Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Get Away

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’d like to say this year (all six weeks of it) has been unseasonably busy. But let’s be honest, it’s been this way for the past 5 years. With job challenges and growing kids and pending book deadlines, end of the year non-profit demands, drainage issues in a very muddy backyard, oil leaks in the car, it’s been hectic.

I also wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I would change that moment yesterday when my dog punctured my large styrofoam cup of sweet tea and it emptied into my shoes during carline drop off.

In general, I love my life and I’m thankful for (almost all of) it. But I do long for a slow, calm day.

Bench and tree silhouette viewing to serene lake

When Terrell asked me what I wanted to do for the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend, I said, “I want to get away with my family.” Which should not be confused with”I want to run away from my family.”

Because how can both sound good at the same exact time?

So, it seemed sort of providential that the very next day, the good people at Groupon asked if we wanted to choose a local (and a not-so-local) Getaway of our choice.

Yeah, we will have to really think hard about that one. Give me a second.

Okay, um, yes, please.

We’ve spent some time browsing the Groupon Getaways portal and I was amazed at all the choices! We narrowed down our choice to the hill country in Texas. But do you know what’s hard? Choosing where to stay when there are so many amazing choices. It was a burden. I know you pity us.

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If you could choose a local (by car) spot to getaway to, where would you go? 

Stay tuned…. #MyGrouponGetaway

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How To Take Care of Yourself When Your Job Is Taking Care of Others

“Mom, can I have one?” I looked longingly–lovingly--at my secret chocolate stash that had just been discovered by my child.

Shoot.

It was for a rainy day. Or a sunny one. Oh, let’s be honest, the weather doesn’t matter.  I hide chocolate and eat it alone, okay?

No one would blame me for saying no. I, mean, it’s mine.

But I handed over a piece because that’s what I do.

Sharing the last bite of the perfect sandwich, a sip of my favorite drink, putting my much wanted pedicure aside to pay for an extra flute lesson for my daughter’s upcoming competition, skipping a Sunday nap so I can help my son with a school project, sitting in the carline for 45 minutes so my 2nd grader can bring home the class hamster that isn’t allowed on the bus–these are just a few of the things I do for my kids in a day.

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While they are in school, I spend the bulk of my time on writing projects or working for Mercy House. I oversee volunteers in and out of our house all week long. One day last week, I wired money to Kenya, counted product (there were 650 coin purses), had two Fair Trade Friday meetings-one on the phone and one in person, answered email, signed some books, wrote a blog post, and placed 3 wholesale orders for a Fair Trade Girls Night Out I’m hosting at my house next week. Just as I was sitting down to eat lunch at 3pm, my son walked thru the door and reminded me of his orthodontic appointment.

My yes gives me purpose and fills me in a way that nothing else does, but it’s often overwhelming and demanding. And between family and ministry, I juggle, I teeter, I drop a lot of balls.

Probably a lot like you.

I’m a wife and mom, I started a non-profit that cares for oppressed women and both depend on me a lot. It’s my job to take care of people.  Often our yes shows us that taking care of others is taking care of ourselves because it gives us purpose and fills a deep need within.

But some days we have to choose between caring for others and taking care of ourselves.

I try to balance it all.

And sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t.

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My sweet friend Jessica knows just what I’m talking about. She juggles a lot–motherhood, a full time job, a successful blog, and she just delivered a new baby and a new book! The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You encourages women to take care of themselves. I’ve found it to be rich with insight with meaningful ways to practice self-care. I caught myself nodding and jotting down notes throughout the book. It’s permission to rest, renew, and to really slow down.

I’ve learned some principles that I could identify with in The Fringe Hours and maybe they will  help you care for yourself while you’re also caring for others. As I get older, I’m discovering I’m getting better at living by these rules of rest. But it’s important to note that I don’t do it all. Come over and match up the gigantic pile of sock orphans if you don’t believe me. For every one thing I do well, there are two things I don’t. And I’m okay with that-as long as I pick the right ones.

1. I let a lot of things go

I typically buy store-bought Valentine’s and pre-made cookie dough. I always have piles of laundry and I sweep my floors half as much as I’d like to (I think I mentioned my obsession with sweeping before. I might need medication for it.) I watch Food Network to unwind and then I make the same five meals I’ve made for the last 5 years. I regularly turn down speaking engagements because this isn’t the right season for me to accept them. I try to let little things go that don’t matter as much so I can hold onto the bigger things that do.

2. I depend on others 

I lean on my husband a lot. We divide household and children duties as much as we can. And I have a community of people who are saying yes with me and I email, text, and beg for their help regularly. I recognize and acknowledge my weaknesses and I know what I’m capable of accomplishing. It’s not much some days. But I have learned the fine art of delegation and I’m okay with asking people to join me as I care for others.

3. I prioritize the things only I can do 

My children only have one mother. My husband only has one wife. I am the only one who can fill certain needs and voids. Anyone can cook a meal (so sometimes I say yes when a friend offers. Sometimes that friend is the pizza man). Anyone can clean my house (and that’s exactly what I asked for as a birthday gift in December). I’m the only one who can read the Mother Daughter devotional on my nightstand with my 8 year old who asks me to every night. I’m the only one who can take my son on a date when he says, “Hey Mom, can we go get coffee together?” This principal has been huge for me and sometimes I get it wrong, but if I can keep it as a guideline when I’m feeling torn between what I can do and what I should do, it’s so helpful.

4. I say no to things that are time-sucking 

I think this one is very personal because what can be draining for me could be life-giving for you. I probably watch two hours of TV/movies a week. I attend my kids class parties, but I don’t serve on PTA committees. I don’t usually attend conferences or retreats. I have discovered what fills me up and what leaves me filling empty and it helps me balance the busy places.

5. I say yes to things that are life-giving 

At the height of launching a new book this time last year before my husband became Mercy House’s CEO, I felt like I was at a breaking point. So it seemed like really bad timing for me to give up a day every week, drive an hour and serve refugees in my city…something that would eventually lead me to start Fair Trade Friday. But when we choose obedience to God (even when it seems crazy), we are choosing something that is life-giving. More than once, I told Terrell, Trust me. This is what God wants me to do.

6. I’ve discovered what recharges me

I take a lot of hot baths and drink a lot of sweet tea. I read books that inspire me or just make me laugh. I do regular girls’ nights out and sometimes I get that pedicure or even a massage. One day this past year, I did both on the same day.

So, take some time for yourself: Schedule that haircut. Buy that dress. Fill your time with something that matters. Start by ordering a copy of The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh, and find a better hiding spot for that chocolate.

This post is sponsored by Revell. All thoughts, opinions and sweet tea are my own.

Raising Kids in the Age of Anything-Goes-Sex, Terror & Religious Persecution

I couldn’t turn the channel fast enough.

All five of us piled on the queen bed watching a cooking show when the commercial break brought an invitation to watch 50 Shades of Grey. My teen daughter gave me a look that told me her peers were talking about this film, too, as I fumbled for the remote. My 7th grade son asked what it was about, “Because it looks just like a love story,” he said.

That’s what they want you to think. It’s a movie about violence and sex. The world wants us to think it’s about romance and love, but it’s not. I’m shaking.

I flipped to the next channel and the latest news of terror in the middle east filled the room.

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My 8 year old looked at me with her deep brown eyes and said, “The world is scary.”

I turned the TV off and wondered how to teach my kids about real love-the kind that makes us pray for our neighbors in the war on terror while shutting out the lure of our anything-goes culture.

I want to pin recipes on Pinterest and google how to make a sliding barn door.  I want to protect them from the world. Some days I want to live in my bubble and not think about how the rest of the world lives.

Two days later 21 people were beheaded in Egypt. More death. More terror.

More Christians.

It hit close to home. And it made me long for another home. Because I can’t protect my kids from the world we live in.

It made me think about living widely obedient and what that really means.

It made me wonder at my upcoming trips with my daughter to a predominately muslim world. (Updated to add: We work with women, some who are Muslim. I certainly don’t think every Muslim is “bad” any more than I think every Christian is “good.” I’m simply being honest–these events make me pause and wonder, “Is this safe?” But I still go.)

I can’t say anything that’s not already been said in all the Internet noise this week. There are as many opinions as there are shades of gray.

And in our constantly changing world, some things don’t change:

I’m still teaching my kids right from wrong.

I am reminding them of absolute truths in a culture that decides day-to-day what is politically correct.

We still choose to follow Christ.

We think and pray for our brothers and sisters who live the same way even when it means death for them.

Experts tell us ISIS doesn’t want to rule the world, they want to end it. And as I raise my children to follow Christ, I must also teach them truth:

One day this world will end. But it will not be the end.

5 truths our kids need to hear in our world today:

1. God is in control- Our world can be a very scary place. But no matter what happens here or over there, God is in charge. It might look really bad, but He is not surprised by what happens and somehow, someway God will work things out for our good. He loves us and He is in control.

2. There is right from wrong- Domestic violence, pornography for men and women, living a life that doesn’t matter, loving and hating others-these are the right from wrong choices we make everyday. Truth does not change, no matter what society or media says.

3. The world does not live like we do-Attending church on Sunday and school on Monday, owning a Bible, going where we want, when we want, this is called freedom. But nothing about it is free. It cost something. Someone.

4. Prayer is a weapon-Sometimes we feel helpless and hopeless when we watch the news or hear how bad the world is, or we are fearful it will effect us in same way. There is something important we can do-we can pray for the world and for our own faith. We wear our bracelets to help us remember to pray for the oppressed. It feels small, but it’s not.

5. There is hope-no matter how bad it gets-and I personally believe it will get worse-from terror to shifting cultural truths, there is always hope. We call it The Blessed Hope. This world is not the end and I want my kids to know that life is temporary. Eternity is forever. And one day, Jesus will right all the wrong in the world and we will live with Him forever.

I whisper truth in their ears. I comfort them with these words. We hold onto these promises together.

For Husbands On the Day After Valentine’s Day

A Guest Post by Terrell Welch

The card aisle is bare today. Red and pink flower bouquets are half off. There’s been a run on chocolate. It’s the day after Valentine’s Day and most of the gifts are gone.

A few years ago after God did a miracle in my marriage, I ran across a little book that changed holidays around my house. I realized my days on the earth are numbered and I decided I wanted to leave my family my heart for when mine stopped beating.

A couple of weeks ago as I was thinking about Valentines Day, I sat down with a good friend over coffee.  My friend Steve is a rare find.  He’s the kind of friend that a man needs.  He’s real and honest and within a couple of minutes we were talking about our relationship with God and our relationship with our wife.  Steve shared about his prayer time with his wife.  It was thoughtful and meaningful.  On the drive home that night, I decided my letter for Valentines Day would be a prayer for my wife.  If I could ask God for anything on behalf of my wife, what would I want to say?  And honestly, could I write a prayer for my wife without the bias of asking God for things that would benefit me?

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Husbands, today, I’m hijacking Kristen’s blog and sharing my prayer for her…to encourage you.

Jesus, I thank you for my beautiful wife. She is truly amazing. I thank you that over twenty years ago you made our paths to cross in college. I am honored to call her my dearest friend and confidant.

Lord, I ask you to help me cherish Kristen and treat her with gentleness and kindness. I often fail to cherish her like I should. I cannot thank you enough for what she means to me.

I pray you would give her the hours she needs to get the work done that needs to be finished.

I ask you to inspire the words she writes and use them to bless others and glorify your name.

I pray you would give Kristen confidence in her ability to parent and guide our children, that mother would be a cherished title.

May she connect with and reach thousands of women around the world.

Give her wisdom as she advocates for Mercy House and the oppressed.

May her genuine heart and love come through in all she does.

I pray that you would give her patience with our children.

I ask you to help her love our family well.

I pray you would bless her going in and coming out.

I pray you would protect her as she travels around the world and to Chick-fil-a.

I ask you to continually expand her faith and vision for what women in America can do for impoverished women in the world.

Lord, give Kristen the desires of her heart.

I ask that you give her children that follow hard after you.

I pray that you give her physical health and rest.

Help her to overcome fear and trust you.

Help her to be obedient to your words.

I ask you to wrap her in your love-that she may experience your favor on a daily basis and that will know she is loved.

I pray that you would let her experience abundant joy and pleasure in serving you.

I pray that her bath would always be hot and her tea would always be sweet.

Thank you Jesus for giving this girl to be my wife.

Amen.

Men- I want to challenge you to pray over your wife regularly. Loving our wives well is a gift we can give them and our children every day.

 

6 Reasons Dads Should Date Their Daughters Before Anyone Else Does

She twirled around the house in her pink sparkly dress.

“Daddy is going to love it,” she said as she got another peek of herself in the mirror. “I look amazing.”

I walked away smiling and told my husband his date was ready.

He straightened his tie, bowed and held out his hand. “May I have this dance?”

She giggled and said, “Yes, we need to practice.”

And they danced in the kitchen.

It was their first Daddy Daughter Dance together and I think this picture an hour later says what I cannot.

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She will never forget this night with her dad. Neither will he.

6 Reasons Dads Should Date Their Daughters Before Anyone Else Does:

1. Dads have a profound impact on their daughter’s lives

A father’s role in his daughter’s life is one of the most important she will ever know. “Research clearly says that daddies make all the difference in the world,” says Kevin Leman, national speaker and author of What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Indelible Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life“I have tremendously more impact on my daughter than my wife does.”

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2. Dad sets the dating standard

“What you are doing as a man is prioritizing your time,” Leman explains. “Most kids grow up knowing Dad is a pretty busy guy. Your daughter needs to know the sacrifice you’ve made in your priority list; making sure she comes up No. 1. The fact that you affirm your daughter’s femininity and treat her special says to her, ‘Honey, seek somebody special in life. Seek someone who is going to treat you right.'”

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3. A dad makes his daughter feel special on a date

Many girls seek approval and attention at some point in their life. If dad is giving it regularly, it satisfies that craving. If he doesn’t, she might look for it elsewhere.

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4. Daughters might just open up with the one-on-one time

Our oldest daughter painted nails and applied eyeshadow and lip gloss to the girls who didn’t have moms present in the glamour room before the dance. Later, her dad took her out for a Starbucks and he just listened. She talked and then she really talked. Watching my 15 year old and my husband return to the house holding hands is something I won’t soon forget.

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5. It’s the perfect opportunity to just have fun

Dads are busy with work and the pressure of providing. A date is a great time to let loose and just laugh and have fun. At one point during the dance, my 8 year old said, “Daddy was dancing so hard, he had to get a napkin off the table to wipe his sweaty head!” She thought it was awesome because she knew he was having a great time with her.

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6. Regular dates with dad keep him involved in her life

One day, our daughters will date someone other than their dad. And as far off (and even difficult) as that might sound, it’s part of life. And when dad makes his daughter a priority and spends one-on-one time with her, even in the difficult stages and phases of parenting, it becomes a natural shift for when another young man enters her life. I love this from Desiring God: “Have her boyfriend in your home. And I don’t mean just once for dinner. I mean welcome him into your family with some regularity. Let him see you love your wife and children. Model manhood for him — the manhood you want to see in his relationship with your daughter. And remember that your home is probably the safest place for them to get to know each other, rather than out and about on their own without loving boundaries and accountability.”

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Dance, anyone?

If Dad can’t be present or chooses not to be, try to find a Godly man to fill his shoes-a grandfather, uncle, etc. And we don’t have to teach kids their fathers are flawed, they see that eventually. But we can all teach our kids that God is the perfect Father of all.

Photos by Lindsay Portugal & Taylor Robbins