For the Mama Who Is Scared for Our Country

There sure are a lot of worried mamas out there.

So many mamas fretting for their children. Mamas fearing what the current election will bring and how it will change their babies' world.

There is worrying on all sides of the fence. Red and blue and independent mamas are crying real tears - dreading “what ifs.”

We wait to hear election results and my Facebook feed is filled with you, dear mamas. Mamas having panic attacks. Mamas cuddling kittens and eating ice cream to distract themselves. Mamas unfriending each other and being angry about people unfriending each other. 

I want to hug all of you. I want to say, “Yes, things will be hard. That is how the future is. It always brings some pain, no matter who our leaders are. But it brings joy too. So much joy, sweet mamas. Look at those worried faces looking up at you."

Because really tonight I am thinking most about the children. All of your beautiful God-given gifts. They see you worrying. They hear the discussions around the dinner table. When you are scared, they are scared too.

If you are walking with Jesus, you know Who is really in charge. You know that no crazy politics can dethrone Him.


He has you on His mind, and He has eternity as your plan. He loves those little people in your house far more than you ever can. 

So for those babies, wipe your tears and bake cookies. Read stories and sing songs. Find the beautiful things. Look for them, even if it takes a while. I promise they are there.

I took my baby to vote today. His very first vote in a Federal election. I really didn’t envision it this way when he made these seven-year-old election reform suggestions. But here we are.

He has a say in his country. He may not like his choices, and I may not like mine, but I am thankful we have the privilege of having a part to play.

It was a gray dripping day. The flowers in the front yard were still lovely. The kitten was still curious. The world was still beautiful.

If you are passionate about politics and want to get involved to make a difference, please please do. We need you. 

And if all you feel right now is overwhelmed, just love the people right in front of you. The biggest most beautiful change you can make in the world is to really love the people right in front of you.

So on this election night, as we await the news of who will be the next President of the United States, I come back to what I remind myself of over and over:

Choose love.

Find beauty.

You will change the world.

Stand Firm - The Importance of Sound Theology

Theology is for university types, right? 

Old white men in their ivory towers, wearing cardigans, smoking pipes, and using terms no one understands.

Nah, you know I don't believe that.

Simply put, theology is "the study of the nature of God and religious belief." If you read your Bible, you are immersing yourself in theology.

But sometimes, especially when you are a new believer, even things in the Bible can seem confusing. Certainly all the voices clamoring for your attention on the Internet (including mine) can make things confusing! 

How do we deal with this? How do we know what is right?

Good theology is the fruit of study and of reliable sources. It is worth your time to really pay attention to your theology and make sure that what you believe aligns with the Word of God.

At Do Not Depart this month our theme is "Why Sound Theology Matters for Every Woman." The writing team has taken turns addressing different reasons why it makes a difference for you to think through what you believe.

Today I am writing about how good theology helps you to stand firm. Here is a glimpse...

When I was a young believer, I was both passionately committed, and continuously confused.
I wanted more than anything to follow Jesus and walk in His ways, but I had almost no Bible knowledge. I would hear someone talk on Christian radio, or see a sermon on TV, and not know whether what they were saying was true. I’d have conversations with people of varying Christian backgrounds, and their positions would contradict. Who was right?
Then I would go grocery shopping at the health food store, and see New Age books, and talk with non-Christians, and some of the things they said made sense to me. What was going on?!
Read the rest of my post on standing firm at Do Not Depart. Stand firm sisters!

When You Are Worn Out, This is the Habit to Focus On

Are you worn out, sister?

Are the kids too needy, the days over scheduled and the house trashed?

You need a little Jesus, don'tcha? Nah - a lot of Jesus.

How are your quiet times going? Not going so much? Yeah, I get it.

It is a constant battle isn't it? To be in the world but not of it, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus... it's a daily struggle.

When my kids were young, and I knew I was going to homeschool, I became enamored of the writings of nineteenth century educator Charlotte Mason. I loved her gentle approach to teaching young children. But I was most impressed (and convicted) by her writings on habit.

Mason's contention was that when we train our children to have good habits a huge part of our parenting and educating battle is already won. But her words made me look at myself, and ooo boy I did not like what I saw.

I am not going to pretend that fifteen years later I have all the good habits and have ditched the bad. Goodness, back then some of the bad habits I fight now didn't even exist (I'm looking at you iPhone and Facebook.)

Still, the habit of rising and starting the day in God's Word will always be a blessing. I am not completely faithful in it, and when I slip I feel it. I am a much nicer and more patient person when my brain has been seasoned with Truth.

If you want to develop the habit of starting the day with Jesus, I highly recommend the HelloMornings ministry. When you join a HelloMornings group you will have the accountability of like-minded women who are also wanting to grow with Jesus by meeting with Him daily.

I am so blessed, y'all. I had the privilege of collaborating on the Bible study for this upcoming session too. Six years ago, when I first participated in HelloMornings, I never would have dreamed that I would have the joy of being a part of writing the studies. Isn't God delightful?

Because God's Word is living and active, you do not need to have gone through part 1 of But We See Jesus to be able to do this study. Just jump in now.

And (woohoo!) I have copies to give away! You can enter on Twitter, or on Facebook. Or both! I will be drawing names on Saturday morning.

If you want to give HelloMornings a try, head over now and join - a new session is starting on Monday October 10, 2016! You may just find it changes your life!

How a Mama Can Do Scary Things Anyway

I have fear on my mind a lot these days. Seems like there are oodles of things taking me out of my comfort zone. 

For starters, we are thinking about moving. The realities of packing up and downsizing a family and a farm, plus finding a suitable home in a fairly high-priced market have virtually paralyzed me. How can I get it all done? How will we ever find the right house? Is this really the best thing for our family? It’s an annoying subconscious soundtrack.

Then there are the movies. No, not watching movies. Being in movies. Gah! Abbie is our resident actress, and has been on the stage since she was six. Now we are trying to find ways for her to begin to explore film acting, and have fallen into several situations where we were able to be extras in movies. Yes, me too.

*cue heart palpitations and sweaty palms*

Camera on a track for panning shots

And today, Abbie and I attended a self defense class at our awesome local jiujitsu studio. Good grief, talk about being out of my comfort zone. I clearly need to get my act together with exercise because I do not want to stay in a place where the anticipation of being thrown to the floor (a well padded floor at that) had me in tears at home this morning. Be still my beating, terrified heart. 

A blurry iPhone picture of us flipping each other

Yep, I have been pretty steadily out of my comfort zone for the past two weeks. Do you ever find yourself there?

I am pretty much a hobbit. I would far rather stay at home and have my friends over for an endless parade of teas and pastries than do scary things. I’ll admit I am a bit of a Baggins-ish hobbit because I do enjoy traveling adventures (ask me about my 4000 mile road trips with my kids). But I am still a homebody on a regular day. Risk-taking is not in my DNA.

Still, I have learned that letting fear rule my decision making almost always results in regret. And I have also learned that forcing myself to do the scary things almost always results in joy.

It’s like a tidy equation:

decision making + fear = regret
scary things + courage = joy

Does that even make sense? I don’t know, it isn’t especially logical, but it accurately reflects my experience.

I am so glad I readjusted my plans, got off my hiney, and got the kids out the door to the film sets. We made memories that will last a lifetime. What would I have done if I had stayed home? Sat on the couch surfing Facebook? Cleaned something for the one millionth time? Bleh.

The self-defense class showed me some useful things:
  1. It is not as scary as I think to fall on a rubber mat (yes it does hurt a bit).
  2. I have more natural aggression than I realized.
  3. All the stuff I learn goes right out of my head when I am put on the spot (that was valuable but uncomfortable to experience).
  4. I need and actually want to practice this stuff.

There is something exhilarating about facing the things you are afraid of and conquering them!

So how does a mama make herself do scary things? My scary things might be different from your scary things, but I’ll bet we have the same motivator to push through our issues: our kids.

My children make me brave. Bravery isn’t about not being afraid. Bravery is being afraid and doing the thing anyway.

All of the scary events of the past few weeks were important for my children’s sake. My love for them helped push me out of my comfort zone and ultimately into the joy zone (thanks to that simple equation: scary things + courage = joy)

This is just another way that love leads to joy. Even if you don’t have kids, I’ll bet there is someone in your life you love who can inspire you to do scary things.

And while at first pass this may sound kitschy and cliche, if you are a Christian, your love for Jesus is probably the greatest motivator of all.

There are terrifying things I have done only because I love Jesus. Writing Bible studies, leading women’s groups, asking a stranger if I can pray for them, wearing a head covering, reading the Bible out loud at our church service, oh goodness, so many things for this introvert.

I am really just a trembling little girl in a grown-up body. But love can super-size me. It pushes me and pushes me until I am right out of my hobbit hole and quivering on the edge of some new and uncomfortable experience, ready to slog through fear to reach the joy on the other side.

Do you have a scary thing facing you right now? Whom will you love and bless by walking right into it? I would be my privilege to pray for you, for abounding love and for the courage to go forward. Leave me a comment or send me an email (patti @ joyfulmama dot com).

Let’s add courage-because-love to our scary things, and reap the joy! 

Praying for Those Entangled in Persecution

It is a given that Christians will face persecution. Scripture is clear:  

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12

While I have been treated differently at times because I am a Christian, it has never been a cause of real suffering. Yet around the world, there are huge numbers of Christians suffering profoundly because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

This week I wrote about persecution at Do Not Depart

"According to the non-profit organization Open Doors, 2015 was the worst year in modern history for Christian persecution: 'More than 7,100 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons, and 2,400 churches were destroyed or damaged.' 

Our brothers and sister in Christ are suffering. As painful as it is to recognize this reality, our hearts are connected to theirs as members of the body of Christ. It is our privilege to pray for them.

And not only are we called to pray for fellow believers, we are also instructed to pray for those who persecute."

In the post I share:

  • the story of Taher, a persecutor who came to Christ
  • what the Bible says about persecution
  • a simple prayer for those entangled in persecution

When Your Plans to Read the Bible Fall Through

Have you ever read the whole bible in a year? Or tried to?

You know what they say about the best laid plans...

The Plan

In January 2015 I decided that I would read the Bible in a year. It is easy to miss the richness buried in infrequently read books (Obadiah anyone?), and reading right through the Bible is a fantastic way to get the whole picture.

So in addition to various Bible studies I was working through, I planned to listen daily to an audio Bible plan that would take me straight through from Genesis to Revelation.

The Reality

But life isn’t always “straight through," and guess what? I didn’t read the Bible in a year. In fact, I am still working my way through now, twenty months later.

I am going to read through the Bible in two years. :-)


I could focus on the fact that I did not read the whole Bible in a year. Better yet, I can celebrate that I am reading the Bible! Yay! Hey, I could even cheer because I am going extra fast on a read-the-Bible-in-three years plan. ;-)

Here's the thing: this is not the first time I will read the whole Bible, and it won't be the last. I will be reading this book until the day I meet my Lord face to face. And the enemy of my soul would love to discourage me from reading it by whispering: You failed. You got behind. What's the point?

Sister, any bit of the Word you can get into your heart and mind today will be expanded mightily in your life by the God of all creation Who loves you beyond reason. Any little bit.

Like this:

That right there is half a verse. Half! Believe me, if you spend a little time meditating on that half verse while you fold the laundry, I guarantee God will fill your heart. 

That is the point.

Whose Expectations?

Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard. If you fail to meet expectations, take a moment to ask whose expectations they are? Yours? Someone else’s? God’s?

Yes, there are times when we are being wayward or rebellious. If you have fallen behind in your reading or studies for this reason, it will be a great blessing to you if the Lord convicts your heart!

But so often (especially for we first-born, type-A sorts) the demands we labor under are put on us by ourselves. Not by God.

Are you in a season of mothering small children? Probably not the time to plan to spend an hour reading your Bible every day. But you can read a passage. You can listen to the Bible app while you do the dishes. You can do something.

You don’t have to do everything.

There are seasons for the reading the bible in a year. This may not be the season.

Your Love Letter!

The Bible is a love letter from the Father. You and I have the astonishing privilege of living in a time when we can pick up a Bible at any time and read. Every word is for strengthening, blessing, and growing us.

You can choose to hold yourself to hard-to-attain standards. Or you can choose to be held.

Drink from the well of His Word in sips or gulps... no matter how much you consume at a time, you will be nourished.

A People Pursued {A Bible Study Giveaway From HelloMornings}

One of the amazing blessings of being still and listening for God's will is that you get to do some really cool things - things you might not have seen coming.

A few months ago, when I was still in the throes of I-just-can't-blog-because-I-am-barely-surviving mode, my dear friend Ali asked me to pray about contributing to a HelloMornings Bible study.

Ali and I are close real-life friends (we met at our daughters' homeschool theater class) and she knows all the mess that has been my life. We also write together at I had continued writing there, but it was just by the skin of my teeth. So she knew that the answer might be no. Honestly, my first thought was, "Impossible."
But I prayed.

God showed me exactly when I would have time to write, and got me more and more excited about digging into Hebrews. So I said yes, with great anticipation. The fruit of that was But We See Jesus, a study of the first half of Hebrews, written with five other women. God's fruit is the best fruit, isn't it?

When Ali told me that the next HelloMornings study would be on Hosea and invited me to write again, I was intrigued.

Hosea the prophet can sound at first pass like an Israelite Debbie Downer, let me tell ya! He was the very last prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel before they were taken into captivity, so it is not surprising that his words come across as a last-ditch effort to a doomed people. They kind of were.

But when you take the time to dig into the book of Hosea, it is amazing how love and hope shine through. There is so much Jesus in Hosea! 

Intrigued? I hope you are, because HelloMornings has just released A People Pursued, their new study on Hosea, and as one of the authors I have the privilege of giving away a copy to one of you!

And this is super cool: not only will you get the reading plan, commentary, Bible study questions and worksheet, you'll also get a full audio of the entire study! If time is short you can just turn on the audio and listen while exercising, driving to work, folding laundry - wherever it fits into your day.

HelloMornings is one of my favorite ministries. It is a great help for growing in being intentional about spending time with God, planning your day, and exercising. The next session starts on August 15. Check it out!

I just have to come back to this: sometimes when you stop and ask God, He ends up leading you somewhere you wouldn't have planned. Writing Bible studies this summer was not on my calendar. I had pretty much decided I had failed Him. And all the while He was waiting for me to let Him keep my calendar.

This giveaway has ended now. Congratulations Tammy!!

Now on to the giveaway! *cowbells ring and confetti falls*

Just enter through the cool Rafflecopter widget below. I will contact the winner first thing on Sunday morning so you have time to download the study before the session begins. Yay for giveaways!

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

This giveaway ends on Saturday August 13 at 11:59pm CST. Huge thanks to Kat Lee and HelloMornings for making it possible!

Still Not Perfect, But Oh So Loved

I have spent my whole life trying to be good.

When I was a little girl I would lie in the dark each night and tell God all the things I had done that I thought I shouldn't have, then I would ask Him to make me a better person the next day. 

Each night I would ask the same thing. Make me better. Make me better. Please.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and actually read the bible that I began to grasp the problem. Sin. It was there and always would be. 

I spent a season in my twenties wrestling with God about the verse “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) 

It seemed downright mean. On the one hand I knew I couldn’t be perfect because of sin, but on the other I was being told I should be? It didn’t make sense, it frustrated me, and honestly, made me a little angry. So I argued with God.

I have never felt squashed when I have wrestled with God. I feel no condemnation, and don’t feel dismissed, even though I imagine my questions and strugglings are ridiculously small.

I know in my core that God gave me my intellect to be used.  After all, He says "Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18a). I can’t say I'll ever fully understand Matthew 5:48, but I believe God has helped me to grasp some of it.  

Jesus is perfect, and when I am hidden in Him, I am covered by His perfection. My spiritual self, my eternal self, is abiding and hidden in Christ.

But my earthly self, the girl stuck on soil, needs to know what to do. God's perfection is what I try to walk toward in my daily life (I won't get there)… and really, what that means is that I am walking toward Jesus, toward being more like Him.

It’s always all about Jesus, isn’t it?

Funny how we can know something but our actions don’t show it. I knew that spiritually I was hidden in Christ. But every day I was sweating and striving. I was exhausted from striving.

Yep, I know all about grace, but clearly I have a very hard time accepting it. 

I am forty seven years old now. I am no longer the nine year old who lay in bed asking God: Please make me better. 

Now I am asking Him: Please make me more like You. Open my eyes to the need. Help me to bless someone. Forgive me for being selfish.

And I still struggle with trying to live the Christian life in my own strength. I still fall asleep determined to do better the next day. Because let’s be honest: to walk the dying-to-self road can be painful and hard and sometimes just plain lonely.

I have experienced the trouble with trying to soldier through, head down and focused. When the slightest twist in the road comes, I get completely off course. Fists clenched, determined to walk the path I think I should as a loving daughter of her Heavenly Father, I suddenly find that in my haste and determination I am slogging through a muddy ditch because I was so set on my direction, I didn’t see the road veer off.

Ugh. Here we go again.

I am slowly accepting my desperate need for God’s grace, not just in theory, but in practice. No amount of determination will change the fact that I still have the heart of a little girl. I need to be able to rest in my Father’s lap and be held by His arms. Not for any reason other than that laps are where little girls belong.

We have had a hard few years in our family. And most of the things I wanted to do for God, the plans I had for how I was going to use the gifts He has given me… most of those things have not gotten done. So on top of the pain I was working through because of those hard years, I felt a heavy burden of guilt. I felt like I had failed the One Who never fails me.

He is such a good, good Father. When I took the time to stop scurrying, to be still and ask Him to show me what He wanted from me, He poured out nothing but love and grace over me - even though I had not done all those things I was so sure I had to do to please Him. I didn’t finish any of the books I had started writing, I didn’t blog here or on our other blog, all I did was survive, and try my best to love the people right in front of me each moment.

What I want more than anything is to please Him. Like a little girl helping her Daddy paint a wall and getting paint all over the floor, I want to do the things that make Him proud of me, yet I mess up. Over and over I can’t paint that wall perfectly.

Here God, let me help You with that...

And He bends down and strokes my hair, sees my heart and says “I love the wall. I love that you want to help. I love you."

My tender Father.

It is time to add one more thing to my night whispers: Please help me to accept Your grace, Abba.
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