To Love Me Well… Love My Children

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How can I have a relationship with a God I can’t see?

Last week we celebrated my son’s 6th birthday. The party was more than a month after his actual birthday, but he insisted on having a bounce house and sprinklers, so a belated celebration it was. We settled on Memorial Day weekend with an inflatable water slide that turned our backyard into a swamp suitable for Yoda to train young Jedi warriors, but hey, it was fun, right??

We hosted a gaggle of children in addition to my own crew, all precious to my Sweet Prince. However, the ones who stole my heart weren’t there for the water slide. Of course, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t get some play time in…

These two may have been the wettest of the bunch, but there were others who showed up to love my boy with wicked Nerf guns and Pokémon cards before they went about their adulting business. Yes, these special guests are grown men and women, not related to us, no kids of their own, with nothing obligating them to a 6-year-old’s birthday party when they could totally be out doing grown-up things like driving motorcycles or whitewater rafting or shopping for appliances… And yet they came.

They come over and over again, week after week, year after year. They come to birthday parties, preschool graduations, and over for dinner when my socialite 8-year-old begs for “company.” They make Play Doh creations, give us special treatment when we visit them at work (Chick-fil-A, of course), teach the kids’ classes at church, and model a life that is following Jesus. They simply love my children, and in turn, they are loving me.

Love me well

One of the great mysteries of faith is the idea of loving a being which we cannot experience with our 5 senses. Certainly we can connect with the divine in less tangible ways – the work and power of the spiritual realm is often misunderstood and vastly underrated by the exhibitionism of the internet age – but aside from recognizable theophanies, interacting with an invisible God can feel like explaining Pinterest to your great-grandmother… Where do you even begin??

Jesus was once posed a similar question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

The Pharisees get a bad rap for being the bad guys in the Gospels, but truth be told, the whole Pharisaical movement was born out of that one question: how can I have a relationships with a God I can’t see? 

Seeking to understand the Mosaic traditions of Judaism in their contemporary context, the Pharisees wanted to shift the focus of Hebrew worship from temple sacrifice to personal study and prayer. Their endless lists of rules missed the heart of the Law, to be certain, but ultimately, they were asking the same questions we are. Their answer landed on legalism; Jesus pointed to loving people. 

Love my children

To anyone who is a parent, it should come as no surprise that the best way for us to love God is to love his children – each other. He spent over half of the Ten Commandments (plus the majority of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that you never read because it feels rote) telling us how to respect one another, and the critiques of literally every minor prophet in the Old Testament boil down to Israel failing to care for the needs of her most vulnerable people groups.

Jesus’ entire ministry is devoted to loving God’s children. His miracles may be symbolic of large-scale principles, but let’s not forget they were still worked through individuals. He saw the needs right in front of him, and then he met them. We ought to take that as lesson #1 of “How to Be Like Jesus.” In Matthew 25, he gives us this familiar parable:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40

If I had the job of writing section subheadings in the Bible, this one would be, “Jesus Tells Us How We Can Love a God We Can’t See.” It’s so simple: love his people.

We are created to live in community, and family is both the primary foundation of community and the primary vehicle through which God demonstrates his relationship to us and vice versa. We are most moved when others minister to our children, therefore, so is God.

If you are new to following Jesus, or if you’re considering it but not sure where to start, look to the greatest commandments – the second answers the “how” of the first! Love God, and love your neighbor. Look at the needs right in front of you, and meet them. Mentor a kid. Help someone who is struggling. Visit someone who is alone. Feed someone who is hungry. Get involved in community. That’s where the magic happens, because that’s where God’s heart is.

God is saying to us now, To love me well… Love my children.

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To Thine Own #Selfie Be True

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on April 13, 2016. To view this post in its entirety, please click the link at the bottom of the page.

When I was growing up, there were two things my mom could not live without: her planner and her camera. Ironically, she was very often losing them both. A few of our contributors are known for their love of planners (it is one of Lauren’s New Year must-haves!), but that is one of mom’s obsessions that did not rub off on me. The photoholic tendencies, however, are another story.

My mother has thousands of pictures. Most of them are in albums because back in the day you had to actually print pictures to look at them, so I can think of an event or trip or vague time in my life, go pull out that year’s album (or set of albums – thousands, I’m telling you!), and bask in all the 80’s glory of perms, shoulder pads, and pastel everything. I can walk through all of my awkward phases of the 90s (what’s that? You only had one awkward phase? Boy did you ever miss out! *eye roll*), then point to my brothers’ awkward phases to make me feel better. There are pictures of every family member, all our friends and teammates, and every teacher we ever had. But one person is noticeably absent from almost all these seemingly endless albums…

My mom.

Of course she was there, but she was always on the other side of the camera. She cherishes all the memories captured in those photos, especially since they are all taken from her perspective! But as I get older – and watch my parents get older – I wish I had more pictures of my mom to reminisce on my childhood from my own figurative lens, which was very often directed toward my mama.

This brings me to now, my own life as a mom. The truth is, much of my children’s day consists of looking at me. Whether I am playing a game with them, serving them food, disciplining them, or snuggling on the couch, there I am, right in their midst. I memorialize these occasions for myself by snapping pictures, but these will one day be their memories as well, so shouldn’t their perspective also be recorded?

Enter selfies.


To continue reading the full post, please click here to visit the KMB site. Don’t be camera shy; to thine own #selfie be true!

How to Survive Night Terrors: A Totally and Completely Serious Guide to Endure and Not Die

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This blog originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on March 28, 2016. To continue reading the entire post, please click the link at the bottom of the page.

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the baby is sleeping through the night! Whether you were one of those blessed souls who endured years of nighttime feedings or one – whom all the enduring moms hate – whose precious lamb snoozed a full eight hours the first week home from the hospital, this is a day to be celebrated. Suddenly, with a few nights of uninterrupted sleep under your belt, the sun shines brighter, the birds sing more sweetly, and the world spins a little more gently in your well-rested world.

Just when you get to feeling like a real human being again, you start getting used to this “sleeping” thing, you get a little overconfident and take a trip with your tiny offspring. A few hours in the car, sleeping in a strange place, overstimulation from family or activities, and then you find yourself in the danger zone: enter night terrors.

If you are so lucky to have never experienced a child with night terrors, let me first congratulate you, and second I must warn you, because these little episodes have certainly earned the moniker “terror.” Imagine you are in a deep sleep – you know, the ones you never had before baby started sleeping so well – after patting yourself on the back for a great trip with your perfect little angel baby traveler. Suddenly you awake to a scream – nay, a blood-curdling shriek coming from your child’s room. Anticipating a knife-weilding intruder or the cat seeking revenge for eating its food, you run into baby’s room to find her standing in her crib, back pushed against the rail with her eyes wide open in a wild, frightened stare, screaming like the first time she met the Easter Bunny and thought it was Donnie Darko.


To continue reading the full post – and catch some great advice from the founder of helpmommy.com – please click here to visit the KMB page!

Creating a Summer Routine You Can Live With

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Today I am posting on the Knoxville Moms Blog about my ridiculous aversion to organization and how I am trying to overcome that this summer! Click here or on the link below to view the full post!

Congratulations, mamas, you have made it to the end! School is officially out in most of the area, and any stragglers are not far behind. For most families, this is the long-awaited and much-needed reprieve from the relentless routine of early morning wake-ups, late nights of homework and extracurricular activities, and endless obligations for class parties, school plays, etc. etc. etc. After nine months of the same-old, same-old every.single.day, parents and kids alike are ready to ditch the schedule and just relax.

I am among those moms who take relaxing a little bit too far, if that’s possible. If you’re like me, summer mostly consists of 10 weeks of utter chaos as kids stay up late, sleep all morning (or, if you’re a parent of littles, wake up at exactly the same time only exponentially more cranky), and days filled with moanings of “Moooooomm, I’m so bored!” Of course those weeks are speckled with fun-filled days of ridiculous, what-was-I-even-thinking chaos, such as overnight trips, zoo days when it’s 95 degrees and humid, swimming all day and expecting the kids to stay up for a bonfire, and visiting family who expect your children to act like well-mannered humans and not the pack of wild dogs you’re pretty sure you’re raising.

Of course not all of us live in this madness. Yes, there are some moms out there who run a tight ship when their little sailors return to the U.S.S. Homebound each summer. They schedule out their days with crafts, educational activities, play dates, and exciting outings. These are the moms who do science experiments, make their own fruit leather from scratch, and they might even BAKE with their children! (Good gracious, they’re superhuman!) Do a quick search on Pinterest for “summer schedule” and you’ll find them out there, simultaneously ensuring their kid is smarter and more well-rounded than mine and giving me an anxiety attack thinking about all the planning they must do. If you’re one of those moms, hats off to you, my friend, I simply cannot.

Where is the middle ground between these two extremes? Although I typically prefer unstructured play for kids, it is clear that with a new baby in the house (he was born the week before school started last fall) we really need to establish a routine for our family. I am very easily overwhelmed by planning and schedules, so the key for me has been finding a balance to create a summer routine I can live with that still keeps our family on track.

Below I’ve compiled some of the best – and most realistic – ideas I’ve found out there (obviously none of them are original; see the second paragraph about my typical summer) to give structure to your days and actually enjoy this season together.

Check out Knoxville Moms Blog to view the full post, complete with links, portables, and lots of great tips to create a summer routine you can live with!

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye (to Naptime)

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on March 10, 2016. To view the full post, please click the link at the bottom of the page.

I have been given a wonderful gift, friends, one which I do not take for granted. Or at least not anymore. Because for many years, I was blessed with predictable, consistent, deep, LONG nappers.

My daughter has always been the type to go to sleep when she’s tired, and girl needs that beauty rest. She took 2-3 hour afternoon naps through preschool, and she even napped for an hour or more after school through 1st grade! My sons are the type that would make me regret skipping nap time if I thought they could handle a full day at the zoo, so we surrendered to our life of strict routine, forever owned by that great clock in the sky that turns napless children into tiny werewolves after 4pm.

Of course, being a strict napping family meant we couldn’t make that 12:30 playdate, because we would be deep into our routine of tummy tickles and lullabies by then, and we simply could not compromise. We went to Disney World with my family a few years ago, and we had to leave after lunch to get in a quick three hour nap. Between the commute time and those ridiculous lines to get on the dadgum tram, we lost most of the day that we paid good money for, but it was worth it to not kill each other or ourselves before the day was out.

Those hours may have been inconvenient, but they were glorious. I cleaned and prepped meals and organized closets. I made crafts, read books, and let’s not forget that one week where I watched all six seasons of “Dawson’s Creek” on Netflix during nap time. (I have no regrets.) Best of all, though, I often actually napped during nap time!


To continue reading the full post, please click here to visit the KMB site! And rest well, mama. I hope you get a nap today!

Sorry Kids, No Pro Athletes Allowed

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on February 15, 2016. To continue reading the full post, please click the link at the bottom of the page!

If there’s one thing you need to know about Knoxville and sports, it’s that we’re Peyton fans around here. Last week’s Super Bowl victory wasn’t just a win for Denver; it was a win for our scruffy little city too. Peyton Manning is THE good ol’ boy of the Tennessee Volunteers, and while New Orleans may claim to be his hometown, we all know Rocky Top will always be home sweet home to him.

In an interview with Bill Cower, Peyton emotionally revealed that regardless of his plans for next season, he always wants to be remembered for his character. The Mannings know what it takes to get to the top, and hard work is at the top of that list, maybe even edging over God-given talent. Having the kind of skill, leadership, influence, and legacy that Peyton Manning possesses comes only from a lifetime of unwavering dedication to his craft.

But as a mom, that’s just not something I’m willing to let my kids do.

Don’t get me wrong; I think the kind of passion and commitment Peyton Manning and really all professional athletes have is amazing and honorable. I love the ones like Peyton, Tim Tebow, Reggie White, and Troy Polamalu, all of whom are incredible athletes and incredible human beings, providing fantastic role models for my children. I love the values taught by sports and all the potential for great relationships being part of a team. However, I also know that the type of commitment needed to make it to the pros starts early, doesn’t give up, and requires parental support to achieve the dream. And I know those are things I simply can’t or won’t do.


To continue reading the full post, please click here! And have fun with your kids, whether you’re on the field or in the backyard!