The Gathering Keynote – You Were Made to Thrive

What’s the last decision you made completely uninfluenced by others or your circumstances?

Do your circumstances define you and confine you?

If you had total freedom from other’s opinions, your current circumstances and your erroneous beliefs about yourself, what would that look like?

Would you feel freer, act as if you had value? Would you pursue your purpose with vigor instead of fear and trepidation?

What if you walked as if you were truly loved, valued and cherished?

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Untitled design (1)Modern feminism tells us women that we can/should have it all. We can have it all and there will be no consequence? That’s just not possible. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Basic science. If we have it ALL, we have to maintain it ALL. As Bud, my stepfather used to say, “Something’s got to give.” It’s like those people who want a pool (it’s great), but don’t want to do the work of vacuuming it, keeping the patio clean, testing the water, etc.. Point is, if you have it, you have to maintain it.

Modern woman have it all, but according to Dr. Villar, author of Urban Woman Syndrome, we are paying a hefty price. Women or more likely to suffer stress and anxiety these days than men. The stressors in women’s lives are greater than they were in our mother’s time. Whether you work or stay at home (and work), the pressure is greater to ‘have it all together’ in a world that is falling apart. There’s more pressure to look perfect for our social media driven society. There is more stress on being educated and have the perfect career in a new age where women have the option to pursue academics. If you stay and home and homeschool, there is an unwritten rule that your house should be cleaner and you should be more organized and efficient than the rest of the female population!

Are you feeling pressure just reading this? Is it overwhelming? This overwhelming stress or Urban Woman Syndrome drives us to survival mode where we fight, flight or freeze.

We should have it all together, right? As soon as we get one step in the right direction of “I’ve got it all covered”, then circumstances happen that throw us into the pit.

  • Divorce
  • Depression
  • Job Loss
  • Parenting a child with special needs
  • A Move
  • A Job Change
  • A New Baby
  • Health Issues
  • Death of a Loved One

Suddenly, all the great things in our life look gray. Feel gray. I know. I’m preaching to the Guire here. Been there. Done that.

You are not alone, dear one. It’s going to be okay. Really. Can I share three things that have helped me? Three things I need reminded of often? I learned them from John 5, the story of the man at the pool of Bethesda and from Holley Gerth (via her book You’re Going to be Okay).

 Take a few minutes and read John 5:

5 Later on there was a Jewish festival (feast) for which Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem a pool near the Sheep Gate. This pool in the Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches (alcoves, colonnades, doorways).

3 In these lay a great number of sick folk—some blind, some crippled, and some paralyzed (shriveled up)—[a]waiting for the bubbling up of the water.

4 For an angel of the Lord went down at appointed seasons into the pool and moved and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was cured of whatever disease with which he was afflicted.

5 There was a certain man there who had suffered with a deep-seated and lingering disorder for thirty-eight years.

6 When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you want to become well? [Are you really in earnest about getting well?]

7 The invalid answered, Sir, I have nobody when the water is moving to put me into the pool; but while I am trying to come [into it] myself, somebody else steps down ahead of me.

8 Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your bed (sleeping pad) and walk!

9 Instantly the man became well and recovered his strength and picked up his bed and walked. But that happened on the Sabbath.

10 So the Jews kept saying to the man who had been healed, It is the Sabbath, and you have no right to pick up your bed [it is not lawful].

11 He answered them, The [b]Man Who healed me and gave me back my strength, He Himself said to me, Pick up your bed and walk!

12 They asked him, Who is the Man Who told you, Pick up your bed and walk?

13 Now the invalid who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had quietly gone away [had passed on unnoticed], since there was a crowd in the place.

14 Afterward, when Jesus found him in the temple, He said to him, See, you are well! Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.

15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had made him well.

16 For this reason the Jews began to persecute (annoy, torment) Jesus [c]and sought to kill Him, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father has worked [even] until now, [He has never ceased working; He is still working] and I, too, must be at [divine] work.


First of all, do you want to get well? That’s what Jesus asks the man who had laid by the pool for thirty-eight years. Jesus addressed the heart first. “In Bethesda which translates ‘House of Mercy”, people gathered at a pool of water. The sick came to get well.” Jesus asks us the same question.He doesn’t say, “I feel so sorry for you. You have a deep seated illness”. Maybe you have a fear bossing you around. Maybe circumstantial depression is getting you down. Do you want to get well? Jesus didn’t outright approach this man and heal him. He didn’t declare him healed in His name. He started with a question that could be interpolated into whatever your circumstances are telling you or confining you. 

Do you really want to be healed of your fear, your complacency, your worry or your bad attitude to find a free-flying, abounding life?

Or, are you used to things as they are, the sympathies, the comforts, the lenacancies, the excuses and the status of poor old me?

Do you want this new thing?

I believe Jesus asks “Insert your name- you say you want this, but do you really want radical passion and purpose? Or has your heart settled into complacent and comfortable living?”

“Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in it.” Mindset.

May I tell you something, friend? There is enough pool water for everyone. The water that Jesus offers means you’ll never thirst. There is no lack in Jesus. The lady next to you at church isn’t taking all the healing. There is enough for you too. Say “yes” to wanting to get well. Take a second right now. Just say, “yes, Jesus”.

Ready for the first step?

  1. Get up.

Guess what, your circumstances don’t define you. They are not who you are. They are simply where you are.

“What the enemy tries to whisper to us whenever we struggle is this, “If God really loved you, this wouldn’t be happening.”” (Holley Gerth) Not true. We live in a fallen world. People make choices that affect us. This world has sickness, sin and suffering. This world and all it’s circumstances don’t define us. God doesn’t love us less because we are suffering.

Don’t believe the lie the man at the pool believed- I’m not really loved. Nobody cares about me. No one will help me. Lies. All lies.

You are infinitely loved. God loved you and thought of your adoption into HIs family before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1).

Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him)

38 For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things [n]impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers,39 Nor hei


You are not what you feel. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed and like a failure, those are feelings, not a determination of WHO you ARE. You are loved! Stand up sister and encourage yourself in the Lord. Look up scriptures including those above and memorize them. Hide them in your heart. Make them part of your arsenal. Pull out the weapon of the Word and fight like a girl. The Word is heavy. It takes spiritual muscle to use it. If we don’t use it, we become weak. If we use it every day, we get stronger.

  1. Take up your bedroll.

We all make messes with our lives. We stay angry when we should forgive. We stay in the pit of depression when we know we should get up and make the bed. We fill our calendars to overflowing and joke about how overwhelmed we are. It becomes our new normal. We’ve lived on the outskirts of healing for so long that we feel more comfortable under stress than we do with peace. We are so used to calamity and tight ‘run to the next thing’ schedules that we forget what peace feels like. We forget the feeling of reading a great book. Lying on the grass and watching the clouds go by. Sitting out on the front porch in the evening just because. Making cookies with your kids just to eat, not for an event.

Picking up your mat is taking responsibility for yourself. It’s the old adage, you make a mess, you clean it up. If you are overburdened, over-stressed and your day’s schedule is maxed out, what can you cut out? Ask yourself this question- Does this have eternal value? OR- Does this bring value to my life period? Temporal or otherwise. It is producing the good fruit of peace, joy, love kindness faithfulness, goodness, or self-control? I’m not saying it should be all sunshine and daisies (my favorite flower). I’m asking, does it profit you and your household? For instance, exercise uses the fruit of self-control and produces the fruit of a healthier you.

Serving on three committees a week may seem like a good thing, but it may not be profitable for you. It may rob your of family time, of rest and sanity. If you’re just working for the Lord and not spending any time with Him, you’re not going to reap connection and relationship. Same with your family, if you are not investing time in them, you won’t reap connection and relationship. Same goes for yourself, are you investing good things in yourself? Exercise, healthy eating and periods of rest and recovery? Are you filling your mind with junk food, too much tv and social media? Or healthy soul food, the Word, great literature and helpful encouraging podcasts?

If you work through steps one and two, get up and take up your bedroll, step three becomes so much easier.

  1. Start Walking.

Each of us has a specific purpose. We do. We’re that special. Breathe. You have a purpose too. It’s not just all the other gals you follow on Instagram. You.

“Stress makes us short-sighted. OUr bodies are wired in such a way that when our fight or flight system is triggered, we react. We’re not thinking noble thoughts about the meaning of life or world peace. We’re just trying to save ourselves…The trouble is, many of us live in chronic stress.” (Holley Gerth)

The truth is, you weren’t created to strive or survive, you were created to thrive. Each of us have, through life experience or through the desire of our heart, a unique purpose. We feel things deeply about this purpose. For instance, when it comes to orphans, adoption, foster care and adoptive/foster parents, I park my purpose there. I spend my time there, working, praying, writing content, encouraging, offering ETC training and praying. God took my past, renewed it and transformed it into a purpose that I can walk in.

Friend Lori makes baby quilts and she is good at it. Maybe the desire and purpose for making each new mom and baby feel celebrated comes out of her past (that’s her story to tell). What would happen if I gave up my purpose to make baby quilts? That’s a good thing, right? I may even learn how to make a decent one, after a decade or so. The whole time I would be walking in the wrong direction. I would feel angst in my soul as if I were fighting against myself. The angst would created unneeded stress and probably depression. When Jesus told the man at the pool to start walking, He meant in the path God had prepared for Him specifically, not to randomly walk. Pool guy went to the temple where he ran into Jesus, who said, “You look wonderful!’

One bit of warning. When you begin to walk in your God given purpose and you’re acting counter-culturally, the opposite direction of modern feminism, there will be naysayers. Jesus healed the pool guy on the Sabbath, a cultural no-no for Jews. Jesus responded to this with ,”My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”

It reminds me of many years ago when my mother wanted to open a food pantry in our community and the church leaders told her there was NO NEED. My mom and Bud had moved to the hills of WV because she had been born here. The hunger she had experienced as a child turned into a purpose to feed the hungry. She opened the pantry and it is still running twenty-one years after her death. Don’t let people talk you out of your purpose. Don’t be interested in crowd approval. Be content with God approval. Be set on the purpose God has given you. Walk in it.

“We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

“When Life comes along and slaps us silly, it can feel as if God’s purpose for us has now been cancelled. But nothing can stop His purpose for us….just because your circumstances are hard doesn’t mean God’s purpose for you has changed.”- Holley Gerth

Even if you feel as if you are the ONLY one doing what you are doing and you KNOW God led you to do it, DO IT ANYWAY.  If you tell a group of friends that you are ________________ and aren’t going to ________________________ and they try to redirect you, listen to your purpose, not theirs. It’s okay to act counter culturally. Jesus did.

So here_s what I want you to do, God helping you_ Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offe


We aren’t looking for a plethora of good things to do. We are looking for our highest level of contribution, the right thing to do, the right way at the right time.

People can be effective because they say ‘no’. This isn’t for me. Instead, they pursue their purpose.

Do you want to be well? Do you want to be satisfied in your soul? Get up. Stop believing the lies. Your circumstances are not a measure of your worth. You are infinitely loved. You are chosen. Take up your bedroll. Picking up your bedroll is taking responsibility for yourself and your choices. Get off the treadmill of what is expected and run the race at a meaningful and profitable pace. Ask yourself, what sort of fruit does this activity produce? Start walking. You were made for a purpose and actually, mini, many purposes. Your purpose may change with the seasons of your life. Just remember to walk in the path of your purpose, not someone else’s.

*The scriptures above were handed out for the keynote in card form. If you like, print them off as reminders!



When the Photo Shoot (and life) are not Perfect, There is Still Joy!

Ever browse through social media for a few minutes and walk away feeling depleted? Less than perfect? As if everyone is having a great time? Your life doesn’t measure up?

When I scroll through social media posts, I sometimes get infected with the “woe is me” bug. Or I physically feel as if all the anger and unrest settles on my shoulders. I put the phone down and burdened.  How about you?

The Whole House had a photo shoot a few weeks ago. Here’s what you see on our cover and on social media posts:

untitled-17Yep, we’re pretty excited about a book release, 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas, An Advent Devotional for Adoptive/Foster Parents coming out November 1! Also, we are releasing The Whole House Podcast on January 1rst!

Looks at cool and perfect-ish, right?

Here’s a behind the scenes look at what really happened…..

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The photo shoot wasn’t all it seemed on social media. The kids took the frame, the photographer and finally, needed to go in for a snack and nap. The grown-ups wanted a nap too, but we persevered and after getting kiddos to bed (Judah fell asleep sitting up), we recorded a podcast. We recorded with a Mic in the middle of a round table in Amerey’s kitchen, surrounded by lunch and snack remains. We don’t have a professional studio or a picture perfect life.

How do you find joy in an imperfect life?

When the kids don’t cooperate with your plans?

When you have more chores and meltdowns than hours in the day?

When it seems as if everyone else has it all together and you’re not sure what it is?

We long to belong. We yearn for acceptance. What we end up with when we pursue the pseudo perfect life is shame. Shame is a painful emotion that tells us we have fallen short, we are not enough. When we live our lives peering through the lens of shame, we feel depressed, angry and isolated.

How do we avoid the shame based lifestyle?

We acknowledge that OUR now is enough. Where we are and who we are is enough. The circumstances and gifts God has bestowed upon us may be different than our neighbors’. That’s okay. Uniqueness is gift. Accept your now and embrace it.

Comb through the tangle of your day with an eye for joy. No one has perfect circumstances. Maybe your house is full of toddlers or teens. Maybe there is sickness in your family and you spend days sitting in a hospital. Maybe you finally got the baby you longed for and don’t know how you can physically cope with night time feedings and the constant exhaustion. The only way to be thankful is to look for things to be thankful for. Chase joy down. Write them down if you need to.

  • A cup of coffee.
  • A giggle.
  • A sunrise.
  • A backyard photo shoot.

Last, but not least, be vulnerable.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”- Brene Brown

One way to overcome shame is tell your your story. The non fiction version. Not the social media fiction version. The greatest words of empathy are, “me too!”

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!- Emily Dickinson

What Success Is…


I love the New Year, fresh and crisp as a winter wind. I love the new journals. The new business planner (that I still have no idea what to do with). I love the new Word. I feel refreshed and renewed. Christmas decorations have been put away, except for the greenery I couldn’t stand to put away.

greeneryI take off at a sprint, ready to accomplish all, whatever all is. Sometimes it’s as if I am playing whack a mole, no matter how many books I have read on goal setting and essentialism. Life just doesn’t always work that way, unless you have no family, friends or never get sick. With my personality, I must be careful not to make goals a god. Success is Not an Accident and Essentialism are a few of my favorite books on success and goal setting. I recommend them. They have helped me weed out things that aren’t essential. I have a better idea of how to set measurable goals. I have a definition of success. It’s not what I would have defined it as when I was in my twenties or even thirties. It’s not about knowing the right people, money or wearing the right clothes. And, grab onto your seat, success is not always about achieving your goals. Success is not about being able to do everything. It is more about being able to do the thing that is before you well.

“Successful people are those who have learned how to consistently apply God’s laws in their lives. They ascribe their achievements to focus, hard work, strong relationships, perseverance and the blessings of God.”- Tommy Newberry

I love this definition of who successful people are. We can’t always control our circumstances. Sometimes our list of goals get sidelined while we work on the business of living. Does that mean we aren’t successful? Of course not.

A mother working on a project to make her home more beautiful and comfortable is interrupted by sickness. Is she still a successful homemaker?

A writer working on a manuscript puts writing on hold to participate in a community project is still a writer, right?

A health nut who teaches about the blessings of whole foods and the benefits of exercise gets knocked flat by an immune system disorder. Is what she teaches still true?

I’d love to measure my success by a bar graph or a beautiful circle graph with bright colors. It doesn’t work that way. Often our path to success may seem as if we are running from the snake in a zig zag pattern (like my mama taught me). That’s what we see. That’s not what God sees.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,

And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. Proverbs 3:5,6

When I trust in and rely on the Lord, I have to throw my own insight and understanding out the window. Every day I must get up and acknowledge the Lord. I must recognize Him and say, “This is your day, Lord, what would you have me do with it?” The truth is, I pray in warp speed, acknowledge my plans and start a frantic frenzied race to the end of the day. I am, shoulders hunched, with frayed nerves, pursuing a success that never satisfies. Success is doing the will of God on the path He has placed before you with the strengths and weaknesses that He has bestowed on you. Success is not about being perfect. It’s about being obedient. It’s about acknowledging Him, recognizing that He is ultimately in control. If my plan falls through, I can be assured that He is has a better one. What about you?

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!