Avoiding New Year’s Resolution Regret

Dec 29

This week, I was all in my head, once again, wrestling with the mounting responsibilities of life, concerns, and to-dos—not to mention the personal goals I’d set for myself. And with talk of New Year’s resolutions rearing its ugly head, the thought of doing anything just seemed overwhelming. As I considered the size and weight of these personal challenges—those I accumulated over this last year as well as those on the horizon of a new year—I could feel my facial expression contorting into a mixture of visual frustration, fatigue and fear. I start wondering if it would just be easier to quit and settle in right where I am.

Maybe I should reconsider my goals? Maybe I am expecting too much of myself?  How can I possibly accomplish all that I have to do? What if I fail?

Thankfully, my husband interrupted my mental mountain climb to see if I wanted to go for a family hike in Calavera Hills. Begrudgingly I accepted, thinking that while I have no desire to exert any energy on activities that don’t chip away at the things I want to accomplish, maybe the hike would help me clear my head. At least it would prove to be a good distraction from my discouragement. So I went on the hike.

One step at a timeOur seven-year-old son, Merick, joined us. I was surprised by his ability to maintain our fast pace, despite his legs being shorter than the rest of us. What he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in stamina. He approached the foot of Mount Calavera with all the enthusiasm of an experienced hiker, anxious to reach the top. However, as the climb got steeper and his feet started to slip a bit from the loose gravel, his enthusiastic demeanor become increasingly tense and nervous. When he stopped to survey just how high he’d climbed and how much higher he had to go, moving in either direction was too overwhelming for him. He froze.

“I can’t do it! It’s too high? I’m gonna fall!”

I quickly got behind him and instructed him to stop looking behind or ahead, but to simply keep his eyes on the next step.

“You don’t need to worry about getting up or down the mountain,” I explained. “Just focus on the step right in front of you.”

Step by stepFollowing my instructions, Merick made remarkable progress on the path. With every step, I could see his anxiety give way to relief and self-satisfaction. Whenever we came across a new patch of tricky terrain, he’d reassure himself by reciting my instructions aloud while taking the next step. And the next… And the next…until the visual illustration of what I too needed to hear and apply in my own life became all too obvious.

For the past few months, I have been frozen, unable to accomplish much of anything for fear of failing. Like Merick, I too need to stop focusing on where I’ve been or where I’m going. My role is to attend to the task at hand for the day, or even the hour. If I follow these instructions with the same consistency as Merick, I too will conquer the challenges set out before me, no matter how improbable it may appear from where I am standing today.

Already I’ve applied this technique to my life. I’m amazed at the progress I’ve made in just a few days. Not that I’ve gone far or don’t have far to go. I haven’t; and I do—but again, that is not a concern of mine anymore. The good news is that I’m moving and I’m moving in the right direction. As my daughter, Kendal, reminded me on a subsequent hike, it’s not how fast you get to where you are going that is important, but rather that you keep going.

Forget the resolutions of old and new. Let’s just do what we can today, remembering that a mountain view, at any height, is still a mountain view. And who doesn’t love those?IMG_0443

 

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American Political Arena or Modern-Day Roman Colosseum?

Dec 9

CommodusIn today’s arena of ideas, character assassinations have become the quickest and most effective way to take out political opponents. Labeling their ideas “anti-American” is a good starting point in getting the public’s attention, but it will in no way satisfy their appetite for entertainment and manufactured need for retaliation. The job is not complete until the person has been labeled a Nazi, Fascist, evil, or phobic. They must be shamed until they submit, shut up, leave the arena, or their character is completely destroyed.

Forget that God equipped each and every one of us with a brain, capable of identifying a myriad of solutions to any problem. Nope, we either walk in lock step with what is popular or politically correct, or else we will suffer the consequences—every personal misstep, hypocritical action, or hiccup (imaginary or real) will be dissected and put on display for public comment. The outlier’s personhood will be beaten like a piñata until everyone achieves their desired political fall out.

Pollice Verso, by Jean-Léon GérômeLet’s look at the most recent example of public “outcry” that has taken the media by storm the media has whipped up into a storm. Donald Trump called for a temporary end to the immigration of Muslims into America until our leadership can figure out a more effective vetting process—his proposal coming on the heals of a terrorist attack that resulted in the death of 14 people, committed by a woman who came into our country on a visa. Sure, Trump leaves A LOT to be desired in terms of  his delivery of ideas—we know this about him and should not be surprised by his lack of couth. But many people, just waiting for the right opportunity to take him out, twisted his words around by removing the part of his statement that put his sentiments into context. What otherwise might have launched a public discussion on safe immigration practices turned into another political public spectacle.

It’s no wonder nothing gets done in this country to solve our problems. Who in their right mind would want to put themselves in the arena of ideas that more often than not resembles the ancient Roman colosseums where crowds use to jeer for someone’s complete destruction. Maybe it’s not free speech we American cherish, so much as being affirmed by those who agree with us and humiliating those with whom we disagree.

I somewhat expect this sort of behavior from someone who doesn’t know better. But what burdens me is how quickly Christians are embracing these tactics. Sadly, several Christians have jumped on the bandwagon of criticism aimed at their Christian counterparts who have differing opinions on how to best address America’s problems—going so far as to say that rejecting their opinion is a rejection of Jesus Himself.

Of course, without question, all Christians should desire to help any suffering person or nation. I believe #AllLivesMatter. But how we help is a whole different matter that should be up for debate without a person’s patriotism and faith being called into questioned. Yet these days, every much-needed debate tends to result in just that. How does this help in solving our country’s problems or fostering unity among countrymen?

Last I read; God doesn’t look at the deeds of man but rather the condition of his heart (1 John 3:21-23). And if we are all internally struggling with how to glorify God to the best of our ability on these issues, which includes securing the safety of those God has entrusted us to protect, then maybe we should give each other the benefit of the doubt and hear each other out.  With so much on the line, how can we not look under every rock for answers to our country’s problems? Our response to the issues facing our nation , if not well thought out, could have both physical and spiritual catastrophic consequences for our country and the rest of the world.

Christian Americans have a responsibility to be good stewards of the land, wealth, and freedom with which God has blessed us. Imagine how our ability to share the Gospel will be stifled if there is no place on earth where Christians are safe from violent persecution. And if you think that is an extreme concern, look up the word “caliphate” and consider recent world events.

While there certainly are Muslims capable of living lives compatible with the American way of life, we cannot ignore the millions that are at war with Western civilization because of their beliefs that are rooted in Islam. This is not islamaphobia; this is a fact. Christians are called to truth and thus should be able to acknowledge it, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient, and especially when addressing other Christians.

A kingdom that is divided is a kingdom that cannot stand (Mark 3:24). This principle not only applies to America, but more importantly the church. As we seek to put an end to the refugee crisis and the war on terror, let’s remember that differing opinions are not inherently evil, nor are those who espouse them. We can have opposing perspectives and still be of One Spirit. Loving our Muslim neighbors means nothing to God if we don’t continue to love our Christian brothers and sisters in the process (1 John 3:16).

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Dear Anna Duggar, Like you, may we learn to inhale grace.

Aug 27

Josh and Anna DuggarDear Anna Duggar,

My hope is that by now you’ve cut yourself off from social media and the litany of voices criticizing your decision to stay with your husband despite the horrible things he has done. Not that you’ve really had much time to process the situation, with everything happening so fast and four very young children to care for. Yet, even the notion that you might forgive Josh is so outrageous, people have assumed your response must be the result of bad parenting by your mother and father or a lack of an education, as made evident by a Facebook post that recently went viral.

According to the collective conscience, there has to be some explanation behind your forgiveness that is rooted in self-deception and desperation. Only a woman who thinks she has no options would even consider forgiving someone like Josh. Apparently there is a level of deceit that is unforgivable in our culture; and many think you should dissolve your marriage without a second thought.

Take heart my friend. As you’ve quickly found out, grace is a scandalous business. Brennan Manning explained this tension between the worldly reaction you’ve encountered and your attempt to follow your faith best when he said, “Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something and someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough.” I get the feeling you know this.

Of course, without question, you have every good reason to leave Josh in the dust. And who knows? You still might. But what many of the naysayers don’t understand, or have forgotten, is that marriage is not necessarily a reflection of what has been done to us but rather what has been done for us. Marriage—for better or worse—illustrates God’s love, for while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Let that sink in for a moment. While we were still sinning, He died for us so that we might be reunited with a holy God who cannot be in the presence of sin, and therefore has taken it upon himself to cover us with his perfect blood love.

God has every reason to leave us in the dust because we all fall short of His glory. Albeit some have fallen further than others; holiness is not graded on a sliding scale—it’s either pass or fail. And news flash:  we all fail! Every single one of us.

Ah! But how can Josh be forgiven for that which he has not repented?  It is precisely the unconditional nature of patience, forbearance, and kindness that makes grace so amazing, it actually leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Grace is a gift that we receive as a result of no effort of our own. Repentance is merely our response upon accepting grace, and hopefully it will be Josh’s.

The only difference between your husband and the rest of us is that most of us haven’t had someone hack into a database to expose our sins publicly. But no matter how far we push back our need for a Savior into the recesses of our minds, God doesn’t need a hacker to know what really goes on in our hearts or when we think no one is watching. He knows every detail. And yet, He loves us anyway, waiting patiently for us to come to repentance, just as you seem to be doing for your husband.

Bravo sweet sister! Despite the pressures of what seems natural—to leave a cheating, lying, hypocrite of a husband—you are calling on God to do what is supernatural and restore both him and your marriage. No Anna, you are not desperate or delusional. You are faithful. Faithful to Josh, but more importantly, faithful to our God who reminds us in His own words that whoever turns a sinner from the error of their ways will save their soul from death, covering a multitude of sins, which includes cheating, lying and hypocrisy  (James 5:19-20).

You are not a victim as so many would have you believe. In Jesus Christ, you are a victor; and I pray one day we can say the same for Josh. As for the rest of us, like you, may we learn to breathe less fire and inhale more grace.

Your sister in Christ,

Dana Matas

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The Beautiful Ugly of Motherhood

Oct 6

31DaysofMOTNMotherhood

The following blog entry will appear as part of a series called “Middle of the Night Motherhood,” hosted by fellow blogger Marie Osborne. The purpose of this series is to encourage moms in the thick of the not-so-easy-parts of motherhood. Stop by her blog to follow along!

 By Dana Matas

The phrase “beautiful ugly” is a term used to describe a fashion model whose striking features could be considered either beautiful or ugly, depending upon the eye of the beholder. An apparent contradiction, it prompts one to reconsider their natural inclination to separate two extremes that are inherently related. It is a saying that in many ways describes certain characteristics of another highly esteemed occupation. Motherhood.

As a child, I grew up watching shows like The Brady Bunch, Little House on the Prairie, and Leave It To Beaver. The mothers depicted in these shows always had the perfect response to their children’s disappointing situations. Whether they lived in the suburbs or on the prairie, they were not only well dressed at a perfect size 2, but they had enough time to shower, apply makeup, clean the house and serve a home cooked meal. These mothers never scolded their children or lost their cool. They were the standard-bearers for what it meant to be a mom; and we as a society put them on a pedestal for all to emulate.

While wholesome entertainment, I eventually found that these shows offered a warped sense of reality, raising up a generation of mothers who fault themselves for not living up to a standard that isn’t possible outside of a television studio. I tried my hardest to mirror these examples once I became a mom, bending over backwards to make certain every childhood milestone was flawlessly captured for the family scrapbook. I managed to snap plenty of photos worthy of a Pinterest pinup, but behind the scenes our life was less like Leave It To Beaver and more like Teen Mom 2—or at least somewhere in the middle.

For those unfamiliar with Teen Mom 2, it is a reality show that chronicles the lives of several teen moms, seemingly handicapped by immaturity, lack of a higher education and a broken home. The show offers an honest portrayal of the highs-and-lows of motherhood under less than ideal circumstances. Such reality shows often get a bad wrap for being a “train wreck,” particularly when participants display their less than stellar moments for public consumption. But isn’t that what motherhood is at times—our own personal train wrecks, bloopers and retakes?

We may not broadcast our mommy-meltdowns for the rest of the world to see, but those who count (our kiddos) witness them all the same. And yet, our children love us despite the scenes from our life we’d prefer left on the cutting room floor. They’d never call us as a “train wreck.” Instead, they affectionately refer to us as “mom.”

Confessions of a busy mamaAfter 13 years, four kids, and many mishaps along the way, I’m learning that the unconditional love of my children is much more visible from the battlefield than way up on a pedestal. Certainly there are plenty of days when I seem to have this motherhood thing all figured out. The kids are happy. The hubby is happy. Everyone’s needs are well beyond met. Loving me is easy. But it is during life’s struggles that our children come to understand the depth of our love for them, and we have the opportunity to see such love reflected back at us.

In 1 Corinthians 13:7, God tells us that love “[…endures through every circumstance]”—good and bad. Through sleep depravation. Through raging hormones. Through financial woes. Through sickness. Through misunderstandings, mistakes and frustrations. When our children love us through those moments that most of society considers ugly, we must not beat up ourselves, assuming that our children are victims of having a less than perfect mother. Rather we should rejoice upon witnessing the evidence that our children are becoming the person our perfect God desires us to be—and that is beautiful.

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Dear Parents, Let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to us

Aug 26

Miley CyrusDo you hear that? Could it be the overwhelming public adoration for a music artist who used her spotlight at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) this Sunday to highlight a social cause close to her heart? Nope. Never mind. It seems the sympathetic gesture made by Miley Cyrus to bring awareness to teen homelessness has already faded from our collective consciousness, assuming it was ever fully acknowledged at all.

This response stands in stark contrast to last year when our social media feeds were jam packed with reports decrying her pornographic VMA performance. For weeks, blog post after blog post offered a well deserved, yet slightly misdirected, public lashing for the trash much of our culture considers primetime entertainment. Personally I feel such publicity stunts by entertainers reflect more so on consumers than producers, which I’ve written about in the past. But I digress. The point is—America took notice of this disaster and had a lot to say about it.

Fast-forward to this Sunday where we witness Miss. Cyrus doing something positive with her celebrity, setting a good example for fans. So, where are the interviews? Where are the blog posts? Where are the countless Facebook status updates, applauding her for a job well done?  Well, there just doesn’t seem to be much fuss about it now, does there?

I wonder; if we find it acceptable and necessary to rip into someone when they fail, isn’t our responsibility to build them up in equal proportion when they do well? I assume so; but like the rest of America—I admit—that is not my tendency.

In observing the public’s quiet response to Miley’s philanthropic action, I noticed a similar silence in my own life. For example, when all is well with my children, I don’t have much to say about it to them, although the resulting peace that exists in our home is their natural reward. However when one of them gets out of line, particularly the older children who should know better, the negative attention that rains down on them, at times, is disproportionate to this natural reward—a reward they might not even be conscious of.

If I can assume that Miley Cyrus might be a bit disappointed, even discouraged, or derailed by the lack of public affirmation for doing good, how can I not assume the same about my tween girls when it comes to the good they are doing in our home?

While our identity should always be found in Christ alone, and not in the approval of others, God tells us to encourage and build up one another, stirring up each other to do good works. It seems in some instances, I might have approached this commandment a little backwards, or at times have forgotten it altogether. And from the looks of it, maybe America has too.

Correction should be a means to reconciliation–not just blowing off steam. If we are going to wail over that which is wrong, we’d better be ready to hail that which is right. Otherwise, we’ve simply allowed anger, inconvenience, and frustration to be our greatest motivators when responding to others. Whether its our reaction to an entertainer, a public official or even our own kids, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to us to be particularly mindful of those actions that are excellent, admirable, and praiseworthy.

Way to go Miley! Job well done!!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 11.50.19 AMPhoto credit: Christopher Polk/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV 
 
 
 
 

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New Year Resolutions: Let’s get spiritual, spiritual…

Dec 28
Let's get spiritual

80′s icon, Olivia Newton-John, known for her film/song, “Let’s Get Physical.”

It’s that time of year when every magazine begins touting its bulge busting tips for the New Year. Headlines promising to help us “Drop Two Sizes” and “Shrink that Belly” give us hope that someday we’ll fit back into those once-upon-a-time favorite garments we out grew years ago. It’s a hope that, for many, quickly turns into guilt and defeat when those promises don’t pan out because of our busy lifestyle or lack of will power. And even when we do see the benefits, they don’t seem to last, leading us right back to where we are today—at the beginning of a new year, resolving to get healthy yet again.

It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m sure if done with some sort of regularity, any of the popular workout regimens, such as P90X and Cross-Fit, produces results. Heck, even if I just started eating more fruits and vegetables, I’m sure I’d see a positive impact. It’s not so much the method of getting healthy that’s problematic; it’s my motivation.

For me, wardrobe goals and tighter abs don’t outweigh the comfort I find in foods that are high in sugar, sodium and fat. Neither do the potential dire consequences of over indulging in them. Why else would I be going on three years of failed attempts to get healthy despite experiencing some of those consequences, including depression, hair loss and reduced mobility?

Maybe you can relate in your own way.

So what if we changed our motivations entirely? What if instead of working toward better health for us, we did it for The One Whom Dwells In Us? What if instead of wanting tighter abs and a perkier tush to glorify ourselves, we treated our body as the temple it is to glorify The Lord? What if we stopped seeking comfort in food and instead sought comfort in Him?

Maybe the muscle needing exercise is just as much spiritual as it is physical. 

Changing our motivation from physical to spiritual may sound like a small distinction, but truly it is an important one. I’ve noticed that my ideas regarding health change with cultural norms, stress levels or mood swings. When I’m weak and give into temptation—be it the convenience of fast food or another glass of wine—I can justify my choices by pointing to my constantly evolving circumstances. I even go so far as to tell myself, I’m ok with the status quo; my health could be worse. And of course, as a result, the status quo becomes my new norm that continues to erode.

But God is the same today as He was yesterday and will always be. His standards don’t change. If I align my choices with what is pleasing to Him instead of what is temporarily pleasing to me, I don’t have to spin my wheels rationalizing my bad choices. Instead, every choice becomes a simple act of obedience or disobedience—one that indulges the Lord or one that indulges me. Making a healthy choice is no longer a matter of my will power, but rather an opportunity to be lead by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Look, I don’t think it makes one bit of difference to God whether we eat a hot dog or celery stick. But I do know that He cares about our wellbeing and wants the best for us. He has provided us what we need to maintain our health while on earth so that we can effectively do the work He has sent us here to do. The more time, money and energy I spend dealing with the consequences of a poor diet, the less I have to care for my family, let alone anyone else God puts in my path. If Jesus resisted temptation to the point of sweating blood, certainly through Him I can resist a few unnecessary trips to Chick-fil-A®.

God doesn’t expect perfection; He expects us to seek The Perfector. No more beating myself up for diet-don’ts or missed workouts. I don’t have to give up just because I mess up. With God at the helm, there is Grace—a greater motivator than any old pair of tight jeans could ever be.

So that’s my plan this year, to seek the Lord as I resolve to improve my health (Well actually, it’s more like His plan.). With over 50 bible verses on the subject, I’ll have plenty of encouragement along the way. If you’d like to join me, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to pray for you as you pursue your own New Year goals.

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Naughty or Nice, Jesus Came for All

Oct 29
Photo Credit: thehouseofwhimsy.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: thehouseofwhimsy.blogspot.com

Being a Christian, it has always puzzled me as to why so many of us celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the way in which we do. Given what scripture says about shepherds tending to their flocks in the fields during the time of Jesus’ birth, odds are that Jesus was born nowhere near December 25, when the evenings would have been cold and rainy in Judea, requiring the shepherds to take cover (Luke 2:7-8). But when questioned about this fact, many Christians reason that the church established the date in order to compete with popular pagan holidays, using the opportunity to re-focus people on The One True God.

Since the Bible doesn’t give us the exact date of Jesus’ birth, this explanation made sense to me. It even seems noble.

However, I still have never felt quite right about keeping up with the Santa charade that is so ingrained in the Christmas holiday. Yes, I understand that Santa is all in fun; and for years we have participated in what largely amounts to an American tradition by allowing our kids to believe that Santa left them gifts under the tree. But as the holiday approaches yet again, I find myself still wondering if we can have fun without placing doubt in the minds of our children about their faith once they learn that Santa is all pretend. My concern is that by so closely linking the celebration of Jesus’ birth with a fictitious character, I’m setting up my children to doubt all that we’ve associated with Christmas, including something as miraculous and hard to believe as a virgin birth.

Photo Credit: couponing4you.net

Photo Credit: couponing4you.net

I also see how the temporal gifts left by Santa distract my children from the everlasting gift they have in Jesus Christ. Starting well before Christmas, they make their wish lists, revising them every few days. For weeks, our conversations are dominated by I-want’s, I-need’s and what-so-and-so-has. As much as I try to keep the kids focused on the reason for the season, there is no competing with the excitement that surrounds Santa. I mean let’s be honest; we all know who the star of the show is come Christmas morning—and it ain’t Jesus.

But with so many Christians going right along with the whole Santa theme, chalking it up as “tradition,” “part of our culture,” or “reinforcing how Jesus gives us the gift of salvation,” I’ve often felt alone in my concern. Not wanting to be that mom or that family, we’ve continued along with the status quo year-after-year for lack of knowing any solid biblical foundation that warrants kicking Santa to the curb. That is, until now.

While shopping at Target with my two young sons in tow, there was no way I was getting out of there without first making a run by what my little guys consider to be the store’s main attraction—the toy isle. With Christmas just around the corner, the shelves are already stocked full of the latest and greatest that toy manufactures have to offer this season. So naturally, as we came upon their much-anticipated destination, so came the avalanche of requests from my boys as they ran from dump truck to car track, Lego set to Beyblade.

“Mom, look at this!”…“Can I get this truck? PLEEEEEEEESE!!”…“I need this car track. Please. Please. Please.”…“Can I just get one thing? Just one?”

“We are not buying any toys right now. It will be Christmas soon. Maybe you can get some of these things as your Christmas gifts.”

Desiring a little more certainty, my older son fished for a definitive answer. “We can get these things for Christmas?”

“If you are good,” I reminded him, my tone implying that Santa is watching.

As the words “if you are good” left my mouth, I realized just how much playing Santa was diminishing my efforts to build up my children’s faith during the Christmas season. To suggest that what Santa does—bringing gifts to good little boys and girls—is in anyway similar to what Jesus did—freely offering God’s grace to all, while we were still sinners—is to undermine the Gospel (Romans 5:6-8).

Photo Credit:  evelyndgrese.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: evelyndgrese.blogspot.com

Now before you say I’ve gone off the deep-end in taking this Santa thing too seriously, think about it. Every year, in association with Jesus’ birth, we sing songs with our children about Santa “…making his list and checking it twice,”…“[finding] out who’s naughty or nice.” But Jesus willingly died on the cross so that our sins are not only forgiven, but also forgotten. Through Jesus, the list of our wrongdoings ceases to exist (Romans 3:25).

Our faith, plus good works, do not earn us salvation as Santa reinforces. Rather salvation is offered to us as a gift by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grasping this fact is hard enough to accept all on its own—it’s why there are over 200 Bible verses that repeat this good news. Apparently God knew we’d need to be reminded of this, and often. So why would I ever confuse the issue by suggesting the opposite to my children year-after-year?

Picture Credit:  happilymotherafter.com

Picture Credit: happilymotherafter.com

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I think Santa is evil. As I said, he is fun. But from now on, he won’t be the biggest Christmas influence in my kids’ lives. Instead he has been relegated to the likes of the Chuck E. Cheese mouse, Disney characters and the school mascot—all of whom my kids know are just people dressed up for the fun of it. And as far as Christmas morning goes, my kids will know exactly who left their gifts under the tree—the One from whom all good things come (James 1:17).

So now that I’ve officially become that mom, its time to get creative. Please leave a comment below to share your ideas on how we can revamp our Christmas traditions to make Jesus the main attraction.

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Why I’m Removing Facebook From My Mobile Device

Aug 25

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13 (ESV)

Facebook is an incredible tool. It connects family members far and wide. It links friends, old and new. And it allows businesses to communicate with customers around the world. But as much as it has enabled me to connect with people online, it often disconnects me from those sitting right in front of me—my kids.

TMII confess:  there are times when I seek to disconnect…when Facebook is the easiest, most convenient escape from the constant can-I’s, she-said’s, will-you’s and to-do’s that flow from my children’s mouths. But having instant access to Facebook from my mobile device means the ability to escape is readily available at the push of a button. Truth be told, it’s not unlike a self-administering morphine pump, tempting to numb me from the pain of my responsibilities. What began as a quick way to checkout Facebook has become a mechanism by which to simply checkout.

On those occasions when I’ve exhibited some self-control, choosing to deny my inclination to see what everybody else is doing, the Facebook “push” notifications interrupt what I’m doing. This application is a constant pull for my time and attention, leaving less of it for those around me. Sure I could adjust my settings, but let’s not be naïve; the whole goal of the application is for Facebook to retain their captive audience—captives like me.

Ironically, my chronic five-minute Facebook field trips don’t leave me refreshed, ready to resume my mommy duties as they did once upon a time. Instead, I often return to my circumstances annoyed…annoyed that my kids interrupted me while reading an article or commenting on a post…annoyed that my season of life doesn’t resemble the steam of fancy-free pictorials from friends…annoyed that I can’t respond to every injustice that plagues the world, according to the 24/7 newsfeed. Like any mind-numbing behavior, eventually the buzz wanes, leaving behind a nasty habit—one that I’m ready to kick.

Don’t get me wrong. I am by no means saying that Facebook is destructive or bad. The benefits are obvious and not everyone reacts the same way to what, for me, amounts to an overdose. I’ve just come to realize that in spending so much time catching up on other people’s lives, I might overlook the best moments of my life.

Facebook has been a huge blessing in my life, reuniting me with long-lost family members and friends as well as keeping me informed about world events within minutes. And I love its ability to chronicle my family’s special moments in real-time, what I refer to as a “living scrapbook.” My plan is to continue participating in this social media space, just not from my mobile device wherever I go. Rather, I’ll be joining the party from my computer where the barrier to enter is much more appropriate and healthy for me. I may miss many of the status updates that I previously would have responded to; but at least I won’t miss out on my family and they won’t miss out on me.

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Surviving Jagger

May 29

There are seasons in life when you feel like all is well—you’re thriving. Yet often we don’t even realize we are thriving until something, or someone, forces us into survival mode. For me, that someone is my two-year old son Jagger.

Cutie PieDon’t let the adorable exterior fool you. Behind this pudgy, innocent smile lies a mastermind capable of orchestrating mommy meltdowns, sibling rivalries and household disasters that dwarf anything I’ve seen from all three of my other children combined. Jagger’s impressive portfolio includes ER visits; smuggling big sis’s makeup for his wall art creations; and let’s not forget his latest trick…the one where, after a little coxing from big brother, he rips off his diaper to mark his territory around the house.

Allow me to present to you exhibits A, B, and C.

Exhibit A - Wall ArtworkExhibit B - Toothpaste on CarpetExhibit C - StitichesOh, the joys of mothering a man-child! 

I can see how Jagger’s escapades might seem amusing to the average observer, given his cuddly complexion. But truly, his antics are constant! Like me, even his siblings look forward to the relief that comes when he naps and at bedtime. It’s not just me who is surviving Jagger; it’s the whole lot of us.

I shared my frustrations with my husband Steve, noting how Jagger’s behavior makes it nearly impossible for me to finish any of the blog entries I’ve started, let alone an entire thought. I joked that maybe I should start chronicling the trials of surviving life with Jagger. Although I was purely being sarcastic, Steve went on to encourage me in this idea, toting his usual yeah-but-you-got-to-admit-Jagger-is-so-cute response. I came away from our conversation slightly annoyed that he didn’t fully grasp the level of unrest we go through on a daily basis while he is away at work. I thought to myself, well there will be no writing about Jagger since cleaning up after Jagger leaves no time to write!

Of course it didn’t take long for the little lad to figure out how to bring Steve’s feelings in lock step with the rest of us. In fact, it was literally the next morning. I was finishing my pancakes while Steve started on the breakfast dishes, the two of us discussing our plans for the day. Jagger ran into the kitchen and started pulling on Steve’s pant leg to get his attention. We stopped our conversation (yet again) so that Steve could interpret Jagger’s broken English and respond to his needs. Apparently Steve wasn’t as quick to respond as Jagger would have liked; so with the full force of his frustration, Jagger chucked the sippy cup of milk he was holding right at Steve. The next thing I knew, Steve was lying on the floor, wailing in pain, both of his hands shielding his crotch.

Daddy Take Down - Ouch!To put this situation into proper perspective, you must know that we are not talking about just any sippy cup. This thing is like a thermos, fully insulated with duel-pane plastic siding. When filled with liquid, it weighs at least a pound or more. Imagine the pain my poor husband must have felt to have something of that size and density hurled at his manly parts, protected by nothing more than a little pajama paint material. Ouch! doesn’t even come close.

Daddy in PainWho knew that a two-year old could take down a full-grown man in one fell swoop? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Jagger can. 

Daddy Gives GraceAfter we determined that Steve was going to live despite receiving the worst kick in the pants he’d ever experienced, I grabbed my camera to take a few pictures for my blog. When he eventually looked up at me from the floor with an expression that questioned my sanity, I joked, “Hey look everyone, it’s Steve surviving Jagger. Say cheese!”  The irony of the moment was just funny enough to convert Steve’s groans into giggles…and giggles into grace.

Welcome to the club babe.

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Basketball Diaries

Apr 16

Basketball HoopIf you know my oldest daughter for the über girlie-girl that she is, it may come as a surprise to you that Lauren is playing on her school basketball team this year. Not that a girlie-girl can’t play ball. She is actually picking up the sport quite well. But given the strict wardrobe guidelines my self-proclaimed fashionista follows, I thought surely the team jersey would be an automatic disqualifier for her. Yet, something propelled her to move forward, even in the face of committing what she might otherwise consider a major fashion faux pa, that lead to an exchange between the two of us I will forever cherish.

Sitting in the bleachers at her first game, I figured my role was simply to encourage her to have fun. She had no experience playing basketball. She was on the B team. I mean, it’s not like anybody was expecting Michael Jordan to make an appearance. But in just her first few minutes of playtime, I started wondering if even having fun was too lofty a goal. It was almost painful to watch as she shuffled her feet up and down the court in such a constricted manner, she might as well have been wearing high heals and a micro-mini. My feelings alternated between amusement and compassion for my girl whose form was so awkward, the team jersey was clearly the least of her problems.

Basketball girlJust when I was almost certain that Lauren’s basketball career would end with her first game, she managed to intercept the ball, shoot, and score! It wasn’t graceful. It was probably an accident. But it counted. And while I cheered along with everyone else, truth be told, her scoring wasn’t the most exciting moment of the game for me. Rather, it was the moment just after she scored—the moment she scanned the crowded bleachers for her mom and, as our eyes met, she shot me a victorious smile and two thumbs up. The moment when, despite the very nature of her pre-teen tendency to be preoccupied with what everybody else thinks, she was only concerned with what her mom thinks. The moment our hearts celebrated as one.

Since making her first basket, Lauren has found her confidence and is looking more and more like a natural out on the court. Her coach has started her a few times and she even alternates as point guard. If things continue as well as they are going, I have to imagine that this basketball season will be the first of many. And who knows, maybe someday Lauren will actually convince the coach to let her add a little fashion flair to the team uniforms (Hey, a girl can dream!).

I admit; it is fun to see our kids score one for the team. But nothing compares to those moments of shared triumph with our children when what we feel must mirror the swelling of God’s heart anytime one of us here on Earth seeks His face to rejoice in our accomplishments with Him. Praise God for sharing such moments with us through our children, because without them, junior high sporting events just wouldn’t be the same.

What do you love most about your kids participating in sports? Feel free to share in the comments below.

A Special Invitation…

Mom Dot Bible StudyThis summer, you and your pre-teen daughter (ages 11-13) are invited to attend the MOM DOT Bible Study Summer Series. With our daughters learning right along with us, will be going through the book of Ruth and Esther over the course of eight weeks, starting Monday, June 10. The cost for materials is $10 per person, which includes your Engaging God’s Word workbook and supplemental materials. We will be meeting from 6:30pm to 9:00pm in North County San Diego, the exact location still yet to be determined. If you are interested in participating  (either in person, following along online, or by forming a group of your own), please leave a comment below or email me at dana@confessionsofabusymama.com for more information.

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