Being Like Christ

“Be like Christ.” We hear that message a lot in Christian circles. We all need to “be like Christ.” Sometimes it’s phrased “be the hands and feet of Christ.” But how do we actually do that?

Are we being like Christ within the comfortable confines of the church walls? Or do we need to go to a foreign country on a mission trip to be like Christ? Do the only lost and hurting people live halfway around the world? Does being the hands and feet of Christ require a plane trip to a foreign country?

All of the above things are great. We definitely CAN be Christlike inside the church building or during a missions trip to a foreign country. But I think we can also live out the gospel by showing Christ’s love in our own community, and many people forget that.

Most of the time, we overlook the needs of our neighbors. It’s easy to do. We live in our own little bubble because it’s comfortable (I am SO guilty). So many people are hurting in our own backyards, in need of help and hope. All we have to do is open our eyes.

I work for a local non-profit organization, More Grace Outreach, that just recently hosted a local missions week. With the help of around 170 volunteers and private donors from multiple churches and states, we were able to help 6 local families and 3 local non-profits with projects — none of which would have been possible without Christ showing up and regular people being the literal hands and feet.

Yes, going to church is important. Yes, foreign missions are important. But so are the people in your own community. The people that other people choose to look the other way when they meet on the street. The people that are probably on drugs or rely on food stamps. The people that make most of us uncomfortable. They live next to us, and they are loved by God as much as you and me.

I pray that God gives us the eyes to see these people like He sees them so that we can give them hope and show them the love of Christ.

8 “Instead of” Tips for Parenting Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Are you parenting a child who has had trauma?

Are you parenting a child who has a capital letter syndrome — such as ADD, ADHD, FAS, SPD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder — or another special need?

If so, then this is for you!

When it comes to parenting kids who have had trauma, I  struggle with imposter syndrome. I often ask myself, “How can I help other parents when I couldn’t do it perfectly or even well myself sometimes?”

We must let go of the myth that perfect parents exist. They don’t. And raising kids who have had trauma means a huge learning curve for us parents — especially if we have parented our bio children okayish with great results.

Traditional parenting is for securely attached children — kids who want to please. Any sort of parenting requires a foundation of connection with the child. That connection comes more easily with kids who haven’t experienced trauma. For those who have, the foundation is absent or shaky, and as a result, the child feels no need to follow commands or listen.

Traditional parenting tends to swoop in and fix the immediate problematic behavior. It is a short-term approach that doesn’t work with kids who have trauma. Instead, you need to take the time to consider the need behind the child’s behavior and focus on the ultimate goal of connection.

Kids who have trauma care more about control and survival. When a child has a disorganized attachment style born out of trauma, he will want to control his surroundings. Control will trump following instructions every time. In fact, the very thing that would make him feel more connected, he will fight.

As the authors of The Connected Child explain, “Children who encountered deprivation or harm before they were brought home lack many types of connections. They can lack social connections, emotional connections, neurochemical connections, cognitive connections, and sensory connections.” Because these connections do not exist, traditional parenting will not work. We must change our parenting to adjust to the fact that it will be different with these kiddos.

“Instead of” Parenting Suggestions

  • Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).
  • Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.
  • Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.
  • Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”
  • Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.
  • Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.
  • Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.
  • Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).

Many of us grew up with the lecture approach to parenting. For every infraction, Mom or Dad had a carefully selected and time-tested sermon they could pull from a database in the recesses of their mind. “If your great aunt Mary knew that you turned on a show in the middle of the night, [insert stories of monsters, bible verses, sticks in the eye, etc.].” You get the picture.

After a while, all our brains heard was the sound of a grown-up talking on Charlie Brown: “Wah, wah, wah, wah.” No matter how eloquent you are, your child may only hear the first 8 to 12 words. If you waste those first words, you have lost them. And long lectures aren’t the best way to get your child to listen and learn anyway.

Choose and use your words carefully. Aim them at the behavior, not the child — and there’s no need to bring other family members or what your parents would have done into it. Try instructions like these:

  • “Walk, don’t run.”
  • “We don’t hit.”
  • “Use your words.”
  • “Try that again.”

Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.

We’ve all done it. We see the precursor to a meltdown or a potential fight brewing over a toy, but we wait. We wait because it isn’t that bad yet or hasn’t gotten violent. Next thing you know, the situation is out of control.

Sometimes it helps to stop and ask yourself: Why wait? Would you rather spend five minutes addressing the behavior and reconnecting now, or spend the next two hours living with the fallout? It’s a pretty simple choice in my mind. I’ve learned from experience how draining the two-hour or day-long fallout of a complete meltdown can be. As a result, I lean toward addressing an issue while it is a tiny seed instead of waiting until it grows into a giant oak tree.

Recently, my daughter and I were on our way to the zoo with her kiddo. We were meeting her sister and her kiddos for a day of fun (four grandkids + zoo = fun). As usual, we talked about our trips together when she was growing up —  zoo trips, field trips, vacations.

My grandson had been watching a show on the iPad while we talked, but it ended. “I can start a new one,” I offered. We had been hoping he would fall asleep during the first one, but no go.

“Are you sure you can get back there?” my daughter asked.

“Remember who you are talking to,” I reminded.

“Nevermind,” she said, and laughed. “You used to climb back and sit with us to get us to calm down.”

“Yep, I did.”

Some super safety-conscious parents are shaking your heads right now in disbelief. Yep, I crawled over seats and sat on the floor of the suburban to calm kids down or interrupt a fight before the trip turned into a giant meltdown.

Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.

When I was a young and naive parent, I thought I needed to have control all the time. There were no choices. My first child blew that theory out of the water. She was very much an “I can do it myself” child. If I didn’t offer her choices, she offered them to me. I got a lot of flack from family members for not being more strict, harsh, or punitive with her.

The funny thing is, I was judged for being too strict with my kids with trauma just a few short years later. That’s another story for another time.

The point is, Audrey taught me the value of giving choices. I’m not talking about moral choices. I mean giving kids simple choices like:

  • Do you want to wear black tennis shoes or purple?
  • Do you want a peanut butter sandwich or a ham sandwich?
  • Do you want to read this book first or that one?
  • Do you want to give Uncle Bob a hug or not?

Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”

A re-do is simple. Remember when you missed five on your spelling test and your teacher had to write the ones you missed each five times? Or when you were in gym class and missed the basketball hoop on the first shot but kept trying until you made it? Or when you got married and were trying out your cooking skills for the first time and something didn’t taste just right, so you called Mom and with her help tried again? Those are all re-do’s.

As the Empowered to Connect training manual explains, “Offering your child a chance to “try it again” and get it right — what we call a re-do — is often an ideal way to respond. In addition, this approach provides your child with body memory for doing the right thing and offers an opportunity for you to then give praise and encouragement once she re-does the task, follows the instructions, or interacts in an appropriate manner. This approach can help your child to experience doing the right thing and deepen your connection with her as well.”

Practice Outside of the Moment.

When teens or adults start a new job, they go through training. Usually, this training is practiced outside the moment. Training is not introduced when an employee is melting down over not knowing how to use the computer system (although that can happen). Practicing outside the moment allows you to teach a child when his upstairs brain is activated, instead of waiting until he flips his lid.

The authors of The Whole-Brain Child explain the concept of your upstairs vs downstairs brain: “Imagine that your brain is a house, with both a downstairs and an upstairs. The downstairs brain includes the brain stem and the limbic region, which are located in the lower parts of the brain, from the top of your neck to about the bridge of your nose. Scientists talk about these lower areas as being more primitive because they are responsible for basic functions (like breathing and blinking), for innate reactions and impulses (like flight and fight), and for strong emotions (like anger and fear).”

The downstairs brain is survival mode. No logic or reasoning is applied — just illogical, knee-jerk responses. When a child gets stuck in their downstairs brain, his body shoots cortisol through his system, and he lives on the edge. A simple request sounds like YELLING.  IN FACT, EVERYTHING IS AMPLIFIED. A CAR THAT PASSES THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS A THREAT. A COMPLIMENT IS TWISTED INTO A CORRECTION.

You get the point. Scary, huh? It’s no fun to live there.

I did lots of practicing outside the moment with my kiddos before we went somewhere. My funniest story using this tool is practicing to go to the library. My newbies had recently come home from Poland, so I had kiddos aged 12, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 1. Four of them had never been to a public library before, so we practiced at home. We pretended the bookshelves were the library. I showed them how to get a book, whisper, sit down at a table, and look at the book they had retrieved.

Our town had a small library with an unusual practice. When you got a book out, you replaced it with a ruler to mark your place in order to return it if you didn’t check it out. My kids loved this practice a little more than I realized. When we got to the library, they used all of the rulers to mark places and got a giant stack of books — which ties in nicely with my next point.

Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.

Traditional parenting often relies on assumptions. We assume that the child should know how to behave in an environment or know what to expect. We say things like, “You should know better” or “Be quiet! This is a library,” as if a child who has never been to a library would know that information. Just like my kiddos didn’t recognize the implied rule that you should only get one book out at a time.

You can practice outside the moment for about anything:

  • Going to a restaurant.
  • Going to a ball game.
  • Flying on a plane.
  • Shopping.
  • Skating.
  • Visiting a friend’s house.

Not only does this help your child know what to expect, but it also alleviates fears. Many kids need to know what’s next, and if you have informed them and practiced with them, it will be a smoother ride for both of you.

Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.

One of the popular parenting tools frequently used is time out. As the authors of The Connected Child explain, “These isolating strategies may be useful for biological children who are already connected and emotionally bonded to their families. But isolating and banishing strategies are extremely problematic for at-risk children because these kids are already disconnected from relationships, attachment-challenged, and mildly dissociative because of their early histories of neglect and abuse. Isolation is not therapeutic for them.”

Instead of isolating, keep the child near you so that you can co-regulate for them. Your presence as a calm center can help them become calm down more quickly.

While a traditional time-out may not be a good idea, you can still have a “calming corner” in a public room (such as the family room or kitchen) with a pillow and a few toys for toddlers. This is a think-it-over place and can become more sophisticated as the child gets older. You can say, “Sit here and think it over. When you’re ready to talk, let me know.”

Just a caution — your child will not turn into Pollyanna just because you created a think-it-over space. When the child is ready to talk it over, he may say “ready” with the voice of a Balrog. That’s okay. Meet him where he is. Let him tell you in his own words what he did wrong, and if he doesn’t know, give him the words. Lead him through an apology or a redo or both. Make sure you finish connected. Then it’s done.

And when it’s over, it’s over. Don’t keep bringing it up. Saying things like, “Earlier today, you did that thing so I don’t trust you” or “You couldn’t handle yourself earlier, so never again” or any other broad statement makes the child feel less-than. If you know a child can’t handle participating in whatever brought on the meltdown, keep that to yourself and parent. Arrange the environment to give him something else to do.

For example, if the child has had too much screen time and it caused the meltdown, play a board game together (even if you don’t want to). You are investing in your child.

Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.

When parenting a child from a hard place — i.e. one who has had trauma — it’s easy to get into a pattern of only noticing “bad” behaviors. Because the child already believes he is worthless or of little value, harping on the negative only solidifies his belief.

When my newbies first came “home,” they were in a state of disorganized attachment. At times, I felt as if my home would never stop feeling chaotic.  My kiddos had a survival-of-the-fittest mentality, and finding something praiseworthy was difficult in those beginning stages of “family.”

Instead of waiting for my kiddos’ behavior to rise up the bar I had set before I offered praise, I set my sights on something other than measuring up. I began by praising them for playing with Play-Doh, creating something with LEGOs, putting on a puppet show, eating food — pretty much anything I could praise. The kids sometimes bristled at the praise. They may have wondered what my motive was, but eventually they began to accept it and even expect it. “Mom, look what I built!” This is connection.

Imagine if you never received any praise at all. Imagine if your life was just a fight to survive, and everything you did was wrong. You couldn’t sit right, eat right, speak right, or behave right in general, and people pointed those things out constantly. How would you feel? How would you feel if suddenly you started receiving some praise for things? Wouldn’t you keep doing the things you received praise for?

Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

When we look at behaviors as needs, we are less likely to take them personally. For instance, when we remind ourselves that the child can’t regulate — not won’t regulate — we can set our personal feelings aside. When we set our personal feelings aside, we can take the reins and parent. It’s not us against them; we’re all on the same team.

So before taking a behavior personally, ask yourself what the child needs. Is the child. . .

  • Hungry?
  • Tired?
  • Over-stimulated?
  • Triggered?
  • In his downstairs brain?
  • Unsure of the expectations?
  • Unable to adjust to a change of plans?

It’s our job to be the emotionally stable person in the relationship. In an article for PBS, Katie Hurley explains one thing you can do to help your child become aware of their emotions: “Express your own emotions. Parents have a tendency to hide their own emotions from their kids. While kids don’t need to be involved in the fine points of adult problems, it’s okay for them to see you sad, mad or overwhelmed. When you label and talk about your own emotions, you show them that we all have big feelings to cope with and that you trust them just as they can trust you.”

Two of my kiddos struggled with recognizing emotions in themselves and others. I made flash cards with different expressions on them: happy, sad, angry, afraid, frustrated. We practiced recognizing emotions with a mirror and with the cards.

Sometimes, the things we take so personally are emotions the child isn’t equipped to express. In that sort of situation, the child often reverts to anger — the go-to for kids in survival mode.

Using the IDEAL Approach

For all interactions with your kiddos, use the IDEAL response as a guide. The IDEAL Approach is among the best tools for parenting, teaching, or supervising kids who have had trauma:

I: You respond immediately, within three seconds of misbehavior.

D: You respond directly to the child by making eye contact. Get down on their level.

E: The response is efficient and measured. Use as few words as possible.

A: The response is action-based. Lead the child through a re-do.

L: Your response should bed leveled at the behavior, not the child.

One final note: The suggestions in this article are simply tools for parenting. Not every tool is useful in every situation or with every child. You must find which work for your child. In extreme cases, a child may be so violent that he is a danger to himself and others the home. In that case, you need to get professional help. Don’t try to go it alone.

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.

My Mission Field Is a Fitness Mat

When God called upon my husband and me to open a fitness studio, I knew there was a greater purpose than just fitness. I knew that God was giving me an opportunity to let others see His works through me. I knew that I could be an example of the perseverance and strength His grace provides and a reminder that after storms, with Him, there’s always a rainbow.

My Journey

Just a few years ago, I was fighting against myself in a spiritual battle over my self worth and self confidence. I was suffering from a major stint of disordered eating, and I didn’t think I’d ever find my happy self again.

But God has perfect timing, and my story is proof. I mustered up enough confidence in the beginning of my recovery to take a fitness certification workshop. I had been putting off this workshop for years because I just didn’t deem myself worthy, but I knew that I owed it to myself to see it to completion. I had been doing the format, POP Pilates, for 6 years and knew that it was the one thing in my adult life (outside of God) that always just made me believe in myself.

The workshop did not disappoint, and it left me feeling more confident than I had felt in a while. At the end of the workshop, we had to say one word to describe how we felt, and mine was WORTHY. It was a full-circle moment for me.

I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would use this new, unleashed passion for His purposes alone and that I would remain grateful no matter what that looked like or how hard it was. I started to focus more on God and less on my appearance, and that was my second major step in my eating disorder recovery. I quickly realized that where He was leading me, a six pack wasn’t required.

Today

Six short months later, my husband and I jumped feet-first into our studio. We knew that God was going to provide a space for me to help women feel loved and worthy — and that’s exactly what He continues to do. It has never once been about anything other than that for me. Does that make me a savvy business owner? Probably not, but it does make me a content one. Week after week, I get to “minister” to women by simply loving them and encouraging them to love themselves. That’s what Jesus Himself does.

“Ministry could simply be about loving the person in front of you.”

This past week, I was humbly presented the POP Pilates Instructor of the Year Award, and I’m again taking this passion to the Lord to allow His work to be done as a result. Let whatever light shines on me reflect straight back to You. Let me never look at this mission field with anything other than faith, hope, and love. Let those three traits be felt by anyone who encounters me. I know that you did not bring me this far, just to bring me this far.

LEAD ME WHERE YOU NEED ME.

All I did is praise. All I did is worship. All I did was bow down. All I did is stay still. (Shout out to that song, Defender.)

Photo credit to Kassia Phoy

When My Home Became an Idol

In a culture that worships perfection, we women struggle with creating perfection in our homes. We follow Instagram accounts, hang on Joanna Gaines’ every word, and watch HGTV to make sure we are keeping up with the latest trends. (Raising my hand here.)

I love home design. I love making my home look beautiful. But here’s the catch: I can get caught in the trap of thinking the only thing my home can or should be is perfect. Or I can go to the other extreme and think my home is completely utilitarian. It’s just a place where the food is stored, our beds await, and the TV resides. Either extreme will leave me feeling empty and frustrated all the time.

Our culture has lost sight of a home’s purpose. It’s all too easy to put interior design on a pedestal and worship it. (God forbid we have an outdated avocado colored bathtub!) We get embarrassed when our home doesn’t look like the Instagram accounts we follow, so we don’t invite people over.

My Confession

Can I share something with you? That was me. I cried over a shower color and shape. Yep. Actually cried real tears and begged God to replace the gold shower/tub combo in my master bathroom. My home had become my idol.

An idolater is someone whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God.

After living in a new home and then a farmhouse that we remodeled ourselves, we bought a home that needed a lot of work inside and out. A job change, a Job syndrome, and now limited finances had landed us here. The things we fixed first on our non-existent budget were not visible things. They were necessary fixes that didn’t make the home look beautiful — things like safer outlets in the kitchen. You get the picture.

So, here I was, crying over a gold bathroom. One morning, I was getting ready for church and showering and blubbering about not being able to remodel, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to thank God for the gold shower/tub combination. I did it with tears dripping down my cheeks.

Thanksgiving

In the fall of that year, I hosted Thanksgiving (as per norm). I was embarrassed to be hosting in a home with one brown bathtub and one gold one. Wallpaper was peeling off the walls. An avocado shower sat in a basement bathroom that was more like a cave.

Despite my embarrassment, it turned out to be one of the best holidays ever. My house was full of immediate and extended family from near and far away. No one complained about the wallpaper or the color of my bathroom showers/tubs. We enjoyed our time together.

All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. – Proverbs 15: 15

The point? God needed me to tear down the idol of my home. It needed to be knocked back into place.

When your home becomes an idol as mine did, then perfection becomes the goal instead of comfort. Ask yourself this question right now: Have I made my home an idol?

Remember Your Home Has a Purpose

Homes are gathering places. Places of connection. There is a science to running a home, and there’s an art to keeping a home. Believe it or not, your home can be a work of art when you have a gold bathtub. In case you are wondering, it was another ten years before I was able to replace the gold and brown in my bathrooms. And yet, I hosted holidays, birthdays, cookouts, book clubs, swim days, Bible studies, and more during those ten years.

Making my home an idol impaired my ability to make my house a haven. It became a shrine. That day when I thanked God for my gold bathtub/shower combination while crying was a starting point. It was a seed.

I used to believe that my home had to be perfectly put together in order to invite people over. For many years, I was able to achieve that in other homes. I believed that lie and practiced it until it became truth. When my world bottomed out and we moved into a home that I couldn’t make look perfect (according to my standards), I felt empty. Useless. Unable to function. I ranted, raved, and cried.

Take what you have and make it beautiful

Here’s the thing: My personality didn’t change. I learned to live with a gold shower, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a desire to have a beautiful space. I think it’s an innate feature in women. We love beauty in our homes. We each define it differently, but the desire is there. It’s a god-like attribute.

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*These are some photos of my home now after years of sweat equity. I couldn’t find a picture of the gold bathtub or get a great picture of updates in bathrooms!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God makes all things beautiful in their time. God gave each of us the desire for beauty. To answer that desire, He has created beauty all around us in nature, from the flowers and trees in your backyard to the diverse geography around the world. In The State of the Arts, Gene Edward Veith Jr. says that art is simply copying the Creator. He adds:

“The God-given capacity to make things is the essence of art.”

When we desire to surround ourselves with beauty, we are copying the Creator. Some religions would argue with this and say that we are supposed to deny ourselves any joy in our surroundings. I disagree. When we surround ourselves with beauty, it makes us feel alive. We feel refreshed after a walk in the woods — why wouldn’t we want to bring that beauty into our homes?

So what are some simple ways to beautify your space?

One of my favorite things to do is rearrange my furniture. This habit may be attributed to the many times we moved in my childhood, but I consider it a great habit. Rearranging my living room gives it a fresh look and gives me a new perspective. It only requires some muscle on my part  (and a little help from whoever I drag into the mix).

Rearranging is a simple way to refresh your space. Try it!

Get a new perspective

After living in the house with the gold tub for a few years, I was still despairing over the fact that it would never look “good.” My kids and I had done a lot of projects that required little or no money. We took down wallpaper. Painted walls. Cleaned the basement. Scrubbed the tile in the basement that hadn’t been cleaned properly in a long time.

In my mind, I still had a picture of a dilapidated home — more of a shack than a home. But it wasn’t a shack at all. It was a solidly built colonial. The mind can play tricks on us!

My sister-in-law was in for the holidays and she mentioned a course she was taking. One of the assignments was to take pictures of each room in your home. The goal was being grateful and getting a better perspective. I was intrigued by the idea but didn’t think I would see anything different than I saw in my mind’s eye.

After the holidays, I cleaned each room, making sure there was no clutter on surfaces. I pulled out my camera and got to work. I took photos of each of the rooms from many angles. I loaded them on the computer and scrolled through. The rooms looked amazing. Beautiful. I was shocked. Astounded, really. How could this be? My home looked nothing like the pictures I had imprinted on my brain.

I wanted to make sure what I was seeing was accurate so I called my husband over. I scrolled through the pictures without saying anything. I wanted his reaction to be his own, not based on what I said.

“Wow! That’s gorgeous. Whose house is that?”

“That is our house.”

“No way!” He clicked through the photos again. “I had no idea our house looked that great!”

His perspective had been skewed like mine. In our mind, we were seeing the baseboards that needed fixing, the marks on the hardwood, or the infamous gold tub. We didn’t know what other people were seeing until we looked at those photos.

Perspective makes a big difference.

Try the exercise yourself. Maybe your home is not clean right now, so don’t stress. Wait until it is, or make an appointment with yourself to clean and take photos. If you have lots of littles underfoot, try one room at a time. Shove everything into another room or corner if you have to.

The purpose is not to be fake for an Instagram account. The purpose is to get perspective. Try to wait until you have all the rooms photographed and then look. I know it’s tempting to want to look as you go. Try to wait. Look at each picture and record your perspective. Let your hubby look too. Then go ahead and post it on Instagram and see what your friends think.

I can’t promise you it will look like something straight from HGTV, but I can promise it will give you perspective. Looking at your home through the lens of a camera can give you fresh eyes. You can replace the hypothetical you have floating in your mind with actual photos and move on from there. Maybe the pictures will give you ideas about what things really need changing (and which things look fine the way they are).

I’ll admit I still struggle with the perspective issue. When someone is coming over for the first time, I have a case of last-minute panic. I suddenly see the grime in the faucet creases or the spot of coffee on the floor. Instead of looking at my house as I whole, I see the little bits of dirt or imperfection. It’s silly, but worth mentioning.

We do the same thing with ourselves. When we become more comfortable with people, we don’t mind our imperfections as much. So, if you come to my house regularly, you know where the coffee and mugs are. You can even make yourself a peanut butter sandwich if you want.