Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Captivity of Activity

People Walking on Gray PavementI am currently in a Bible study called, Breaking Free (Bible Study Book): The Journey, The Stories written by the amazing Beth Moore. It has been a powerful study and I’ve learned a lot. However, one of Beth’s phrases that impacted me the most was “the captivity of activity.” I read an article a few months ago that said that people today report the lowest rates of boredom in history and the highest levels of creativity. I remember thinking that was so neat. Smartphones, TV, access to Pinterest mean we have so many outlets that show us how to do more: more crafts, more recipes, more learning, more opportunities. 

And yet, although many of my friends (including myself) are doing more – more homeschooling, more side jobs (like photograph, selling jewelry, etc.), more craft bazaars – there is an abundance of articles onlinshowing how worn out and stressed we are as moms and as a culture. I recently presented on anxiety and stress for teens, and research shows that although teens are extremely busy with school, extracurricular activities and social media, they are also exhibiting the highest levels of stress and a rapidly increasing rate of anxiety disorders. 

So even though we are doing more, the trade-off is we are exhausted and anxious. We are on a hamster wheel that is never ending and wears us out. There are nights when I lay in bed, after a long day of work, and instead of praying or reading God’s Word, I’m jotting down ideas about articles to write or people to talk to in my day planner. I fall asleep, then wake up exhausted and ready to start all over again. 

Can any of you relate? Do you find yourself running around, doing more, but feeling anxious or exhausted at the end of each day instead of satisfied? 

I feel like this endless cycle of do more, make more, and be more is a dangerous trap. I was at a conference and the speaker said that the word busy can be short for: Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke. At first, I was a little taken aback. The prideful part of me thought, busyness is good! It often makes me feel productive, like I can do it all. I can work, cook, craft, clean and be a good mom/spouse/Christian. 

But recently, especially with the holidays coming up, I find myself wondering if I can do it all. Because honestly, falling into bed at the end of a long day, unable to spend time with my spouse or God leaves me feeling drained and empty. That temporary feeling of productivity and invincibility fades, and I just feel…empty. 

The Bible mentions multiple incidents where Jesus took a break to rest and pray (Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31, Luke 5:16). At one point, the disciples were busy teaching and putting the body of John the Baptist in a tomb (how draining that must have been emotionally!). They came back to Jesus and “told him all that they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30, ESV). I love that Jesus didn’t simply say, “Good job! Let’s preach more to more people!” like an overly enthusiastic coach. Instead, Mark 6:31 tells us, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ 

Jesus encouraged the disciples to rest before starting the next task. As we go through the craziness of the holidays in the next few weeks, please rest. And by resting, I don’t mean laying on the couch, playing on your phone and jotting down your to-do list. I mean, actually rest in Him 

Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV). Retreat into a quiet part of your house, or if that doesn’t exist, find a quiet coffee shop or sit in your car. Focus on God, his peace and rest in Him. Not in your to-do lists, Pinterest or social media. Read His Word, pour out your heart, and find peace 

I hope that you all enjoyed Thanksgiving and time with your family. But as we go through the holidays, please remember to rest. Do not let activity and busyness take you captive and prevent you from enjoying your everyday life. I promise I will set aside my to-do lists and hope you will too!

I originally wrote this for Uniquely Yours Ministries and they have given me permission to reprint it on my blog as well!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Breaking Free from "Supermom" Mentality

I think we can all agree there is a ton of variation in parenting. Bottle fed vs. breast fed, cry it out vs. not, working mom vs. stay-at-home mom, public vs. private vs. charter vs. homeschool. We don't all parent the same way.

However, I think the one common theme I see in moms is the pressure to do everything right. To do everything well. I recently wrote an article about the "captivity of activity" and pressure we feel as moms to do more, and do everything perfectly.

I recently stumbled across this article by Betty Daley called, "So, I can't bake an apple pie" and I loved it!  She talks about how we all have different talents and skills, and that if we try to do everything perfectly,

"I quickly learned that if you try to do it all, you won't be able to do anything with excellence. You get burned out.  You question your abilities.  Instead of walking out the purpose God has for you right now, you go down a trail of disappointments." 

It's a great article, so make sure you check it out!

With the holidays coming up, it's so easy to feel overwhelmed and pressured to do it all. Hopefully, this article will help give you perspective and peace!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Raising Godly Daughters

I've been working on some different projects and was recently searching for good Bible verses for children, especially young daughters. Since I have a little girl that will be a tween very soon, and as a therapist, spend my day listening to the heartaches and struggles of young girls dealing with bullies, body image issues and social media pressure, I'm always looking for better ways to encourage and support young girls.

It can be overwhelming to know how to address these issues, so I was thrilled to find this awesome article from Julie Pfeifer titled:

Julie's examples of different ways she's used the five verses were inspiring to me. I hope that they are help to you who have young daughters or any aunt, grandma or neighbor who wants to support and encourage the young women in their life.

Which verses do you find most helpful when you are trying to talk to your children?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Finding Victory in Jesus

Learning to find victory in Jesus in the midst of stress!
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had an exciting opportunity come up!  And here it is! I will be guest blogging over at Uniquely Yours Ministries for the next few weeks. It is a site full of devotions, online Bible studies and posts about marriage, self-worth and faith to keep you focused and thinking about God throughout your busy week.

My first post was about finding victory in Jesus. During a crazy week, I was convicted by that song by Crowder, "My Victory." So check it out if you get a chance and my prayer for you this week is that it will inspire you to live a life of victory for Jesus!

You can find the article here:

I love Ephesians 6:10: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." I don't know what kind of Monday you are having, but I pray that God will give you strength to overcome any obstacles you are facing today.

I'll be posting over at Uniquely Yours Ministries on Sunday mornings for the next few months, so make sure to follow me on Facebook and Uniquely Yours Ministries on Facebook to see the new posts and find inspiration!

In Him,

Saturday, November 12, 2016

6 Early Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

Red flag behaviors of domestic violence in relationshipsWhen I was a new social worker, I spent my first few years working at a psychiatric hospital.  After several years, I ended up taking a job at an agency that worked to end domestic violence. Suddenly, I went from primarily focusing on mental health to being part of the world of domestic violence education and prevention.

I absolutely loved it. I've worked with offenders and I've worked with the victims and their families in different capacities for the past six years. A common theme I've seen as I work with victims and survivors of domestic violence is they didn't realize how unhealthy their partners were until things escalated to physical violence.

I felt led to write an article about the early warning signs of potential domestic violence to help educate others. Many of us understand that physical violence is not okay, but so many people (including professionals) don't always identify signs like excessive jealousy or playful aggression as red flags early on in the relationship.

So if you have a moment, feel free to check out my article on Family Share and help educate your friends, families and loved ones how to seek healthy relationships and avoid the unsafe ones!

In Him,

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

#LoveDoes: Healing America through Love

#LoveDoes: Healing America through Love
Like the rest of the country last night, I watched Donald Trump win the election and I was floored. Stunned. Shocked. I disliked both candidates, but was sure that Hillary would win.

I consider myself incredibly blessed to have friends from all political walks. I have Libertarian friends, Democrat friends, Republican friends, friends who support gay marriage, friends who oppose it, friends who support legalized marijuana, friends who oppose it. I love debate and discussion and feel that overall, my life is fully of impassioned people who are gracious enough to agree to disagree.

However, as the tension grew last night, things got a little crazy. As Trump’s delegates inched closer and closer to the 270 needed to win, emotions were running high. People were arguing, feelings were hurt. This morning, when I woke up, there was still negativity, disbelief, anger all over social media.

But then, something beautiful happened.

My incredible friends started posting a call for change. And it grew and grew. My friend Morgan put it well. He wrote, “All your hopes and dreams are represented by you, not a government. Be a good person. Love with everything you have. Love everybody, not just the people you know…Be the trendsetter. Care about your tribe. Care about your planet. Care about animals.”

Suddenly, the negativity started to dwindle and there was post after post from people I respect all with one message. 

WE are responsible for change. 

And it will not be through politicians, media or hate. It will be through love. Kindness. Compassion. Being honest about the problem and fixing it.

My super insightful friend Rachel wrote a beautiful post, saying, “Don’t just look for the helpers. More important BE a helper. If you are unhappy with the results of the election, the solution is not to run…We RUN when things get hard or uncomfortable…But it’s time to stop avoiding. Stop running from pain...Both our personal pain and the collective pain in the country will keep surfacing over and over again until we deal with it because it’s beckoning to be healed. It’s not always easy to be brave and courageous. But bravery and courage are what we need most. And helpers. How can I help? That is what I will be exploring. I am not running.”

And folks, America is hurting. We’ve had some significant improvements in the economy, but I still have friends who can’t buy a house because of a previous foreclosure. I have clients who are thisclose to eviction because they are in debt after the economy tanked. Families are still broken, insurance is insane, we feel manipulated by the media and misinformation.

In a truly inspiring article from the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg wrote, “The misfire on Tuesday night was about a lot more than a failure in polling. It was a failure to capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate that feels left behind by a selective recovery, betrayed by trade deals that they see as threats to their jobs and disrespected by establishment Washington, Wall Street and the mainstream media.”

As a counselor, some of the hardest clients are the ones that deny that anything is wrong. There are times when I can sense that there is pain or something bad happening, but because the person won’t talk about the problem, we can’t find a solution. It is finally in those dark moments, when a person finally admits, “I’m not okay” and shares what’s happening that we can work towards the solution and true healing can begin.

I think last night America finally admitted, “I’m not okay.” We are forced to acknowledge that underneath our Starbucks and designer clothing, there is pain. Fear. Insecurity. Homelessness. Instability. Anger. Racism. Sexism. It lingers everywhere still in America. So, where do we go from here?

We fix it. With love. At a Bible study this morning, we talked about the hashtag #lovedoes. Love can not just be words. 1 John 3 tells us, “…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

We have spent the last 18 months hearing hatred and venom spewed by people on both sides. We have tried to argue our points, convince each other to change, posted articles from reputable and disreputable sources. But you know what the overall theme is? It has all just been words. Empty words, ranted until we go back to playing our video games or surfing social media.

In 1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV), Paul wrote that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Let us stop being clanging cymbals, America. Let’s stop berating each other, ranting online and angrily debating each other from the comfort of our own homes, while our neighbors are struggling. We need to love. We need to do. Let us love in action. In compassion. In meals served, monies donated, friends helped.

There are so many incredible things happening in our communities where people are loving through action. Recently, I was inspired by NFL football player DeAndre Levy, who started out making a personal donation towards a non-profit working to reduce sexual assault, then ended up raising $30,000 to test forgotten rape kits and bringing awareness to his community to help find justice and closure for victims.

My heart soared reading about Raising Men Lawn Care in Alabama. Rodney Smith Jr. offered to mow an elderly woman’s lawn, and expanded to mow the lawns of the disabled, elderly and single moms in his Alabama community, recruiting young men to help and serve others. I love how he shared in an interview, “It was amazing to see how many people were actually in need of help,” he said. “You have no idea what someone could need unless you extend a hand.”

Well, now we know. We know that our country is hurting. So, although I have concerns (like many of us) about the next four years, I am inspired. I am motivated to serve more. To love more. To help more. And I am surrounded by friends and family making the same commitment.

Let us stop ranting and fighting, and share opportunities for service. Let us share positive stories of people doing, not just talking. Let #lovedoes be our motto over the next four years.

Last night I went to bed stunned and tense. Tonight, I go to sleep hopeful and ready to see what America is going to do next.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Finding Purpose as a Stay-At-Home Mom

Over the past decade, I've had periods of being a stay-at-home mom, a part-time working mom and an (almost) full-time working mom. Honestly, I found being a stay-at-home mom to be the most challenging. It was so easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down by endless piles of laundry, my screaming children and isolation. There was a period where my own mom was working full-time, I didn't have any mom friends yet, and I had a new baby at home.

It was difficult. Incredibly, heart-wrenching, tear-jerking tough for me. I'm a complete extrovert, and being isolated with my baby was so hard. I wondered constantly if this was God's will and timing for my life.

So now, as a counselor, although I do work, my heart still aches for those new moms I work with, who furtively glance around before asking if it's normal to feel overwhelmed and lost. Although social media allows for connection, it also puts pressure on all moms. We start feeling like "everyone else" is doing crafts, making homemade baby food and jogging with their little ones in strollers. Daily.

And then we feel like since we aren't doing those things beautifully and perfectly, we aren't doing it right.

And if you aren't doing the mom thing "right," and you are staying at home to raise and mother your children, what is the point of it all?

I'm judging a competition for the best blog post in a Christian Bloggers group I'm part of, and there were amazing entries this month. I'm sharing several of them on my blog so you all can enjoy them!  One of my favorites was from Hargraves Home and Hearth titled:

Rebekah lays out the importance of the great commission in all of our lives in such a beautiful way. I love her quote:

"If, however, for this season of your life at least, He has called you to live at home surrounded by your children day in and day out, that is the mission field He has in mind for you."

It is truly a beautiful post with tons of encouragement for stay-at-home mommas! I hope you find encouragement in it, or can use these words to encourage the moms around you who are struggling! Please check it out and let me know what you think!

And don't forget to check out my giveaway or like my Facebook page

Friday, November 4, 2016

It's time for my first giveaway!

Quieting Your Heart Journal giveawayWow! I can't believe it's November already. This year has flown by so incredibly quickly. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays (the materialism of Christmas overwhelms me) and I love the emphasis on giving thanks and having gratitude.

One of the things I'm thankful for is this blog! As cheesy as it sounds, being able to share and write about God's power in my life has been so wonderful. The responses I got from you guys about my post on self-harm and learning to abandon perfection were so positive, and I'm glad they were able to open dialogue about these issues in the church!

So to thank you you all for your support and kind words, I'm doing my first giveaway! I tried to think of something that would be helpful for you in your walk with God, and immediately I knew what I wanted to give away!

Several months ago, I ordered a journal called Quieting Your Heart: 6-Month Bible-Study Journal from Darlene Schacht (the Time Warp Wife). It is such a neat journal!

Quieting Your Heart Journal & Starbucks giveaway

It has lots of cute birds inside and would be fun if you like to color! This is such a great tool to help you stay focused and grounded as we go into the craziness of the holidays! Plus, the "3 Things I'm Thankful For" section on each page is perfect for November.

And if I reach 75 likes on Facebook, I'll add a $10 Starbucks e-giftcard along with the journal! I love being able to go to a quiet coffee shop with my Bible and just focus on Him. It can be a great way to "reset" over the holidays.

If you just want to order it now, you can click here!

So here's the entry form, and encourage your friends to like my Facebook page, because let's be honest. Coffee makes everything better!

You have to click on this link to get to the Rafflecopter entry form!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Learning to Wait

My friends often tease me that of all of the fruits of the Spirit - ", joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23), patience is the one I struggle with the most. 

Over the years, I've discovered that I am a "big ideas" person. I'm always thinking about the big picture, the next big task, the next big goal to meet. I become easily bored and I struggle to thrive in the day-to-day doldrums of life. I'm an impatient mom with my children, I'm an impatient driver, I can be an impatient friend.

My fruit of the Spirit of patience is that one ugly, shriveled grape at the end of the vine.

Learning how to wait and improve your patience.A few days ago, God blessed me with an incredible opportunity. I was a breakout group presenter at a conference for teenagers. I talked about stress and anxiety, and it was such an amazing experience. I left excited and ready for the next time. I had talked about some other opportunities for the next year with someone and thought, "well, that might be something nice to do in the next few months." 

That calm, patient attitude lasted literally less than 24 hours. Suddenly, I wanted the "next time" to happen now. I started googling speaking jobs, trying to figure out where to go, how to do it. I didn't sleep much and I felt restless and impatient.

This morning, my mind was still kind of all over the place. I literally sat in my car and took a deep breath. I had to simply pray, Lord, please help me to just be. To accept Your mighty plan for my life and to rest in the belief that You've got this all figured out.

Whew. I literally felt His peace.

I felt calm. I enjoyed time with my mom and felt relaxed. Several hours later, when I least expected it, I got a text from a friend who had another opportunity for me. 

I realized that I can plan my life to a T, but ultimately, when I just sit back and breathe deeply, when I trust in God, when I let Him take control, he brings me opportunities that are in His will. Sure, I could apply here or go there, but would it be His will? Or would it be mine?

A good friend of mine was talking about a situation where he was trying to brainstorm and create solutions to a problem. He was trying to force a solution, until his wife finally asked if that was a God plan or his plan.

A lack of patience means that when God's plan isn't clear, I tend to scribble all over it with "Hilary's Plan." If a solution or opportunity isn't immediately obvious, I will create one myself.

I have so many big goals and things I want to do, and honestly, if I pushed hard enough, I could probably make some of them happen. I could write an okay "Hilary's Plan" for my life. But it would be like drawing the plans for digging a hole, when God's plans are for the Grand Canyon. 

See, the disadvantage of being impatient is I grab my shovel and start digging the hole, so I miss God's plan for my life. I rob Him of the glory of what he's doing. I stand in front of my pathetic hole I dug and say, "Look, what I did," completely missing that He can use me for so much more if I would just wait.

When I push Hilary's Plan, I find myself exhausted from the constant thoughts of fix. things. now. However, it's amazing how when I'm patient and allow God to implement His plan, I find myself energized and focused. Speaking engagements fall on days that I already have off of work, friends help me with tasks so I have more time with my spouse, I suddenly have the energy and motivation to do what God has called me to do. 

I've realized in the last few months that my plan pales in comparison to God's. I'm pretty sure that if God, the all-mighty creator of the universe, "counts the stars and calls them all by name" (Psalm 147:4 NLT), he will bring piddly-little me opportunities that allow me to bring Him glory. I just need to breathe and be patient. And even if I start to panic, I know that if I pray for "God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Phillipians 4:7 NLT), that peace will help me stay grounded, focused and relaxed. 

I can't promise that I won't have moments of panic over the next few months, but by God's grace, I am finally on a (slow) road to patience.
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