Shame-Dropping, Part 2: Now What?

It's a recurring theme lately, to rejoice in your imperfections. To be "real" and honest with the world. We like to glorify our failures and focus on our chaos. Our day is one long line of messes all strung together. Stress and worry carve lines in our faces and eat holes in our sleep. It's all we can do not to strangle the cat or shout at the husband or cry in the bathroom. Sometimes six cups of coffee and Netflix are the only things getting us through the day.

That is so sad. We weren't meant to barely hang on by a thread and a giant vat of caffeine. 

We have become content with our dirty little selves. We choose to embrace imperfection and paste it all over instagram and facebook, telling the world our laughable sorrows and glorifying our failures. And I'm all for it - but not at the expense of our freedom.

In the midst of being content in our puddles of mud, we have accidentally forgotten that we can stand up and walk to a better place. That finding beauty in the ordinary, while admirable, is not what our lives are really about. Our hope is not in the beauty of this world; our hope is in what we cannot see, things that are meaningful beyond these temporary days in the sun.

It's great that you have dirt and anger and spilt milk and failure in your life. It's great that you are willing to release the shame and share these shortcomings. But we're not supposed to get applause for our messes. You and I are called to renounce our sin. To not only be transparent enough to confess, but also to turn away from the sin and fight against it.

A week ago, we talked about how important it is to confess our sins, messes, fears, and addictions, and bring them into the light. This is huge, not only with the little things, but also the big. Being transparent can open you up to so many blessings.

But what is the point in dragging our pieces of darkness into the light if we're just going to crawl back into that black hole we came from? Showing off our little messes is not enough. Admitting failure is not enough. Taking blame is not enough. Confessing sin is not enough.

"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!" 
2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Worldly sorrow leads to depression, shame, darkness, hiding, and ultimately, death in your soul. "Godly sorrow" leads to repentance and positive actions. Take the darkness within you, confess it in the light, and then move on. If you're trapped in something you did, that is not from God. He seeks to forgive us and free us from our sins.

Sometimes, this is hard to live in. Often it feels like everything in our lives is controlling us instead of us controlling it. We are constantly falling in love with everything but God, and it leads us into slavery to things. Things we disguise ourselves with - yoga or minimalist style or gardening or a new diet or whatever it is. And suddenly our freedom is trapped in all of these lovely little things that aren't really bad.

Yes, I'm kind of preaching to myself. 

You and I must go beyond our love for ordinary beauty in the messes. We must fight darkness. Challenge the devil. Flee sin.

"We don't just confess our sin; we throw in with each other, point each other to the One who forgives and gives us the power to fight it! We have grown apathetic about sin, my friend. We have let it take hold in our lives, and in the dark it has all the power."
-Jennie Allen, in her book, Nothing to Prove

I'm not asking you to fight this battle alone. I'm ready to stand next to you in this war and fight. Fight for prayer in our houses. Fight for love in our families. Fight for freedom from enslavement to depression and anxiety and social media and lies. 

It's time to live fully empowered by the Holy Spirit to get up out of our mud puddle and walk into glorious light.

I think lately I've been giving you a giant me-cupcake with a little bit of Jesus-frosting on top, and I'm sorry about that. I've been sharing a bunch of things about my life, then finishing them off with a timid suggestion that maybe God is important. But as God's redeemed warrior, I have the authority to proclaim His word to y'all as the truth.

No one needs me; I am not important. But what is needed is more and more and more of Jesus.

> > > 

What do you need to fight against? What do you need to let go of? Pick one person (it could even be me) that you can share this thing with. Someone to pray for you, challenge you, and keep you from continuing in your sin. 

(For more reading, check out Romans 6.)

Sweet Summer Surprise

Summer is *officially* here.

I'm in Texas, so it sort of feels like summer started two months ago, but nevertheless, it's for sure happening now because I had watermelon and corn on the cob in the same day. Sweet perfection. What are some things you do to welcome summer?

And now for the surprise. For the last few months, I took part in a spring Mom Love Fellowship. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? You don't even have to know what it is and already you're interested. 

A wonderful woman set up a mommy pen pal system that goes in 3-month cycles. You get paired with another woman, send each other snail mail and one $20 gift over those three months, and receive all sorts of joy from blessing someone else. 

I loved it. Handwritten letters mean the world to me. I was paired up with the lovely Breezy (check out her instagram here). She sent me cute cards every month and her package was the best. It was stuffed with:

  • dark chocolate 
  • a bright headband
  • some outdoorsy "remnant rubs" that work sort of like stickers (does anyone know if you can use these as temporary tattoos or labels for glass jars?)
  • the most adorable mommy-daughter matching elephant necklaces, which you can find at Target (we'll be wearing them for the first time at an upcoming wedding and I'll probably tear up a bit because of the cuteness overload)
Justine, the woman who runs this nifty program, is doing a summer Mom Love Fellowship, and you have a little less than a week to sign up. The deadline is Wednesday, May 31st. It's free to join!! (Besides what you pay in communicating with your pen pal.)

I know we're all busy and short on cash + time, but this is your chance to reach out to someone you've never met before. An opportunity to travel far with your letters when you can't travel far physically. An option to give encouragement - and also get some in return.

You're gonna want to be a part of this.

If you're still not sure, head to this page to get a complete description of what will be required of you.

Summers can get crazy busy, so tell me: what are your must-dos in the summer? I don't want to waste away the months constantly complaining about the heat. I want to fully enjoy this season of smelling like sunscreen and driving with the windows down (while blasting the a/c because, you know, Texas).

Shame-Dropping, Part 1: Confession

Have you ever felt utterly ashamed of something you did or something that happened to you? Overwhelmed by that feeling of shame, did you cower a little and do everything you could to cover up what had happened? Did you hide?

Ugh. I do this all the time. I am easily ashamed. And I figure if I bury it deep enough, it will be like it never happened.

I recently had a beautiful morning with God (that involved me being up way earlier than I wanted to, but hey, these things never come easy) that lit up my heart. I asked God to explore the dark corners of my soul and pull out the things that I'd been hiding from other people and from Him.

He found my Box of Shame.

I don't know why I do it, but I stow away things in this box all the time. Things I'm too afraid to admit to myself that I did; things I'm determined to never let anyone know. The longer they have stayed hidden, the worse they seem to me; unforgivable actions that define me. I fear the judgement from others, my own conscience...and God.

Guilt and shame - they're not from God at all. I'm the one that buries all that crap in the dark. And I think the truth is that most of the time I don't believe that God is bigger than my problems or my sins. 

I say I do, and I mean well. But if I believed that my problems were insignificant in comparison with who God is, then would I really spend hours worrying over them? Crying about them? Stressing to the point of exhaustion? Would my sins make me cower in the dark if I truly believed that they had no power over me?

Maybe you need this reminder, too. This chance to see grace in a different way. Because here's the truth:

God is always bigger.

God is  a l w a y s  bigger.

It's one of those monolithic truths that is almost too big for us to handle. It seems too good to be true, so we write it on inspirational posters and are done with it, moving on to things that are easier to understand.

I'm here to tell you that God is bigger than anything you are ashamed about. And it's time we break the chains of shame that keep us from being honest with each other and ourselves.

Today I'm confessing to you some of the things I'm ashamed about. Things that make me feel weak, inadequate, ugly, unloved. And it is my own fault for letting them control my life this way. I want to take away the power they have over me.

As you read over these little confessions, think about your own Box of Shame. Why is it taking up space in your heart and in your life?

I have dandruff.
Gross, flaky skin cells hibernating on my scalp. Yep. It comes and goes like the freaking seasons and I hate it. It makes me feel ugly and dirty and like a woman-failure, because how good at life can I be if my hair is in this state?

My driving record is completely clean...but I've been in an accident. 
I'm proud of my driving record; it's squeaky-clean. But I have a secret. When I was fresh out of high school and driving my own little car, I stopped at a stoplight behind another car and got distracted. I was fiddling with the radio, checking my hair, whatever. I thought the light had turned green, tapped the gas a little, and rear-ended the car in front of me. I had an immediate reaction of fear and adrenaline and everything in me told me to run. I wanted to get out of that situation. The other driver and I ended up deciding that we could both drive off without reporting it because there was no damage to either car. But I couldn't bear to tell anyone that it had happened.

A few years later, a friend asked me to drive her car for her. All would have been well and good except that our path was blocked by a truck and I had to back down a hill and turn at the same time and I'm not so great at using my mirrors sometimes, so I backed right into the underbrush next to the road and got us stuck. The damage to the car was minimal, no one was hurt, etc. etc. but I was miserable. I couldn't get over the fact that I had let my friend down and worse, caused damage to something she owned. While, you know, making myself look like a complete idiot.

I have creepy dreams.
I'm a completely straight, married woman, but for some reason, Satan likes to send me random lesbian dreams. And not about strange lesbian women, either. I dream that I am a lesbian chick who likes girls. It's creepy and it leaves me feeling dirty and disoriented when I wake up. I also get dreams where a man is attacking me with the intent of rape. These make me feel ashamed, as if I've done something wrong, or my brain is messed up. But that's what Satan likes to do: make us feel dirty and unworthy of God's love. If you think of it, please help me pray away these unnecessary dreams.

Doubting and Worrying is my life.
Every day is a battle between choosing God's peace and joy vs. being controlled by little fears, worries, and doubts. I am constantly on the verge of quitting my day. Fear stops me from doing many things. Doubts keep me paralyzed enough that I don't do the things God asks of me. I worry about my baby, about our future, about finances, yada yada yada. That's why I wrote a post on carefree motherhood. I don't believe moms should be slaves to worry. It doesn't mean that I will ever "conquer" it; but it does mean that every day, I get to exercise God's power over it. Every day I get to come to Him to renew my peace about it. The choice has to be made again every time I come unglued.

I had sex before I was married.
Yep, that's right. I committed one of the "big" sins (isn't it silly how we think sin is big? Nuh-uh; God is big, and our sin is small). I liked having a "virgin card" to play whenever I screwed up in life. I would be like, "Yeah, I'm a sinner and I did that...but at least I'm still a virgin." I compared myself to other girls in my head and I was pretty self-righteous about it. So when I realized that I had lost my one and only bargaining chip with God, I crumpled up like a bag of flour. I know that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, I know that He forgives, and I know that I should never ever compare my sins with someone else's. I honestly had to re-learn my faith in God after this happened (I'm still working on it, actually). It sucked and it was my fault, but in the end it is bringing me closer to Him.

Even writing all this now, my face is burning and my fingers are hesitating and I am shrinking, just a little, from sharing these things with you. And I will tell you, it's easier to share these things via the internet than to speak them to a close friend in my living room. Why? Because I don't have to see your reactions. I don't have to try to tailor my own actions in order to receive the largest dose of understanding from you.

Let me see, I'll act devastated by my mistakes. Or perhaps I should laugh it off. Then they'll understand. Then they won't judge me.

But our mistakes are not made "okay" by other people's opinions of them. Our mistakes come under God's microscope. And do you know what He is saying?

"The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us." 
Psalm 103:8-12
Go and shed some light on your weaknesses and your mistakes and the things you wish weren't true about yourself. Share them with a close friend or just sit with God and open up to Him. Let Him take away all your shame and replace it with His never-ending love.

You are not the first person to know these things. I did share all of them with my husband first, because true confession and repentance is best done with someone else strong in the faith. By sharing these things, I am done with them. By handing them to God, I renounce all of my fear and shame connected to them. I hope that you can do the same.

<<< For further reading, check out 2 Corinthians 4 <<<

It's Potty Time!

If you've ever been a part of any potty training experience, you probably know how tedious it is to hang out in the bathroom waiting for your kid to pee. And the more you focus on results, the more you get frustrated. So if there was a way to bypass all that stress, you'd do it, right?

Enter "early potty training." I've heard the negative side of this (and maybe you have, too): You put in a lot of effort when they're babies and you still have to potty train them later. So why try?

Because it works. 

I've been using the Baby Bjorn Smart Potty for two-three months now, and I can almost guarantee that Roxy, my 8-month-old baby girl, will pee in her potty 4+ times a day. This is directly related to the fact that I take her to the potty a lot. I sit her in the bathroom after she nurses, and then in half hour increments after that. We've gotten pretty good at our loo routine. Often it results in her diaper remaining dry until naptime.

I totally reuse the same diaper if it's not soiled (budget win!).

There were some snags in the beginning, to be sure. The first day we had the potty, I got her to pee three times and poop once in her little Baby Bjorn (I was over the moon), but after about four days the excitement of the little potty had faded. Sitting on the floor of my bathroom had lost it's charm. The word "potty" got on my nerves. And then suddenly she wasn't peeing in her potty at all. But we persevered anyway and it completely paid off.

Let me pause by added a small disclaimer: I haven't seen this through to the end yet. My baby is only 8 months old. But the fact that she uses the toilet almost every time I set her on it seems like a HUGE success to me. Also she poops in it, which is WAY easier to clean up then a blowout diaper + poopy outfit.

Interested? Here's what you need to do to get started on some Early Potty Training for yourself:

Get the right potty. Most little potties are made for toddlers, so check around and get one specifically for babies. I bought this one in grey and we've never looked back. It's easy to empty/clean. There's a cutout in the front that baby can hold on to and that doubles as a pee-guard for baby boys. And it's quite small, so my 15-lbs.-if-she's-fully-dressed baby girl can sit with her feet on the floor.

Prep a little. For me, it was as simple as purchasing a plastic bin from the Dollar Tree and stuffing it with diapers, wipes, and hand sanitizer (I hate washing my hands), then finding space for it in my bathroom near her little potty. All you need to do is make sure you have the supplies you need to change diapers in your bathroom. Easy-peasy.

Set your own goals. If you want to merely introduce your baby to the potty and get him or her comfortable on it, just place them on the potty (sans diaper) one or more times a day, ideally when you yourself have to be in the bathroom anyway. That's it. It's entirely up to you how much time you spend on this method of potty training.

Focus on timing and consistency. Trying to take her into the bathroom every time I peed wore me out in the beginning. To take away the stress factor, I chose one time to take her to the potty: immediately after every feeding. This is the best time to ensure she'll be able to pee. Plus, it's easy for me to be consistent. Try to pick at least one time a day that you feel you can be consistent with. Start there, then add more potty time as you feel ready. Consistent timing is everything; you want to establish a routine baby can depend on.

Have a cue. In order to get baby to connect her little potty with actually peeing, you need to have a cue word, noise, or sign. I use the sign language term for "potty" (and I always say the word out loud as well). I do it each time I hear her wet her diaper, each time I place her on the potty, and each time she actually pees in the potty. Of course I get ridiculously excited so that she knows the bathroom is where the cool kids hang out.

Be patient. If you jump right in full force, you're likely to get frazzled like I did. So take it from me and pace yourself. No matter how "successful" you are or aren't at first, relax. You're way ahead of the game! Mine cried a bit the first time I set her on the potty, but then later that same day she also peed and pooed in it. Make it fun for both of you: play some music, give her a toy she can only have in the bathroom (my choice was a plastic solo cup and she loved it, haha). As with all learning, it's about the process, and babies are learning literally everything at once. Kudos to them, right?

It doesn't have to be "all or nothing." Because your baby is still little, there are going to be plenty of times when you want (and need) your baby to use a diaper. And there will be days where you just plain forget to even try. That's okay! Do what you can, when you can. Keep in mind there will be "regressions." I had a few different weeks where my timing was off, I got lazy, she got confused, and I couldn't get her to pee in the thing (yes, I'm tired of typing the p word) at all. But we got back on course eventually and now she does great.

If you're not quite ready to buy a baby potty and commit to all of this, there are still a few things you can do to prep your little one for potty training!

Take them into the bathroom with you. Acquaint them with the toilet, the sound of it flushing, tell them what you're doing, etc. Anything that takes away the fear and mystery of going to the bathroom.

Change baby's diapers immediately. The more often they sit in a wet/soiled diaper, the more they will get used to ignoring the feeling. You want them to know it's something that needs taking care of, and that being dry is always better.

Have diaper-free time. Put your little one down on a waterproof mat/changing area where they are safe to play for awhile. Or you can have them hang out with you outside (pants-less & diaper-less) if they're a bit older. Every time you notice them peeing, make some sort of cue noise/sign that you can use later. By giving your baby time without wearing a diaper, he/she will get used to the feeling of peeing without it - and also the feeling of a dry bottom!

More resources:

Strength in 5 Minutes

Whenever someone is trying to sell you on an idea, they squirm their way into your day by suggesting, "You have 5 minutes in your day for this, can't you just take 5 minutes?"

But as we all know, 5 minutes adds up. 5 minutes on the phone with Aunt Sharon results in 5 less minutes that you have to eat your lunch. 5 minutes spent at Target takes away at least 25 minutes of your grocery shopping time (am I right?). Spending time doing one thing is always going to be taking time from something else. That's just how it works.

This means that our time should be spent doing only what we actually need and want to do.

We're not in control, we're not able to change our circumstances, and we definitely can't always stick to a schedule. But what we can do is work with our time in ways that benefit us long-term. Something as simple as chunking like tasks together can revolutionize your day.

Capsule Wardrobe Phase 2: the Re-Eval

If you were with me last month, you probably remember my fantastic closet transformation as a result of Project 333. We sectioned off 33 items for our capsule wardrobe, and then boxed up all the extras we thought we might want to keep (or were sure we couldn't get rid of just yet).

I'm here to help you figure out those leftovers. 

This is serious stuff right here. Phase 1 gets you excited and on track, but without Phase 2 you are likely to fail and return to your old ways. Want a simplified wardrobe to be your lifestyle? Then stick with me. This next part's all about making it last.

Finding Your Post-Partum Pose

Me 40 weeks pregnant and doing yoga at Garden of the Gods.
Way back when, I saw a photo of a friend doing a beautiful yoga pose called crow pose. And I thought, "I want to do that." I had only barely begun to show an interest in yoga. One of my maternity workout videos had a short yoga segment and I loved it (probably because it gave me a break from all the squats.

Pregnancy + having a baby sort of muddled my initial enthusiasm, and by the time I got back on track in January, I wasn't sure how to pursue any sort of physical goal.