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The Picky Eaters Parents Club

The Picky Eaters Parents Club – written by Bre Strobel.


“This isn’t what I want! I’m not eating it,” my five-year-old, Clarabelle, shouts as soon as her plate hits the table.

Rory, two, cries as he looks into his bowl of chicken tikka. He hates broccoli, I know, but I also know he loves the tikka masala sauce. It’s just been so long since we’ve made them eat what we were serving for dinner instead of their own separate meal.

“I hate our kids! I hate feeding them!” I scream at my husband as I walk back into the kitchen, “They’re going to go to bed hungry, and then they won’t sleep!” 

I slap food into our own bowls.

I can tell he’s ready to make them something else, but we both stop and remind each other of our goal: the kids will eat what we serve them. It’s three weeks into COVID-19 isolation, and we just bought and moved into a new house all at the same time. So we were in survival mode for a minute. And now we have a bit of undoing bad habits to address.

close up photography of a baby
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

When my daughter was 6 months old, she was failure-to-thrive, which means she was not only tiny for her age but had actually lost weight since her four-month checkup. It turned out she had silent infant reflux, a condition that causes the stomach acid to come back into the esophagus without the characteristic constant spitting up that normally indicates reflux in a baby. Which is why it took several months and weight loss (and many sleepless nights, and hours of crying per day) to get a diagnosis. A month later, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety, which probably comes as no surprise.

All this to say, from the beginning, feeding my daughter was a stressful affair. As we introduced solids she was put on a proton-pump inhibitor to stop her stomach from producing acid. We had a strict no-sugar policy, which was bent immediately on finding that ppi medication tastes like baking soda and therefore needs a sweet syrup in order for a baby to acquiesce to consuming it.

As my daughter grew, as much as we had planned to do baby-led-weaning and only give her the healthiest foods, feeding times became a lot more about ensuring she would learn to enjoy eating, period. They were also about fattening up her tiny body, so we had to lean on purees fortified with fatty oils. 

Ingesting anything had become such a painful transaction for her, we had to be careful not to give her food that would upset her stomach or push things that she didn’t like, just to make sure she would in fact eat. 

Her weight issues only fueled my anxiety, and on more than one occasion food ended up on the wall and floor by my own hand. I distinctly remember pinto beans flying everywhere as the plastic plate I had thrown hit the wall. Clarabelle, 18 months at the time, was less concerned about my anger outburst, satisfied to know she wouldn’t have to eat that food.

As my daughter phased out of her medication and entered toddlerhood, I needed another way.

After a recommendation from a stranger in a mom group, I started following Janet Lansbury on Facebook. She posted something on trusting even the smallest kids with their eating by “keeping it breezy.” This method was supposed to encourage a positive food association and allow for bodily autonomy. By not placing a burden of “eating everything on your plate,” kids were trusted to fill their bellies only to their capacity and no more, encouraging food-regulation and portion control before it needed to become a bigger discussion.

And isn’t that what we all want for our children?

So my husband, Garth, and I took a new approach to feeding our toddler. We decided we would start feeding her what we were eating more often, and that when she didn’t want to eat it, we would stay calm and say, “Ok, I can see this isn’t what you wanted. I know that if you are hungry you will eat it.”

The key was to communicate that there is nothing else if she decided not to eat what was served.

Sometimes we’d find that she really didn’t like what we had offered. But we also noticed that sometimes, she’d just have an idea in her head of what we were going to have that night and wouldn’t eat what we served even if it was something she liked. And other times she was simply feeling oppositional and asserting her will. Where I had once thought that my job as a mom was to out-stubborn her in my own stubbornness, I was learning that really what I needed was consistency in my response. 

The more I worried about her weight gain or thriving, I’d find myself begrudgingly make her Mac-n-Cheese or Spaghetti O’s just to make sure she would eat. And the more I gave in to my anxiety and desire to keep things easy, the more often she would assert her will, the harder it was for us to get her to eat what we wanted her to eat instead of what her toddler palette wanted. So it was important for us to stick to our boundaries. And every time we figured out our boundaries and got consistent with them, we would find peace.

The babies, they don’t actually want control. They don’t know what to do with it.

“I know it’s not what you want, but it’s what we’re having tonight. I know you’ll eat it if you’re hungry,” became our nightly mantra. Some nights it worked right away, and sometimes it took half an hour of pouting and tears before she would take even one bite, but we weren’t budging. And we found through this method that she likes roasted broccoli, Indian spices like curry and garam masala, and that she prefers raw green bell peppers over fried.

We even found a trick for serving desserts. Growing up, Garth and I both had to eat the food on our plates before we could have dessert. The problem with that is, if you’ve served your child more than their capacity for the night, you’re teaching them to overstuff themselves. 

With Clarabelle, we noticed she wouldn’t eat anything on her plate if she knew dessert was coming. While we didn’t want to fuel a need for instant gratification, we also wanted to teach her to delay gratification herself. Or else, what, always keep dessert a secret, even at events? That seemed like a much harder tactic. So we started putting dessert on her plate when it was available, telling her that when she finished it, she wasn’t getting more. We’d even offer that she could eat it first or last, but that it’s all she was getting. And if she needed more food in the end, it was not going to be more dessert.

By her fifth birthday, we noticed she was saving her dessert for after she was done eating her meal. Her brother, who had just turned two, was upset when he noticed his sister’s cake after finishing his own.

“Ah, you ate all your cake, and she’s saving hers for after she’s done eating,” we said.

And that decision, waiting until she was satisfied with her dinner before moving on to dessert, was exactly the result we had waited for. 

girl in yellow shirt holding brown cake
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

When we visit family or have some sort of big change, like when we bought our house this spring, we find ourselves bending the rules while we operate in survival mode. Our parents don’t always trust that if you don’t make the kids exactly what they want, they’ll still eat. And sometimes, even when we’ve been consistent, the kids still need to assert their power. Seeing as they get three solid meals and two snacks each day, we know that if they miss one meal they won’t starve. So if they really dig in their heels, as unpleasant as it is, we prove to them that their power only lies in how much they fill their bellies with what’s offered and not over choosing what we serve.

Another benefit is that as they grow, they’re learning to try new things. They’re learning that it’s ok to eat something you don’t like to eat, because it’s beneficial to your body whether you enjoy it or not. And I can’t think of a healthier way to build their autonomy and positive food experience than letting them be unafraid to try new things, even if they end up not liking it.

When we hold our boundary, even after messing up for awhile, the kids will eat if they’re hungry.

They might learn that they like mango. And maybe even salmon.

And after half an hour of crying and screaming (maybe some from Mom too), they might stick a rebel finger in the tikka masala sauce and lick it. And upon tasting the sauce, they might finish their broccoli. Though the quinoa goes largely untouched, they don’t go to bed hungry after all.

Categories
Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday : Jenny R.

Happy Tuesday sweet friends. I took a bit of a hiatus this summer from the blog. I didn’t really mean to. However, it was much needed. I’ll explain more in a post later this week, but for now – I want to share with you my friend Jenny’s testimony. I am grateful for her grace and patience – she wrote this back in MAY! God has blessed me an amazing woman to call my friend and I’m excited to be able to share her testimony with you today.


Jenny and her children.
Photo credit Emily Hildreth Photography

When I told Emily I would be willing to share my story, I warned her that it isn’t anything spectacular, though!  I hesitated to even share it because I did not have a big story to share. I think sometimes, myself included, seek out Earth-shattering, life-changing events as reference points for when we grow or change. A death in the family, a graduation, getting married, having a child, etc. These are all BIG stories that change us, and yes, these did change me. However, for me, my testimony of faith has been found in the most mundane, routine moments of my life, and that is probably why I’ve never thought to share my story before. 

I grew up in a Christian home. We went to church on Sunday, and I went to a youth group Wednesday evenings. Some of my fondest memories are learning to read during a church service, when my dad would attempt to challenge me with hard words out of the readings for the day. “Leviti….Levitic….Leviticus,” I’d whisper out in victory before he’d point to the next word. We said prayers before meals and prayers before bed at night. I am so thankful for my parents and the Christian upbringing they gave my sister and I. 

I can also confidently say that I’ve always believed in God and put my trust in Jesus. Sure, I had questions about it growing up. I couldn’t wrap my head around what the Crucifixion and Resurrection meant for me. I couldn’t wrap my head around a lot of things, but I figured I’d get answers along the way. 

Here, though, is where I reference back to these mundane moments in my life. See, while I claimed I was a “Christian,” and I believed in Jesus, a lot of my day-to-day life choices and actions did not demonstrate that.

This really came to light when I left home to go to college. Growing up, my parents had pretty strict rules. I had a curfew that I had to abide by (even though I broke it sometimes…sorry, Mom)! There were consequences for our actions if we broke one of their “rules.” However, for the most part, I was a good kid. I had a good group of friends. We didn’t drink or smoke. I got A’s in school. I was president of the student council, I participated in choir, and I played sports.  I’m pretty sure the most rebellious thing I ever did was tee-pee a friends house. I attribute this mostly to my parents and my upbringing.

Then I went to the University of Iowa as an 18 year old, and suddenly, I did not have a curfew. I was a good student and a good person…compared to everyone else. Sure, I played a game of flip cup every now and then, but I was still a good person…compared to what some other people were doing there. I figured I could break a rule and then ask for forgiveness and go on with my life. I’d break the rule again, ask for forgiveness, and I’d move on. It was a never ending cycle! I figured I was doing okay, though, because I was comparing myself to everyone else. Surely, I thought, God wouldn’t send me to Hell if I broke just a few of His commandments over and over and asked for forgiveness each time. However, one day, after listening to a Homily in church, I realized that God is a just and fair God. If I break a rule, there has to be a consequence. That is only fair.

It was then I realized the role Jesus had in all this. It was like I was standing in a courtroom, being given a fine for $100,000 for something I did, and Jesus walks in and says, “I am going to pay this on behalf of Jen.” The Crucifixion and Resurrection suddenly made a lot more sense to me. I started wrapping my head around it all. This realization was only exemplified after I had my first child and I realized that I would do anything…ANYTHING…out of the love I had for my son. I discovered that it must be similar to the love God and Jesus had for me…to be willing to do that for me. To this day, it breaks me every time I think about it.

After I began to understand the Gospel message, I began to actively try to act out what it means to be a Christian in the most mundane moments of my life. I tried to stop being envious over what my friends had. I tried to show love to my neighbor, despite who they were or their different beliefs they had. The more I focused on the small, mundane moments of my life…going on a walk…getting coffee with a friend…going to the grocery store…the more I understood what it means to walk a Christian walk. My life dramatically changed when I made that realization and started acting in line with that thinking.

Yes, BIG events have changed me. The death of grandparents…my wedding…getting my first teaching job…having my children..having a very sick child….dealing with extreme postpartum depression…leaving my job to stay home…going back to teaching…all of these events have dramatically changed me. Some of them have tested my faith…all of them have resulted in my faith growing stronger. 

But where my testimony really lies is in the most mundane, day-to-day moments. How I handle a conflict between my two toddlers. How I greet the cashier at the grocery store. How I ask for forgiveness from my husband. How I step into my classroom each day. The decisions I make in regards to what to cook for dinner each night. ALL of this can and should be done out of God’s love. I’ve discovered that in these mundane moments, I have an incredible opportunity to reflect on God’s love and show that to other people. 

It has also been in these everyday moments that I have seen God’s love more than ever. It is a friend showing up with dinner after a child is born. It is my three year old giving me a hug for no reason at all. It is my husband unloading the dishwasher when I didn’t ask him to. It is a phone call from a friend I’ve missed. It is Emily Brown herself offering to watch my kids, without hesitation, when I was in desperate need of daycare help. These small moments really demonstrate to me that God is everywhere, all the time–not just in the BIG moments of my life.

Yes, I still mess up in my walk…frequently. The difference now, though, is that I know it isn’t a cycle of messing up and asking for forgiveness. Now, I ask for forgiveness with the whole-hearted truth of not wanting to mess up again…how could I when I know the price Jesus was willing to pay for my sin? And I guess that’s my testimony…that in the small everyday moments of my life, Jesus presents Himself, and I am given opportunities to show that love to others. 

Categories
Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday: Anonymous Wife

** Note from Emily – Todays’ testimony is one that many Christian women find personal shame and guilt from. It is one that doesn’t get spoken about openly often enough. I am proud of my friend for being brave enough to share this testimony. I know, however, that not all marriages that have this stumbling block in them turn out well, so please know that there is support for you- you only need to reach out. **


I wanted to share my story but didn’t want to tell my husband’s sins to everyone.  His sins have been forgiven by me, so I’d like to protect his name.


A year ago I did not feel this way. A year ago I wanted him to have to confess to everyone.  I wanted others to know I was suffering because of him.  Honestly,  a year ago I had written a list on if I should stay married because Biblically it was ok to file for a divorce and I didn’t want to live in the mess our marriage was. But now a year later, I don’t want to share his name because I don’t want anyone thinking less of him.  He’s my best friend, my husband. I’ve forgiven him and we have grown so much in this year. We aren’t perfect and our marriage is still growing. God has grown us both a lot.

This testimony is no praise to me for forgiving but to God for how great HE is!


Our child was having medical issues. Our marriage was struggling. We were in a high stress job and dealing with tough decisions. I felt attacked anytime we spoke. I truly felt God was telling me something and my husband did not see the same way. My husband was in a ministry role but something seemed off with him.  Our conversations would get heated and he seemed to always be SO angry. I began to not really talk to him besides small talk because anything deeper and he would shut down or get angry.  I prayed and asked God if He could help me to still be respectful and submit to my husband. But I struggled with how to submit  when my husband wasn’t making a firm decision on anything but just getting angry with me about any decision I made. I then discovered he was addicted to pornography.  Instantly I had my answer as to what was going on.  Why he was acting the way he was. Why he was treating me the way he was. But then I was stuck… now what? I was SO very angry with him.  


I wanted others to know so that they would know I was struggling. But felt like I shouldn’t tell anyone as something must be wrong with me for him to be looking at porn. I had so many mixed emotions from wanting him to suffer consequences to wanting God to restore our marriage and  for us to be in a wonderful redemptive marriage story(those take lots of hard work!)


Before I had found out about his porn addiction I had read the book “Boundaries”. It was God’s timing as when I found out about his addiction, I knew we needed more boundaries in place. Porn had been an issue for my husband from his teen years and though he’d tried stopping on his own he couldn’t.  He needed accountability and I knew it was unhealthy for me to be his accountability partner. So I put forth some boundaries in our relationship. I told him he must set up an accountability app on all his devices. And call and ask someone to be his accountability partner. The partner must be a Christian involved in a church. This partner would then receive all his activity reports from his devices. If he did not do this we were not going to move forward in fixing our marriage.

[There are ways around accountability applications and it might have already been in place in your marriage and your husband found a way around it. I’m very sorry if this is the case.  Accountability app is not the way to end a porn addiction, it is a tool to help. At first my husband and his accountability partner met together weekly.  Another tool we have used to help is my husband took a STEPS: Gospel- centered recovery class by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer. He has also attended counseling individually and we have gone together.]


I felt like God had laid it on my heart to give him a welcoming like the prodigal son after I hadn’t seen him for a while. When I saw him I gave him a hug and made small talk but it was SO hard to show love like the Father showed the prodigal son as I felt he still was not convicted of his sin. I felt if it wasn’t for me telling him to he would not be taking steps to be free of porn. It hit me that God loves us SO much.  When we are lost and in sin He still loves us! God is calling me to be loving like He is loving.  And this is hard! There are times when I want to throw myself a pity party because I have to be the strong one while my husband is dealing with getting over a porn addiction and depression. I need to keep showing love. But when I keep focusing on myself, I’m not looking to Christ and asking how I can be like Him in the situation. 

A year or more before this all happened I had done the study by Priscilla Shirer on prayer, “Fervent”. It changed my prayer life. In the book she discusses 10 strategies to pray over yourself and family. Strategy number 9 is: “Your hurts:  Turning bitterness to forgiveness”. After reading the book I made pages of the 10 prayer strategies and wrote down scripture to pray with each strategy. I also made cards for each member of my family. Each morning I would try to pray one strategy and for one member of my family.

A verse that really spoke to me from strategy 9 was 2 Corinthians 2:  5-11 
“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.”


This was very tough for me but I knew I needed to forgive and comfort him.  And reaffirm my love for him. Again I wasn’t perfect at doing this but trying to really helped me forgive.  


Another thing that really helped me during this time is I studied Luke 24:13- with someone. She had asked how I thought the disciples had felt on the road Emmaus. A back story to this story is that Christ had just died. He was put into the tomb.  Then the women had just discovered that the tomb was empty.  When Jesus appeared to them on the road they didn’t know it was Him.  Their faces were downcast.  She asked what I thought the disciples might had been feeling?

Some answers I gave were confused,  lost hope,  defeated, wasted 3 years,  doubt,  unsure what to do next,  sad,  betrayed, shame,  abandoned,  lost, and lied to.  She then asked how I was feeling, many of my feelings were the same. At the end of the walk, Jesus acted like he was going to continue but the disciples urged him to stay.  When I’m confronted with all these feelings am I going to allow Christ to keep moving or am I going to ask him to stay with me and cling to Him? Christ then revealed himself in a familiar way to the disciples over dinner. During this time and many in my life I’m realizing all the familiar ways God is speaking to me and how God can grow me when I’m facing trials.


I never hoped my marriage would struggle with a Porn addiction or that I’d contemplate divorce.  I long for a marriage that others see and want. God brings growth through Hard times if we allow Him. Because my husband and I are both willing to aim for growth in Christ our marriage is growing!  It is not easy and it takes a lot of work but our marriage is SO much better.  A book that I read before all of this taking place in my marriage was “When God doesn’t fix it” by Laura Story. She also wrote the song Blessings.  This book and the song helped me a lot to focus on growing in my trials and not focus as much on my trials. 

*If your spouse has/had a porn addiction or an affair.  I highly recommend “Hope after Betrayal: Healing When Sexual Addiction Invades your Marriage” by Meg Wilson. 

Categories
Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday: Ben W.

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When Emily asked me if I would share my testimony I wondered, “Which one?”  I’ve got the foundational one (which I presumed she was asking for,) the one about falling into alcoholism in college, running away from God, and then finding sobriety, a wife, and a new calling to be a pastor.  That’s definitely a big one for me, but I’m pretty bored with it.  Can I say that?  It’s not that I’m not grateful.  God saved me there and I would have drowned alone in my own sin and disease without him stepping in.  But God was active in my life before that happened.  And he’s been active in my life since.  In fact, that’s always what I find if I care to open my eyes at all.  He’s challenging and changing me because my old sinful self needs challenging and changing.

So, I’m going to share about fatherhood instead. 

I’m a bit of an odd duck in my birth family.  I’m more conservative than they are; and I trust our culture less, especially the way it has been changing in the past few generations.  So, for example, I used to be a high school teacher, but my wife, Faith, and I homeschool.  We try to avoid processed foods as much as possible and buy our meat from local people.  We don’t watch TV (aside from some Netflix and This Old House) and, speaking for myself at least, it has more to do with avoiding the commercials that try to shape our kids rather than the programs themselves.  What I’m saying is that we both had some strong ideas about avoiding some cultural pitfalls in our parenting.  Back in the days before fatherhood I remember seeing parents in public places and I just cringed.  They talked to their children like the kids were the boss; they gave in to tantrums; they talked about “timeouts.”  Ugh.  “We’re not going to be like that,” I said to my wife.  Or maybe she said it to me.  Either way, we were in agreement on the matter.  We were going to be consistent; we were going to do the hard work when they were little to insist on first-time obedience.  We were going swat and spank, not to punish, but to correct.  We were going to be awesome parents and our kids would be shining examples of how smart we were.  I’ve intentionally put this in language that tips my hand.  You know what’s coming.

God is active in our lives.  He did not delay.  His goal is to grow us up into the fullness of Christ, so he sent us our son Benjamin.  We thought we were going to mold him.  Instead, God was going to use him (and reinforcements) to mold us. 

Benjamin was a pretty straightforward kid from the start.  He liked to be in charge.  My job, as I perceived it, was to correct him so that he would learn what was right.  This correction took the forms of flicks when he was a toddler (whenever he was touching something he wasn’t supposed to) and spankings later on.  The idea was to have the rules and to be consistent in following them.  This negative feedback would naturally lead him to obedience and good behavior.  Woo-hoo!  I would do the hard work at the start, because I loved him, and we would all reap the benefits later on. 

Fast-forward a couple of years.  Benjamin was exerting his will constantly.  Following our theory of parenting, I was spanking him multiple times a day.  And he had become defiant about it.  Without realizing it, our relationship was mostly about that dynamic of fault-finding and correction.  Did I love him?  Absolutely!  And I thought I was showing it.  But I was spending an awful lot of time spanking him, sometimes several times in a row because he wouldn’t knuckle under and change like he was supposed to.  And I was getting frustrated.  If I was acting in good faith and trying to be a godly parent, and if what I was doing was the godly thing to do, then the problem was clearly Benjamin.  (I don’t know that I ever put it that straightforwardly, but I think I began to feel that.)

Fast-forward a bit more.  As we had more kids, we began to understand that our theory wasn’t working very well for them either.  And so we mostly moved away from spanking.    But our third child John began struggling with weird outbursts and physical tics and we, eventually, came up with a plan to try to meet his needs.  We spent way more cuddle time with him.  When he had melt-downs I would remove him from the situation so that he could get some one-on-one time.  These things seemed to help some. But parenting was still more than we can handle.  Our original theory didn’t work, but everything else we tried was disappointing as well.  It was just hard all the time.

Several more years pass and, though we had made some progress, life was still really hard and Benjamin was still getting under my skin.  So many of the things he did are things that drive me up the wall.  He was bossy to his siblings.  He did stuff without asking.  He never seemed sorry about anything he did wrong.  I was critical of him all the time.  One day I noticed this, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. 

And now we’ve arrived to the recent past.  Benjamin is grouchy about stuff.  He seems like what I imagine a teenager to be, surly with a bad attitude for every occasion.  He’s critical of his siblings and often yells at them instead of encouraging them.  It begins to sink in, “This isn’t his fault.” 

One of the things I know from systems theory in psychology is that we can’t change other people; we can only change ourselves.  But for some reason that understanding had trouble sinking in when it related to the kids, especially Benjamin.  It’s not that we didn’t think of it sometimes, but it never became the real framework for how I could relate better to the kids.

Another thing that I should note.  It’s not that God was absent from all of our efforts.  I was praying for the kids.  We were trusting that even though we were struggling, that they were his kids and that somehow, someway he would shepherd them through okay, in spite of us if necessary.

Here is the insight that finally came arrived.  I began to think of this as more of a 12-Step problem.  The first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is, “Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.”  What if I’m the problem?  And what if I can’t fix myself?  The next two steps are these: 2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

And now to take a big step back.  This testimony is almost entirely about failure.  And it hardly points to God.  There is no victory, no change that I can point to and say, “The problem is taken care of.”  I suppose my testimony is this: I am incapable of engineering things so that they’re awesome.  I struggle mightily.  My very best intentions seem to make things worse.  I think you could say that I have a Romans 7 testimony. 

“So I find it be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin…  Wretched man that I am.

This has been so much of my life as a father.  I’ve been so full of good intentions and I have worked myself to weariness in trying to do right.  And evil has been at hand.  Thank God that Paul continues,

“Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul is teaching in Romans about a complete change in paradigm from one that focuses on the right that we must do and on the wrong we must avoid (a paradigm of good intentions that relies on myself), to a complete trust that God is accomplishing that which he desires in us and that he will not be thwarted (a paradigm of desperate faith that knows that only God can accomplish what is needful.)   Looking forward, in my relationship to Benjamin especially, I cling to Romans chapter 8.


“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.”

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In so many ways I am a failure as a father.  I am a Romans 7 father.  But I trust a Romans 8 God.  And I trust that he will change me.  I trust that he will change Benjamin.  I trust that he will not be stopped, but will be at work in us producing good things for his glory.  And I give thanks that I haven’t messed it all up beyond repair.

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Categories
Faith

How it Took an International Pandemic to Change my Purpose and My Spiritual Rhythms

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5:30am: Alarm clock goes off. Contemplate the important events of the day & decide if one press of the snooze button is optional.

5:31am: It’s not.

5:32am: Prep for the morning: pick an outfit that suits the day I will be having, hair, face, shoes, accessories, anything I may need for the day.

6:01am: Find something to eat for breakfast.

6:04am: Heat up leftover lasagna. What really makes a breakfast food anyway?!

6:15am: Brush teeth. Change slacks because of the obvious lasagna stain on my left leg.

6:20am: Leave house & pick up morning latte.

6:50am: Arrive at work to prep for the school day. Let my flood of a to do list & the real work begin.

From the moment I wake, my mind is continuously combatting a silent time bomb of a list of things I need to accomplish in order to maintain what I would consider an adequate performance. While varying at times, and while not always lasagna (sometimes quesadillas, casseroles, or leftover dessert), this has been my routine nearly to a tee for the past five years. I work as an elementary behavior focus teacher in an urban school district, one that I love dearly & put a large portion of my heart and soul into. I go into work early and usually work late to make sure that the students I love and serve have the best quality support. In the evenings my husband and I devote the majority of our weeknights in community or loving and serving others. From the time I wake to the time my head hits the pillow, I am unceasingly on the run.

Let me tell you why it took an international pandemic for me to re-center my purpose and my spiritual rhythms.

Days before no gatherings of more than ten people, & closure of schools, businesses, churches, and even nail salons, I continued to pack my schedule, even while being on spring break. I thought that if I could just get ahead a little on my to-do list, I would be less stressed in the weeks to follow. As you are already aware, God had a curveball. COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, causing mass shutdowns and states and even nations quarantined. Eventually, it had been announced that schools would not return to normal operations for the remainder of the year. Internally I knew that this would give me an ample amount of time to spend in stillness before the Lord, but I found myself returning to my tiring ways.  Instead of spending the time with the Lord that He deserves, I found myself spending inauthentic time to make sure I “covered” it, proceeding to go into time of things that truly do not matter at all. Yes, I did a facemask every few days because I could. Yes, I was the number one customer at the coffee drive-through down the street. Yes, I did buy the new Magnolia cookbook. Yes, I did dishonor our family budget via online shopping (Trevor, I’m sorry).

However, it wasn’t until I spent so much time for nearly a month of doing those things that I realized that even with a slower pace in my schedule, none of those things satisfied. It was like starting my morning with a glass of water, & drinking only coffee the rest of the day (which I’ll admit, at first glance does not sound horrible). But we are designed to be satisfied in the living water, Jesus. We were not meant to be of this world, but to spend time with the Lord, growing closer each day to who He has created us to be (Romans 12:2). I immediately think back to my girl Alicia Keys singing, “Everything means nothing if I ain’t got you”. That line is Biblical truth, people.

I want to say that I had an immediate epiphany of this, but that is not the case at all. Every day as I am still walking in this season I have to make intentional choices, all day every day, to choose the Lord before the things of this world (Matthew 16:24-26). My caveat to these choices is this: we are going to mess up. We are going to make the wrong choices because we are human beings and it happens. However, that does not mean we dwell in shame because shame is not of the Lord. We may feel guilt, but we bring it to God and be still.  As I said, it has not happened overnight, but I feel Him inviting me into a deeper relationship through some of the spiritual rhythms I am now choosing over my latte and Netflix. Here are four spiritual rhythms that have helped me during this time:

1.       Start each day in gratitude. Before your feet hit the floor, the exception being unless you really need to go to the bathroom, start each day in prayer.  Centering the start of our down around God has the power to change the entire trajectory of our day (Psalm 69:30, Mark 1:35).

2.       Create habits. For me, if I have something that I need to do looming over my head, it can be really hard to focus. Make a schedule for the day, or a schedule of when you plan to rope off time in the Word. Then, make sure that you stick to that time. Set a timer, kick your family out for a little bit, but do what you need to do (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35).

3.       Worship where you are. Right now the trees are in blossom and I can take a walk feeling so connected with God. I’ll also spend time listening to worship music while I bake. To me, this is when I feel that I am worshipping God and resting in who He is. One thing you’re never going to find me doing? Running. Ew. But if that’s your jam, go do it and spend time with God! However, you feel connected with Him is a way that you can transform that time into worship. (Psalm 24:1-4, 2 Samuel 22:50).

4.       Serve others. Yes, we are in a pandemic, but we are still designed to be in community. Find ways to love people where they are at. A couple of weeks ago I found a recipe for dark chocolate banana bread. I made several loaves and my husband and I played ding dong ditch by leaving the bread at friends’ doors. That is probably a terrible example, but the point is to just find ways to love and serve the people around you (John 12:26, Ephesians 6:7-8).

These take time and intentionality, but I’m so thankful to be in a season where I am able to return to more simplicity and to focus on what really matters during a time like this. I have no idea what is in store in the next few months, but I know that God is strong and has already used this pandemic as a way to open my eyes, as well as so many others. As it says in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”.

*If you’re experiencing similar feelings, here are some of the resources that have been helpful for me to spend time in:

·         Find Rest by Shaunti Feldhahn

·         I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t) by Brené Brown

·         Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

·         The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

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