The Best Chocolate Cake

Post to Twitter

A few months ago, after a period of some significant health struggles, I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. The transition wasn’t terribly awful, but it has been a constant source of lessons in self-control, self-care, and humility. I hate asking other people to accommodate me so much so that I spent a lot of money on a lot of tests to tell me what I already knew. I needed to cut the gluten and dairy. But hey, now I have a doctor to blame my extra fussiness on right?

In all seriousness, it had been a rough season of mothering, working, volunteering, and struggling every day with the heavy weight of anxiety, fatigue, and a stomach which often refused to cooperate with me.  I knew something was wrong. I knew something had to change. I also knew I wanted to try to attack the problem holistically. So while yes I did adjust my diet, I also starting making time for quiet, studying, reading, and slimming down my schedule. Perhaps the last one was the toughest in our society of more. But back to the diet.

A friend of mine asked me yesterday as she was salivating over some donuts (she is on day 21 or something of Whole30) if it ever gets easier. I said yes with the caveat I feel so much better so it’s not worth it. Which is mostly true. It does get easier and I am feeling better. But I think it’s getting easier because I am learning self-control, not because I am any less in love with pizza and donuts.  Case-in-point, several weeks ago I convinced a group of girlfriends to take a detour on our way home from Nashville so I could get a gluten-free, dairy-free donut. It was glorious.  Some days, as I watch co-workers or friends eat foods I used to love, it’s tough. It makes me want to abandon ship and say “ah what’s the point.” I am learning, though, anything great in life takes work. Hard work. And sacrifice. And lots of moments salivating over donuts and then walking away. Not because a donut is bad. But because there is something better.

Isn’t that what Jesus offered us? An abundant life (John 10:10). Not an easy life. Not a life full of sunshine and roses. But an abundant life. A life of less burdens, less anxiety, less striving (Phil 4:6, John 14:27). Note: I did not say an easy life or a life without struggles or heartache or loss.  Jesus said if you follow me, you will have trouble. He said if they persecuted me they will persecuted you. He didn’t offer us an easy life. But he did offer us an abundant life and he promised to never leave us.  He promised us something better.

Slowly, I am learning to live in light of the something better. To say no to the current shiny object in light of what is better. To say no to the food I know will land me in a heap of pain, frustration, and anxiety. To say no to the activity that doesn’t build community or fit on my short list of things important to me. To give up the pursuit of the good for the pursuit of the best. Good isn’t bad. And perfection is not the goal. But leaning into self-control and sacrifice and discomfort can be good gifts in certain seasons. They certainly have been for me. And in case you are bemoaning my diet or convinced everything I eat must taste like cardboard, I present to you one of the best chocolate cakes I have had in my life. Even my husband liked it.  Enjoy:)

CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
(grain-free, refined-sugar-free and dairy-free)

INGREDIENTS:cake

For the cake:
2 cups blanched almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup almond milk or coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 6-inch round cake pans with coconut oil. Mix almond flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, water and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in thick saucepan or double broiler. Stir and remove from heat when melted. Slowly add maple syrup and stir to incorporate. Allow to cool. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl and beat in almond butter until a thick, whippy frosting is formed. Add almond or coconut milk as needed for consistency.

To assemble the cake:
Allow cakes to cool. Place one cake layer on a plate. Place a dollop of chocolate ganache on top of cake and smooth over the cake. Layer the second cake over the ganache layer and repeat with a layer of ganache. Store the cake in refrigerator until serving time.

 

 

We Have Given Up

Post to Twitter

Give-Up-SM

Dear American Evangelical,

It seems we have given up. A quick perusal of social media makes this point painstakingly obvious to some, but perhaps you are still not convinced.  For a minute, just consider what giving up might look like to others.

We have given up our missional calling for political pursuits.

We have given up being pro-neighbor to be pro-life.

We have given up the calling of the church for the calling of the state.

We have given up Christian first for Republican first.

We have given up the simplicity of the gospel for the complexity of dos and do nots.

We have given up kindness for rightness.

We have given up coffee with a friend for Facebook status updates.

We have given up true community for churches that meet our current wants.

We have given up intimacy with our Savior for intimacy with our screens.

We have given up God bless those who persecute you for God bless America.

We have given up Jesus for a president.

We have given up our humanity for political laws.

We have given up the beauty of following an unsafe Savior for the promise of safe borders.

We have given up the kingdom of God for the kingdom of the world.

 

You see dear friends, it seems we have given up. When the world desperately needs Jesus followers, we have become something else. When those around us desperately need love, community, and safe places, we have become outspoken political billboards. Perhaps this is harsh. And maybe it is. Some of you have not given up. And I am here to cheer you on. Keep going. Keep working in the trenches and on the edges and in the places no one sees. But for much of the “church” it’s time to give up.

 

Give up being right for being kind and listening.

Give up the Facebook status for a conversation over coffee.

Give up the harsh words for love.

Give up the sword for the cross.

Give up comfort for the Comforter.

Give up safety for the One who promised to never leave us.

 

It’s time for the church to pursue the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world. It’s time for us to take up our crosses and follow a Savior who modeled a life of sacrifice, risk, and love. A Savior who died for others instead of bringing political revolution. A Savior who came in on a donkey. Who gave seats at the table to the outcast, the woman, the less than, the uneducated, the poor, and who chose an unwed teenager to be the mother of the greatest gift to humanity. You see, dear friend, if you want to change our land, it starts not in the White House, but in the lowly manger.

Scandalous and Scornful

Post to Twitter

graceScandalous. Scornful. Unusual.

 

And no, I am not talking about any current political or celebrity figure.

The book of Matthew and thus the New Testament begins with a genealogy. You know, the ever long passages of scripture going “so-and-so begat so-and-so.” The passages we are tempted to ignore, skim over, or skip past to get to the meaningful text. The verses we can use to support our stance or encourage or admonish. Who cares about a long list of someone’s family tree. The thing is, you can learn a lot about a person by exploring their ancestry. You can find out a lot about someone by knowing where they came from or who was in their family line.  Association via one’s family can make you famous or rich or notable. It can also make you poor or small or forgotten.  So to fully understand Jesus, we need to look at those included in his family tree. Don’t worry, I know He was the son of God and Divine incarnate, but Matthew starts his gospel with Jesus’ earthly family tree and thus we should pay attention.

 

There are two unique things about Jesus’ family tree. His lineage included women, which never happened and included a bunch of rowdy, off-color, far-from-perfect characters. I want to spend some time on the first point. Today we might not think twice about including women in a family tree. Matriarchs throughout history have done incredible things and stepped up to often change the course of history itself. But in Jesus’ day, women were second class citizens. They were rarely included as disciples of great teachers or participants in great works. Not only did Jesus welcome and include women as disciples, he gave them an often equal seat at the table, instructing, including, and admonishing them much as he did to the men who followed him.

 

In Jesus’ family tree- five specific women are named and counted among those who were part of his lineage. These were not your spiritual matriarchs. According to author Stephen Binz, each of these women was considered an outsider and each had a scandalous and scornful marital or sexual history.  The women included in the line of Christ were prostitutes, adulteresses, unwed mothers-women today we may view with scorn and disgust. Women today we may not even welcome in our churches, much less give them an equal seat at the table.

Jesus’ family tree begins the gospel in the most beautiful way. It paints a picture of a kingdom in which the scandalous, the scornful, the corrupt, and the sinner are welcomed in and given value and dignity. Jesus called the invisible and those with no voice. He spent His days with the lowly, the less than, the sinner. And in a society where women were often nameless and worthless, Jesus gave them a voice, courage, and eternal purpose.

Do you see why this matters so much? When we claim to follow Jesus, we must know who we are following and we must understand not only his ministry, but his family tree. There is no room for any of us to feel disqualified or unqualified or to remove a seat from someone else. Jesus didn’t come blasting society or fighting for laws-instead, he quietly invited the lowly and the forgotten into his community. He gave them a seat and a purpose. He gave prostitutes the chance to save His people and an unwed mother the chance to be the mother of the Savior of the world. He started a revolution by including those who had been discounted.

 

Scandalous. Scornful. Unusual.

 

Those are the women in the line of Christ. And my friend, those are still who Jesus is continually calling to himself.

 

Trash Your Ideal Self

Post to Twitter

A few days ago, I sent a group of friends a picture of part of my kitchen. I have included it for full-disclosure. I would like to write a long post about how this was a rare sight and normally my kitchen is perfect, clean, and could be found on Pinterest, but far more often, the picture is the reality.

I imagine, for a lot of you, your kitchenday-to-day reality may look similar to my kitchen. Perhaps it’s a different room in your house or perhaps it’s a part of your soul that feels messy and disorganized.  It’s a part of your life you will never find on social media. And I get it. I have spent countless hours attempting to clean up my house, my life, my resume and picturing what life would be like when I just got “there”.  When I had the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect group of friends, the perfect life.  I had created a version of my ideal self in my head and spent so many hours striving towards becoming like the image in my mind.

Sometimes I caught a glimpse of my ideal self in real life. In fleeting moments, she would show up and I would feel as though I was finally getting somewhere. My striving was finally paying off.  To my delight, I went to a conference and the speaker started her talk by asking us all to imagine our ideal selves. Oh, I had this one down. I knew exactly who the ideal Amanda was and could write you a book on her life. I could also write you a book on the guilt and regret and shame I carried around because my everyday self seemed so far from this version of my ideal self.

After a long lead up, the speaker said “your ideal self is not your most influential self.”

Read that again and let it sink in. “Your ideal self is not your most influential self.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says “9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We often think when we get picked or when we arrive “there” or when we achieve our most ideal self, then we will be our most influential self. Then we will be who God called us to be and in the meantime, we just keep striving and trying to get better.  What if we were really at our best when we were our weakest? What if we stopped striving for our ideal self and realized when God saved us, it changed everything. When we were at our worst Christ died for us and this is where our freedom lies. This is where we operate with grace and freedom and humility. When we realize it is not about me or about becoming my ideal self, but instead it is about staring at the face of God and walking in the divine role He gave us as bearers of His image.

As the speaker closed out her session, I stood there with tears in my eyes. This was the point. The striving, the soul-crushing pace I operated at, the hustling had gotten me nowhere, but tired, lonely, and feeling even farther from where I wanted to be. But the goal should not be to reach this version of my ideal self. The goal should be to stare at the face of Jesus. This is where I find my peace and rest and acceptance. This is where I find approval and purpose. Not in the striving, not in the outside things, but in the most important thing-Jesus.

Hence the disaster of my kitchen. I had spent the better part of the day resting and praying and studying my Bible. My kitchen didn’t look like that when I went to bed that night, but it was nowhere near ready for a magazine photo shoot. And honestly it may never be. Because as I left the conference, I left my ideal self in the trash and came home with more peace and purpose than I have had in a long time.

A Year of Authenticity

Post to Twitter

Authentic- true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character; Not false or imitation

For the past several weeks, I have been struggling with what to choose as my word for the year.  While I have a few personal goals for 2017, I am more concerned with the year I live and how I treat those around me thus I decided to go back to my word of the year and filter all my goals and plans through the word. I tossed around a bunch of different ideas and looked up a bunch of words in the dictionary. My problem was narrowing down to a single word because there were so many I wanted to choose as I thought about 2017.  I settled on Authentic. I chose this word because it was the closest word to how I want to live this year and how I want to treat others and make decisions.

We live in a world caught up in technology and social media. I heard a speaker recently talk about how social media releases dopamine in your brain-the same chemical released by other addictive behaviors such as alcohol and gambling.  Social media can be and often is addicting. It’s also inauthentic and not always honest. You may argue sometimes it is a little too honest which could be true, but I think deep down for many of us social media is the highlight reel of our lives. I will take an adorable picture of my son and crop out the disaster of my house or ignore the fact that 10 minutes ago he was throwing a massive fit because I refused to give him crackers for the 100th time today. (he discovered how to open the pantry and also knows I keep crackers in said pantry) Social media can easily only portray the  moments when we actually feel like we have it all together, not the moments when we feel like we are two seconds from losing our minds.

Hence the word I chose for this year- authentic. I want this year to be marked by authenticity. Like I read in a blog recently, if you are a mom, the word fine should be erased from your vocabulary. Moms aren’t ever just fine. Motherhood is a roller-coaster of emotion we often reduce to fine when someone asks.  But what if we stopped saying we were fine and actually shared our full selves. What if I was true to my own personality and admitted my house is a disaster because honestly, as much as I try to be neat and tidy, it’s just really not my modus operandi these days. I like things to be organized most of the time, but lately I like to sleep more.

When it comes to relationships, this is where I really want this word to be the theme. The older I have gotten, the more I have found myself longing for deep, close friends. And I am learning sometimes this has to start with me.  I have to pick up the phone and wave the white flag when I need help. I have to get back to being true to who I am and living out that truth. I need to make the invite or plan the event.

So as we head into 2017, my hope is to be authentic and spend more time chatting across the table and less time scrolling down the screen. What about you? Do you have goals for 2017? Or are you a word-of-the-year type of person? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Independent. Multi-Tasker.

Post to Twitter

This was the description of women summed up by an author in a book I was listening to the other day. She polled a bunch of women and the theme which emerged was independent, multi-tasker. In other words, women think they can do it all and they can do it all alone.

Talk about feeling hit by a ton of bricks. I could totally relate. I feel the exact same way. All.the.time. Although I might replace the word can with the word should. I should do it all and I should do it alone. Isn’t that the message our culture sends?  Be the perfect wife, mom, employee, church attendee etc. Have a Pinterest-worthy house at all times and host Pinterest worthy events on top of every other thing you sign up to do. Join a board, volunteer, build a resume, or stay home and educate, attend play-groups, take adorable Instagram worthy photos all.the.time.  Are you tired yet? Because I am. Just writing that paragraph made me want to take a nap. But then again, if I take a nap, something else on my ever-lengthening to-do list won’t get accomplished. The author’s description of women was followed by the point of the chapter-Brave enough women know their limits.

Do you know your limits? Do you know when you have blown past what you can handle? Or did you give up a long time ago on limits because it seemed society doesn’t seem to care? Sure, I could find 100 articles on self-care, but for each article on self-care, I could find another on building your brand or image or resume or how to ensure your child is successful or talented or sociable. I will be the first to admit a discussion on limits coming from me is laughable at best. Aside from a husband, 15 month old, and full-time job, I co-chair a board for a local young professional group, co-lead a working group for a different non-profit, and lead a 3rd non-profit I founded a couple of years ago.  Limits? What limits?

Instead of listening to my inner soul and perhaps even the wise counsel of those around me, I am one who tends to keep pushing, keep going, and keep saying yes. That is until recently, I ran smack into a wall.  Not a literal wall, but a wall nonetheless. A wall forcing me to pause. To get help. To start to figure out what limits look like in my own life. I felt God asking me to place all my life in His hands and trust when it was all said and done, I would be okay. The things He was asking of me were not supposed to be so burdensome. They were not meant to destroy my health and marriage and relationship with those around me. But the expectations I had of myself, they were beginning to do those very things.

Matthew 11:28 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Friend, are you weary today? Are you burdened? Perhaps for all of us, the bravest thing we can do in these moments is come to Jesus. To let Him take our burdens, societal expectations, families, and relationships. To give Him our future and stop acting like if we don’t do it, the world will fall apart. Jesus called us to love Him first and love those around us second. He didn’t call us to resumes, jobs, groups, or volunteer activities. Those things are not wrong, but they must come after we seek Him.

So today, let’s lay our burdens at His feet and just rest. Take a deep breath and trust in His hands it will all be okay.

 

30 Things for 30 Years

Post to Twitter

30 cupcakeLast week, I turned 30 years old. I love birthdays, but this one had me a bit emotional. I am not sure why except it had been a really tough few months and 30 looks nothing like I thought it would at 20.  Crazy how fast a decade goes by and all of a sudden you are staring down a new decade wondering where the time went. It seems like yesterday I was celebrating 20 and looking forward to all my twenties would bring. In many ways, I am actually looking forward to my 30’s and glad to say goodbye to the past decade. So as I say goodbye, I came up with 30 things as I reflect over the past and dream for the future.

1. Time goes by so fast. I spent a long weekend with one of my best friends and we were talking about how it had been 5 years since we met. It didn’t seem possible and yet, from the time we met on a tiny tropical island to that long weekend, we had both gotten married, had babies, and settled down in towns neither of us ever intended on leaving.

2. Travel every chance you get. With a 15 month old, a full-time job and non-profit, I just don’t have the time these days to travel. I miss it most days and I am so thankful I took the chances I had when I had them. I know I will travel again, but for now, the memories I have of my trips are constant sources of lessons and reminders to take every opportunity in front of you.

3. Life looks different. Every year, every decision, every step brought me to the place I am at today. It looks incredibly different from I thought it would even a year ago, but each day I am learning the sweet joy of embracing life with all its ups and downs.

4. The older you get, the more important friends are. I have always struggled with friendships. In your early twenties, it’s just hard to make friends. But now on the brink of 30, I have a small group of women who I am growing closer to each month and who are quickly becoming the friends I have always wanted. They are the people I run to when life is tough and when I want to celebrate and together we are navigating lives of jobs and babies and marriages.

5. Laugh. A lot. They say laughter is the best medicine and I can assure you, it has gotten me through some dark days.

6. Learn how to say no. This is a lesson I am learning daily. As I head into my 30s, it is a lesson I want to master. I cannot do it all, be all, and conquer all. And that is 100% OK.

7. Being a mom is awesome. and exhausting. and emotional. and really really hard. I wouldn’t trade H for the world and he has brought more joy and love into my life than I ever thought possible. But he has also forced me to deal with some skeletons in my closet and admit I need help. I can’t do it all. And sometimes (or all the time), the house is just messy.

10. Wait for the right someone.  I dated a few guys in my 20’s I thought I might marry.  Looking back, I am so glad I didn’t.

11. Even with the right someone, marriage is hard.  And in less than 3 years, we have changed jobs, had a baby, and started a non-profit. It’s been a lot and some days are really hard. But even on the hard days, I am thankful to be married to my best friend and thankful we are on this journey together.

12. You do you. This is something I think is especially important to me since becoming a mom. We spend too much time judging or proclaiming the right way to do things. It’s not worth it. Just be the best you can be at what God has called you to do and cheer on those around you as they do the same.

13. Enjoy college. Seriously, some days I wish I could go back to the time when the biggest issue was finishing my term paper or studying for a final exam. It’s easy to wish away each stage of life, but wherever you are, enjoy it. It will go by too quick and the next stage will bring more responsibility and more demands with it.

14. Be generous. There is no greater joy in my life than the chance to be generous. Whether it’s with your time, talent, or treasure, or even a kind word, be generous with those around you.

15. Take risks.  Jump out of planes (literally and figuratively). Follow your passions. Pursue your dreams. Someone out there needs the dream you have in your heart.

16. Do hard things. Things that test you. The moment I had H after a drug-free labor, I felt like I could take on the world. It was hard, but it has given me a toughness I didn’t have before. Perhaps your hard thing is having a tough conversation or making a career move or ending a relationship. Whatever it is, do the hard thing. The rewards are worth it.

17. Say your sorry. Ask for forgiveness. The relationships restored are worth it.

18. Try new foods. I have made it a rule I will always try something offered to me. It has led me to try some interesting things and given me lots of stories to tell. But it has also opened my world and expanded my horizons.

19. Take care of yourself. I am learning this lesson the hard way right now. My body finally said enough and so I am slowly learning how to nourish and rebuild a healthy me.

20. Collect experiences. Stuff is nice, but experiences are better. Collect experiences-even if that’s just trying a new place for dinner.

21. Turn off the TV.  It’s hardly ever on at our house and in our next house, it won’t even be in the main room. It forces us to get down on the floor and read a book or talk about our day. It has brought us closer as a family and I don’t feel like I am missing a thing.

22. Unplug. (see above) We live in a world where screens are a constant in many of our lives. Learn how to turn it off, put it down, and live without it. It’s not easy and I am by no means a master. I fail at this almost daily, but I am trying to reduce my dependence on my phone and on all things media related.

23. Call your parents. and your grandparents. I talk to my mom almost daily and I have made it a point to call my grandparents every few weeks. As I get older, those relationships become more cherished and valuable to me. After my husband lost both his grandmas in a year, I realized life is short and you just never know when this conversation could be your last.

24. Celebrate life. I wanted to have a big birthday party this year. No matter its was week before Christmas and I knew there are a million other parties going on. I threw H a big 1st birthday party. And almost daily I am clapping loudly and celebrating the tiny accomplishments like throwing the trash in the trashcan. Also, celebrate yourself if you are still reading this post! 🙂

25. Find a higher purpose in life. For me, it’s Jesus. He is the reason I live and breathe. And that keeps me going on the really hard and really tough days.

26. Befriend those around you. No matter how different they may be. Love them like Jesus says and include them in your circle. It will lead you down some crazy paths like delivering a Christmas tree to an ex-bouncer who wants to go to church with you because he sees something in your Jesus. And it will enrich your life in ways you never knew possible.

27. Wear your style. Don’t like style wear you.  Disposable clothing is a trend. It’s the cheap outfit you buy for one event and never wear again either because it’s too trendy or poor quality.  But the trend is hurting millions of workers around the world. I will admit its been hard for me at times to shift to buying ethically, but I have tried to stick to items I know will last season after season and when I can, purchase from fair trade and ethical companies.

28. Work hard. Because even if you don’t get the promotion or the recognition, you will feel accomplished and proud of yourself.

29. Start traditions wherever you are. As I have gotten married and now become a mom, traditions are becoming more important to me. They things I remember so fondly from my childhood and the things I want my own children to remember. Don’t get caught up in having a Pinterest perfect house or holiday and create your own quirky traditions.

30. Love out loud. No matter what you do, let it be done in love. Kindness wins every time.

 

 

You do You

Post to Twitter

do-what-you-love

 

You do You. 

This was advice given to me by a speaker I recently listened to at a leadership breakfast I went to for my job.  She was talking about her career path and current position at a prestigious local company. At one point, she mentioned her two children and their ages. A quick bit of math brought the realization she had built her career while her children were very young.  After the breakfast, I went up to introduce myself as we had a mutual friend and ask her advice.

Being a working mom is tough. Being a working mom in a world where most people assume eventually you will wake up and realize your lifelong dream is to be a stay at home mom is even tougher.  I have nothing against either camp. But I know where I solidly fit. In the land of working moms. I asked how she did it and if she had any advice to pass along. She had some solid advice and was super encouraging, but one phrase hasn’t left my mind. You do you. She said, you have to do you and that is when you will be the best mom and wife and employee.   As I left and continued to mull over what she said, I could see how so very true it was in my own life.

When I am being me-the best me I know how to be, I am a good mom, wife, and employee/volunteer/friend etc.  But when I try to act like someone else or fit into some other mold, I am tired, cranky, and generally a not-fun version of myself.  In so many ways, in this season of my life, I feel called to stay at my job. I love my son and enjoy every minute with him, but I know this is who I am. I am a working mom. And you know what, when I embrace that, when I live in that space, I am everything else better. I am not spending my days waiting for God to change my heart and make me magically into a stay-at-home mom. I am spending my days doing what I am best at and loving God, my family, and my life well through it.

So friend, you do you.  Whatever you looks like, be the best you. And if we all do this, we will become the best supporters of each other. I can cheer you on and you can cheer me on and we can run our races together, however different they may look.

 

My Do-Not-Do List

Post to Twitter

If you missed my obsession with Hoopla, check here for more details. And download it stat. It might change your life.

My current audio book loves are all of Shauna Niequist’s books. I probably should stop listening to them because they make me cry. Ugly tears sometimes. But I love her. and her writing. and she narrates them. Currently, I am in the middle of Bittersweet and she has a chapter in there on her “Do-Not-Do” List. At one point she was overwhelmed and trying to do it all (hello all my millennial mom friends) and received some wise advice which lead her to creating a list of things she doesn’t do. Things on the list are free from guilt and shame because by not doing those things, she has time to do the things she loves. This was what I needed to hear. After a month of fighting and losing the battle with a nasty cold and generally just feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and on the verge of a meltdown, this was the breath of fresh air I needed.

The world of social media makes mom-guilt a lot worse I think and I was struggling big time. So I enter for your enjoyment (and accountability or free pass) my personal Do-Not-Do (“DND”) list.  It’s a work in progress and subject to change. But the things on this list today are things which I refuse to have any guilt over. None. Nada. Because the things on this list mean I can do other things I love and enjoy and bring life and wholeness to me and my family.

Amanda’s DND LIST

1. Fold socks-sorry folks, mama ain’t got time to match all your socks. In our family, we go through a lot of socks in a given week. They will be placed in your sock drawer and it’s up to you to find a matching pair. Or don’t because I hear mis-matched socks are all the rage.

2. Halloween Costumes- This is timely as this week was Halloween. I made my list prior to the 31st and since this was on the list, I refused to let any guilt seep into the day. I have a full plate and making a costume was not a reality. And I refuse to spend money on something to be worn once. On top of that, I never celebrated Halloween as a kid and am undecided on what we will do as a family, but for now, it’s a no go.

3. Decorate for any holiday aside from Christmas- I LOVE Christmas. So much I won’t even deny I may become the person with a tree in every room. I love Christmas music, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas cards. I think you get it. But only Christmas gets a free pass. Sorry to all the other noble holidays, my house will not reflect your presence. It’s just one more thing I have to clean up.

4. Grocery Shop at multiple stores- I know it would be more budget friendly, but time is money. And in my limited spare time, spending it driving to multiple stores to save a little money just loses out. So sorry Aldi, I will miss you so. But today I will enjoy my one-stop shopping trip that takes less than an hour.

5. Go to the gym- I hesitated to put this one on my list. At different points in my life, I have spent a lot of time at the gym. Early mornings, Saturdays, late nights-you name it. But right now, I have an active one-year old who demands all my attention and a gym membership and gym classes just don’t fit on the calendar or in the budget. They will again someday I am sure, but for now, this is on the list so I can stop feeling guilty about the fact that instead of going to the gym over my lunch I actually ate a meal sitting down without a toddler screaming at me.

That’s my short DND list. I am sure there are other things, but the things I put on the list have, over the past several months, caused me the most guilt so they went on the list. Life is too short and there are too many beautiful and lovely things to do so just know, if you ask me to a Halloween party there will be no costumes. 🙂

What’s on your DND list? Don’t have one? What are you feeling guilty about that might need to go on the list? Being a momma is hard and there just isn’t time for everything.

One Christian’s Response to the 2016 Election

Post to Twitter

presidentYa’ll, listen. If you haven’t noticed, there is this tiny little political election happening this year. I am not sure how you could have missed it. I don’t watch TV, but social media is rife with articles, posts, opinions, and every other type of political fanfare you can imagine. I normally try to shy away from all things political,  but today I hit a breaking point.

Someone on my FB feed posted an article about Trump with a line about how could you not support him after reading this article. Curious by nature and still slightly in shock at the candidates we have to choose from, I clicked on the article.  Perhaps it would sway my decision. I do not believe the article was written by a believer, but the person who posted it is someone whose faith I admire. The article was full of hate. And anger. And all sorts of awful things. But the line in the article which compelled me to fling my thoughts into the giant swirl of thoughts surrounding this election was this “Donald Trump is the last hope for America.

Hours later, I still can’t decide if I want to cry or punch a wall or listen to some really depressing music with a glass of wine.  How in the world did we get to a place where we willingly support and post articles promoting Trump as the last hope for America?!? I do not care whether you love him or hate him quite frankly. I won’t try to convince you how to vote. Those things are your personal prerogative, but please, I beg you, stop calling Trump the last hope for America.

No human will EVER be the last hope for America. Because humans are not the source of hope. Hope lies in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Period. His death and resurrection provided hope. Jesus brings peace and love and an example of how to live.  His words should be readily on our lips as we talk about this election..

I am the way, the truth, and the light..”

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you..”

“In this world, you will have many troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world..”

“I will never leave you nor forsake you..”

“Go and make disciples of all nations..”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

As Jesus followers, we are called to a higher standard. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to make disciples of all nations. We are called to peace. We are called to follow Jesus. And Jesus didn’t promise us a life without persecution or hardship or governments that disagree with us. He promised us His peace and love and intimacy.  The outcome of this election could very well shape history in America. It could very well be less than favorable for the American church. But friends, this is not something to fear. This is reason to fall on our face and pray. This is reason to be a church known by our love and actions, not by our words and hate. This is reason to defend the cause of the poor, care for orphans and widows, and seek justice in our nation. This is a call to the believer to place your hope in Jesus and to live as though God still sits on throne. He knows the outcome. He will not be surprised. And He will never leave nor forsake us.

Trump is not the last hope for America. Jesus is the last and only hope for America.