-being.  And because I’m arrogant enough to want to be the best mom in the world.

Last month my husband suggested we read a little book by Kevin DeYoung called “Crazy Busy.” DeYoung (Hmm…I wonder why he thought we needed to read that??)  Among other things, the book presents seven diagnoses to consider regarding our crazy busy lives.  I was especially struck by diagnosis #4: “You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids.”  (Kevin’s words, not mine!)  He cites a survey conducted by Ellen Galinsky in which more than a thousand school-aged children were asked what one thing they would change about how their parents’ work affected them.  Parents were surprised to find that the children seldom wished for more time with them.  Rather, the vast majority wished their parents were less tired and less stressed.  DeYoung borrows the term “secondhand stress” to describe the way children feel in a constantly frazzled environment.  Listen to this:

“By trying to do so much for them, we are actually making our kids less happy.  It would be better for us and for our kids if we planned fewer outings, got involved in fewer activities, took more breaks from the kids, did whatever we could to get more help around the house, and made parental sanity a higher priority.”

The first time I read this, I had to re-read it.  Wait a minute—did he just say take more breaks from the kids?  Get more help around the house?  By doing these things, I may end up being a better parent for them?  I found myself exhaling.  In the tightrope of parenting, it felt like someone had just cut me some much needed slack.  If DeYoung is right, and what my kids really want (although they are too young to express it) is a mom who is at peace, then maybe I don’t need to feel so guilty every time I drop my girls off with a babysitter.  Or throw a pizza in the oven and pop in a movie.  Maybe these aren’t the “survival” choices, but occasionally, the better ones.  The ones that de-frazzle the week, lower the hyper-high-performance bar, and give my kids the sense of calm they ache for.

Maybe all this goes to show that parenting ought to be less about doing and more about being.  Less about co-sleeping debates and pacifier anxiety, and more about becoming a woman centered on Christ.  Less about performance and guilt, and more about daily finding hope in the grace of the gospel.  Because despite the fact that my kids still beg for the things everybody else has, one day when they look  back on their childhood, they’ll remember more than all the activities and opportunities.  They’ll remember what kind of home they had, be it peaceful…or crazy busy.

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Returning to the Rhythm

Boy, have I missed you!  As always, the season for rest has flown by, and suddenly it’s back to the grind.  I don’t know what the daily grind looks like for you, but I imagine it may include packing lunches and buying pencils, putting away the sunscreen and inflatables, breaking out a college textbook, or heading to the office by 7am.  There’s a sense of comfort and order to it…but also dread, isn’t there?  Here. we. go.  There’s no escaping the stresses and struggles when vacation is over and we’re returning to the rhythm.

And yet a week ago, when I thought about all the mundane work ahead, the strangest sensation came over me.  I felt grateful.  If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know contentment is not my forte, so the sensation shocked me.  I found myself driving down the road, thanking God for work.  The pleasure and purpose of hard work.  In the past sixteen weeks I’ve been reminded that it is, indeed, a gift.  Why sixteen weeks?  Because that’s how long I’ve been carrying baby #3!

Coming this Christmas...baby #3!

Coming this Christmas…baby #3!

It’s been 2½ years since I’ve been pregnant, and let me just say–wow.  I forgot how exhausting it is.  That’s part of the reason I took a summer sabbatical.  For weeks as I laid on the sofa, trying to stay awake and not hurl my breakfast across the living room, I kept thinking about my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses.  I have always admired their outlook on life, but as pregnancy changed my daily agenda from “thrive” to “survive” I began to wonder, how do they do it?  How do they transcend their body’s cry for physical relief?  For weeks, I felt like I didn’t care if I read the Bible or put away the dishes.  I was a toddler intent on one thing only–my immediate, felt needs.  Give me that hotdog before I puke.  If you let me take a nap, I’ll let you eat all the chocolate in the house.  Everytime I thought about the women I know who thrive spiritually and emotionally in the face of constant physical discomfort, I was deeply convicted.  I can’t say that I overcame the way my friends have.  By God’s grace, I just sort of stumbled into trimester #2.  But I can say that as the morning sickness eased and my strength returned, I embraced work with renewed vigor…and thankfulness.

Speaking of work, let me update you on some of mine.  This summer I gave my blog a little facelift and (finally!) set up a Loving My Lot Pinterest page, which you can follow by clicking on the link to the right.  Months ago I was invited to join the Christian bloggers’ Pinterest board “Heart and Home.”  Feel free to check it out if you’re Pinterest savvy!  I’ve also undertaken another writing project I feel strongly called to pursue…in the midst of pregnancy and preschoolers!  All this to say, thank God I’m thanking God for work, because I’ve got mine cut out for me!

And I know you do, too.  As we move forward into fall, may we rejoice in the work God has set before us, “look(ing) to the Lord and his strength; seek(ing) his face always” (Psalm 105:4).

(Photo Credit)

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A Fresh Summer’s Work (and Rest)

It’s that time again.  Last summer, I took a two month blogging sabbatical, and this summer I am sorely tempted to forge on through.  Partly because I love to write, partly because I fear loss of readership (oh, vanity, my constant companion!), but mostly because of you.  Every few days when I scroll through my emails, there will be one or two from readers.  Always, I can’t wait to see what you’ll say.  Sometimes you have an idea or an opportunity to offer, and sometimes you just want to share a little bit of your life.  With me.  Few things in this world make me feel more undeservedly blessed.  Somehow, amazingly, through the wonders of technology and the grace of God, He has allowed me to meet people all over the world.  And what’s more, to encourage them, share my broken story with them, and celebrate Christ’s mercy together.  That is my favorite part of blogging.  I thought it would be the writing, but it’s actually the impacting.  It’s you.  Being a small part of your life.

For this very reason, I’m reluctant to say farewell for the summer.  But if I were honest (which is always my first priority in writing), I would admit that my batteries need recharging.  My soul needs time to meditate on God’s Word for no purpose other than personal growth.  To soak it in without immediately thinking about how to spew it back out.  Not to mention, I welcome the chance to spend a little less time online and a little more time like this. P1060355
Besides quiet reflection and loud play, there’s one other item on my summer agenda.  It’s a project of sorts that’s been sitting on the back burner of my mind for months now.  This summer I want to explore it–maybe embrace it, maybe chuck it.  Either way, if God brings me to mind, I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Here’s to hoping God grants us both a rejuvenating summer, filled with laughter, purpose, and the peaceful satisfaction of Christ.  See you in August!

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Moms Night Out

In case you’ve been wondering, I haven’t been abducted, just sick!  Our busy schedule is winding down as summer approaches, and all at once my body is exhausted.  So last night, when my kids’ MMO program offered childcare and a free ticket to the new movie Moms Night Out, I was right on time.
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I hadn’t seen a single trailer and had no idea what the movie was about, although for free childcare I would’ve seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The movie began by introducing a clean-freak wannabe Mommy blogger barely holding it together in the crazy, messy chaos of her world.  Yikes.  If I had red hair (and a nicer house) it would’ve been like watching the story of my life.  At one point, the main character tells her husband something like, “This is the life I always wanted.  So…why do I feel so unhappy?”  So much work, so much exhaustion, so little sense of self.  That was what her life looked like.  And boy, could I relate to her.  I could relate all the way down in my bones.  And as I watched her story unfold, it struck me that all these feelings must be much more common than I realize.

Patricia Heaton (of Everybody Loves Raymond) plays the wise and like-able pastor’s wife, who gives us a glimpse of mothering a teenager.  When I realized her husband was played by Alex Kendrick (think Facing the Giants, Courageous…etc.) I’ll admit I had a moment of “eesh, I hope this isn’t cheesy.”   And you know what?  It was, at moments.  There were spells of over-acting and slapstick humor.  But there were also truly hysterical moments, that prove you don’t have to be crude to be funny.  And more importantly, there was a sense of resolution for the main character, a recognition that maybe a lot of the discouragement and discontentment in motherhood comes from expectations we heap upon ourselves.  The unrealistic standards that nobody (except you) expect of you.

Is it Oscar worthy?  Of course not.  This movie has been trashed among Hollywood critics.  But for the first time in a long time, I left a movie feeling like my heart had been a little bit refreshed.  I left a movie grateful for my messy life, and not longing for the romantic adventure of Charlize Theron’s sexy life.  I left a movie without the slightest twinge of guilt over the things I’d just seen and enjoyed.  And to me, that’s a pretty good moms night out.

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Counter-Cultural Parenting

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

After giving up a career as a TV reporter for motherhood, Jenny went on to found and host Channelmom.

Yesterday I got to chat with Jenny Schmidt of Channelmom about making special occasions more Christ-centered for our kids.  If you’re not familiar with Channelmom, it’s a radio show broadcasted out of Denver that tackles a wide variety of “Mommy issues” from a Christian perspective.  If you’re free TODAY around 6:30pm (Eastern Time), click on the link below to listen to the interview live!

http://channelmom.com/listen-live/ 

Why the Bunny Makes Me Nervous

easter-basket-ideas-1024x810There are so many things I do just because.  Because that’s the way my parents did it.  Because that’s the way everybody does it.  Because that’s just what you do.  But daily I am growing more convinced that just because living is not only foolish, but dangerous.  The Bible calls us very clearly to a single purpose–that everything we do, say, think, believe, desire, accept, reject, love, and hate must glorify God so that His name will be great in our lives and among the nations.  If that is the mission then everything we do or don’t do must be filtered through that lens.

Around this time of year, moms often ask me whether we “do” the Easter bunny.  And I offer a very vague response.  “No, I never grew up with the Easter bunny.”  I’m vague because I know the Easter bunny is not sinful, in and of himself.  I know that many parents who are passionate about Jesus and His mission, choose to surprise their children on Easter morning with a basket of gifts from the Easter bunny.  I know that to many it is a special, even magical, family tradition.  And I know that of every people group on the planet, no one heaps as much guilt upon themselves as mothers.  Our hearts are fodder for guilt.  And the last thing I ever want to do is fan the flame of false condemnation.

So hear my heart when I say, I’m not writing as Super-Mom or Super-Holier-Than-Thou-Mom.  Those things disgust me, because they’re lies.  They discredit all Christ’s work in my life.  I am writing as a sister, who is learning something that I want to share in love:  We don’t do the Easter bunny because we don’t think the Easter bunny is the most effective way to glorify God at Easter.

It’s not the bunny, so much as the gifts he brings.  A few weeks ago, we took our kids to a downtown festival.  Disaster.  Much of it was poor parenting–we didn’t set limits in advance or warn them that we weren’t going to ride, play, eat, and buy everything in sight.  Suffice to say, it was miserable.  On the way home, my husband made the remark that the festival was like Sin City for kids.  It had everything they desired.  It catered to all their cravings.  And the more they consumed, the more demanding and ungrateful they became.  In essence, we thrust them into temptation without any training to stand up under it.

The Bible warns against putting obstacles or “stumbling blocks” in the way of a brother or sister (Rom 14:13, I Cor 8:9), and this is my greatest fear when it comes to the Easter bunny.  If the gospel is the most important message I can ever convey to my children, and if their understanding of it and receptivity to it determines the satisfaction of their life and the security of their eternal home, then why would I put any obstacle in their path that may distract from the gospel?  When my girls hear the word Easter, I don’t want them to squeal in delight because their first thought is that a bunny will bring them a Barbie doll.  And I know my girls.  I know that just like their mom, their flesh is weak toward materialism.  I know that just like their mom, they constantly seek false refuges for satisfaction.  Just like their mom, they’re tempted to believe that things can fulfill them more than Jesus can fulfill them.

I know that only God saves (Jn 6:44), but I want to set my daughters up to see the gospel by creating a home where as few things as possible compete with it.  My daughters have a mother who still believes that television and the latest Pamela Schoenewaldt novel is more satisfying and restful than Christ.  They have a mother who still studies the Bible like it’s suggested summer reading.  Who still can’t even wrestle her own weak flesh out of the bed to meet with the God of the universe.  It is hard enough.  It is hard enough to grasp the magnitude and implications of the gospel.  It’s hard enough to shake the worldliness out of our vastly diluted cultural Christianity.  Why add one more opportunity for our kids to turn the focus of Easter into a focus on self?

Let me, please, pour out this confession in closing: sometimes I don’t want to write anything to you because I am so deeply and painfully aware of my own failure as a Christian.  If only you could really see me (I’m talking Nanny-cam see me), you would never feel threatened by me.  Instead, you would say, Man, God is INCREDIBLE to have not given up on her.

And that’s why I have the confidence to write to you.  Because God is incredible.  His grace is incredible!  We still do Easter egg hunts and bouncy house family fun days, and a thousand other things every day of the year that could threaten to distract from the gospel.  We are by no means that perfect family.  We are simply growing by grace, and I want to share with you the things God is teaching me so that we can think together, worship together, and rejoice in the grace of God together.

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3 (delicious!) Vegetarian Crock-Pot Recipes

Don’t you just love 5pm, when everybody under the age of ten has a nervous breakdown the moment it’s time to start cooking?  Me too.  Which is why I’m such a fan of crock-pot cooking.  Unfortunately, it can be tough to find healthy crock-pot recipes that call for natural ingredients.  Hello, Cooking Light magazine!  Every week I’ve been trying one new vegetarian crock-pot recipe from their list of fourteen.  These are my 3 favorites:

Tofu and Chickpea Curry oh3657p175-tofu-chickpea-curry-l
2 cups cubed peeled sweet potato
2 cups small cauliflower florets
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (16 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained (I used 2 packages)
1 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Place first 11 ingredients in slow cooker; stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  2. Place tofu on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Press to absorb excess moisture; cut into ½ inch cubes.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add tofu; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, turning with a spatula. Stir into vegetable mixture in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 30 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice.
    (This curry dish was my favorite of the favorites.  Really yummy, but mild enough that the kids liked it too.)

Barley, Black Bean, and Corn Burritos 
2 cups vegetable or chicken brothoh3657p168-barley-bean-corn-burritos-l
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
¾ cup frozen whole-kernel corn
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground red pepper
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Flour tortillas
Toppings: cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, avocado, cilantro

  1. Place first 11 ingredients in slow cooker; stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in 1/4 cup cilantro.
  2. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Spoon 2/3 cup barley mixture down center of each tortilla. Add toppings as desired.
    (My husband likes lots of flavor, and this one was his favorite.  It’s a little spicy, but with some sour cream the kids ate it right up.)

Pinto Bean Chili with Corn and Winter Squash
1 tablespoon olive oil oh3657p190-pinto-bean-chili-corn-squash-l
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
5 cups cubed butternut squash
3 cups cooked pinto beans
1 ½ cups water
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1 tsp salt
1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chiles, undrained
Toppings: sour cream, diced avocado, lime wedges

  1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add chili powder and cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  2. Place onion mixture in slow cooker. Add butternut squash and next 6 ingredients.  Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until vegetables are tender and chili is thick. Serve with sour cream, avocado, and lime wedges.
    (I thought this one tasted even better the second day.  The butternut squash and corn adds a really nice, slightly sweet flavor.  Unfortunately, it was still too spicy for my kids.  I ended up feeding them the ingredients separately–roasted squash, plain corn, and pinto beans.)

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