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A Skeptic’s Review of the “Unplanned” Movie

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

I was afraid to see the movie Unplanned. I heard I would be seeing an abortion onscreen and I didn’t know how I would react to it. That wasn’t the only fear, though.

While the movie theater attendants helped direct me to the theater, I immediately felt the need to qualify my movie choice. The words “I’m seeing this for work” bubbled up and spilled out of my mouth before I even considered them. The fear of what people would assume about me once I was connected to this movie was just beneath the surface.

I’m very pro-life. I lean conservative. I grew up in churches that are pro-life. None of this is new to me.

So why did I feel this uncertainty?


Honestly, how was the movie?

** Spoilers **

The underlying fear came from two places. First, it’s hard for mainstream culture to get past the notoriously cheesy production quality of Christian movies, no matter how great the message. Second, I’m sad to say, I feared people in the theater would label me as an extreme activist, naive follower, or hater of women.

So, how did the movie measure up? A lot of it was cheesy as expected, but the scenes that mattered – bloody, raw depictions of what really happens in abortion scenarios and what Abby saw at Planned Parenthood – were extremely realistic and sobering. I think it deserved its R rating and it actually helps drive home the point of the movie.

It’s an interesting dichotomy. Everyday life scenes weren’t believable, but as soon as we got to a pivotal scene about what these clinics are really like, it was as if time had stopped and I believed every piece of it.

I think more people would consider our message if Christians would hold ourselves to a higher standard in media and focus a little more on the humanity of the characters.

Yet my hat goes off to the writers and directors for their spot on portrayal of several very real, very intense, very bloody scenes depicting Abby’s real-life experiences with her own two abortions and her time at Planned Parenthood. Even if you hate the rest of the movie, they can’t be ignored because they’re done so incredibly well.

After researching some of the more extreme details in the movie, I believe them. Abby Johnson herself remains calmly adamant that this movie (adapted from her book, Unplanned) is not just based on a true story – the events really happened to her. If you set aside your preconceived notions and look at it from the lens of Abby’s story, this movie is harrowing and convincing.


Is the movie worth seeing?

Yes. This movie is worth watching.

I would proceed cautiously if you have ever had an abortion, worked in an abortion facility, or even had a miscarriage. I long for you to know you have complete redemption and freedom in Christ – I hope you already walk in that – but I also know some scenes could bring up a lot of pain.

The message of redemption was there, but I fear it might be clouded by the Planned Parenthood narrative. As you watch, please remember, Abby Johnson – a woman who had 2 abortions and assisted in over 22,000 others at Planned Parenthood – has found freedom and walks in a new purpose.

I wish the movie had focused more on the details of what healing looks like for Abby and other women who had abortions depicted in the film. The details and plot line about Planned Parenthood belong in the movie, but I fear the writers may have missed an opportunity to explore an important part of humanity and redemption along the way.

If you walk into this movie determined to point out the negatives, you will find them, but forcing myself to sit with the gravity of the situation for two hours was a good experience for me. It challenged the way I engage with the subject of abortion.

It’s an important conversation starter. I encourage you to see it and form your own opinions.


Will this movie change someone’s mind?

I’m skeptical that many pro-choice advocates or clients of Planned Parenthood will watch this movie on their own. I’m glad it’s there for the possibility, but it will be hard to wade through the production flaws and their own experience to truly consider another side to a polarizing issue.

I’m curious to hear more about how people of other opinions and experiences react to this movie.

It’s true. I personally can’t fathom watching this movie and at the very least not question the United State’s attitude toward abortion. If you’re at all curious, I encourage you to go see the movie and understand this side for yourself.


Did this movie change my mind?

It didn’t change my mind (I was already against abortion and didn’t like Planned Parenthood), but it will change the way I talk about abortion moving forward.

I’m allowed to think and say that Planned Parenthood is wrong. I don’t have to qualify my choice to see this movie. While I never want to give up compassion, civility, and a quest for true unity (even in the midst of disagreements), I don’t have to be so careful about calling abortion what it is – horrifying death to a baby and tragic physical, emotional damage to a woman.

I think 'Unplanned' will change the way I talk about abortion moving forward. Click To Tweet

The story also reminded me of the power of prayer. So often we think we have to do everything. I believe faith without action isn’t real faith (James 2:14-26), but pretending we can change the number of abortions in our country and love the lives affected by unplanned pregnancies without help from something greater is missing the mark. When we think we hold all of the control or the measuring stick of forgiveness, that’s when negative pro-life stereotypes make the news.

Throughout the movie, we get to know characters who faithfully and peacefully prayed outside of the abortion clinic where Abby worked for over 8 years. Unplanned ends with the abortion clinic Abby worked at being closed and torn down. These weren’t the people with the signs and the angry social media posts. They were people who believed in the power of prayer and showed kindness to everyone they saw. That’s the kind of person I want to be.

I hope the resurgence of this reality in Christian pop-culture doesn’t result in more judgement. I believe it should result in more fervent compassion for those who have gone through abortion and a greater reliance on the power of God to make real change.

I wonder what this movie could have been if put in the hands of different writers and directors, but for now, I’ll take it for what it is and walk away challenged to engage with this idea as a more informed, more passionate, and more compassionate woman.

Read Another Take: Unplanned is an Important Movie to See

3 Things Taylor Swift’s Elle Essay Taught Me About Friendship

Friday, June 14th, 2019

True to form, pop star Taylor Swift has set the tone for her upcoming 30th birthday with a personal and beautifully reflective cover story for Elle Magazine called “30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30.”

As I scrolled through each life lesson, many rang true in my own life as a woman in her late-twenties. I noticed that many of the lessons she highlighted revolve around her personal relationships or people’s perception of her.

I see the passing of time bring wisdom, and that wisdom, even separate from any “religion,” often supports many of the same values I find in my Christian faith. Here are 3 pieces of wisdom from Taylor’s article that I’ve found to be universally important and true to my own faith and life.

Forgiveness is an inevitable part of life.

Navigating friendships, disappointment, and bitterness are inevitable parts of the human experience whether you’re on the cover of a magazine or serving coffee at your local Starbucks.

I believe the need for community is universal. Every person with a story of triumph can site a community of people who were crucial to their success and well-being. We see this on award shows, in new stories, and in our personal lives. (See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Genesis 2:18)

Along with that valuable community comes learning the art of keeping it intact.

Taylor writes, “Even if it was unintentional, it’s so easy to just apologize and move on. Try not to say ‘I’m sorry, but…’ and make excuses for yourself. Learn how to make a sincere apology…” Because she realizes, relationships are worth it.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13 NLT)

Friendships don’t have to be the same forever.

Taylor writes, “Learning the difference between lifelong friendships and situationships… maybe they’ll just be your comrades for an important phase, but not forever.”

I’ve been searching for the word “situationship” my whole life.

Growing up and in college, I had friendships that I still think of fondly, but I haven’t communicated with them in years.

A long time ago, I chose to think positively about those short-term “situationships.” Like Taylor pointed out, “You may leave behind friendships along the way, but you’ll always keep the memories.”

Not only does that make me feel better, but it challenges me to carry this idea with me into my professional life.

I have a hard time with networking. Knowing that both myself and the person I’m talking to are in search of something mutually and clearly beneficial feels insincere. I think this is the perfect example of a “professional situationship.” There’s no need to read too much into the moments that seem calculated. Each person has something unique to offer and we may be just what each other needs in that particular situation. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Finding the right value system sets you up for success in life and relationships.

Taylor writes, “I learned not to let outside opinions establish the value I place on my own life choices… For an approval seeker like me, it was an important lesson for me to learn to have my OWN value system of what I actually want.”

Taylor Swift is right. If you don’t have a strong value system, your joy, success, and passions will be in constantly dependent on what other people think of you. Our world is tumultuous. As someone who does have a strong belief system, I’m grateful these fluctuations don’t have to determine who I am or who I can trust.

Not only does this make you stronger, but it takes the pressure off of your friendships! You can make your choices and love people well without your entire well-being and happiness hanging on the opinions of others.

You may have noticed my personal value system throughout this article. I’m a follower Jesus. I routinely fail at living out what I believe is right and good, but if I didn’t have this anchor in my life, I struggle to imagine how I would bounce back or become stronger when life doesn’t treat me kindly.

If you don’t have black and white answers about your life, I’d encourage you to take Taylor’s advice. Dig in. Ask the hard questions. Become stronger because not only do you know exactly who you are and what your purpose is, but because you have something sure and eternal to trust no matter what happens.

“Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22 NLT)

“Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.” (2 Samuel 7:28 NLT)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

If you’re ready to take Taylor Swift’s advice and find your value system, check out this FREE video series called “Identity: Who you are changes everything.”

After going through this series, you’ll be able to know for sure who you are, why you’re here, and how your identity in Christ changes everything.

Watch the Videos and Sign Up Today!

Why I Left the Church and Why I Came Back

Friday, March 15th, 2019

I’ve seen a lot of stories circulating around social media about men and women who are “deconstructing” their faith. They’re leaving the church after being hurt by it. This is not part of my personal story, but I recognize how isolating this experience must be and I want to help. How can we love each other well no matter where we are in our journey?

Singer/songwriter Tasha Layton shared her story with me about leaving the church, studying other religions, and ultimately, coming back to her faith and working in full time ministry. She touched on something crucial to all people as we focus on forming real friendships and community with each other.

Below, you’ll find Tasha’s story of why she left then came back to the church, along with what she would say to both sides – someone who has walked away from religion and someone who’s in it right now.

Why Did You Leave and Why Did You Come Back?

“I grew up in South Carolina, in a conservative Christian home. My family loved God, they loved people. And I really was excited about my faith! I was excited about Jesus, missions, worship music, and all of those things. But like a lot of people out there, I experienced some hurt in the church. Long story short, I just experienced a vast chasm between the people who said they were Christian (even Christian leaders in the church) and who the Bible tells us to be. It was just really painful and I had some personal wounds from some church leaders.

I decided to walk away from the church because I was sad about it. I was hurt. I couldn’t understand how people that were supposed to be Christians could be so mean. I was just in a really dark place. I was depressed. I was sad. I was hurt. And I just went searching.

I always wanted to serve God in music, but I decided that I was going to switch my major from music to religion and really seek out truth. I went to Buddhist meditation camp, I went to synagogue, I went to mosque, I studied mysticism for a summer in Europe. I needed truth because I was hurting and I felt stuck. I was also studying a lot of really humanistic philosophy at a liberal arts college.

All of that put me in a bad spot. I was suicidal and at the lowest of low, I took inventory of my life. I realized that in all of these other religions, that you have to strive to reach God. You have to try to be good enough or try to do all of the right things to be accepted. In Christianity, Jesus is in hot pursuit of us. In the season of Christmas we sing about Emmanuel. It’s Emmanuel – “God with us.” He’s come to us. I realized that I didn’t have to be good enough – that he was good enough.

I was reading books like The Case for Christ and anything I could get my hands on to try to stir up the faith I knew I once had. I didn’t realize how it could be so real to me for so many years, and then all of the sudden I just felt completely empty of it. But at that lowest of low I realized, “You know what? Jesus is the only God of all of these lower case gods that I’m searching out, that offered any power to transform in my life.”

So I decided I was going to go back to church.

That wasn’t an easy decision. I didn’t necessarily connect with a lot of people there. I felt like I had gone through some searching and questions that they had not. I don’t say that pompously. I just lived in an area where everyone was sort of sheltered and shielded. I felt I had this open mind and I couldn’t meet other people who thought the same way I did. I thought something was wrong with me.

But you know, faith is a decision, much like love is a decision in marriage. And so I decided “I’m just gonna go back, whether I feel anything or not.” And I forced myself to go for about a year and a half. One Sunday, the pastor said, “Hey, if you need a touch from God, come up at the end of service.” I left three hours later  because I was just a sobbing mess on the floor. That started my journey home, so to speak.”

What Would You Tell Someone Who’s Been Hurt By the Church?

First off, God is not intimidated by your questions.

I had a lot of questions that made me fearful. As a conservative Christian growing up in a Christian home, I was afraid to be questioning who Jesus says he is, the reality of him being the son of God, the virgin birth, and all these things that I had real questions about. I was afraid to say what I was questioning because I didn’t want to be judged. God’s not intimidated by your questions. He knows and he will walk with you through it.

Second of all, don’t judge yourself or others.

I was judging myself because I felt afraid to go where I knew I needed to go to get my questions answered both mentally and spiritually. But I was also judging other people who maybe weren’t questioning. I was judging the people who were super conservative, thinking, “Well, your faith is one of ignorance, because you haven’t tested it.”

When you’ve walked away, don’t judge the people who are in it. And if you’re in it, don’t judge the people who are searching. Because the minute you think that you are better off than someone else, you have entered into judgment.

What Would You Tell Someone Who’s In the Church Right Now?

When I came back from that season of hurt and being suicidal and depressed, I don’t think there was anything more that the church I was going to could have done. They just loved me back into the fold. They loved me into healing. They just loved me.

There was no, “Hey, you should do this” or “You should do that.” No “shoulds.” Just loving me.

God brings his own conviction. You know, Jesus came to save a world that deserved condemnation. We deserved condemnation, but he gave us love instead. He’s our model! We’re supposed to be like him. So, he’s the only one that could judge. He didn’t act judgmental towards people. So that should tell us something.

Even the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) – she was caught in the act. They bring her to Jesus and he says, “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” He’s saying this to all the people around, so he’s protecting her. Then when they leave, he looks at the woman and says, “Don’t you ever do that again.” So there’s this balance of love and justice, but it’s always personal and it’s always straight from him.

So I think, loving me was the best thing they could have done. And they did it well.

For those people in the church welcoming people who are maybe bitter or resentful or just negative or suspect – when they come in, don’t try to have a conversation about what they should and shouldn’t believe. Just love them. That is what Paul tries to get into our heads in the book of Romans! That we’ve all sinned. There’s none righteous, no not one.

Or we that we’re just self-righteous, because we do everything “right.” Or we’re good, or follow the rules, like we have pride, you know what I mean. So whatever end of the spectrum that you’re on, the second that you think you’re better than someone else, or more moral, or you’re abiding by scripture more than this other person or whatever. You have lost the idea.

Paul also says in Corinthians that you could do all of these things right, but if you don’t love, you’re a clanging symbol. It’s all for naught.

I think the best advice I could give to both sides is to release that spirit of judgment over the other person. We think by judging them, we’re helping God change them or we’re assisting God in his work. Instead we’re creating a vacuum of judgment.

You know, when you’ve asked yourself some hard questions like I did, then you come into contact with people in the church and they haven’t asked those questions – don’t look down on them! Don’t think, “you’re ignorant” or “you’re not as intelligent.” No. They’re just different from you and they’re in a different place on their journey.

We should really be focusing on our own walk with God and on our own ability to love people.”

Special thanks to Tasha Layton for boldly and hopefully sharing her story and reminding us of truth we all can grow from today and beyond.

Read Next: 3 Things I Learned About the Church from Christian Radio Listeners

How Christians Should Respond to the “Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Myth”

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Every year around the Super Bowl, articles about the rise and fight against human trafficking start flying through my newsfeed.  Past articles have emphasized how the sex trafficking industry explodes in areas around large sporting events like the Super Bowl. It’s been said that large amounts of tourism and solo attendance of men to these events creates this boom in demand for sexual transactions.

My heart and so many others breaks over this thought. That’s why hundreds if not thousands of campaigns, posts, and stories about ending human trafficking are highlighted this time of year. The city hosting the Super Bowl cracks down on security, puts extra time and resources into sting operations, and works to raise awareness on how to spot a trafficking incident throughout the city.

This year (2019), there’s a new narrative. I’ve seen dozens of stories throughout my newsfeed unpacking the “Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Myth.” Studies are showing there is actually no perceivable rise in trafficking around the Super Bowl or any other major sporting events.

Bear with me, but my first question upon seeing these new headlines was: why does it matter?

The Truth

The main criticism for this newfound information comes from the surge in money and attention surrounding a big event at the expense of efforts throughout the rest of the year. The human trafficking and the porn industry are actually growing year-round. While the Super Bowl takes the spotlight, authorities told Sports Illustrated, “If we had the resources all the time we could make a very significant dent in this problem.”

I’m all about digging for the truth and not taking headlines at face value, so if studies are showing that there’s not a significant rise in trafficking numbers around the Super Bowl weekend, I want to know that. I have some sense of relief that there is more action being taken this weekend and that these reports say the Big Game isn’t quite as dismal as we all believed.

But regardless of whether or not there’s a “boom” over the next few days, the problem, the need to be aware, and the time take action surrounding human trafficking remains.

Our Response

All this reporting has served as a well-needed wake up call for me. Here’s what I’m working to continue or incorporate into my life this week and beyond. Will you join me?

1. Pray anyways.

Truly, actually set aside intentional time (even 2 minutes) to pray for people in danger because of trafficking this weekend (and any time). Even if numbers aren’t particularly on the rise this weekend, these troubled human souls still exists and we still need God to intervene in the heart, mind, and circumstances of each individual life!

2. Get involved.

Giving to an organization like End It Movement, researching local ministries you can volunteer and pray for, and posting about the fight to end human trafficking are all great ideas. The Priceless Movement website is an incredible resource for finding this kind of information. Whether you want to give, volunteer, or find help for yourself or a loved one, it’s all on pricelessmovement.com.

If a big sporting event can be a catalyst to remind and inspire you to join the fight, that’s a great thing!

3. Celebrate God’s design for sexuality.

This idea may seem out of left field when it comes to an issue like human trafficking, but I assure you it’s at the very core.

Don’t be afraid to talk about sex to the young men and women you have in your sphere of influence. They need positive, honest, and relatable voices to be a safe place to ask questions about what is right and what is wrong. Let’s not treat the subject of sex, relationships, and God’s beautiful design as a taboo subject. Our culture is sending a lot of messages about sexuality that disregard love and respect, many of which are only feeding industries like pornography and sex trafficking.

Without being armed with knowledge, how will the younger generation be empowered to stand up for the vulnerable, to celebrate what is right, and to be equipped to make wise decisions about their own sexuality?

I know the conversation about human trafficking is only trending right now because of the Super Bowl. And it’s true – the initial belief that sex trafficking explodes around big events may or may not be true. But I’m really ok with it. I’m glad we’re at least talking about it.

Let’s take this chance to pray and start a conversation about what sex really means and how healing can really happen – for you, for me, and for the girl who is being sold tonight.

Life is messy. God is the one big enough to heal it all. I promise.

Why Chris Pratt’s Daniel Fast is Actually Worth Talking About

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt took to Instagram stories to explain his participation in the 21-Day Daniel Fast – a commitment to prayer and fasting based on Daniel 1:8-14. The Daniel Fast is a common way for some believers and even whole church congregations to start the year off healthy – both physically and spiritually.

Nearly every big media outlet has reported on Chris’ announcement. Entertainment Tonight took their own angle since one of their reporters actually attends the same church as Chris Pratt. She explained that the Daniel Fast is “50% physical and 50% spiritual.”

Hollywood is always going to raise an eyebrow when a celebrity tries something a little off-the-wall, especially in regards to faith, so what makes this story important? 

Understand God’s Attitude Toward Our Physical Bodies.

It’s no secret that our culture puts an unhealthy emphasis on physical appearance. New diets, programs, or exercise plans often make the headlines. Culture is overly focus on how our body looks and performs. Modern commentaries on health often ignore the fact that our physical bodies are not only tied to our spirituality, but also that our physical bodies are holy.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”
(Psalm 139:13-14)

God created your body to be honored and to serve a purpose. Your body is a beautifully crafted vehicle that allows you live out God’s purpose for you and experience great joy. Therefore, we should take care of our bodies, be proud of them, and understand that we can’t separate our physical health from our emotional and spiritual health.

Invite God Into Your Health Journey.

Trying to work out more or eat a certain way is a recipe for discouragement for many of us. We try and fail. Or we try and do well, but still don’t think our bodies measure up to our hopes. Sometimes our physical bodies come with a set of limitations that aren’t considered “normal” to the society around us.

God wants to enter into all of these things. Your journey with physical health and attitude toward your body will be wildly enhanced if you get honest with the one who Created your body in the first place. Prayer and honesty with God doesn’t mean you’ll magically have a flat stomach or be able to run a 5K, but it does mean your perspective will change and you’ll begin to realize you’re not alone.

God offers us rest, wisdom, and support in all areas of life through the power of His Holy Spirit. That includes your physical health and goals! You don’t have to do this alone.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) 

So, is the news about Chris Pratt’s Daniel Fast life-changing? No, not really. Chris Pratt probably didn’t mean it as something incredibly deep. It’s just his own personal decision as he resets his own heart and mind in the new year.

All that to say, I’m glad Chris’s fast is subtly putting attention on the idea that our spiritual life and our physical health can (and should) go hand-in-hand.

Read more about finding a healthy relationship with food both practically and spiritually!

How to Find Freedom in Your Relationship with Food

Photo Credit: IMDB

“Let a Person Have a Chance to Grieve” – Candace Cameron Bure

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

In the wake of senseless tragedy, it can be nearly impossible to find the right words to say. The shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA hit close to home for actress and author, Candace Cameron Bure. It happened literally too close to home for her. Even while being miles away working on a movie set, she stepped out in this difficult moment and expressed her raw emotions and prayers as she grieved along with her community.

Amidst tears, she addressed her Instagram followers in a story, saying:

“I know it’s hard to comprehend the senseless tragedies that seem to happen every single month… all of it is horrible. I do not want this to turn into any kind of political thing. That’s not my point. I just want all of my friends and family, community and everyone in Thousand Oaks to know that I’m thinking of you! I’m sending my love, my prayers, and if you can go donate blood, do it!”

She shared information on where to donate blood right after her message.

Well, things did get political in her private messages. And what she said next demonstrates an important point for anyone when responding to tragedy.

“This is me saying in the nicest but firmest way possible… STOP 🛑 sending me your political messages and telling me to use my voice otherwise I’m not helping! Let a person have a chance to grieve!!! YOU ARE NOT HELPING!!!”

Look, we totally get it. When something like this happens, the horror, outrage, and anxiety wells up in each of us and we want to do something about it. So often we feel helpless. While it’s easy to turn to your political ideas as a “solution,” no matter what they are, take a minute to think about what Candace is saying.

There’s something to this “taking time to mourn with those who mourn,” taking time to encourage those who are struggling. The grief and search for hope is something we can truly all agree on. It’s something that can bring us together in a very polarizing political climate.

In Romans 12, Paul (the writer) breaks down what it means to be a living sacrifice for God’s glory. In verses 15-16 he says, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (emphasis mine)

In 1 Corinthians when Paul is explaining the character of our God, he says, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (emphasis mine)

A few things stand out today:

  • Weep with those who weep in California.
  • Respond to tragic events in a way that lets us still live in harmony.
  • Remember how God has comforted you in your troubles, and lean on His power as you give that same comfort to others who are hurting today.

If you haven’t experienced that comfort from God, maybe that’s where you start. Maybe today is your day to get to know Him better and begin to understand why these ideas are so life-changing.

None of us are going to get it right every time, but today, we appreciate what Candace communicated. Let a person have a chance to grieve. Not only that, but let’s pray and grieve with them, just like the God of all comforts does for us.

15 Fun Things to Do with Your Kids This Summer (Boredom Busters!!)

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Summer instantly feels like freedom and endless possibilities to a kid, but the reality is, summer can bring more free time than you or your kids know what to do with. I harnessed some babysitting knowledge and polled my mom friends to come up with a list of 15 great activities to do this summer. So whether you’re looking to bust the boredom or just make some memories with the children in your life, try these ideas!

1. Read a chapter book aloud.

Choose a chapter book that’s just one reading level higher than your child actually reads. Then pick a special time of day and read one chapter aloud. If their attention span is short, just read for a set amount of time, maybe 10-15 minutes. Leave a little time to talk about what you read and what the kids thought about it!

2. Crafts, crafts, crafts!

No doubt about it, crafts are a pretty instant boredom busters for many ages! Whether it’s finger paints, a full-on craft kit from the store, or just some construction paper, glue, and macaroni, encourage some creativity! Let them get their hands dirty and get busy for a while. You’ll be surprised how much they love it!

3. Challenge them to a block battle!

This was one of the best babysitting tricks I figured out one summer. The kids were too old for the colorful block set in the play room, but we re-vamped it! Divide the blocks up evenly, then appoint one person to be the judge. Have the judge pick a category like, “amusement park,” “animals,” or “outer space.”  Then set a timer. The others compete to see who can build the best rendition of the theme before the timer runs out! Have the judge examine each design, pick out some good things about each one, then crown a winner. Now that person gets to be the judge! You’ll be surprised how differently each person interprets the same theme!

Don’t have a set of blocks? Substitute for another set of objects or grab some off Amazon here!

4. Start a lemonade stand – with purpose!

If your kids are older, why not help them start a small business? One mom said, “My boys are doing a lemonade stand – it takes time, puts them on a schedule, and helps them decide whether or not they like entrepreneurial work. It also teaches them the value of a dollar and making wise investments. It’s a low cost/high value investment. And, it beats summer boredom!” If you want to teach them something extra, let each kid pick out a charity or ministry to invest in at the end of the summer.

5. Adopt pet rocks!

Go outside and search for a medium-sized rock. Once each child has one, go inside and have them rinse it off while you set up some simple painting supplies. Let them design and create a little creature out of their rock! Give each child a pair of googly eyes and tell them to paint their pet however they want. While this activity alone could take up an entire afternoon, get more mileage out of this one. Each day, encourage each child to create a scene featuring their pet or write a story about what their pet did that day.

6. Sign up for a summer reading program.

Ask your local library if they are running a summer reading program and sign up! If that doesn’t work out, just make your own! Create a list of books for your kids to read and set a reward for certain amounts of reading! Create a chart, stick it on the fridge, and let them check it off as they go.

7. Get baking – to bless others!

Let the kids spend a day in the kitchen! And while it’s great fun to make sweets for yourself and your own family, encourage them to make a container for a friend or neighbor. Use it as a chance to teach them about encouraging others.

8. Time for swimming lessons?

My mom never felt super comfortable in the water growing up, so as soon as we were old enough, she signed us up for swimming lessons. It turned into one of our favorite parts of the summer! We looked forward to those couple of weeks every year. It got us out of the house, to the pool, and around new friends. We often made a day of it with a picnic lunch afterward or going out for ice cream! Not only are you equipping your kids with a valuable life skill, but you’re creating great summer memories! (And filling up a whole 1-2 weeks of potential summer boredom!)

9. Join your local VBS!

A lot of churches host a week-long Vacation Bible School full of friends, crafts, songs, and Jesus! Maybe your church is one of them. You can drop the kids off and get a little break or make a it a chance to serve alongside your kids and volunteer for the week!

10. Make pizza together!

Let them choose the toppings and create their own pizza! Who wouldn’t want to do that? Plus, it will take up more time and require much more creative thinking from the kiddos than just ordering one.

11. On rainy days – it’s blanket fort time!

Challenge your kids to make the most awesome blanket fort ever! Give them free reign on a set of blankets, sheets, and chairs and see who they do. Afterwards, have an inside picnic and let them get to work on their summer in their new fort.

12. Sidewalk chalk challenge

Pulling out the sidewalk chalk is a boredom buster in itself! So, start there, then get creative! Challenge them to write out their favorite Bible verse or draw their favorite movie or book characters.

13. Eat a meal backwards.

Change things up a bit! Eat backwards starting with dessert, moving onto the main course, then finishing off with an appetizer!

14. A good old-fashioned puzzle and an audio book

Take a step back and help your kids learn the art of being still. Find some puzzles of different levels, maybe you can even let the kids pick out some with fun pictures! Then pick out an audio book or radio drama and let them listen and build. I suggest trying Adventures in Odyssey, The Chronicles of Narnia Series, Anne of Green Gables, or Little Women. This is something they can do for hours at a time or come back to every so often when they’re looking for something to do.

15. Go on a nature walk.

It would do us all good to get outside! Just simply going for a stroll and enjoying the scenery is enough, but if you want to make it a little more interesting, create a scavenger hunt or ask the kids to pick out the most interesting thing they see to tell about when you get back.

Disclaimer: The links in this blog post are Amazon affiliate links. When you use them to make a purchase, a small percentage supports the ministry of WAY Nation. Thanks! 

How to Stop Being Afraid of Conflict and Disagreements

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

3 out of 4 sets of my great grandparents came over from Italy. The Italian food has been the main surviving tradition. All the women in my family can make the best tomato sauce you’ve ever tasted in your life – from scratch! But there’s another other ethnic “stereotype,” if you will, that has actually helped shape me into who I am today.

My loud, expressive family members are great. They’re the main reason I’m not an awkwardly shy human today. (They’re also the reason I talk with my hands all the time!) If you spend a little time with my family, you’ll realize – sometimes you have to try really hard to get a word in. They love a lively conversation and are more than happy to share their opinions on most any subject. Their convictions and ideas run deep. There’s no fear and I’ve always admired them for that.

Then there’s me.

I was born more introverted, a little quieter, and while I wouldn’t call myself shy anymore, I definitely was as a kid. Growing up in this family meant that I had to learn how to speak up when I absolutely needed to. It made me stronger.

But those opinions. Opinions are freaking everywhere.

Not just in my family, but they’ve followed me through all of life. Everyone has an opinion these days about everything from politics to theology to pop culture and back again.

To be honest, for better or for worse, I learned to just stay away from them. I don’t need to weigh in on every current event, pop culture antic, or water cooler conversation. I’ll be over here eating my favorite ice cream, finally cleaning out my car, and enjoying the sunshine. Let me like what I like and be happy, ok?

At least, that’s become my default mentality.

While I’m totally capable of developing and sharing a strong opinion, that doesn’t mean I want to share it. Or do the work to get to that educated opinion in the first place.

You see, that’s the thing. If I actually have an opinion on something, there’s a high chance I’ve thought this through for a long time. It means I care a lot about it and I’ve done a lot of research.

So, what happens when I finally have a true opinion about something important to me and I found out it’s a lot different from most of my friends’ opinions? You better believe I’m squirming.

Voicing my opinion used to fill me with anxiety. Here's what I'm doing about it! Click To Tweet

By voicing my differing opinion, I’m afraid it will be the equivalent of me saying, “Um, you’re wrong.” I’m afraid the other person will feel judged. I’m afraid it will change our friendship. And deep down, I’m afraid he/she won’t understand where I’m coming from and they’ll just judge me, or worse – write me off as an annoyance.

There are so many passion-inciting topics that my fellow women alone can disagree on. I’m going to name a few just so you get an idea: feminism, motherhood, dating, marriage, sex, birth control, male headship, abortion, faith, church.

Is your heart beat picking up right now? Because mine is.

When it comes to my friends and family whom I love dearly, whom I want to encourage and keep in my life, whom I want to be able to talk openly to – ugh, that’s the worst.

If anything can divide a group of women it’s differing opinions on their fertility, faith, and role as a woman. If we disagree, where would I even begin? What if I don’t explain myself well enough? What if this is the end?

That’s why I’m talking about this. This is a place within myself where I can majorly feel like the only one. But I believe we all need to step out of our isolation and talk about it!

I’ve been working through this in my head and heart for a while now and while I’m still far from perfect at handling conflict, I’ve been learning a lot. Plus, my co-worker Candice has a totally different perspective on conflict and disagreements between friends that I’ve found really helpful. I think you will, too!

So, let’s get to the bottom of what’s happening (and what needs to be happening) when we disagree. Here are 6 truths to remember the next time you’re confronted with tension or conflict in your relationships.

1. Seek to understand first.

My friend Candice found this quote: “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.” How many times do I go into a conversation feeling anxious and wracking my brain about what I’m going to say and how I can defend what I believe? If we can switch this off and focus on understanding the other person’s experience we will find a whole new perspective. Truly listening is going to give you more empathy, a wider understanding of the issue, and a better conversation with your friend. It takes humility for sure, but it’s worth the effort.

Seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Click To Tweet

2. Your mind doesn’t have to change.

When it comes to my core beliefs about my faith, I’m not going to be swayed – and that’s a good thing! Listening and understanding doesn’t mean you’re expecting to change your mind. It means you’re trying to understand and strengthen a relationship. Honestly, sometimes when you hear another side of an issue, your beliefs might be strengthened! Having these conversations is what makes growth happen either way!

3. Don’t be afraid to do the work.

I think the main reason I’ve been so averse to conflict lately is that I don’t want to do the emotional work. Wading through all the thoughts and opinions, being vulnerable enough to ask the hard questions, taking enough time and energy to do my research – that can sound exhausting and uncomfortable! But we weren’t meant to live in laziness or fear. Sometimes it’s necessary to do the work. I know from personal experience, when I make the effort to dig in, that’s when I see the coolest relationships form. That’s also when I see the most growth and strength develop within myself.

4. You don’t have to have an answer.

This is so freeing! Part of the anxiety that tends to cripple me is feeling like I have to have the right answer. I have to have an opinion on every important or hot-button issue and I don’t want to be caught of guard, right?. Wrong. In fact, realizing that it may take time to fully learn and develop an opinion on something, let alone find an answer, is healthy. It’s ok to just be learning. It’s ok to not know everything every time. Breathe easy.

5. You never know what God is going to do in the other person.

There have been a few times now where I’ve been secretly frustrated with a friend for their opinions and choices that I truly believed were not good ones. Then to my surprise – and to God’s credit – we come back to this topic several months or even a couple of years down the road only to find their hearts and minds have grown and changed over time. God has been working on them. And not only has he been changing them for the better, but he’s been changing me into a more gracious and understanding person. Not to mention that there’s probably something in my life that a couple of years down the road will be completely different, too! When we let God work, beautiful things happen.

6. Pursue God’s thoughts on each topic first… and continually.

If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this. James 1:2 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Meanwhile, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, God tells us to “pray without ceasing.” Don’t think there’s any problem, issue, or disagreement you can’t bring to God. He wants us to seek wisdom from Him and says He will give it generously if we would just ask! Not to mention, He commands us – for our own good and well-being – to keep on praying. Talking to God should be a normal part of our lives that sheds so much grace, peace, and truth into our everyday. So ask! Pray! You have the all-knowing, continuously loving God of the universe on your side.

I’m still working on this. Join me in stopping fear and anxiety from holding us back from better relationships and personal growth?

4 Things You Need to Remember When God Makes You Wait

Friday, May 4th, 2018

You’re about to take a leap into the next phase of life. You have a beautiful plan, dreams you can’t shake, and people backing you.

The big moment comes and…

Nothing happens.

This was me the month after I graduated college. I had done everything “right.” Good grades, great resume, friendships and connections in my chosen field, and the like.

Even so, internships fell through at the last minute. Employers who praised me in the interview brushed me aside. And before I know it, I was back in my parent’s house – unemployed, uprooted from my community, and completely bewildered.

God stopped me in my tracks and made me re-examine my expectations and my trust in Him. To make a long story short, after several months and lots of prayer, I was hired for a position I knew God had been saving for me at WAY Media – and boy, am I thankful!

The outcome of waiting isn’t always like this, I realize, but I did learn this: if God is asking you to wait, you better believe He’s trying to point something out to you. Whether you’re waiting for a job, waiting for a spouse, waiting for children, or waiting for doors to open so you can move forward – these 4 lessons I carry with me from the times God made me wait may help.

1) Stop and love on the people around you.

Watching my college friends thrive without me via social media made for some serious pity parties. While I sat around missing my friends and feeling sorry for myself, God had other plans. Little did I know how much the people around me would start to bless me – and how I would find ways to bless them. By the time my wait had ended, I was sad to leave the people in my home-town and sorry for all the missed opportunities I had to love and learn from these relationships. This is a lesson I’m constantly learning. God puts us in the exact sphere of influence He wants us to impact. Learning to love more like Jesus is a beautiful thing. Don’t underestimate the power of investing in the people God has placed around you, even if it’s not what you thought it would look like!

2) The feeling of “Trusting God” isn’t what you expect.

Trusting God is a conscious effort. At first, I thought I needed to worry about my circumstances to get results. This left me feeling helpless. Over time, I started to be more honest with God and began looking at Him and His word more than I looked at the unknown. Peace set in. My prayers shifted away from asking “Why me?” and toward, “God, I’m adamantly asking for peace, direction, and a job I’m going to love. But no matter what happens, I will still love and serve you.”

If you're loving & serving Him right where you are, He is using, growing, & loving you right back. Click To Tweet

3) God’s timing is perfect and yours can be pretty flawed.

Looking back at all the insecurities I sorted out and all the pipe dreams I had a chance to follow while I waited – I realize I may not have been ready for a job right out of college. Plus, if WAY Media had hired me right when I wanted them to, it would have been right in the middle of a big transition and Zach from The Wally Show wouldn’t be my boss (and that would be sad.) At the beginning of my months of waiting, I might have said God was taking too long, but now I know He had it all working out perfectly. My plan is to remember this truth the next time I wait – even if I don’t see it.

4) Be present.

Now, over a year later, there are moments I would love to be drinking coffee each morning at my mom and dad’s kitchen counter. I miss my family! But this feeling doesn’t trump the knowledge that God has me exactly where I’m supposed to be. He has me surrounded by the exact people, resources, and influences I need to glorify Him and share His love with others. So, my goal is not to waste it. No matter where he places me now or in the future, I want to be right where God has me, never taking an opportunity for granted.

Every story ends differently. I don’t know what your outcome will be and I’m not sure why God is making you wait. But please remember this: as long as you’re loving and serving Him right where you are, He is using you, growing you, and loving you right back.

Don’t forget that God is bigger than this! | Jo Dee Messina

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Jo Dee Messina gives an update on her battle with cancer and how she’s dealing with the really bad days.

 

This video is part of the World’s Biggest Small Group! If you’ve ever dealt with feelings of anxiety, worry, or fear in any capacity, this 15 day study is for you. It’s called, Fear: What it is and how to live beyond it.” We’ll send you inspiring stories right to your inbox from Christian artists and personalities who have been there, too.

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