Why Now Is the Time to Dream


DreamThis summer my husband and I came extremely close to buying a large chunk of land less than a mile from where he grew up. We were excited; so excited to see these plans come through.

For months we talked and planned and dreamed. We walked the property and checked with the owner time and again working toward a deal.

This dream of owning land, of building a house, of having a place to call our own has been in our hearts since the day we wed almost thirteen years ago. And really it was a dream long before then.

We’ve come close to seeing this dream realized several times throughout our marriage but somehow it always falls through. 

At times this has shattered our hearts to pieces and other times it’s been okay because we knew God had better plans, but even still our hearts continue to dream and hope and long for that day, for that place all our own.

Again, this summer we thought we had it. And again this summer it didn’t work out.

Overall, we were kind of relieved when the deal didn’t go through. Too many red flags kept waving and we walked away from the land with all kinds of peace in our hearts.

I am so thankful for this but still we wonder what’s next. If not this land, this deal, then what? Will our dream ever come true? 

 It’s definitely been a time of trial and drawing close to God. Of choosing again and again to trust Him with our desire, to be open with our hearts, and believe His plans for us are good. To prosper and not to harm us.

And in this time of drawing close I keep hearing Him whisper a special message just for me:

 Now’s the time to dream. 

Having His permission to dream is both freeing and affirming. It inspires me to picture that place I long for so deeply. 

To see in my minds eye (and a Pinterest board or two…okay three) that one part cabin, one part castle, one part cottage home which is so perfectly me.

To picture my bedroom, my girl’s room, my writing nook.

To picture a spacious yard for my girls to play and an apple orchard just for me.

My list of dreams goes on and on filling my heart with light and hope. 

 And it’s not about not being happy where I am now. Indeed it’s being more than okay with waiting to see these dreams come true, but as I wait it’s also okay to imagine, to wonder, to trust. To dream big dreams that spin me around and point me to Him.

As I dream about my someday home I’m reminded that His permission to dream also holds true in other areas of my life where I find myself waiting. 

There’s the dream of another baby… perhaps a little boy.

The dream of spoiling our family and friends with trips, and blessings, and gifts galore.

And the dream of publishing my book.

So I let my mind run wild in the quiet and waiting places. In moments with Him and those Pinterest boards.

And I picture a little boy in cowboy boots who smiles just like his daddy.

I picture my parents on a cruise ship, my family in Germany, my best writing buddy and me in a tricked out glamper doing book signings from coast to coast.

I picture my book, printed on leafy pages, looking right at home on a Barnes and Noble shelf.

Will these dreams ever come true? Lord only knows…

But this I know for sure…

His heart for me is good.

His promises are true.

And now’s the time to dream. 

For When You Need a Fresh Start

Congratulations to Karen for winning my Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All Giveaway! Thanks for entering, Karen! Your book will be on it’s way soon!

No mailI surprised myself this morning. Without much thought I did something completely unexpected. Something I haven’t felt ready to do for almost two years.

But this morning I was ready. And I did it.

I deleted a mountain of emails from my inbox and granted myself a fresh start. 

 Earth shattering, I know, but it meant something to me.

Most of the emails I hacked were blog posts from one of my favorite authors. Posts I hadn’t read yet. Posts I knew were sure to nurture my heart. For two years I looked at my inbox and everyday I felt this weight. This that knowing these posts were waiting. This knowing that I should take the time to read them. This telling myself, again and again, that I’ll get to them eventually.

But this morning something was different. This morning I wanted a fresh start more than I wanted whatever it was waiting in those emails. So with a quick tap of my finger I let them go. 

At the end of the day emails are emails but I can’t help but wonder, what else? What else in my life needs a fresh start like this one?

How many weights do I carry because of something I should be doing? 

I should be spending more time with God, the treadmill, my writing, on date nights with my husband.

I should be eating better, praying more, reading more books to my kids.

I should be more organized, patient, willing to get up early, willing to stay up late.

I should be a better homeschooler, housekeeper, mother, wife, sister, friend.

The should be weight is crushing. In all of these things I want a fresh start. I want Jesus. I want grace. I want to trade every “should be” for lifesaving truth.

Fresh starts aren’t just for New Year’s Day or new seasons. They aren’t for perfect people, perfect homes or ducks all in a row. They’re for each and every day, for every five minutes if need be. They’re for the broken, the messed up, the messy. 

Fresh starts are all about dropping the weight of my demands, my expectations, my attempts at making life happen, for the weightlessness of grace and glory. 

He demands nothing but my heart.

He expects nothing but my love.

And He alone is the only source of the life I need, I want.

For all the things I should be, He loves me for who I am. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light…” and these words have never been more freeing. 

So every “should be” you’re facing today? It should be null and void, deleted like a mountain of emails. Because our “should be” list isn’t what matters. 

Fresh starts that align our heart with His heart are what matters. His grace and glory matter. 

Fresh starts that trade the weight of everything we should be, for the weightless truth of who He is. 

A Prayer for the Start of School


First Day of SchoolToday is the first day of school here in Michigan. In my house we never really stopped our homeschooling over the summer but even still we’re ready for a new year, a new grade, a fresh start.

For many moms out there, I know today is hard. Many of you have already put your kiddos on the bus, some for the very first time. (Gulp!) Others took big kids to middle school or high school or watched as the child who was just a baby yesterday took their first steps across a college campus. (Even bigger gulp!)

As I sit here in my little corner of Michigan, in my classroom for two with the comforts of home, my heart is with you, friends! I’d like to give you a great big hug or pass a tissue or two. I’d like to tell you it will be okay, that they will be okay.

I’d like to cheer with you and celebrate or sit at the table in your unusually quiet kitchen for a grown up conversation and a hot cup of coffee.

Unfortunately I can’t, at least not really. But I can pray. And mamas…I am! I’m praying big time for you today. And I thought maybe, just maybe, we could grab a collective cup of coffee and take a few minutes to pray for each other. 

Because whether you’re a homeschooling mama, a preschool mama, an elementary, middle or high school mama, a college mama. A special needs mama, first day of kindergarten mama, an empty nest mama. A working mama, a stay at home mama, a single mama. A grandmama, an auntie mama or a hope to someday be mama.  We all need prayer. We need the support and love and encouragement only a fellow mama can bring. 

So will you take your mama’s heart and come before the Father with me?

 This is my prayer for you. A prayer for the first day of school and all the days thereafter… 

Dear Father, 

 Thank you for this day. Thank you for your love and your grace. Thank you especially for the fresh grace you gave us this morning as our children went back to school. 

 Please, come now and be with us. Meet us in our hearts. Bring us your peace, your comfort, your courage. Be with all the mixed emotions we’re feeling. The sadness, the fear, the doubt. The happiness, the excitement, the joy. Be with us when we think of all the things we could have done or should have done. Be with us in all the things that fill our hearts with pride. Meet us in our desires and help our ultimate desire to be found ultimately in you.

 Lord, take all these thoughts, these feelings, and cover them with your presence, your wisdom, your grace. 

 Be with our children today. Help us release them to you. Take all our hopes and dreams for them, Lord, and help us remember your way, your timing, and your will is perfect. Remind us, Lord, that our precious children were yours long before they were ours and that your heart for them and for us is good, that you love them and us more than we’ll ever know. 

 Protect them, Lord. Draw them to you. Let them walk in relationship with you all the days of their lives and use them, Lord, for your kingdom. 

 Lord, help us to claim, today, the truth that you’ve got this! You’ve got them and you’ve got us, and help us to rest in this fact. 

 Give us strength, Lord. Give us joy. Help us as we mother. Today, tomorrow, and always. Find us faithful to our families and faithful to you, Lord Jesus. 

 In your beautiful, powerful, and precious name we pray. Amen!

See you again tomorrow? I’ll be here, friends, praying for you!

If there’s anyway I can pray specifically for you please feel free to leave a comment below. And also check be sure to check out the giveaway I’m hosting here for your chance to win a copy of Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All by Brenda L. Yoder, the perfect resource for busy moms.

Happy first day of school, Mamas! May each day to follow be blessed!

For When You’re Just Plain Ready for a Break (Plus Giveaway)


11703596_10207774708269587_5031492076919605996_o (1)This week I’m excited to welcome my friend and fellow writer, Brenda L. Yoder to Once Upon A Writer. Brenda is launching the release of her latest book, Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All, and I recently had the chance to preview this amazing resource for busy moms. With loads of fresh truth and practical ideas I found this book to be a much-needed refreshment for all the weary places of my mama’s heart. Part workbook, part Bible Study, part heart-to-heart talk with a trusted friend, Brenda’s book is a must-read for moms of all ages and stages.

 The following is a conversation between Brenda and me as we discuss a few of the topics from Balance, Busyness and Not Doing it All. Be sure to check out the end of this post for your chance to win a copy of Brenda’s book!

 Brenda, what inspired you to write this book and who is this book for? 

“Balance” was written in response to a retreat I do on the same topic. After the first retreat, my inbox was flooded with emails from moms asking where they could find the book so they could go over the material or give it to a friend or daughter they thought should be at the retreat. I only had articles I’d written on the subject to offer them. At first I developed an e-book, but then an editor encouraged me to develop it into a trade book. The target audience is for moms who are raising kids, whether they are in their twenties or fifties, married or single. Women who previewed the book mentioned they appreciated that it spans a wide range of ages.

In Chapter Eight, “What’s Most Important,” you write about being available to your kids when they want to play and/or talk? How does a busy mom stay available to her family and their needs and still take time to nurture her own heart? 

There’s so much in the book that addresses this, but a simple answer would be developing priorities that allow you to do both. Many women are involved with activities that drain them, or involved because they feel guilty if they say “no” to a request to serve or volunteer. When women function in their strengths and essential needs for their current season of parenting, you’re not as drained emotionally or physically. This chapter talks about learning what’s essential for your current season of parenting. It’s the heart of defining priorities and busyness. When you’re busy doing what you love, you eliminate unnecessary busyness. This, in turn, allows more time to be available for your kids and inherently fosters self-care.

I love what you wrote in this book about marriage and the practical wisdom you share. What are a few specific ways you keep your marriage simple?

Letting things go and seeking God exclusively. For years I was critical of my husband, focusing on what he wasn’t doing to meet my needs. After fighting over things in which we would stalemate, I realized he couldn’t meet my needs in the way I was expecting. This wasn’t easy. I’ve found the more I pursue God to meet my needs, the less I look to my husband to do so. It’s freeing to be able to let things go.

Brenda, I know you and I are both blessed with husbands who support our work, our dreams, and our goals in many special ways, but I also know there are moms out there who are single or have husbands who don’t make their needs a priority. What words of wisdom and advice do you have for either a single mom or a mom with an unsupportive husband? 

As a counselor, I know many women don’t have husbands or parenting partners who are cooperative or even kind. I tried to be sensitive and practical in the book for women whose parenting partner is absent. I was encouraged by moms who previewed the book for a book party I hosted. One single mom said how important the chapter, “Don’t Parent Alone,” was to her. She was encouraged to reach out to her support system as she parents her son. A few moms whose husbands are less supportive said the principles on developing an intimate relationship with Jesus were crucial to them. It’s not natural for women to seek out help or assistance in parenting, but God doesn’t intend for us to parent alone.

When life gets crazy-busy at your house what’s your go-to stress reliever that gets you off the tight-rope-way of doing life and into a more balanced lifestyle? 

Time alone is essential for me, and taking the time when I need it is important. This may include an afternoon or evening going someplace just by myself, without even spending money.  I’ve been known to tell my family that from 8-11 on a Saturday morning I’m going to be outside working or in my bedroom reading and they’re not to disturb me. I’ve learned when my limit of being around people 24/7 has reached its threshold, and how ugly I get when I don’t take a break.

These mini-breaks often include time with God. Sometimes I keep my Bible and notebook with me at work and even spend extra time at work talking to God before I come home to the busyness and noise.

What specific things do you try to do on a daily(ish) basis to keep your love affair with God alive and well? What are some ways a busy mom might incorporate her children into this love affair lifestyle?

 One thing I do is carve out time for non-rushed quiet time during my week. It’s not always daily, but I choose 3-4 times a week, either in mornings or after kids are in bed, to spend time in God’s word. This, above all, has brought balance to my life. When I taught, I often used time right before school to spend time with God at my desk. It made a difference in my day.

How do I incorporate a love affair with scripture with my kids? I wish I could say it’s something structured, but it’s not. Other than our family worship times I explain in the book, the best way I share my love for God’s word is just in conversations with them. It might be telling them about something God’s taught me, using biblical principles to address everyday problems, or praying with them at bedtime. I suppose that’s what God means in Deuteronomy when He instructs parents to talk about His word “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:7).

What is your number one nugget of advice for a mom with…

Young children? Don’t take for granted what they’re able to learn. Teach the moral reasons for why you’re telling them yes or no, and instill an honor of God and His word in your home. Take time to play with them.

Teenagers? They need you now more than ever before. Listen to what they’re not saying and look beyond their behavior. Don’t get into power struggles and listen more than you talk.  Spend time with them doing things that are fun. Look beyond the moods and emotions. As Josh McDowell says, “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” Let them know you trust them when they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. Don’t make a big deal over little things.

Adult children? Release. Don’t enable, and don’t steal their struggle. A friend of mine once told me, “They’ll figure it out.” They will. It’s important adult kids develop their own identity, faith, and life apart from you. God intends for kids to separate and grow up.

What message do you hope to leave in the hearts of busy moms through the writing of this book? 

What you live is what your children will remember you by. Don’t be busy with non-essential things for the wrong reasons. Stop doing what you think you’re supposed to do to please people or out of guilt. Pull back and listen to God for His priorities for your stage of parenting. Then live it.

I’ve watched Brenda hold my four-month-old baby in her arms so I could write for a few uninterrupted minutes, and I’ve been blessed by her servant’s heart as she lugged a car seat all over downtown Holland to help me during a weekend retreat. She is, in everyway, the epitome of friendship and motherhood. In keeping with her giving nature Brenda has provided a copy of Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All for one of my readers.

To enter my “Balance Giveaway” please post a comment below or to my Facebook link between now and next Saturday. All names will be entered into a drawing, and the winner will be announced in next Sunday’s post.

Many thanks to Brenda for all her help with today’s post. If you’d like to learn more about Brenda, her books, and her ministry please visit her at www.brendayoder.com, and be sure to look for Balance Busyness and Not Doing it All on Amazon and at www.balancebusynessandnotdoingitall.com.

IMG_1886edcr Brenda roundBrenda L. Yoder, LMHC, is an author, speaker, educator and counselor. Her books, Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All and Who Do You Say I Am released in 2015. Her ministry, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, can be found at brendayoder.com where she writes about faith, life, and parenting beyond the storybook image. Brenda’s also a parenting columnist for 10 To 20 Parenting, Choose Now Ministries, and Whatever Girls. She has a mental health column in her local paper, and has been featured in Chicken Soup For The Soul: Reboot Your Life. She was twice awarded the Touchstone Award for teachers.

When Brenda’s not writing, working, or speaking, she’s a wife and mom to four children, ages teen to young adult. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope (@BeyondPicketFenc) and Twitter.