On wide open spaces

The world throws so many to-do's at me. From Facebook to Pinterest to commercials, I'm surrounded by ways the world wants me to be prettier, more organized, more holy. And even though I say I believe my salvation is by faith, I try to earn it. I try to live up, to be the best, and all my striving wears me out. It's the American way, to pull myself up by my bootstraps -- but it sure is exhausting and never seems to get me very far.

And over time my dreams have become narrow, my heart small, because all of this striving is too much. And no matter how clean the house may get on Saturday, on Sunday it's dirty again. No matter how much quality time I spend with my kids, or friends, or husband... they eventually let me down and eventually need more of me, maybe more than I have to give. And being defined by the things I DO eventually turns into being defined by the things I can't do, the ways I failed.

Jesus made a better way. He made a way for me to be good, without my doing. A way for me to be whole, alive, renewed, redeemed, apart from my doing. He died so I don't have to be burdened by my failure. He died so I don't have to be punished for the things I do wrong every day. He died so I don't have to beat myself up over all of the ways I fall short.

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." Romans 8:1-2 (emphasis mine)

This free way of living is so foreign to me still; I barely know what it looks like. Now I see through a dim mirror, but someday I will see and experience that freedom fully.

I do know this -- belonging to Christ, living by the Spirit, looks like life and peace.

"So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace." Romans 8:6

It looks like giving up control.

"But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)" Romans 8:9

It looks like resurrection.

"The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you." Romans 8:11

It looks like belonging to a perfect Father, who guides and provides and cares for me.

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." Romans 8:14

Flickr: Kristin Schmit

So I'm giving in. I'm refusing to be led by my old self, to be led by the pressures of this world. I'm opening up to life in the wide open spaces, twirling with my arms spread, my heart ready to be moved by Him alone.

Is there an image that represents freedom to you? Are you living in the wide open spaces, or feeling the pressure? xoxo


On buying shoes and mommy guilt

My mother-in-law is watching the boys this afternoon. Five whole hours to myself, and a million things I could do. And so I go shoe-shopping alone for the first time in years, and pick out my first pair of black pumps ever, and my first pair of Converse All-Stars ever. I meander Target with a venti white chocolate mocha in hand. And when the sales lady at the shoe store asks me if I feel guilty shopping without my kids -- I say "no; just relieved".

For some reason it seems that moms feel the burden of guilt more heavily than most. We are relied on so greatly, with responsibilities and pressure all around, that when we take a break it sometimes feels wrong. We're so used to running the show that sitting in the audience and enjoying it feels like slacking.

Take a deep breath, lovely. It's okay to give up control.

When you have that lump in your throat, that tightening of your chest, and the guilt starts to pull you down -- think. Ask yourself why. Is your guilt deserved, or imagined? Is it self-imposed, or is it true conviction from God?

Our expectations are so high, when we compare ourselves to everyone else's version of "perfect". We see the clean homes at parties, and the adorable crafts on Pinterest, and we think we must not measure up. Ask yourself -- whose "perfect" are you living up to? Is it your husband's expectations (or the ones you think he has)? Is it your kids' version of perfect? (A movie and popcorn might do.) Or is it God's perfection?

Don't you know? He already sees you whole. He already sees you righteous. And even though he sees every one of your dust bunnies and bitter thoughts, he loves you. He cares way more about you than about anything you strive to do.

In all of your rushing, get wisdom. In all of your striving, get understanding. In all of your worrying, give thanks. In all of your grasping, lay it down. And then? When your to-do list is led by the gust of wind that is God's Spirit? Then you will be free.

And if you need an afternoon off to buy shoes? If God's Spirit tells you it's okay to feel pretty? Do it. ;)


Working moms -- you're not alone

Welcome! Today is the launch of (in)courage's second session of (in)courager groups, and I'm excited to share the story of the working new moms group. To join, see instructions at the end!

Motherhood can be a lonely thing. Even if you have a sweet, understanding, helpful spouse, and the best friends in the world, it can be lonely. Sometimes only another mom can truly get the exhaustion, emotions, and challenges you face.

And sometimes, being a working mom can feel even lonelier. You may not have time for play dates, MOPS groups, or early childhood classes. You may only see other moms in passing, while picking up your child from day care, or church childcare. You may mostly hear other moms' stories on Facebook, and you may only hear the edited part of the story. Maybe you mostly see other moms in the pictures they post on their blogs or Instagram, and only see the filtered part of the story. You may feel like nobody understands your story.

Sweet working mom, you are not alone.

Oh, mamas -- I know. When I joined the forces of working moms, I was 21 and just over one year into marriage. Most of my friends were in college, dating, and had no way of understanding that part of my life. I'm grateful that they tried, that they stuck with me while I posted thousands of pictures of my boy on Facebook, while I talked about breastfeeding and cloth diapers and exhaustion. But it was still lonely. I'm grateful for the help and advice my mom and mother-in-law gave. But it was still lonely.

You are loved. You belong.

So on my lunch breaks and pumping breaks, I turned to mommy blogs. I found a place for my heart to be understood at O My Family, Passionate Homemaking, Keeper of the Home, and later on, at The Gypsy Mama and Girl with Blog. I found moms who were going through the same joys and pains, who had the same questions about how to diaper and feed our babies. I found grace and mercy.

Enter: (in)courage.
I started reading (in)courage a couple of years ago, and fell in love with their heart for encouraging women to become who Jesus wants them to be. When they invited women to start their own (in)courager groups and I saw working moms on the list, I felt butterflies in my heart and I knew -- other working moms also needed a space to belong. And my friend Anna knew too.

Our group for (in)couraging working new moms started in the Fall, as a Facebook group where moms could come to be understood. It became a group of friends; a group of women who pray, support, counsel, and love each other. Anna and I write blog posts weekly just for "our girls", and check in throughout the week to pray, encourage, and share with each other. More important than the activities we do -- I truly believe God is using this group to change our hearts; to help us embrace our calling as working moms.

This group is for those of you who wake before the sun, carry too many bags to work, and spend your break times pumping or dreaming of your baby. It's for you, strong mama - the one who is up to her ears in laundry and dishes, who doesn't know how in the world dinner is supposed to get made. It's for you, exhausted mom, for the days when you need a whole pot of coffee. We're here for you.

You are invited!

The second (in)courager session starts today, which means our group is open for YOU to join. Come on in, kick your shoes off and grab some ice cream. We're waiting with big hugs and lots of prayers for you!

If you're not a working mom, check out (in)courage's other groups -- there are ones for single gals, writers, military wives, ministry wives, married women, empty nesters, and many more! The formats vary by group, although many of the groups convene on Facebook.  


On what is saving my life right now

It's been awhile. I've been internally processing a lot of emotions, anxieties, goals, and dreams. I've written and re-written many posts, but am just not sure what to publish for now. At what point does sharing become over-sharing on the interwebs, in the name of encouragement?

So for now, I'm popping in to just share a few things that are saving my life right now. My wise and beautiful friend Allison wrote a post about this recently, inspired by the lovely Sarah Bessey. It sounds a little dramatic, but really it's just about what is keeping me going, big or small.

1. Speaking truth to myself. Like most women, I have a running internal track of thoughts and feelings that rarely pauses. And lately that track has gotten pretty gloomy and anxious. I'm learning to pause when my thoughts and emotions start spiraling downward, and to speak the simple truth. "My kids crave my attention and affection... My husband loves me... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me... I am forgiven..."

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

2. Seeing the beauty. Just enjoying the gifts God gives every day makes such a difference in my heart. Sunshine reflecting on skyscapers, the blue eyes of my children, a text from a friend, my husband stepping in so I can have a break... all show me God's overflowing grace.  

3. Listening to music. Music helps me to focus outward, and to process what is going on inward. Mumford & Sons, Chris Tomlin, Gungor, and JJ Heller all preach to my heart daily, and put me in a much better mood.

4. Checking in later so I can be checked-in now. I'm tired of letting social media control my time. I am in control of when to check in with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I can choose to do so at a convenient time. I love connecting with my friends online... but not at the expense of disconnecting from my family and real life.

What's saving your life these days?