Posted in Uncategorized

Five Minute Friday: Secret (Lord of the Rings

I’m a Lord of the Rings nut.  Love the books, love the movies, and I could probably speak entirely in Tolkien quotes if called upon to do so. Not in Elvish, though. Haven’t gotten that far.

So, obviously, this image of Gandalf from the beginning of “The Fellowship of the Ring” is what popped into my head when I read the word “secret.”

Gandalf is encouraging Frodo to keep The One Ring, “The Precious,” secret and safe, lest the servants of the enemy find out He has it and come to take it from him.

I feel like most of us have a “Precious” in our lives- or more than one

There are things in our hearts that feel like “The Precious,” like VERY BAD THINGS will happen if we let them out into the light and let others know we have them.

And in some ways, this is true.  When the agents of the enemy, those influenced by the power of the one who seeks to destroy us all, learn that we have certain things in our hearts, they will use it against us.

But flip side is what happens in Rivendell.

Once Frodo gets The Precious to the home of the elves, he finds a group of allies at The Council of Elrond. An unlikely bunch:  an elf, a dwarf, two men with secrets of their own, three other hapless hobbits, and Gandalf himself, assemble to stand beside Frodo and help him carry this burden, “As long as it is yours to bear.”

Frodo is strengthened and protected by The Fellowship of the Ring.  He would not succeed in his quest if not for them. Each plays a part in his journey to lay down this dark burden, each risking his very LIFE for Frodo and the Ring.

What is your Precious?  Is there a heavy secret weighing down your heart, eating away at your heart and weakening you? Is there a BEAUTIFUL burden, a secret precious dream that you feel God calling you to?

Whatever it is, you need a Fellowship of the Ring.

JRR Tolkien was a believer in God, the image created by this Fellowship was no accident.  Pray that God will bring you your Fellowship, your crew to carry this burden with you and help you lift it up and lay it down.  I will pray that for you right now, whoever you are.

Will you pray that for me? I need it, too!

Posted in Family, Friendship, Mom Power

Got Mom Friends? Want Mom Friends?

If you read this here blog, then you probably know that connecting and empowering moms is absolutely my jam.

I believe that friendships between women are POWERFUL. I’m talking chain-breaking, iron-sharpening, soul-healing, world-changing, hands and feet of Jesus powerful.

Never has this been more true in my life than here in the trenches of motherhood.  Connecting with other moms is pretty much the only earthly way I’ve gotten through it all thus far. Those relationships and the audacious acceptance I’ve experienced through them have been both life-giving and life-changing.

That’s why I believe so strongly in the work my friends Sara and Chrissi are doing over at Project Mother and why I’m totally stoked to be working with them as Community Coordinator. Project Mother is an organization that is TOTALLY 100% ABOUT empowering and connecting moms.  As Community Coordinator, my role is to support moms in establishing #MotherLocal Groups in their communities where moms can come together to connect in environments free from judgement and overflowing with support and acceptance.  Sound like your jam?

Learn more in today’s post on the Project Mother blog:

http://bit.ly/motherlocal

If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved with, follow the links in the blog post to get more info and you can contact me directly through the contact box there! Or just email me at tori@projectmother.co

Hope to hear from you soon!

Posted in Five Minute Friday, Friendship

#FMF: Include (This one Made Me Cry)

It’s Five Minute Friday! Or in my case, Five Minute Saturday because life.  And also kids.  This week’s word is “Include” and if I’m perfectly honest, I may have been putting this off just a bit.

Inclusion/Exclusion are a big deal for me.  There’s a story to tell there, and I don’t know how much I’m ready for and how deep into it I’m going to get…

But I’ve been for a run, I’ve got “Stronger” by Britney Spears blasting on repeat in my ears, and I think I’m ready to do this.

*fastens big girl britches*


Include.

Exclude.

Those are loaded words for me.

Words that have carried so much meaning and heartbreak over the years.  Words that also carry hope and empowerment.

I have been the seventh grader in class on Monday morning with all the kids around me talking about the birthday party they went to, realizing I was just abou the only one who wasn’t invited.

I have been the 18-year-old girl, the week before her freshman year of college, sitting on the floor of her dorm room listening to her Rush Counselors tell her that not a single sorority on campus had asked her back for the rush events that night.

I have been an adult, watching as friend groups have congealed around me, feeling like I should be a part of them and desperately wanting to, and feeling the weight and conviction of my own failures to fit in, to be include, that followed me into adulthood.

I have felt the sting and condemnation of exclusion.

But then…but now…God has changed my story.

This is Five Minute Friday so I don’t have time to get into the details, but since I became a mom, inclusion has allowed me to break free of the chains that exclusion had wrapped around my heart. I have seen how the healing power of audacious, extravagant INCLUSION can create a space for growth, for healing, can help us break free.

And so now here I am, preaching inclusion. In the Kingdom and in the world.

Because I believe that inclusion changes lives, it’s changed mine.


GAH! I wasn’t even ready for that…

There’s more there, some day…thanks for reading.

Posted in Friendship

5 Moms You Meet in the Comment Section (And How to Respond)

Warning: This post is a little salty.  Kinda sweet, but mostly salty. Bless my heart…

Ah, the comment section of social media posts, where common decency goes to die. The intoxicating combination of strong opinions and unrestricted access to a keyboard causes grown adults forget their manners AND their Jesus all over Ellen or Jen Hatmaker or Today Parents or KGW Newschannel 8 or whoever has evoked their righteous opinionation. I wonder what would happen if, at the end of each day, everyone had to show their mom what they commented on Facebook.  I’ll bet things would look a lot different.

This is particularly true of PARENTING POSTS. Almost everyone has either had a parent or been a parent and so eeeeeeeeeeeeeeverybody has an opinion, experience, advice, etc.  I’m not just talking about strangers on the other side of a computer screen here. Sometimes the responses we get from our very own friends and family when we post about the realities of our parenting journeys can be disheartening. We get strong opinions and advice WHETHER OR NOT WE ASKED FOR THEM and too often they are not presented with much love and care.  For a mom whose heart is cracked wide open with love for her babies, who is tired and tender from the struggle she’s in, it can feel like a punch in the gut.

Over time, however, you start to notice patterns in these responses.  The same people say the same types of things, DIFFERENT people say the same types of things…and you start to think that maaaaaaaaaaybe, just maybe these comments that people are leaving are actually more about them than they are about us.

I brought this topic up to a group of moms who have solemnly sworn to be brutally honest with me as I write about motherhood (I’m lookin’ at you, TBMFers), and what follows are character sketches of five of the most common types of commenters we have encountered on our social media posts about parenting.

Disclaimers
-This list is by no means exhaustive.  Good heavens, it’s nowhere NEAR comprehensive of all we’ve experienced as we’ve shared our parenting journeys out loud.
-It’s not designed to make anyone feel badly about the comments they leave for others. It’s meant to let other moms know they aren’t alone when they see these types of comments show up on their posts.  YOU! ARE! A! GREAT! MOM!  And don’t ever let anyone make you forget it…


  1. The Perfect Mom.
    On a post about formula feeding, she says, “Oh, I wouldn’t know. I breastfed all nine of my kids until they were five.”
    When a mom is trying to bring some realness about the struggle of keeping a clean house with kids in it, she says,  “My kids were all picking up after themselves before their first birthday. My house never looks like that.”

    This is the mom who seems to see another mom’s post as a chance to talk about great she herself  is. She doesn’t really have anything helpful to say, but she does see a chance to be seen and heard for her own parenting prowess, so she chimes in. This type of response is 100% about her and not about you. Whether she realizes or not, this mom feels like she has something to prove so she’s looking for any opportunity to remind herself and everyone else that she’s good at this mom thing.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  2. The Silver Bullet Expert.
    She shows up on the post about chronic constipation and simply says, “Prunes. Worked for my kids every time.”  I mean…really? CHRONIC constipation and you think we haven’t tried prunes?  Or when you’ve had a sleepless month (or several months) and just want some sympathy for your fatigue, this person shows up with, “Sleep training. We did it and Drizella sleeps perfectly now.”

    Whether you’re asking for advice or not, this commenter has it.  And it’s perfect. Worked perfectly every single time for every kid they ever had and if it hasn’t worked for you, you CLEARLY must not have tried it yet.  Also, this person rarely bothers with any fluff along with their sage advice. No, “I’m sorry you’re struggling.” No, “Oh, been there, girl!” Nope, this commenter just drops their wisdom in as few words as possible, drops the mic, and walks off to bless someone else with their infinite wisdom.

     This mom might actually think she’s being helpful. Maybe she doesn’t have time to add much more.  Or maybe she genuinely just does not GET. IT. that all families and all kids are different and what works for her might not work for the rest of us.  In any case,

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  3. The “Just Waiter”
    There seem to be two types of “Just Waiters.”
    One of them is the seasoned parent who, for some reason, doesn’t want us newbies getting too big for our britches so always wants to make sure we know WE AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET, just wait…  When you’re dealing with pregnancy insomnia, she says, “This is nothing, just wait until the baby is born!”  When you’re crying at preschool graduation, she quips, “Just wait until he leaves for college…”
    The other “Just Waiters” are well-intentioned friends who are trying to share in our excitement, but miss the mark a bit. When your kid says, “mama” for the first time, “Oh, just wait until she says ‘I love you!’”  When your kid learns to pull himself up, “Just wait until he runs to you for the first time!”

    In either case, this type of response tends to sting a little because the moments feel BIG and BAD (or GOOD) for us, and it’s just not awesome to have someone come through and point out that it’s going to get worse (or better).  (And, for the record, sometimes they are wrong. Pregnancy insomnia was worse for me than newborn sleeplessness). While their intentions are often pure, sometimes they are doing their level best to be excited with us, the “Just Waiter” could stand to take a step back and just let us have our moment.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  4. The Veteran Whose Kids “Turned Out Fine.”
    “Rear facing until two? Hmph! In my day we didn’t even have car seats and my kids turned out fine!”
    “No solid food until after six months? Hmph. I fed you strained peas at two days old and you turned out fine.”

    There you are, doing your best to follow the latest research on what’s best for your kids, and here comes The Veteran to tell you she doesn’t understand the fuss over this newfangled flibbertygibbert, her kids turned out just fine without it so it must just be some witchcraft nonsense.  Truth be told, I can actually feel where this mom is coming from. Nobody wants to hear that the way they raised their kids wouldn’t fly by today’s standards.  But here’s the thing: I fully expect to experience the same thing when I’ve achieved Veteran status. I expect that science and progress will unlock better and safer methods for future generations of moms. But that won’t mean I was a bad mom, nor does baby-led weaning and back-is-best sleeping mean that the moms of previous generations were bad either. We all do the best we can with whatever information we have at the time. So I kind of want to hug the Veteran Whose Kids Turned Out Fine and tell her she was a great mom.  But also remind her that progress is a good thing in other areas and it’s a good thing in parenting as well.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  5. The One Who Really Sees You.
    Sometimes she has actual practical advice for you, and sometimes she just says, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this, that sounds so hard.”  When things are good, she applauds and gushes over your kids’ accomplishments and yours, and reminds you that you and your kids actually ARE every bit as special as you feel in that moment.
    She tells you you’re a great mom and that your kids are lucky to have you.

    This is the mom who shows up in your tough moments and makes you feel like you’re not alone, like you’re not ACTUALLY failing, and like you might just make it out of this season of parenting.  She’s authentic and honest about her own struggles, knowing that being herself will give you permission to be yourself.  Her goal is not to give the best advice or make you feel better about HER, her goal is to shine light into your darkness and make you feel better about yourself.  This is the kind of mom you want in your squad, the kind of friend you want to give your best love back to, and the kind of commenter that makes us feel like we just might survive the internet after all.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and hold on tight.  


 

In the end, we would be remiss if we hated on these moms too much. Fact is, their hearts are just as tender from their parenting experiences as ours are. And also, who knows but what we may have inadvertently stepped on someone else’s toes when we commented on their post either. So nothin’ but love, mamas. Nothin’ but love.

But the fact remains that we all need to be told we are good moms, that we aren’t screwing our kids up, and that we are seen in our struggles. If we are honest with ourselves, that’s probably why most of us post online AND the reason the above-described moms comment the way they do.  So the next time you feel led to comment on someone else’s social media post about parenting, throw in these six little words:

Sounds like you’re a great mom.

These words cover a MYRIAD of sins, mistakes we might inadvertently make, because they are dripping with love and grace and what everyone needs to hear.

“Sounds like you’re a great mom!  Have you tried prunes?  It worked for us!”

“Sounds like you’re a great mom! I haven’t been there, but I’m here if you need support.”

“Sounds like you’re a great mom. We didn’t have car seats when I was raising my kids, what will they think of next?”

If enough of us said this to each other, the comment section would become a much more encouraging place for moms to be- and Lord knows we need more of those spaces.

Go forth and love other moms.

Posted in Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Adapt

Every week, Christian writers across the internet join together to write for five minutes about a one-word prompt and share our responses with each other.  This is my second week participating. 

This week’s word is: Adapt


 

Adapt or Die is the title of a book about leadership principals written by former US Army General Rick Lynch.

It would also be a fabulous title for a book about parenting.

From the moment you go from zero kids to being responsible for a newborn to the moment they are grown, getting married, and having kids of their own (or so I’ve heard), you’re hanging on tight and trying to keep up with all the developmental changes their seasons of life are throwing at you.

Just when you’ve got them napping three times a day, they start to drop one of their naps…then the other…and then stop napping altogether, leaving you to ADAPT OR DIE,

When you’ve parented your way out of one behavioral struggle, they decide to start testing the boundaries in another way, leaving you to regroup the troops, formulate new battle plans and ADAPT OR DIE

In these seasons of rapidly-changing life, I am so glad I’ve got a God who is unchanging. The same yesterday, today, and always. Because if I didn’t have an anchor in this storm a safe harbor to run to as the winds and waves of ADAPT OR DIE are swirling around me, I would lose my ever-loving mind.

Father, thank You for Your unchanging grace and mercy, both for me and for my kids. Thank  You that Your mercies are new every morning, that Your truth is ALWAYS true, and that as life changes us around us, Your love and Your plan for us can be our foundation and our solid rock. Amen.

(And the timer went off thirty seconds ago, but I had to finish that prayers.)


See you next week!

Posted in Faith

When God Prunes Good Things

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

Spring has (FINALLY!!!) sprung here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Trees are leafing out, flowers are blooming, people are sneezing, and we’ve all begun sprucing up our yards.  This year,  Jeff and I decided it was time to stop messin’ around and hired a crew to come in and basically lay waste to our front yard.  The weeds were pulled, the grass was edged, the shrubs were trimmed.  But also, some stuff that we  (or the previous owners) had planted on purpose got ripped out as well, things we didn’t like, that were hard to keep up, looked messy, even things we were just kind of “meh” about.  Right now, our front yard looks neat, but a little barren as it waits for whatever we’re going to do next- and frankly, we haven’t even gotten that far yet. We’re gonna plant stuff, that’s about all we know.

As I watched this process unfold over the course of a few hours on a rainy Friday morning, it jogged something in my mind, a memory of what the past year of my life has looked like.  It was almost exactly a year ago that God began a process in me that looked an awful lot like what was happening in our yard that morning- and left the landscape of my life looking very similar to how our yard looked after the workers left: stripped down, a little empty, and awaiting new planting.

Over the course of the past year, God has gone on a pruning spree.  People, places, spaces, relationships, endeavors: Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.  And it’s not just the weeds we are talking about here, we are talking about stuff I had planted in my life on purpose- even and especially stuff HE had planted- stuff I had cultivated, nurtured, watered, and grown in a way that probably made the plants in my front yard exceedingly jealous.

And unlike the workers in our front yard, I did not get to tell God what to take out.  As a matter of fact, He went for some things that I very much wanted to keep- and I fought Him tooth and nail as He took them out, digging in my heels, clinging until my knuckles were white, probably making quite the scene in the process.

I’ve prayed on multiple occasions over the years that God would do in my life the work that Jesus describes in John 15:2:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesa so that it will be even more fruitful.”   

But when I pictured God doing the work of pruning, I pictured withered branches, failing bushes, toxic weeds, dead weight. And I envisioned it feeling good, like having burdens lifted or split ends trimmed off. I didn’t imagine Him cutting off vines that still had lush leaves, ripping out shrubs I had planted and tended and even loved. And I didn’t picture it hurting so much.

I didn’t picture Him pruning GOOD things, and yet He did.  They were things that had been life-giving, iron-sharpening, and had changed me for the better in their season.

I have grieved for the things He pruned, I have experienced anger and even betrayal as they’ve been taken, and I have struggled mightily as some toxic weeds like resentment and bitterness have tried to take root in the empty spaces they left behind.

But God is always good, no exceptions. Through this season, He has taught me some new things about the times when He’s moving in ways I don’t understand.

  • Just because it hurts doesn’t mean it’s bad.  Because the pruning didn’t feel like I expected it to, it was quite awhile before I recognized God’s hand in what was happening.  As a matter of fact, there were times when I wondered where the heck God was as the landscape of my life was being uprooted in painful ways.  But God is everywhere at all times and just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t holy and blessed.
  • Just because things were pruned doesn’t mean they were bad.  Sometimes God prunes things because they weren’t good and we just couldn’t see it.  But even the most life-giving things can have an expiration date in our lives, a point when it’s time for them to give way to what’s next.  We don’t have to let the pruning cast a shadow on the graces of seasons past, what was good in our lives will always have been good, even after its time in our life is over.
  • Just because they’ve been pruned doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gone for good.  Some things are gone for good or will remain permanently as a shadow of what they once were.  But some things God trims so they could grow back better, fuller, and healthier.  Some things need to be gone for awhile but will sprout up again when their season in our lives return.  God can redeem, restore, and revive anything so I’m keeping a door open in my heart for these good things, maybe they will have their time again.

Unlike our yard, which still awaits us getting off our rear ends and planting new things, the empty spaces in my life are beginning to be filled in. Some new things are starting to sprout, some existing things are starting to expand into the empty spaces, all good and beautiful growth that was enabled by the painful pruning season. But some of the landscape is still blank, and much like our yard, it looks and feels little barren as it waits for whatever He’s going to do next. I feel like I’m only seeing a small piece of what He has planned, but my trust muscles were also strengthened through this pruning. I don’t know what He’s got planned, all I know is that He’s going to plant stuff and it’s going to be beautiful.


If this post resonated with you, check out this episode of Annie F. Down’s “That Sounds Fun” podcast featuring Tauren Wells, one of my current favorite musical artists.  In it, Tauren uses the term “divine expiration” to describe the end of the season of things in our lives  I can’t recommend it enough.

Posted in Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Stuck

Hi, Friends!  

I know I’ve been publishing only on Tuesdays, but as part of my efforts to grow as a writer, I’m going to start participating in Five Minute Friday.  (click on the link to learn more!)

Every Friday, I’m going to join with a group of other Christian writers who write for five minutes in response to a one-word prompt and share with one another the links to what they’ve written.   This week’s word is “Stuck” 

So here goes nothin’.  Setting timer….and….


Stuck. Mired. Stranded.

With one’s feet nailed to the floor, desperate to move forward, but unable to.

There are many definitions for the word “stuck,” but that was the one that popped into my head when I first heard the word “stuck,” because that is where I see so many of the people around me right now.

We feel stuck because nothing in our life is changing.

We feel stuck as we desperately wait for an opportunity to come along, a job, a discovery, something.

We wait, lonely and discouraged, to meet the love of our lives (been there) or to become a mom.

We feel stuck as the systems fail us as we desperately wait for justice.

We feel stuck as we wait for healing that seems long overdue.

We feel stuck as we wait for our kids to grow out of whatever difficult phase has taken over our lives.

We cry out for moving forward and wonder where God is in all of it.

But God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

He is working in the heavenly realms even when our circumstances seem stagnant.

I declare that now and YELL it and POUND IT INTO MY VERY OWN HEAD because it is so hard to remember that when we are stuck, in the mired moments and the stagnant seasons.

God is always working, even when we are stuck.  He grows us in the stuckness, He uses the stuckness to bring about the things in the world around us that we need to move forward, but ALWAYS He is with us. Holding us close to his heart, working all things for our good.  Even the Stuckness.

And there’s the timer.

PHEW! I survived my first Five Minute Friday!  See you next week!