Why I’m in the Mood for a Fight (and the phrase we’ve got to stop saying…)

I’m in the mood for a fight.

I have a bone to pick with this crazy, frantic, world and also with myself.

There’s this phrase I’m sick of hearing, sick of saying, sick of living.

It’s an excuse we all accept and no one seems to question and perhaps that’s because it’s sort of, kind of, true. 

But today, I’m saying, “No more!” I’m picking a fight with the words, the excuse, and the lie that ,“I’m too busy.” That we’re all too gosh-darn busy. That there’s no time or place or space in this great wide world, in this one beautiful day, in our hurried schedule for that friend, that family, that child. For that calling, that ministry, that life changing habit…

That there’s just no time for God.

Think about it. How many times just this week, just today, have you thought it? Felt it? Said it? How many times have these words been spoken to you?

When you ask someone how they’re doing? “Oh, I’m just so busy.”

When you finally get around to calling that friend who called you weeks ago? “I’m sorry, things have been so busy.”

When you invite someone in, ask to get together, ask for just a little time? “There’s no way right now, I’m swamped, maybe later?” 

Yeah maybe…

When you look at your Bible and know it hasn’t been cracked for months? You think of your prayer life and the respirator it’s on. You hear the still, small voice whispering an invitation just for you. “I can’t right now, Lord,” you say. “I have to run to the store, wash the car, mow the lawn, paint my nails, watch this show, fix them supper, dry my hair, fetch the mail, clean the toilet, fold the socks, change her diaper, visit the zoo, and, and, and…Can we try again tomorrow?”

It’s acceptable, and easier, and even a little honest to say, “I can’t. I don’t have time. I’m too busy for that right now.”

But is it really? Held up to God’s standard is it really acceptable? Is it really easier? Is it really true? 

Last summer my sweet friend from North Carolina called to see how I was doing. She had news to share. She wanted to talk, to celebrate life with me. It took me two (TWO!) months to call her back. 

And that Bible, that prayer life, I mentioned before? Yeah, it’s mine. 

And I know with the friend, with the Bible, with the prayer…if I really wanted too…if I were willing to make them a priority…if I were willing to say, “You know what? You mean more to me than Survivor, more than the next chapter of that page turner I’m reading, more than an hour of sleep here, or 20 minutes on Facebook there,” I could pick up the phone and make the call. I could open my Bible. I could journal my prayers.

Because the truth is, I have the time. I have a place in my life. I have space for each of these things. I just haven’t been willing. I’ve chosen something else. I’ve chosen other things.

I’ve chosen to put lesser things before people, relationships, God. 

And isn’t it a little bit like building up an idol?

Doesn’t it look a little bit like bowing down to calves?

Haven’t we allowed ourselves to get caught up in a lie?

It happened just the other day. Broken by a friend too busy to make time and space for me, I cried out to God. “All I want is some time…the chance to talk…for her to be willing.”

“I know, I want that too,” came His gentle reply.

“From me?”

“From you, dear one. I just want some time…the chance to talk…for you to be willing.”

“But when? You know my days are packed. I’ve got the kids, the house, the husband, the homeschooling…”

“You sound a bit like her…”


Caught in the act that hurt me so deeply, I saw it, how deeply I hurt Him.

When I don’t have time for His people, His callings, His Word. When I don’t make time to sit and still and be with Him.  How I lie to Him, keep Him waiting. How day after day I put lesser things before Him. How very much it hurts.

No more, I decided. 

It sounds cliche, I know. Like the Sunday school answer we’ve all grown up with, but in that moment I didn’t want to waste another minute of precious time. Time I could be spending with my precious, Lord.

I grabbed my Bible, my journal, and a cup of steaming coffee. In the midst of my morning, in the messy, mangled, middle of kids arguing, baby fussing, of husband getting out the door, I sat at our kitchen table and created time for Him.

A place. A space. An altar just for Him.

The truth is we’re all busy. But who among us is too busy? Who among us doesn’t have the ability to offer the little bit we have and choose the greater thing?

24 hours of fresh grace…

Mercies grand and new every morning…

Resources beyond measure…

I know you’re busy.

So am I.

But what will you do with yours? 

I’m so excited to share a “Blog Hop” with you today and a special post by my sister-of-the-heart and fellow writer, Jessie Heninger. Just like me, Jessie has recently been challenged with the thought of being too busy and is taking two big steps to make some changes. Please follow this link to read her story. You are sure to be inspired! https://jessieheninger.wordpress.com

March Madness: For When Your Life Feels Like a Buzzer-Beater (and You’re on the Losing Team)


NetSince the last time I posted:

~ My husband fell in our garage, severely spraining his ankle and breaking his foot

~ My mom-in-law was in a bad car accident fracturing her foot in six different places

~ I received emotionally distressing news related to my writing life

~ All three of my girls followed by Chris and me came down with chest colds that won’t go away

~ Two birthday parties for my little ones have been cancelled and rescheduled due to injuries and sickness

~ In addition to the cold I came down with a painful mastitis infection

~ Chris’s grandfather became seriously ill while traveling away from home

~ Our homeschooling schedule has been turned on its head

And yet…

~ There’s also this:

IMG_5648~ And this:

Blue Eye Belle~ And this:

Blue Moon Smile~ There’s the super-cool ice machine my husband’s business associate sent him to help with icing his foot

~ There’s medicine and immune boosters helping all of us heal

~ There’s a chance for me to grow as a writer and make my novel better

~ There’s our pastor friend who prayed over us

~ Family and friends who understand a change of plans and give us grace (times two)

~ A special guest speaker at my writing group and a wonderful evening with friends

~ Little girls that keep being golden despite their stuffy noses

~ Prayers for Grandpa and signs of improvement

IMG_5649~ The first glimpse of spring in Michigan

~ Supernatural pain relief for my mom-in-law after her recent surgery to repair her foot

~ My mom who has kept our clothes clean and our bellies full

They call this season March Madness and our March, so far, has been just that. We’ve been attacked emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It’s been one thing after another and at times my spirits have sunk pretty low.

But there’s also been a lot of good, a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. In the midst of the madness, in the midst of the storm, I’ve been reminded this week that we do have a choice.

~ We can choose to focus on the good or focus on the bad.

~ We can choose to keep our eyes on God or keep our eyes on all that’s going wrong.

~ We can choose to give our hearts away to Satan and his attacks or we can stand in the name of Jesus and fight to keep our hearts intact.

 Anyone can praise God when things are going great, when life is good and beautiful. I want to praise Him in the midst of the madness. As the popular lyrics of Matt Redman’s worship song says, “let me be singing when the evening comes…” * I want to be found signing at night regardless of the day.

My life, as of late, feels a bit like a buzzer-beater. It’s been fast! Dramatic! And crazy! And it feels like we keep coming up short, like we just keep losing. 

But with God nothing is ever lost. Anything and everything is always there, working together for good.

* 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

For When Christmas Comes Up Empty

MangerThe stress of the week had left me empty, had drained me dry. Work challenges, family challenges, and holiday pressures had taken their toll.

Desperate for peace and joy I retreated to the nursery to rock my daughter to sleep for nap time.

With Promise sleeping soundly in my arms I opened the playlist on my phone and scanned my albums for music to bring back the spirit of Christmas. For me, this music is found yearly on Michael W. Smith’s album: Christmastime.

Somehow it never truly feels like Christmas to me until I set aside a sacred time to still, and slow, and listen. To let this music stir in me the feelings of snow and warmth. Of family and coming home. Of worship. Of Christmas.

And on this rocky Thursday morning, with tension filling every room of the house. With stress running rampant and discouragement decking the halls, I needed this balm. These tidings of great, great joy.


“Fragile finger sent to heal us,

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us,

Unto us is born

Unto us is born”


As the lyrics from Welcome to Our World fell over me and the sleeping babe in my arms, I found myself overwhelmed with how much I need Him. With how much my family, my household, this crazy, smoldering world needs Him. How we all need Him to come and fill not just the manger but all the empty, the lost, the broken.

Christmas, it brings with it so much joy and yet there is always this beautiful ache. This ache for Him to fulfill all we truly long for. 

The manger so long ago was such an unlikely place for a Savior King to fill. And yet He did. He came in the most unlikely way to the most unlikely place and even so fulfilled every need, every ache of the world. 

And this is what He continues to do. And this is what we celebrate. This is what we need at Christmas and every day of the year. For Him to come and fill the manger of our hearts, our homes, our lives.

Anything, anywhere can be a manger if we but open for Him. Make room for Him to come. If we stop being so afraid of the empty, afraid of the ache and go to Him ready and waiting and asking of Him, “Lord, please just come.”

The only time Christmas comes up empty is when we look to lesser things to fill our greatest ache. 

And the best way to remain full this holiday season is to remember the truth of Christmas. To remember the baby who filled the manger, who filled the empty, the open, the cracks in all this broken world. 

My daughter expressed it perfectly this week while listening to an instrumental version of Away in The Manger. “This song reminds me of baby Jesus,” she said. “And when I hear it all I want to do is pick him up and hold him in my arms and love him forever.”

So simple. So profound. So very full of Christmas.

Sweet friends, may your heart, your home, your life be full with Him this holiday season.

When all else leaves you empty may you remember Baby Jesus, may you hold him close to your heart, love him forever, and let your manger be filled with Him.

When You Just Need Time to Slow Right Down

PlaqueTwo weeks have gone by since my last blog post. Chances are good no one has noticed this tiny, little fact.

But I’ve noticed. And it was this tiny, little fact that had me to turning to Chris around 9:00 Saturday night saying, “What the hell has happened to me?”

I used to blog every week…twice! For over two years I never missed a Sunday.

(A little background: my eight month old is teething and when she finds she’s not in my arms she cries like the sky is falling. Thus any activity that requires, two hands, two arms, and/or my undivided attention has become a challenge, to say the least. And sleep…Oh, yes, I remember sleep! Fondly.)

Anyway…I get that it really is okay. The world has indeed kept turning. Life goes on as they say.

But what of my world? My life?

What should I make of this nagging anxiety I keep feeling over all the things that aren’t getting done?

My blog?

My book?

My laundry?


Date night?

A shower?

In the pit of my stomach I have this deep seeded fear that I’m failing. That I’m trying so hard to do and be so many things that I’m not doing any of them well.

Think Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring when he tells Frodo he feels like butter scraped over too much bread. Yes, my dear Bilbo, that’s exactly how I feel!

It all came to a roaring head when I bumped my baby girl’s precious noggin against the corner of the wall a few nights back. It was an accident, of course, but a stupid one. A should have known better one. An I need to get another load of laundry in the wash so why don’t I balance the baby on one hip and the laundry basket on the other while I head down the stairs one.

When my sweet pea started wailing something wild broke loose inside me. After a few minutes of tears she was fine but I wasn’t.

I was weary and broken and tired of losing. In a house full of people I felt so alone. I felt unseen, unheard, unmattered. I was failing them, failing me, failing everything! I mean, really, blowing it big time.

It was one of those rock bottom moments when all you can do…and the last thing you want to do is pray. You don’t want to because you’re convinced you’re so far gone it won’t really help. But you start to pray anyway because that one shred of faith and trust you have left just might turn the tide. And, really, when you’re this bad off who can save you but Jesus?

So I prayed and asked for forgiveness, for help. For less fear and more love. For less stress and more joy. For plenty of butter to cover the bread.

And what I heard from Him were two tiny, little words: Be present.

Be present.

As in not thinking of all I did wrong, messed up, forgot, didn’t do.

As in not focusing on all that’s waiting ahead, stacking up, growing dusty, going to bring down the stars if it doesn’t get done.

As in stop and be all here, all in, right this very moment now.

Be present.

As in, stop, and be present to the baby girl who won’t sleep in her crib but will sleep in your arms because God picked you to be her mama and your hers and she’s yours. All yours. Listen to her sleepy breathes. Admire that skin so creamy. She’ll out grow those arms in no time so rock her while you can. Then sit and rock some more.

As in stop and be present to the first grader as she sounds out that tricky new word. Marker ‘e’ makes long ‘a’ and these days aren’t long but fleeting. This moment here with her golden hair smashed soft against my chest as we sound out homeschool together is but a fraction, a sliver in time. Don’t miss it!

As in stop and be present at the kitchen sink, the laundry basket the dinner table. Feel the hot water pouring from the tap. Close your eyes and breathe deep the scent of the detergent that conjures memories of Mom-Mom and all her magical loveliness. Fall head over heels in love again with the man so hungry from a day of hard work that his plate is empty before yours hits the table. (And ignore the mud he tracked on the floor.)

Whatever it is you’re doing be present. Be all there.

And watch how time slows down. Watch how things get done, or don’t. Or whatever? Who cares?

Watch how things that matter, matter and things that don’t, just don’t.

Watch how the world keeps spinning and joy keeps ringing and love casts out fear.

Because the tiny, little fact that can’t go unnoticed isn’t the blog, or the laundry, or any of the stuff that seems so important, that’s not getting done.

It’s Him.

It’s here.

It’s now.

Don’t miss it! Don’t waste this gift of right-this-second-now.

Cradle it like a baby. Like a sleeping, slumbering gift. Fragile and fleeting and worth slowing down for. Worth stopping everything for.

Be present.

Unwrap the gift of now.

Open wide the abounding, sprawling, to-do-list defeating gift of Him.

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.