As a Parent, You Are Enough

On January 1, all around the world, people resolve to do better. They look back and reflect on where life has taken them over the past year. They think about what went wrong and what went right. They look forward and consider how they want life to be different in the coming year. They dream and plan. They set goals and make resolutions. 

Parents are no exception. We do those things, too. But I don’t think it’s a once-a-year phenomenon for us. We have been entrusted with raising another human. It’s an enormous privilege and an enormous responsibility — and because we understand the gravity of it, we spend hours second-guessing, comparing, judging, self-criticizing, and worrying. 

At some point in your parenting journey, someone has probably reminded you that God chose you to be your child’s parent. (If they haven’t yet, just wait; it will happen eventually.) And if you’re like me, you nod and put on a smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes because you know that must be true, but deep down, you have trouble really believing it.

But what if that changed? What if you let that message sink down deep into your soul? What if you let yourself believe that God chose you — that He loves you and your children fully and perfectly? What if you accepted your identity in Christ and applied it to your role as a parent?

Your Kids Need You

Maybe you cherish the idea that you are loved, chosen, and accepted in terms of your salvation. Maybe you’ve learned to feel secure in your relationship with God by choosing to believe that He is who He says He is and that you are who He says you are.

But when it comes to your kids, something shifts. I mean, sure, God gave your children to you. And sure, technically, He chose you to be their parent. But deep down, you have this nagging worry that someone else could do it better. That you aren’t enough. That to be a good parent, you need to be better and do more — or just turn into someone else entirely. That inspirational mommy on Instagram seems like she has everything together. Maybe you should be more like her.

The thing is, that approach will only leave you frustrated and feeling like a complete failure. Even if Instagram weren’t the highlight reel that it is, you won’t get very far trying to be someone else. The best you’ll ever be is a knockoff — an imitation of the real thing.

Like I tell my son, God knew the world needed you. He could have made a copy of someone else, but He didn’t. He made you. So be you. You bring things to the table that no one else can.

As a parent, the best gift you can give your kids is the best version of you — not a discount version of someone else.

Now, that’s not an excuse for lazy parenting or for a lack of personal growth. But it’s it freeing to embrace the idea that God gave your kids you, and you are enough? To know that you don’t have to be someone else to be a great parent?

Your Kids Need God

There’s another side to this story that I think we all need to hear. I know I need to remind myself of it much more often.

Our kids need God. 

Life is full of paradoxes. In one sense, you are enough. The best version of you is exactly what your kids need. As a parent, you are enough.

But our kids need more than a parent. They need a Savior. And in that sense, none of us will ever be enough, because we aren’t meant to be. We will make mistakes. We will cause hurt. In one way or another, we will fall short of perfection.

That’s where God comes in. As parents, we have to trust God to love and guide our children. We have to trust that He is shaping them into the people He wants them to be, because that’s something we can’t do. 

Our kids have needs that we can’t meet. They will face challenges that we cannot foresee. We won’t always be able to protect them, and we won’t send them out into the world 100% prepared for every eventuality. And that’s terrifying.

But isn’t it comforting to know that God loves our kids perfectly? To realize that He knows them fully and is in complete control?

It’s scary to let go and let God, but it’s so so so important that we don’t usurp God’s role in our children’s lives. Leave room for God to do His work, both in you and in your children. Give your children the best version of you, and then let that be enough. Trust God to take care of the rest.


I’ve mentioned before that I’m a type 1 on the Enneagram. On this week’s podcast (episode 127), Kathleen and I discuss how the perfectionistic tendencies of a 1 can affect your parenting — and what you can do to balance them out. Check it out on iTunes or Podomatic.

2020 Is Going to Be Messy

2020 is going to be messy. I don’t mean that as an ominous prediction. It’s just a fact, because life is messy — despite my best efforts to tame it with preparation, organization, and excellence.

And this year, I’m going to be okay with that. Instead of spending all my mental energy trying to make everything perfect, I’m going to focus on being present. Present for my kids, present for my husband, present for God, and present for myself. Active and intentional in my relationship with God and others.

This year, I’m letting go of the illusion of perfection and control, because that’s exactly what it is: an illusion. “Which of you,” Jesus asked, “by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” And the answer is, Not me. As much as I like to think that all of my planning, worrying, and toiling are productive, they’re really just distracting me from being fully present with the people I love.

So rather than refusing to rest until things are excellent, I’m going to stop at enough. When I say “good enough,” I’m going to mean it. And I’m going to practice not cringing inwardly or feeling like a failure. Stopping at “good enough” isn’t admitting defeat; it’s setting my priorities straight so that I have time and energy for the people and projects that matter most.

I’m afraid 2020 is going to be sloooooooow. Too slow. Painfully slow. But also too fast. So fast that it feels dangerous and out of control. 

Why? Because that’s how life goes — too fast and too slow, all at the same time.

But it will also be too fast and too slow by design. Because I need to learn how to move forward before I feel ready, and how to hold back when everything in me wants to go and do. My usual patterns aren’t working, so I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try leaning in when I want to check out, and backing off when I want to double down.

It will be a learning process, with a lot of trial and error. But I’m going to show up and give myself permission to win ugly.

2020 is going to be messy. But I’m here for it.

Gearing Up for the New Year: Renewing Your Mind

Many of us start each new year with a plan. We have clear goals in mind, and we know what it will take to accomplish them. But then that initial burst of enthusiasm we felt on January 1st wears off. The year doesn’t feel bright and shiny and new anymore. We gradually lose our motivation and slip back into our old patterns. We forget about our goals or despair of ever reaching them. We encounter some difficulty and give up.

To follow through and reach our 2020 goals, we must constantly renew our minds. We must wake up each day and recommit. After a setback, we must pick ourselves back up and keep pressing on. When achieving our goals seems impossible, we must keep going.

That’s why we focused on mindset this week. In the daily devotionals, I highlighted verses that can help you maintain your faith and resolve throughout the year as you pursue your goals.

Here’s what we talked about:

Rejecting the Spirit of fear

We all have fears. It is inevitable that you will, at some point — or, more accurately, several points or even during long periods of time — feel fear. But we do not have to be controlled by our fear. 

The voice inside you that whispers fear and doubt into your heart is not from God. The voice that tells you you aren’t good enough. The one that says you can’t do big things. The one that discourages you from setting goals and going after them with everything you have. The one that urges you to avoid all risk. The one that keeps you from being real and vulnerable. The one that constantly worries what others will think. The one that is terrified of failure. 

That voice is a liar. It may seem like it’s building a wall between you and the world to keep you safe, but it’s really building a wall between you and God to keep you stagnant. As soon as you put your fear in the driver’s seat, you’ll start drifting away from the path God has laid out for you.

Action step: Refuse to be ruled by your fear. Instead, allow God’s spirit of power, love, and self-control to guide you.

Building With God

There are two ways to pursue your dreams: with God, or without Him. Obviously, the latter is the wiser choice. Why? Because any happiness or success we achieve without God will be fleeting.

This truth brings to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27, where he speaks of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. After the storm, only one house was left standing. The other builder, as it turned out, had labored in vain.

Your foundation matters. That’s why Proverbs is full of exhortations to seek God, trust Him, and align ourselves with His will. When we take that advice to heart, we can labor confidently rather than anxiously and find rest even as we work hard.

Action step: Instead of making your plans first and then asking God’s blessing, invite God into the planning stages. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance.

Taking Care of Your Soul

As Christians, we know the here and now isn’t the whole picture. We know that below the surface, we each have an internal life — a soul — that needs God in the same way our lungs need air. And we know it is our souls that will endure long after our earthly achievements have been forgotten. Our souls are eternal.

It can be so easy to neglect your spiritual health when you’re chasing after physical, professional, or financial goals. However, our soul should always be our top priority. In both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture reminds us that when we focus on our spiritual growth, everything else tends to fall into place.

Action step: Take time to care for your soul. (I also highly recommend reading Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg.)

Having Faith

To accomplish big goals, we must have faith. You have to step out in faith, and you have to follow through in faith. 

Scripture is full of stories where, in His name and through His power, God’s people accomplished big, impossible things by faith. Think of David defeating Goliath, Elijah calling down fire on Mount Carmel, or Gideon’s army routing the Midianites. These people certainly felt fear, but their faith was strong enough to overcome it — and that didn’t happen by accident.

You’ve probably heard the saying, often attributed to Sitting Bull, that compares “good” and “evil” to two dogs fighting inside us. The lesson is that the dog we feed the most will win. This principle applies to the struggle between fear and faith, as well. If we don’t feed our faith, it won’t be strong enough to overcome our fear when we need it to. 

Action step: Be intentional about nurturing your faith, and see what you can accomplish.

Remembering the lord and fighting

We serve an awesome God. The same God who parted the Red Sea. The same God who toppled the walls of Jericho. The same God who made the sun and the moon stand still. The God who fights for His people and keeps His promises.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of just how great and awesome our God is — not so that we can feel warm and fuzzy inside, but so that we can push through our fear, doubt, apathy, or anxiety and FIGHT.

We can find several examples in Scripture where God worked miracles for His people. Time and again, we witness God working miracles, removing obstacles, and leading His people to victory against seemingly insurmountable odds. He fights for us and with us — but only when we step out in faith. 

Action step: Whatever goals you set for 2020, step forward in faith and fight for them. When you feel like giving up, remember how great and awesome your God is and KEEP FIGHTING.


As we conclude our Gearing Up for the New Year Series, I wanted to leave you with one final challenge: 

Make your relationship with God your number one priority. Don’t leave your faith on the sidelines or turn it into just another item on your to-do list. Instead, make it a central part of your plans. Commit to taking care of your soul, growing your faith, and seeking God in everything you do.

Gearing Up for the New Year: Accepting Help

We all need community, both with God and with others. For our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well as for practical reasons. We aren’t meant to do life alone.

This applies to your goals and dreams as much as anything else. Many of us (perhaps all of us) feel uncomfortable asking others for help, though our reasons may vary. Pride, fear of rejection, not wanting to feel like a burden, sheer stubbornness — whatever is keeping you from letting others in, it’s time to let go of it.

In Galatians 6:2, we are encouraged to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds us that we are all part of the body of Christ. In keeping with that metaphor, he declares “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you” (v. 21). Indeed, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v.26).

In this week’s devotionals, we explored other verses that discuss where, why, and how to get the help you need to succeed. Here’s what we talked about:

Looking to God

As Christians, we know our primary source of help, support, guidance, and encouragement should be God. Again and again, Scripture underscores that our strength and wisdom come from God.

Of course, it’s easy to forget that. The people of Israel — who witnessed miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land — forgot too. Psalm 106:10-13 recounts the parting of the Red Sea and Israel’s persistent lack of faith: “So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.”

As 2020 approaches, let’s determine not to make the same mistake as Israel.

Action step: Look to God first for help, seek His will, and follow His counsel — remembering what He has done in the past and trusting Him to continue providing the strength and wisdom we need.

Learning to Delegate

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro observes Moses spending an entire day judging the people and asks what he is doing. Moses answered, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 

Sounds good, right? The problem is, Moses was only one person — a real, human person with physical limitations. Knowing this, Jethro bluntly declares, “What you are doing is not good.” He knows if Moses continues this way, he’ll burn himself out, so he tells Moses to find some good men and make them judges. “So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (v. 22-23).

I promise, when you do it well, delegation isn’t laziness. It’s an investment in yourself and in others, and it frees you up to focus on the things that only you can do.

Action step: Look for things you can take off your plate. Some things you may be able to drop entirely. Or you may just need to find some help. It could be as simple as assigning your children a few extra chores or asking a friend to co-lead a ministry you’re running. 

Finding Community

After calling down fire from heaven in 1 Kings 18, Elijah receives a threat from Queen Jezebel and flees into the desert, where he asks God to let him die. Why? Because he felt alone: “The people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

Elijah felt alone. But he wasn’t. Not only was God Himself with Elijah, but the Lord assured him that there were 7,000 other people in Israel who had never bowed to a false god. In fact, a few verses later, God brought Elijah to the man who would become his friend, helper, and spiritual successor — Elisha. Not only did God give Elijah direction when he needed it, but he also pointed the prophet toward something we all need: community.

Action step: Ask God to show you others who have walked or are walking the same path. Find a Facebook group, an in-person support group, a mentoring program, a life group, a club, or a Bible study group. Plug into your local church. Be intentional about finding people who can empathize, challenge, and support you. Find community.

ASking For ADvice

Just before reminding us that “with God are wisdom and might; He has counsel and understanding,” Scripture declares that “wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” (Job 12:12-13). We are encouraged not only to ask for God’s guidance through prayer but also to seek counsel from wise friends.

Sharing our dreams and goals with other people and asking for advice can be scary, but we cannot afford to skip this step. In Proverbs, we are told that “without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” When we dream and plan in a vacuum, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. 

Action step: Push past the discomfort and do the wise thing. Bring in some counselors — from close friends and family to a professional life coach, therapist, or mentor — and ask for advice when you need it (and even when you think you don’t).

Bringing a Friend

You’ve heard the saying, “That’s what friends are for.” But how often are we tempted to go it alone anyway?

None of us wants to feel like a burden, but friends who disappear during hard times aren’t friends at all. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Give your friends a chance to show up for you. Include them in your goals and plans.

It’s important to choose your friends wisely, but then once you have, it’s equally important to let them help you. Invite them to walk alongside you. Let them be there to cheer you on, offer advice, and lend a hand. Plus, working towards your goals — like many things in life — is just more fun with a friend.

Action step: As you chase your goals, bring some friends along for the journey. Ask for help when you need it, and trust them to support you.


As you work toward your goals, it’s important to actively seek and accept help — whether that means asking someone to babysit your kids for a few hours each week while you work on your novel, asking someone you admire to be your mentor, or asking a friend to be your gym buddy or accountability partner.

This weekend, think about what kind of help you might need to reach your goals in 2020. What can your friends and family do to support you? Who will you ask for help? What resources are available to you? What tools and strategies can you use to make life easier? How can you make sure you’re regularly inviting and accepting God’s counsel and strength?

Gearing Up for the New Year: Charting a Course

Now that you’ve (hopefully) set some goals, it’s time to get down to business. You need to make a plan.

Planning comes more naturally to some people than to others. Some of us (raising my hand) feel like we can’t move forward without an exhaustive plan, while others like to wing it. The best approach, perhaps, lies somewhere in between. 

We don’t want to become bogged down with planning out every tiny detail, because life is too short and messy and unpredictable. If you wait until you feel 100% ready, you’ll never move forward. However, that doesn’t mean planning is useless. Although we can’t plan for every contingency, we should factor known variables — like our own personal limitations — into our plans. An imperfect plan is better than no plan.

So in this week’s devotionals, we focused on grounding our big dreams in reality. Here’s what we talked about:

Counting the Cost

By the end of Luke 14, Jesus’ ministry must have looked like a huge success. Luke tells us that great crowds accompanied him. His followers probably expected a word of celebration or encouragement. Instead, Jesus chose this moment to preach about the cost of discipleship. Following Him, He told the crowds, would be an all-or-nothing endeavor. They would have to be prepared to forsake everything else to be His disciples.

Jesus said this not to discourage them, but to prepare them for reality. What sort of person, He asked, decides to build a tower without first figuring out how much it will cost and whether he can afford it? A foolish one. 

Let’s not be foolish in our New Years’ resolutions. It’s ok to set big, audacious goals. But we’re unlikely to be successful if we don’t put some practical thought and planning into our dreams.

Action step: Spend some time thinking about what you’ll have to do to achieve your goals. Be honest with yourself about how much time and work it will take. Think about what you might have to sacrifice. Prepare yourself for the obstacles you might face. Count the cost and make sure you have what you need to finish — whether that’s emotional support, a step-by-step plan, an accountability partner, or time set aside specifically for working toward your goal.

Pacing Yourself

The tortoise and the hare was NOT my favorite fable when I was a kid. It’s still not, because I’m not a naturally patient person. I don’t like to waste time, and I don’t like to wait. Once I set my mind to something, I want to go RIGHT NOW, AT FULL SPEED, WITHOUT STOPPING until I finish. 

That approach works fine with some things — with simple projects, short distances, and small tasks. But it doesn’t work well for big, important things. You won’t win a marathon by sprinting, because running at top speed isn’t sustainable over long distances. You may start strong, but you’ll run out of steam before you finish. Similarly, you won’t achieve any big, long-term goals if you approach them the same way you do everyday tasks. You have to pace yourself.

In Galatians 6, we are promised that we will reap the fruits of our labor — but only if we don’t give up. So do what it takes to make sure you won’t give up.

Action step: Commit to chasing your dreams the way you would run a marathon. Give it your all, but be smart about it. Break big goals up into small, manageable steps, and celebrate every little victory along the way.

Expecting Adversity

You can expect that as you make progress toward your goals, you’ll encounter adversity. Why? Because everyone does. Matthew 5:45 reminds us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Similarly, Ecclesiastes 9:2 says that “the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil.” 

In light of this, there are a few things we should do:

  1. First, don’t read too much into hiccups. Although difficulty doesn’t always prove you’re on the right path, it doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path, either.
  2. Look for the silver lining in adversity. Embrace it. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5, we can rejoice in our struggles, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
  3. Learn to let things go. Despite our best efforts to plan and prepare, we can’t control all the variables in our lives. Don’t waste too much time or energy trying to figure out why something happened — learn from your mistakes, but don’t let yourself wallow in bitterness or self-blame.

Action step: Go into 2020 with realistic expectations. Achieving your goals won’t be easy. You will face challenges and obstacles. There will be doubters and nay-sayers. You will struggle, and it won’t be pretty. But that’s ok —  just keep going.

Picking Your Battles

As part of counting the cost, we need to pick our battles. Before going to war, a wise king would ask himself “whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand.” If the answer is no (as it likely is), then he should shift gears and try diplomacy instead. Surrender, retreat, concessions — though not ideal, these solutions are the wisest course of action in some situations.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid or abandon every battle that you’re unlikely to win. Sometimes the steep price of victory is worth it. But sometimes it just isn’t. There are hills to die on — and then there are regular old hills. It’s up to us to learn the difference.

Action step: Choose your battles wisely. Like every other human, you have a limited amount of time and energy, so prioritize the things that matter most to you.

Knowing Yourself

You’ve probably heard the saying, “When you know better, you do better.” I think this wisdom applies to how well we know ourselves and how well we achieve our goals. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can accomplish, because our plans will take our strengths and weaknesses into account. When it comes to this, what you don’t know will certainly hurt you.

I think we’re all a little scared of what we’ll find if we look at ourselves too closely, but this step is important. Ignoring your weaknesses won’t make them go away; it will just ensure they take you by surprise. And you can’t assume your strengths will come into play automatically; you have to actively exercise your gifts.

Action step: Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Think about how they might advance or interfere with your goals and factor that into your plans for 2020.


This weekend, get out a sheet of paper (or open a Google doc) and start writing. List your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the obstacles you might face and how you’ll overcome them. Take some time and really count the cost of pursuing your goals. 

Finally, come up with a plan. Break up your goal into smaller steps. Set some deadlines. Start with quarterly and monthly goals. Then set weekly and daily goals as you go along. These smaller goals will keep you moving toward your bigger goals without getting overwhelmed, and they give you something to celebrate along the way. ( I recommend Ruth Soukup’s method. Her (IM)Perfectly Productive Bundle, in particular, has a lot of great info and tools you can use.)

You may also want to consider investing in a planner that includes some sort of goal-setting component. Ruth Soukup’s Living Well Planner is one example, but you can find many others, too. The important thing is to find a system that will help you stay focused, organized, and motivated. 

Gearing Up for the New Year: Getting Started

Ecclesiastes 3 famously says there is a time for everything.

This month, I think, is our time to plan. Our time to dream. Our time to decide what we want to accomplish in 2020 — to decide how we want our lives to be different a year from now.

Throughout the month, I will be posting devotionals on Facebook and Instagram to guide us as we gear up for the new year. This week, we focused on the first step: dreaming big, narrowing our focus, and setting our goals for 2020.

Here’s what we talked about:

STANDing BEFORE THE LORD

In the very first chapter of Mark — toward the beginning of Jesus’ ministry — Scripture says that Jesus woke up before dawn, sought out solitude, and prayed. Mark doesn’t say what, exactly, Jesus prayed, but this brief interlude is sandwiched between the very first acts of His public ministry (calling His disciples, healing “many who were sick with various diseases,” and casting out many demons) and his quick rise to fame. 

I would guess that Jesus used this time to center Himself and seek His Father’s guidance, away from the distractions of the world. Not because He needed to, but to set an example for us.

Action step: Seek solitude and simply stand (or sit) before the Lord. Center yourself — away from the noise and distractions of everyday life — and listen for that still, small voice. Ask the Lord to clarify your purpose and set His will in your heart as you make your New Year’s resolutions.

DREAMing BIG IN JESUS’ NAME

Setting big goals and chasing big dreams is hard. It’s scary. As soon as we imagine what we want, we begin talking ourselves out of it. Our heads fill with doubts and fears. We worry about what others will think. We become paralyzed by “what ifs.” We convince ourselves we can’t do hard things, or that we should just be content with what God has already given us.

Where did we get the idea that God doesn’t want us to dream big? Scripture reminds us often of God’s omnipotence. Knowing that nothing is impossible for our God, how could we not dream big? We may not be able to accomplish much in our own power, and we are certainly not called to do big things for our own glory — but in the name of Jesus, when we work for His glory and through His strength, nothing is impossible.

Action step: Let yourself dream big, knowing that nothing is too hard for God and that it’s impossible to dream bigger than He has.

Asking

It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of self-defeat. We try and fail. We get discouraged. Things get difficult, and we have doubts. We struggle. We throw a pity party and give up.

You know what we don’t do, more often than not? We don’t ask.

Scripture often refers to God as our Father. Jesus draws on that image in Matthew 7, asking, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (v. 9-10) If we know how to give good gifts to our children, Jesus explains, how much more so does our Heavenly Father, in His perfect goodness, know how to bless us? All we have to do is ask.

Action step: Take your big dreams and impossible goals to God — and ask.

Holding Fast

Our adversary is always on the prowl, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce and destroy our faith. Big dreams mean big doubts, big fears, big obstacles, and big temptations. Whatever life throws at us, we must hold fast to our faith.

The author of Hebrews, assures us that because of “the unchangeable character of His purpose,” we “have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). He refers to our hope and faith in Christ as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (v. 19). 

We may walk through dark times — times when we are beset by doubt, worry, fear, danger, and struggle — but we don’t have to succumb to the darkness. We can and should hold fast to our faith and walk as children of light, trusting in the faithfulness, power, and goodness of God even when we do not feel His presence.

Action step: Hold fast to your hope. Stand firm in your faith. Walk worthy of your calling. remember that God sees all and trust that He will guide you.

Running Your Race

The words I want to focus on are “your race” — emphasis on “your.” To run your race, you’re going to have to pass up a lot of other opportunities. You’re going to have to say no. You’ll have to narrow your focus by ruthlessly cutting out things that don’t fit in with the bigger picture. Some of those things will be perfectly harmless things. Good things. Things it will be hard to turn down.

But here’s the thing: You can’t do everything well. In fact, you can’t do everything, period. If you aren’t intentional about how you spend your time, you’ll look back and wonder where it all went. You have to prioritize. Carve out time to pursue your goals. Plan your life around your dreams. Remember that your time is limited, and “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15).

Action step: Lay aside every weight, and run your race. When you’re considering a new commitment or making your schedule, be discerning. Ask yourself, “Is this mine to do? Will it put me closer to or further from my goals? Is it really helpful or necessary?” 


This weekend, focus on setting your goals for 2020.

How you do that is up to you. You can create a vision board, choose a focus word, or write a traditional list of goals. The internet is full of ideas. Ruth Soukup’s website, in particular, has a lot of helpful articles about setting goals.

If you feel comfortable sharing your goals, we’d love to hear them! Maybe we can help inspire and encourage each other. 🙂

Reflections on the Serenity Prayer (from an Enneagram 1)

This week on The Whole House podcast (specifically, episode 99), Kathleen and I talked about the Serenity Prayer.

If you’ve listened to the podcast the last couple of months, you’ve probably heard us mention the Enneagram and the fact that we’re both 1s. On the Enneagram, a 1 is described as “The Perfectionist” or “The Reformer.” We seek order. We see room for improvement everywhere — within ourselves, in others, and in the world around us — and we are constantly trying to make things better. We aren’t satisfied until things are perfect, and because we have impossibly high standards, we rarely think that goal has been achieved. And here’s the thing — it’s really hard for us to let things go.

That’s why the Serenity Prayer speaks to me in such a deep way. I know I need help with serenity. I am awful at it.

You’ve probably seen the Serenity Prayer on a hundred different bookmarks, plaques, and Christian bookstore items, but in case you need a refresher, here it is:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

(If you’re interested in reading a longer version of the prayer, you can find that here.)

Now, let’s break down what the Serenity Prayer means to a 1, phrase by phrase. I’m going to them a little out of order, though. You’ll see why (hopefully).

Courage to Change The things I can

This one is easy for 1s, I think. We don’t generally have trouble jumping in to fix things we think are wrong. If something doesn’t measure up, we will either say something or fix it ourselves.

To clarify — by “if,” I mean “when,” and by “something,” I mean “everything.” The phrase “good enough” isn’t part of our vocabulary. We all know, intellectually, that perfection isn’t really attainable, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. We are hardwired to see flaws, and we feel it is our duty to fix them.

Our efforts to change things don’t really feel like courage. Changing things is just what we do. After all, we’re striving for perfection. If things aren’t perfect now, something needs to change, and for the most part, we don’t mind being the driving force behind that change.

wisdom to know the difference

This one is a little harder. Just like I understand, as a rational fact, that perfection isn’t a realistic goal, I understand that there are many things I have absolutely zero control over.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

I know, for instance, that I cannot change other people. But deep inside, part of me still believes that if I could just find the right words, I could convince others I am right and motivate them to change. And then the world would be a better place. I’ve put a lot of thought into things, so I’m pretty sure my way is the best way. It’s frustrating when others don’t see it that way. I’m only trying to help, after all.

The authors of “The Road Back to You” explain it well:

What most people don’t understand is that Ones don’t think they’re being critical. In their mind they’re trying to help you! They think they’re improving you! Doesn’t everyone want to improve themselves like they do?

So yeah. I have some knowledge of what I can change and what I can’t. Wisdom is something different:

Many experts define knowledge as understanding basic facts, truths, and information. We gain knowledge from learning and education.

Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to use knowledge in a practical, intelligent way. Rather than from learning or education, most people believe wisdom comes from everyday experiences.

Knowledge is possessing a mental understanding of certain information. Wisdom is the practical ability to use your knowledge to make good decisions consistently throughout your life.

(Taken from the article “What’s the Difference Between Wisdom and Knowledge?” by Wonderopolis)

As a 1, wisdom is exactly what I need. It is a fact that we cannot change other people, and I know that. What I need is the ability to apply that knowledge to my life and, well, stop trying to change other people. (And anything else that, despite my best intentions and the temptation to think otherwise, I am not actually in control of.)

And we need more than just wisdom to differentiate between things we can and cannot change. Often, we need wisdom to decide whether something even *needs* to be changed in the first place. After all, things don’t need to be perfect to be good. Neither do people.

Serenity to accept the Things I Cannot Change

This is the big one.

Ones have a lot of positive attributes. We’re responsible and dependable. We’re thorough and detail-oriented, and we strive for excellence. We are conscientious. As noted in The Road Back to You, “Ones want to be good people. They always want to do the right thing.” We express our love by “being responsible and doing what expected of [us] to make the world a better, more secure place for you.”

One thing 1s absolutely ARE NOT is serene. We are primed to see mistakes everywhere we look. We have high standards, and we expect a lot of ourselves, in particular. Our inner critic keeps us engaged in a constant inner dialogue filled with questions like, “Am I a good mother? Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Have I done anything wrong? Is there something I could have done better.”

It is, quite frankly, exhausting — for us, and for those around us. (Sorry about that!) It’s hard for us to silence our inner critic. It’s hard for us to relax. It’s hard for us to let things go. Even if it’s something that no sane person would hold us responsible for, we feel like we can and should be able to improve it.

The Road Back to You sums up our struggle with serenity in this way: “If you’re a One, you believe the only way you’ll know peace on the inside is if you perfect everything on the outside.” You can see the problem with this way of thinking. If we don’t let ourselves feel at peace until everything around us and within is perfect, we will never feel at peace.

And that’s why I keep coming back to this prayer. Not only can I not change other people, but I cannot change myself, really, without God’s help. I need this prayer. I need serenity. I need to let go. But I so desperately need divine intervention to achieve it.

So, Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Studying Personality Types to Better Your Relationships

In the nine years that I’ve been married, I’ve read a lot — and I do mean A LOT — of books and articles about relationships. And out of everything I’ve read or tried in my marriage, if I could point to one tool that has made the biggest difference, it would be personality tests. That’s why we chose to talk about personality tests on this week’s podcast (episode 90).

I have this intense inner drive to understand people. I know that I, personally, am capable of greater kindness, compassion, and patience when I understand where a person is coming from. When I have context.

This is especially true in my marriage. My husband and I agree on a lot of big, important things. We have our faith and a strong work ethic in common. Our sense of humor and taste in movies, TV shows, and music overlaps considerably. But we are very different people.

Unfortunately, another thing we often have in common is our stubbornness. We both put a lot of thought into what believe, so when we arrive at a conclusion, we’re pretty convinced we’re right. Often we arrive at the same conclusion, but when we don’t… it can be hard to remember that we’re both reasonable people doing the best we can.

That’s where personality tests come in. The better we understand each other, the better we can connect and communicate — even when that means expressing negative feelings, conflicting ideas, or (hopefully constructive) criticism.

The Enneagram

By far the most helpful and comprehensive personality test we’ve taken is the enneagram. This personality test separates people into nine different personality types. It offers information about each type’s motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. It even provides insight into how you behave during seasons of growth and when you’re under stress.

I am a 1 on the enneagram — the Perfectionist. My husband is an 8 — the Challenger. We’ve both read The Road Back to You and The Path Between Us, and they’ve been incredibly helpful in helping us understand ourselves and each other better. Turns out, our experience as a couple is common for 1s and 8s. They have a lot in common, like a passion for truth and justice and the sense of obligation to improve the world. When they agree, they can accomplish big things. But when they disagree (which does happen, because 1s and 8s are also very different in how and why they do things, even if they have a common objective), they disagree very strongly and stubbornly. Which is probably why The Enneagram Institute describes them as “a relatively rare romantic pairing.”

Knowing that helps. Not as a reason to throw in the towel or make excuses for ourselves, but as a reminder that neither of us is trying to be difficult. We aren’t pushing each other’s buttons on purpose. We just have a different perspective and approach. Now that we know that, it’s easier for us to stop fights before they happen, de-escalate during a fight, or make up afterward. We can use conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow as individuals and as a couple, instead of getting bitter or resentful.

Love Languages

Another personality test that helped us a lot, especially early in our marriage, was the five love languages. The basic concept here is that while there are endless ways to show that you love someone, everyone has their favorite. If you aren’t feeling particularly loved in your relationship, the problem might be that you and your partner are speaking different languages. You may each be following the Golden Rule, doing for each other what you would like done for you. But if your partner’s love language is physical touch and yours is acts of service, you might be failing to fill each other’s tanks. Once you know that, you can adjust.

Of course, the adjustment requires a bit of compromise from each of you. Your partner responds to physical touch, so you should try to express your love through touch more often. And when you’re feeling unloved, you can remind yourself that all of those small acts of physical affection are your partner expressing his love for you. Perhaps they don’t resonate with you as strongly as acts of service, but that doesn’t mean your partner isn’t being loving.

Other Personality TestS

Of course, there are plenty of other personality tests out there that can help you learn more about yourself, your spouse, and others in your life. The enneagram has been the most helpful to me, and the five love languages are definitely good to keep in mind. Ruth Soukup has a fear assessment that can help you identify the fears that keep your from chasing your dreams and working towards big goals. Sometime soon, I’d love to take the Clifton Strengths assessment (and have my husband take it as well).

No matter which personality test you take (or don’t), here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Personality tests are just a tool. Some may be more accurate or insightful than others. Some may not resonate with you at all. I think that, like any tool, they are neither good nor bad. What matters is how you use them. If they help, great! If they don’t, forget them. They’re not Scripture, so you can take them or leave them.
  • Your motives matter. Learning more about your personality (or your spouse’s personality) will not help your relationships AT ALL if you try to wield the results like a sword. Don’t use them to make excuses for yourself. Don’t use them to blame or criticize others. Use them to understand others better so that you can extend grace, compassion, and patience. Use them to understand yourself better so that you can grow.
  • Reading the books is worth it. If you find the results of a personality test helpful or intriguing, buy the book. Reading books about the enneagram (like the two I mentioned above) has been super helpful, and Ruth Soukup’s Do It Scared book is definitely worth a read. Books give you more context for your results and help you apply what you’ve learned properly. They also give you some insight into other personality types and help you see the bigger picture.
  • Apply what you learn to other relationships, too. Personality tests can be especially helpful in the context of marriage, but their usefulness doesn’t end there. You can apply what you learn to improve your work relationships and strengthen your friendships. Or you can use them to better understand your kids so that you can guide and love them the way they need you to.

4 Reasons to Be Real – Even When It’s Uncomfortable

We’ve all heard the call to be real — to stop putting on a show and let the “real you” shine through. To be open and honest about the struggles we face, because we’re all human. To really put ourselves out there so that we can form deep, genuine connections with other people.

Of course, the problem we run into is that being real is uncomfortable. It involves risk and vulnerability. When you let others see the real you, you risk rejection. You risk judgment, criticism, mockery, and hurt. So why do it?

The good news is that being real is worth the risk. Here’s why:

Keeping Up Appearances Is Hard Work

Often, we assume it will be simpler and safer to fake perfection than to deal with all of the risks that come with being real. But is that really true?

As scary as it is to let yourself be real and vulnerable with other people, in the long run, it’s actually easier than the alternative. Keeping up the illusion that you are infallible, invulnerable, and self-sufficient is hard work. It is stressful, exhausting, and dangerous (more on that in a moment). We think we’re protecting ourselves, but in reality, we’re perpetuating a myth about our lives and our selves. Brené Brown explains it well:

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

The problem is, we can’t control what other people think, say, or do. No matter how “perfect” we manage to look, we cannot guarantee we won’t get hurt. We subject ourselves to the monumental strain of keeping up appearances, and in the end, we’re not really any safer than we were before. Don’t we have enough to worry about, without adding to our list the unnecessary and futile attempt to maintain a perfect image?

Dishonesty Can Become a Lifestyle

You’ve probably heard that practice makes perfect, but life isn’t that simple. A more accurate saying is “practice makes permanent.”

Here’s where the danger of perfectionism lies. Even if we manage to fool others into thinking we’re perfect, we do so at great risk to our souls. Eventually, that dishonesty about who we are, what we’ve done, and where we stand can become second nature.

In Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, John Ortberg explains:

“We fake it in life to bolster our ego. But the result is, we feel like phonies and become more deceptive and cynical with others.”

No act of dishonesty is truly insignificant, because it shapes how we view ourselves — which, in turn, affects the standards we hold ourselves to and the choices we make. You’ll drift further and further into the fakeness until you lose sight of not only yourself but also God.

We need to ask ourselves (in the words of Brené Brown):

“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”

Your Kids Will Get the Wrong Message

We’ve all heard someone say, “Do as I say, not as I do” — and we all know that’s not how life works. If you won’t follow your own advice, why would other people listen to it? No one respects hypocrisy.

Kids, in particular, can spot hypocrisy from a mile away, and they are far more likely to follow your example than your instructions. As James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” No matter how good you are at faking perfection for other people, you won’t fool your kids. They see what you say AND what you do, and when the two don’t match up, the message your kids hear loud and clear is that being real isn’t worth the risk.

Set a good example for your kids by being real with them and with others, even when it’s uncomfortable. Let them see your flaws and imperfections. Your kids need to know you’re human. Perfection is an impossibly high standard that neither you nor they can ever live up to. There is great freedom in allowing yourself to be real. Give them that gift.

God Made the Real You for a Reason

Finally, remember that you were made in the image of God — and God doesn’t make mistakes. In Philippians 1:6, Paul wrote:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

In the meantime, our struggles and imperfections serve a purpose. They allow us to better empathize with others and demonstrate God’s grace and love.

None of us will achieve perfection here on Earth, and it doesn’t do anyone good to pretend we have. After all, perfection isn’t very relatable or approachable. The heaviest burdens people carry — post-partum depression, miscarriages, childhood trauma, grief, abusive relationships, cancer, chronic pain — are often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. They worry that no one will understand. They wonder if there’s something wrong with them. They agonize over whether it’s their own fault.

By cultivating the illusion that we ourselves have never struggled with anything greater than skipping a day of devotions, we send a message loud and clear: “Don’t come to me for help. I have already arrived. You could be like me, if only you tried harder. I don’t understand what you’re going through.” It’s like closing a door. Being real, on the other hand, is an invitation. As Brené Brown put it, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

I can guarantee that if you choose to be real, you will be uncomfortable at times. Some people will judge you. Some people won’t understand. Some people will think less of you. They may gossip behind your back or say hurtful things to your face.

But for every woman who uses your vulnerability to make herself feel superior, there will be one who sees your realness as the precious gift that it is. Who hears your story and feels relief because she’s not the only one. Who feels hope because someone else has been where she is and come out the other side. Who realizes it’s ok to ask for help and finds a community of women to support her.

And that is worth the risk.