Growing up did you ever do trust falls? You know, the game where you fall backwards into the arms of your partner while crossing your fingers hoping they are there to catch you. In this game there are two potential outcomes; you land safely into the arms of your partner with a sigh of relief or you hit the ground with a hard thump and some frustration stirring in your gut. Let’s be honest, there is also a third outcome that most experience at the start of this game when one foot serves to break our fall because we just aren’t sure we can really trust our partner. When it comes to faith and our girls it can be a little bit like doing a trust fall.
When trying to help my girls understand practically what it means to have faith and how they can develop it and live it out in their lives we focus on four simple things;
Relationship - Trust comes through a relationship and relationships start with communication.
Our girls can get to know God through prayer, just talking to Him as a best friend.
Knowledge - The more we know the more confident we feel, so open your bibles or find a fun mother-daughter devotional and start reading together.
Experience - As their relationship with the Lord grows and they begin to understand how God has worked in the lives of people since the creation of the world they will start to see Him working all around them and personally in their own lives.
Time - Anything worth doing takes time and every new experience and opportunity is a chance for our girls to put their trust in Jesus above anything else.
Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.”
Even when things seem hard or feel overwhelming, we must first show and then also teach our girls that no matter what they can always trust in Christ because He loves and cares for them. Jesus is their ultimate trust fall partner!
Below is a post I had the opportunity to write for Treasured Girlz
In life, some conversations are easy & light while others are hard & awkward. With our daughters, it’s exactly the same way. The one thing that I have learned throughout the last twelve years since I became a mom is that when the conversations start heading towards the hard & awkward end of the spectrum, we can not do it alone. The other thing that I have learned, which may seem very obvious to you but I think it’s worth mentioning, is that the conversations don’t start off hard so we have lots of time to prepare! Thank goodness 😉
There are so many wonderful trained professionals, speakers, authors and podcasters that we are able to go to for those very specific tips and steps to take when it comes to talking to our girls about sex, puberty, friendships, technology, etc…And our circle of friends and community are also an incredible resource for sharing experiences, tips, feedback and failures.
I am a real information seeker and I am the type of mom who likes to get ahead of the current phase we are in so that I am prepared before for the next thing comes along. I also have friends that tend to bury their head in the sand and prefer to ignore hard topics until they are hitting them in the face because they themselves are uncomfortable or don’t want to admit it’s time to address some tough stuff. There are definitely pros and cons to both of those strategies. Ultimately, you need to do what works best for you & your family.
I would never claim to be a parenting expert; I am a mom who is right in the middle of raising pre-teen girls so I’m in this with you. I’ve gotten a lot of the conversations right and a lot of them I wanted a do over the moment the words came out of my mouth. Let’s just say my first attempt at the birds & bees talk with my daughters ended with them telling my husband James that I lay eggs…What?? Something got lost in translation…and I was likely fumbling around my words feeling like I had to give them all the information at once and by their response it was obviously way over their sweet little heads!
There’s some work we need to do as moms (and dads) to get ready for those conversations and moments in addition to reading books and listening to podcasts. We need to create a family dynamic that allows for those conversations to happen whether light or heavy.
Here are a few things that I have found very helpful.
Practical tips and advice on parenting are amazing but like with any other situation in life, we must first go to the Lord in prayer to seek guidance and to the Bible to seek truth.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Remember, we’re not in this parenting thing alone, we have God by our side! Being a mom is an amazing blessing and brings so much joy while at the same time can make us weary and burdened. When those feelings come, whether just from the day to day hustle and juggling act or from the weight of all we feel like we need to impart to our girls through ALL the conversations, keep in mind that He’s got them and has an incredible plan for their lives. Keep pointing them back to Jesus and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus as well and He will give you rest.
Below is a post I had the opportunity to write for Treasured Girlz!
My twin brothers are 7 years older than me so they were always a phase or more ahead. I remember all the summers that I sat in the back seat of the station wagon while we dropped them off at overnight camp and I was not old enough to go myself. The time finally came when it was my turn, it was the summer after 1st grade and I was 7. I was super excited about it! Excited…until my friend gave me a hard time about going, made fun of it actually, and my entire attitude changed. My parents had already paid, we’d bought a trunk, got a caboodle (remember those? well, they’re back!) and labeled all the stuff. So I was going…(it was the 80s, once the check was signed & mailed that was it).
As we headed up the mountain towards Mentone, Alabama the butterflies in my belly soared. Then, when my parents drove away and I stood next to my new counselors and cabinmates there was definitely a lot of fear and uncertainty. I finally got what I had always wanted…here we go!!
From swimming in the river, riding a horse for the first time & overcoming the ropes course to making new friends, singing around the campfire and picking up a deep southern drawl, (which would become a trend in my life during my time in Alabama and later living in Mississippi) that experience at overnight camp made an impact on me. I’ll admit that even with all the fun new adventures and experiences, I was still homesick. My sweet mom wrote me a letter every single day (which I did not read in fear it would make me sad and I did not want to be sad at camp) and I think I received at least two care packages. I wish I had a picture of those care packages wrapped in brown grocery bags covered in drawings and messages from my mom that brought that comfortable feeling of home and lots of fun goodies.
I left camp that year with a notebook full of addresses, because every young girl in the 80s needed pen pals, several rolls of film to be developed, confidence knowing I could survive in a new place away from home and a heart full from new relationships and memories made. Oh, and that deep southern drawl that caught my parents completely off guard and that we still laugh about today. Let me help you understand that more fully, my parents are from the northeast and transferred to Georgia in the late 70s for my dad’s job so deep southern roots or accents we did not have, but you would not have known that at Friday pick up!! 😉
I returned to Mentone, AL every summer for camp until high school. I can still remember the names and faces of my counselors and many of the girls I met. The summers there shaped me, they really did. At the time, it was just a fun two weeks I got to experience at the beginning of June each year and see my Alabama and Louisiana friends. But looking back as an adult I realize that time in my life and experience at camp gave me my independent spirit, my confidence to try new things, ability to push through fear and do the hard stuff, build relationships on my own and let’s be honest, master any accent I fancy!!
As a mom of two girls, I always wanted them to go to overnight camp. It’s something that James and I talked about when they were little. He never went to camp so I made sure he heard all my stories and of course my brother’s stories as well so he could fully grasp our passion for it. But let’s face it, overnight summer camp can be pricey and when I looked into sending our girls to my camp, I had sticker shock. I had just quit my corporate job and that was just not in our budget. I searched online and talked to friends to find options that made sense for our family. And there are tons!! I didn’t need my girls to go to my camp, I just wanted them to get to experience everything summer camp had to offer and hopefully be impacted by it like I was.
Ella and Hannah headed off to their first experience at overnight camp after 2nd & 1st grades, similar to me. Now in the role of mom, I was full of excitement yet also had some nerves. Were they ready, were they too young and let’s be honest, was I ready for them to be taken care of by someone other than family for an entire week??? But I quickly put those nerves behind me and started sharing with them how much fun they were going to have and some of my own personal stories.
At drop off that first year, I could feel the tears trying to come up but I did my very best to hold them in because I didn’t want my emotional outburst to freak them out and them not want to separate from us. Man, did I have it all wrong…We got Ella settled in her group first and I could no longer hold back the tears, I was about to leave my babies!! My attempt at hiding the river flowing from my eyes from Ella failed. She looked at me and said, “Mom, stop crying!” with complete disgust and likely embarrassment. I pulled myself together enough to move on to say goodbye to Hannah, again the tears welled up but I did not care, I no longer was trying to hide it from them, I think now I needed a little love. Gosh, are they even going to miss me, I started thinking to myself. Nope, without even looking up from her newly started art masterpiece Hannah waved and said, “Toodles mom!”. She could’ve cared less!
I remember getting in the car with James, taking a deep breath, letting out a few more tears, talking about how much fun they were going to have yet feeling a noticeable absence. Of course, I immediately went to post pics on Facebook of camp drop off and probably feeling the need for a little support and validation I wrote briefly about how our goodbyes went and said, “I’m either doing something right or something wrong!”
I think by nature my girls are independent spirits. I’m not a parenting expert, just a mom, so I can’t tell you whether our parenting has anything to do with that or it’s merely the way they are wired. But what I can tell you is I think that because we laid a foundation of excitement, support and a belief in them that they were going to thrive in this new environment and in this new experience they were ready and comfortable.
After feeling sad and sorry for myself that my girls didn’t miss me, I realized I’m doing something right…The goal is to raise them up and prepare them to leave the nest. Yeah, at early elementary I wasn’t quite ready and neither were they but at each age and phase we are building their foundation. It doesn’t have to be overnight camp or even day camp, but as moms we are called to give them experiences that will allow them to grow and find their way. That looks different for each family and each girl. It could be sports, art, drama, STEAM club, church group, anything that fits who they are. Push them out of their comfort zone every now and then and you’ll be surprised at how high they will fly!!
A friend loves at all times. She is there to help when trouble comes.
Friendship, it can be the most wonderful thing while also being the hardest. When you open up your heart to let someone in you also open yourself up to everything that comes with it. It’s not all fun nights out and girls’ trips, it’s supporting one another through marriage, divorce, illness, death, career change, financial peaks & valleys, the roller coaster of raising kids, wrinkles, stretch marks and so much more. It’s being vulnerable with one another, trusting them with your stuff and doing your best to create a safe space where they can do the same. Judgement sometimes comes quicker than acceptance, defensiveness before really hearing the other person and we get angry & dismiss rather than give grace. In some seasons of life, especially in motherhood, we often just want to put our head down, stay in our lane and put friendships on pause until you have more time and can make it a priority again…good luck with that! You’ll wind up with no friends and that is the absolute worst thing you could do. Believe me, at times I’ve felt like I was there.
You may be the type who has a lot of friends that are mainly social or you may be the type who would prefer to have a few really close friends that know you deeply. I am sort of a combination of both but what my hearts needs most is real, genuine connection. I’ll be honest, I HATE small talk and I think I am probably pretty bad at it. I want to know what people are going through and know what’s in their heart and at a cocktail party people usually don’t want to veer too far from discussing the latest decorating, workout or skincare craze. There is nothing wrong with that but I typically have zero to contribute in any of those areas. 😉
Let’s get back to talking about girls’ trips…I just got home from one of the best! I got to go back to Ole Miss with my three best friends who I have gone through pretty much ALL of the above with over the last 24 years. It’s been 20 years since we graduated and I’ll be honest we haven’t always been super consistent about getting together. Of course, there was wedding season and then baby shower season. I wish I could say we did an annual trip of some kind every year, we haven’t. But over the last 8+ years we have become more intentional about it and have made more of an effort to get together.
Due to my work and school schedule I couldn’t leave for the weekend until Thursday afternoon which meant I had to drive by myself. I was a little bummed, but then realized I would have 5 hours ALONE in my car!! Started out listening to a book but then switched over to music, needed to get pumped up with some 90s classics. Then I switched over to my running mix and the Ed Sheeran song “Castle on the Hill” came on. I like Ed Sheeran but don’t typically listen to the lyrics too closely. When you’re alone for 5 hours you do a lot of thinking and since I was headed back to my college town my thoughts included a lot of reminiscing. As I exited I-65 and headed onto I-22 for the last stretch of the trip the chorus of the song blared loudly “I’m on my way, driving at 90 down those country lanes…And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real…But these people raised me and I can’t wait to go home.” I burst into tears, I’d love to blame it on the enormous sun on the horizon but nope…every emotion I’ve ever felt about these girls came pouring out and my heart was overflowing. I probably listened to the song on repeat for the next hour. I have no clue what the song is actually talking about but at that moment it was talking about me and my 3 besties. Hey girls, I'm on my way!
You show up to college at 18 and leave at 22ish. Out on your own, making your own choices and living with a group of your peers, not your parents, for the first time. Your friends really become your family and, in those years, you raise each other into adults. It’s not pretty most of the time but you know you’re not alone because those college friends are right there with you every step of the way. Because of that, they REALLY know you, not the version of you you’ve created as an adult. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all changed in the best ways since that time but we are less likely to share all our stuff with people as adults. So, the fact that I am still best friends with my college girls MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME! It’s like the safest and most comfortable blanket you just want to wrap up in and never get up.
From the moment we got to Oxford this past weekend, the conversation never stopped. We talked about our husbands, kids, work, life and a whole bunch of other stuff you don’t want to know…Even when it’s been a year or more since we’ve been together, it’s like not a single day has passed since we met in 1995 and bid farewell to our home away from home in 1999. It was real, authentic and vulnerable…just the way I like it!
Over the last 6 years I have made some of the most incredibly life giving, Christ-centered friendships that I have been able to add to my short list of friends who REALLY know me. They have guided, supported and prayed me through one of the biggest and most unexpected life changes I’ve experienced since meeting James and having Ella & Hannah. In my mid/late-thirties I did not know it would be possible to build those types of relationships and I am extremely grateful.
Whether it’s my friendships that developed at 18 or at 38, they have helped to make me into the woman I am today. Each one of them was a gift from God and I have no doubt they’ve been placed in my life at exactly the right time and completely on purpose. But sometimes, we aren’t open, willing or able to let ourselves be vulnerable enough to let people in to REALLY know us.
Brene Brown talks a lot about True Belonging, she says we need to “Be vulnerable. Get uncomfortable. Be present with people without sacrificing who you are.” True belonging, that’s what everyone wants right? Sometimes it can be hard to find and it takes work. Mutual vulnerability is key and a desire to let people in, neither are easy and take a whole lot of faith. We spend so much time looking out for ourselves that we forget to truly invest in others. Be intentional, put it on your calendar, whether it’s a girls’ trip, coffee or dinner. Or better yet, put yourself out there to make a new friend. As I’ve experienced, it’s worth every minute of the hard work!!
Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
We’ve all felt like too much or not enough at different times in our lives, right? The Bible tells us to not hide our light under a bushel but to let our light shine before others (Matthew 5:15-16).
Rather than shy away from or down play the gifts God has given me, I’ve spent the last couple years getting comfortable with them, honing them in small groups and asking God how I should use them. And now I’m ready to grab hold of them and run my race.
God has gifted me with the ability to communicate. Whether it be through speaking, teaching, writing or simply being able to make things clear and getting right to the point. I would consider myself a good listener and an encourager. I’m not a fan of small talk, I’m much more comfortable going deep. My goal really is to love God and love people the best way I can!!
God has done some amazing work in my life and the lives of the 3 amazing people who I live with over the last 6 years and I want to shout it from the rooftops! Or around the table, in basements teaching middle school girls, one on one over coffee, on stages, on paper or online.
It's not easy saying these things, let alone posting about them on the internet. It feels very self-focused so for a while I have been hesitant to be so outward. In the back of my mind I often think to myself, well Ellen, if this is really a calling from God He will put opportunities in your path. I believe that He does have the power to make that happen! But I also know that I need to do my part and put one foot in front of the other because I am convinced this IS from God. Here's the thing, if you want to go speak to groups you better go tell someone about it! If you want to find spaces to write and contribute you better go tell someone about it! If you want to encourage your friends, other moms, women in your community well you better pick up the phone and text them! (I was going to say call but let's be honest, who does that anymore ;-) I refuse to hide my light under a bushel because I'm afraid of what people will think!
Whatever God has planned and however He wants to use me I am ready!! I am going to let my light shine and know that I can do all things with Christ!!
Thanks for sticking with me while I type a little pep talk to myself :-)
When I was what felt like 1,000 months pregnant with my oldest daughter Ella I was having a really hard time sleeping and could never get comfortable. Remember those days? I can still recall lying in my bed staring at the ceiling as tears started rolling down my cheeks thinking, “I guess this is it, I will never sleep again.” A short 18 months later I was lying in the same position but this time with a toddler snuggled up next to me, a bit more experience but still no comfortable position and not enough concealer in the world to cover up the dark circles under my eyes. I just kept thinking, “once I get Hannah sleeping through the night life will get easier.” Although it felt like those sleepless nights would last forever, they didn’t.
With two girls under the age of two, we were in survival mode. Feedings, diapers, tummy time, all the check-ups, achieving milestones, missing milestones, solid foods, potty training, oh the list goes on! While juggling working full time, being a mom, wife, friend, daughter…I remember thinking, “if we can just get them out of diapers life will get easier.” It wasn’t easy, believe me, but we got there.
At three months old, both girls went to daycare and I went back to work. It was hard, but I knew that it was what my family needed at the time. There was always some mom guilt that I wasn’t with them all day and some mom guilt when I didn’t feel the guilt because I enjoyed my job and it kind of felt like a break. As the girls got older and Ella started kindergarten life got a lot harder for me to manage, I wasn’t enjoying my job as much and I felt like I was missing out on a lot of things. I remember thinking, “if I could just quit my job and stay at home with the girls life will get easier.” The time did come when staying at home became a reality for me and it has been a blessing and something I try never to take for granted.
When I started getting a full night sleep, I realized I missed those sweet, quiet moments in the middle of the night with my babies. Once we got both the girls out of diapers, I missed the sound of the giggles that came from tickling their tummies while they lie on the changing table. There have been days since quitting my job that I miss the excitement of new product launch or presenting in front of customers. It’s been a little over five years since I quit my job and life isn’t easier it’s just different.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” I realized that rather than embracing the seasons of life that I was in, I was looking ahead to the next season thinking it would be easier or maybe even better. It’s hard sometimes to stop while we are in the middle of something hard, overwhelming, stressful or just straight up exhausting and appreciate it, maybe even learn some lessons from it. But once we understand that every season has a purpose, we can hopefully try and enjoy them more, even the hard ones. Ecclesiastes 3:22 (MSG) says “So I made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do – that’s our lot. Who knows if there’s anything else to life?”
I want to encourage each one of you today regardless of what season you are in that what you’re doing matters. Whether you’re out there earning a paycheck for your family, staying home taking care of your sweet kiddos, doing this life with a partner or on your own, in the middle of feedings and diaper changes, wrangling the terrible twos or riding the emotional roller coaster of the tween and teen years, you need to know that this season matters and do your best to keep your eyes focused there. You’re not in this alone, thank goodness!! 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Take it all to God regardless of your circumstance and choose joy because anything else will make life harder, not easier.
I leave you today with a quote from the great Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
James and I have been married for almost 16 years and started our family 12 years ago. We were married in a church, our girls were baptized and while I was working full-time they attended a Christian daycare five days a week where they learned the sweetest prayers and songs. During that time, we did not attend church except for our annual Christmas and Easter visits with my family. I remember having conversations that we wanted to raise our girls in a Christian home and give them a foundation of faith. I remember purchasing a women’s devotional bible in January one year, I think I may’ve made a New Year’s resolution to read it. But come February it was collecting dust on my nightstand. I bought all the cute kids bibles and devotional books to bring some religion into our home but by the end of the day we were just too tired and always forgot to do it. We always had an excuse why this Sunday wasn’t the Sunday we’d try out the church down the street where the girls played soccer even though we knew people there and had already figured out where the girls would go while we were in church (you know that is always the biggest hurdle!!) Too tired, intimidated, uncomfortable or just plain lazy…who knows what we were thinking at the time. We never moved past our conversations or good intentions and put them into action.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to quit my job and stay home with the girls and help James with our family business. What a blessing! This was also the same time that both the girls had graduated from our wonderful Christian daycare and were both now in public elementary school. We realized that no one was going to be teaching them those sweet prayers and songs anymore, we needed to get our act together if we were going to put any of those conversations and intentions for our family into action. So we did it, we dressed our family up on a Sunday morning in August and made our way to church. I started to sign them up for all the things, Sunday school, Wednesday night program after kids choir and church dinner, vacation bible school and I bought more books and devotionals.. I’m a dive into the deep end type of person so we were all in! Except here’s the truth, we were sort of drowning…The girls complained about getting up early and getting dressed up on Sunday mornings, I was yelling at everyone (including James) to take the devotions more seriously and all the how to raise a great Christian kid books were making me feel overwhelmed and stressed out! We were all having a hard time sticking with anything and it started to feel like a whole bunch of tasks to complete.
It took me a while to understand why that was all so hard and not really working. The answer: James and I did not have a relationship with Jesus. I had grown up in church but had fallen away and James had never opened a bible or knew anything other than what he’d heard at our bi-annual church visits and occasional wedding. We had previously relied on others to pour into our girls and at home we were trying to do it from an empty bucket. It wasn’t natural or coming from a place we knew anything about. So, we eased up on our checklist and just started making our priority getting to church on Sunday, not because we had to but because we wanted to learn and grow and worship. I really got serious about reading the bible and building a relationship with Jesus that I remember seeking in high school but forgot about once I got to college. James and I decided to commit to a year long bible study on Sunday nights together as a couple. That investment in God, each other and ourselves changed everything for our family. Things went from being a should do to a get to when it came to learning about God and teaching our girls about who He is, how much He loves us and what Jesus did on the cross for us. It opened our eyes to the fact that we had been living so many years relying on our own control and strength and made us realize our need for God. Life the old way would no longer work for us!
Although I still love a great devotional and you better believe our girls are signed up for life groups and all that amazing stuff at church, I try to not look at all of it like a checklist I must complete for them by the time they graduate high school. Rather, James and I make our priority now being solid in our relationship with the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to do a great work in us so that we can live out our faith and reliance on Him in front of our girls so they can see Jesus in us. We are far from perfect and believe me our girls know it, but through our example my hope is that they will too want to know God. Ultimately, God has an amazing plan for our kids and the closer we grow to know Him the more we are able to unclench our hands and keep them open to trust in that plan.
We can take a lesson from Paul in what he wrote to Timothy about being a good servant of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 4:12 he writes, “…be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
Moms- when it comes to faith, make sure your buckets are full so that you’re able to pour into your kids. I’ll be praying for you!!
Almost 3 years ago, in early February 2016, I heard God talking to me in a big way and stirring in me something that was a little, well A LOT, scary! I went alone to a local women’s conference and while standing with my hands up in worship (not like me at all) I felt Jesus wrap His arms tightly around me & in that moment I knew things were about to change.
I went home that Friday evening and somehow stumbled upon the IF:Gathering live stream which I became glued to that night and then again Saturday after returning home from the women’s conference morning session. Jennie Allen was so passionate and dynamic, I wanted to know more about her. I read that she attended Dallas Theological Seminary and so I clicked...then I sent an email...they called me...I prayed...and fought it...and prayed more...talked to my people...they were not surprised...they believed in me before I believed in myself...I applied...got accepted...and began a seminary journey full of learning, growth, struggle and transformation I never saw coming but completely needed.
In just a few months (God willing) they will give me a diploma, one that if it weren’t so clunky and totally weird would wear around my neck like a badge of honor & courage. It doesn’t make me smarter or better than those around me, just obedient to God in following His plan for me. We are all made on purpose & for a purpose. Are you fully living your purpose?