When You Feel Criticized {A Guest Post}


Dear friends, I hope you will give my friend Kelly Balarie a warm welcome back to the blog today. Kelly just released her first book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, and today she is talking about a fear that hit me very close to home: fear of condemnation. The need to be right, and taking well-meaning advice as an insult. Perhaps you’ve been there? I hope you are as blessed by her words as I was.

When You Feel Criticized

We stood in the kitchen staring at each other. It was that moment, the moment we all hit, probably a thousand times a day. How will I respond? I had to decide.

Would I speak defensively, thereby covering my guilt and horrific mothering skills with platitudes and strong pleas regarding my goodness?

Of course, I was going to do more than this! I had big plans. You don’t know them.

Or would I, bow low, get real and listen to his words?

Yes, you have a point.

Two roads and, one, for me, is far less traveled.

I’ll admit: I am horrible at receiving new ideas and feedback. So, my husband’s comment suggesting a different type of breakfast? Well, umm… I took it as a rapid-fire slap in the face with a thick leather belt. Ouch!

It conveys: You did bad. You do bad. You always will do bad.

It reminds me I am probably the only mom on the block who goes frozen everyday – frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, frozen french toast – with a healthy dose of mom guilt whipped and delicately placed on top.

Push, then, comes to – shove back. Without a second for evaluation of response, I lean in and throw out: You don’t know. You aren’t in my shoes. You don’t have as much work as I do. You aren’t trying to manage laundry, lunch boxes and putting toddler clothes on squirming snakes, all before the clock strikes 7:30 AM (Imagine: Hands on hips!).

 I’m an expert at this talk: I divert his eyes, strengthen my stance, and deflect like crazy.

It’s not my fault. He pushed first. It’s his fault.

This is what I tell myself. He’s messing with my inner Martha Stewartness. How dare he? He pushed me!


It’s not easy to love when you’re throwing a virtual fit. It’s not easy to learn when your mind is totally against it. It’s not easy to grow when opportunities feel like an assault on your inner character.

He was insulting my character, wasn’t he?

I think about it more. The guy suggested I make another type of meal. That’s it.

He wasn’t saying I was a flunky. He wasn’t circling my fat (although it kind of felt like it). He wasn’t stamping me bad. He wasn’t acting mean. I was.

Have you found yourself so pushed, like me – that you shove? Do your words rush out from a place of worry – you’re not enough?

I’m certainly not one to judge you. Nope. Because I 100% understand you.

But, I’m also considering the consequences of my words, the divergent paths I can take when I stand at the crossroad of – what to say next…

If I go left, I go towards a pride-filled response: heated words, barriers rising, anger flowing, discouragement, frustration and guilt. Usually, it ends, at best, with me knowing I lied a little, but satisfied because I still got away with it. Or, at worst, it ends with the overwhelming guilt I am not only the worst mom, but also the worst wife.

If I go right, I can choose kindness and love. I can find an opportunity to grow, to learn and to take risk. It’s not easy, but I can receive hard words because I trust God will:

1. Help me believe my worth is based on his truth, not others opinions.
2. Equip me to do what he calls me to do.
3. Comfort me, even when I feel hurt.

God will do the same for you, you know? When we make space to hear God’s voice, our voice speaks differently…

We make space when we ask God: What do you want me to do here? Do I need to change? What do I need to see? How should I approach this scenario where my husband feels valued and so do I?

God’s love changes our capacity to love. What he speaks is not condemnation, but peace. And what he brings is not an overwhelming to-do list, but a lesson in letting go. We react differently. We smile. We nod our head. We sit down. And we laugh at the table with our family. And, if it’s me, we eat something non-frozen.


Interested in fighting fear? Join the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge!


About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com


kellypicKelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here.


What Does Casting Our Cares Even Mean?


Kids hear everything.

A few days ago I received a reminder of this. Even when we think they’re not listening or won’t be interested in the conversation, they hear. They pay attention. And yes, they take interest.

In the process of running my mouth to my husband on a phone call I thought was private, I transferred worry. My eight-year-old son who should be thinking about Santa Claus or how he’s going to finagle his next piece of candy was worrying about his baby sister instead.

Because I was worrying about his baby sister.

Our fears have a way of spreading, don’t they? Like they’re contagious. We think we’re carrying these burdens by ourselves, as though the weight of them may crush us. And then out of nowhere we see the weight is also being carried by others. Other loved ones. Other friends and members of the church body.

The crazy part though? It isn’t being carried in a way that lightens our load. We don’t feel any release. They’re anxious because we’re anxious. Instead of releasing the burden, we hold onto it, unaware of its virus-like effect.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m sharing over at Purposeful Faith today about what “casting our cares” means in real life. You can read the rest of my post here.

When You Feel Abandoned By God


“Well this isn’t how you prayed this moment would turn out.”

The thought passed through my filter of truth and circled my mind on repeat. I knew it was a lie, but I listened to it. I stood there with my four-year-old, who was starting a new school, and tried to hold back tears.

His own tears flowed freely.

“I want to go to old school,” he said repeatedly. The school staff gathered around, trying to calm him.

“Buddy, this is your school now. You’re going to have lots of fun and you get to go to school with Jay,” I said, faking composure.

Big brother stood beside us, cool as a cucumber. He told little one everything was going to be okay and talked about the things he was going to do with his class.

I looked at my firstborn’s cherub-like face with amazement. He was a little beacon of sunshine in this mess of a morning. A reminder from God that He was still there.

The guidance counselor distracted little one with a walk over to the school’s pet lizard and settled him. With her prompting, I snuck outside to my car, praying my baby’s day would improve.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing at PurposefulFaith.com about how God speaks in those times when we feel abandoned. You can read the rest of my post here

Don’t Settle for Safe

don't settle for safe 2

“God, take the decision out of my hands.”

I didn’t say the prayer out loud, but I may as well have. For months, I had gone back and forth over a life-altering choice that would change our family forever: whether or not to have another baby.

And every time I thought I’d decided, the endless trail of what-ifs froze me in my tracks. What if we lost the baby? What if the baby was born with a birth defect? Of course, I’d have to have another surgery and what if it didn’t go well?

So instead of making a decision, I remained in a state of inertia. The unknowns loomed over me like an unpredictable storm, and I my feet were stationary.

One day in early spring, something shifted. My mama instincts kicked in and I knew the possibility of new life was real. I could taste it. Fear and excitement overwhelmed me in alternating waves, and I spent the morning waiting to buy the test confirming my suspicions were right.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing the rest of my story over at Purposeful Faith. You can read the rest of my post here.


Note: We will continue our Rays in the Storm series on Tuesday, April 19th. I look forward to continuing our discussion!

don't settle for safe 3

Anticipating Grief: Embracing Grace in Oncoming Fear {Rays in the Storm Series}

rays in the storm series

To continue our Rays in the Storm series, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Jami Amerine. If there’s one word I’d use to describe Jami’s writing, it’s “real.” She says the things most of us want to say but are usually afraid to put out there, and I respect and admire her for it. She is truly one of a kind and gives fresh perspective to often difficult subjects. I thank God our paths crossed in the writing world, and I hope you’ll give her a warm welcome today as she talks about grace in the midst of a grief that goes deep.

Anticipating Grief: Embracing Grace in Oncoming Fear

My husband walked the floor with the little cherub.

She was perfect.

All of our last foster placements were boys.

It was a joy to have this doll baby in our home. And we came to serve, not be served.

But the truth is, I had wanted a little girl for a long time.

Not my will be done, but thine.

As my husband walked the floor with the pink bundle, he sang George Straight lullabies. She cooed and a tiny hand reached up and touch his beard. I saw her smile at him, he smiled back and continued to croon.

My heart lurched. My throat tightened. My eyes burned.

“Oh honey,” a whimper escaped my lips, “she will only be here for a while, don’t get…”

The words caught in my throat. How I hated when people told me not to get attached. Still, he was already madly in love with the wee Kewpie-like infant. Big blue eyes, black eyelashes, and rosebud lips.

Anticipating Grief- Embracing Grace in Oncoming Fear

She was perfect.

My husband turned abruptly and shot me a glare. “Don’t what?”

“I, I um,” I stammered. I knew it was nails on a chalkboard to him too.

Don’t get attached. Don’t get hurt. Guard your heart.

His dark eyes latched onto mine and he stated flatly, “She will be loved, FEARLESSLY.”

“You’re right.” I quipped.

And then… I went in my closet and wept.

I dread the hurt. I dread the grief. I dread the image of an unknown car pulling from my driveway with this little one strapped inside. I dread the empty crib. I dread a tiny sock that was lost… and then is found at the most inopportune time.

I dread missing her. I dread my husband, kind and dear… losing her.

In a heap on the floor and grieved for that which hasn’t come to pass, but that we signed up for. And I heard my whimpers, “not fair, why, and please no more.” And somewhere in the midst of heartache grace appears.

Scripture written on my heart breaks through the self-absorbed state of mourning. Yes, mourning that is mine. Mourning that is our family’s, but mourning that needn’t be celebrated yet. And I recite it out loud, although I cannot remember how it is possible I know it so well.

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

And I rise from my fetal position and wash my face. Showered in grace and a new breath of strength. I go to my husband and foster daughter and laugh. Weeping will come. I dance with them to country tunes, mourning is for later. Now is not the time to refrain from the embrace, now it is not the time to give up.

For every activity under the heavens, there is a time…

And with the fresh grace poured over me like living water I save grieving for such a time under heaven when the season is ordained. In this time of grace, I simply love; fearlessly.


job 1-21Jami Amerine is a wife and mother of 6-8 children. Jami and her husband Justin are foster parents and advocates for foster care and adoption. Jami’s Sacred Ground Sticky Floors is fun & inspirational. Jami holds a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (yes Home Ec.) and a Master’s Degree in Education, Counseling, & Human Development. You can find her crazy amusing blog at http://sacredgroundstickyfloors.com/ or check her out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sacredgrounds.stickyfloors/ or Twitter at https://twitter.com/jamiamerine



When the News Makes You Want to Run in Fear

When the News Makes You Want to Run in Fear

Until last weekend, I thought Siri could get me anywhere I needed to go. If I was unsure where an address was, I slid into the driver’s seat, stated my destination and waited for her monochromatic voice to tell me my next move.

That is, until my husband and I tried public transportation. On a weekend trip to D.C., we reasoned that driving anywhere would be difficult and expensive. Opting to take the metro, we parked thirty minutes outside the city and trusted a time-tested tool to direct us to the hotel: a map.

It turns out, if you don’t know which direction you’re going, maps don’t help out much. And if you’re unclear about your current location, they do even less good.

Thankfully, my husband and I are easygoing people when we’re on vacation and were able to laugh about the situation. We ran around stations all over the city, trying to figure out what we were doing and watching other tourists do the same.

But even while I was scurrying from one stop to the next, smiling and rekindling a connection with my love, my mind kept going back to the Paris attack. It had happened less than twenty-four hours before we left, and the news kept popping up at various places around the city.

In the hotel lobby.

In the art museum where our bags were searched.

In passing conversations, flitting in and out of earshot.

I knew this city was a likely target. As the train buzzed through tunnels underground, I thought how easy it would be for a suspect to hop onboard, undetected by anyone.

In a moving car flying down a track at over one hundred miles per hour, my thoughts raced with increasing speed considering all the possibilities. I had no map or compass to direct my endless brooding. It was scattered and aimless.

After spending the day touring various sites and snapping photos, we returned to the safe confines of our home. I pet the dogs and did laundry. And then I heard the news of a threat to D.C.

Immediately my thoughts became anxious again, until I remembered the map. I recalled our wandering and the need to find bearings.

I realized knowing our position made all the difference.

Until we define Christ as our starting point, all forward progress will be aimless. We can’t get anywhere worthwhile if we don’t know where our home is.

Everyday, we can turn on the news and see stories that make our hearts sick. And if we choose to dwell on the horror and evil of it all, we will begin questioning the One who doesn’t change.

In a world full of evil and corruption, he is still good.

In a city thick with chaos and confusion, he is steady and secure.

When we fix our eyes on the Author of our hope, our steps are sure because we know where they’re going.

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 59:16 NIV

We can keep singing because we know this world is not our home, and we can keep praying because we know the same God who spoke the planets into orbit hears each and every one. Mark your home base, friends. Draw an “x,” a circle, or whatever you have to do to remember.

And then know that no matter what, it can’t be moved.


Linking up with these beautiful communities: #RaRaLinkup, Intentional Tuesday, and #TellHisStory

It Is for Freedom {A Guest Post}

life unstuck intro

When I first read Tiffany’s writing, I knew nothing about her except that she captivated me with her ability to weave a story and string together words. Since I reached out and commented on her blog, she’s become a dear friend and encourager and I thank God we crossed paths in the blogosphere. I hope you’ll give her a warm welcome today as we talk about how sometimes the familiar can become what enslaves us and keeps us stuck.

Tiffany headshot - blog1

Tiffany is a wife and mom who dwells in the sunshine (and smog) of Southern California. She’s a lover of words who purposes to use hers to speak God’s truth with grace and authenticity. More than that, she longs to provide a safe place for others to do the same. You are invited to join her word-by-word journey through the mountains and valleys of faith at her blog, Simply for One, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

It Is for Freedom

I heard the story of a man who, after thirty-five years in prison, was finally released. For decades his every move had been bound by law, and finally he was free to explore life. But after thirty-five years of rigid routine and structure, he struggled to adjust to his new found freedom. In desperation, craving the familiar confines of his former limitations, he robbed a local mini-mart. When police arrived, he surrendered to them and shortly thereafter was returned to prison.

He willingly gave up his freedom to return to what he once knew. Unbelievable.

And then it occurred to me: I do the same thing every day.

As a believer, my freedom has been purchased with great cost, my ransom paid in full. I’ve been redeemed from the bondage of sin by the blood of Christ. But my shackles are never further than my own back pocket.

And all too often, I pull them out, slip them on, and chain myself to burdens that aren’t mine to bear.

When I allow doubt to diminish the calling God has set before me.

When fear robs me of opportunity to exercise faith.

When comparison steals the identity that God has written over me.

When the pursuit of perfection and approval of man take precedent over God.

It’s like I walk right back into a prison cell and slam the door shut behind me. It’s as if I take Christ’s freedom gift and hand it back to Him unopened.

When I willingly set aside liberty to entertain slavery, it’s the equivalent of saying Christ’s life wasn’t worth my freedom.


For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 ESV

Christ HAS set us free. It isn’t a future promise. It’s not a condition we have to meet. Freedom isn’t offered to us once we complete a list of required tasks, or prove ourselves worthy. We don’t have to wrestle to receive it. Our freedom is a complete work.

Christ has set us free, and so … WE. ARE. FREE.

Stand firm therefore. Our frame is fragile, weak even. We so easily relinquish the freedom in God’s fought for promises to embrace satan’s slippery lies. And God knows how easily we fall prey. It’s why He tells us to come to Him when we’re weary, to seek Him when we need rest.

His yoke is STILL easy. His burden is STILL light. 

Jesus doesn’t want us to live in chains. He wants us to experience the freedom of forgiveness, the grace of an unburdened walk beside Him, and the gentle touch of His guiding hand. But He also wants us to fight for what is ours. To stand fast in faith. To lock our knees, dig in our heels, and refuse to give up that which He gave His own life to obtain for us.

Christ has set us free, so that we will LIVE free.

We can’t settle for less. The fullness of freedom was purchased for us on a cross. Abundance of life was bought at a price we can never repay. A life lived in shackles is not a life lived for Christ.

Christ has set us free. And whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.


*This post is part of the #Write31Days challenge. You can find all posts for this series here.

Stuck in the Safety Net

life unstuck intro

When life gets hard, I tend to navigate to one of two extremes. Let’s call them “hyper-busy mode” and “bubble mode.”

In hyper-busy mode I clean my house until it is spotless. Since I can’t control anything else in my life, I attempt control my environment by creating a crumb-free kitchen floor and a shining toilet bowl.

Hey, I never said this method made sense. It’s just my natural response to the storm brewing outside.

Then there’s bubble mode. With this response, I watch marathons of my new favorite shows on Netflix and numb myself to the world. When I see news that breaks through my façade of oblivion on Facebook or the internet, I exit the app and curl up with a book or my new favorite, a cro-dough. (If you have not tried this delectable treat, which is half croissant, half donut, do yourself a favor and run to Martin’s)

Do either of these extremes work? Temporarily, yes. But here’s what I’m learning, slowly and imperfectly.

God does not call me to a safe-zone life. He never promised my walk with him would be pain and trouble free.

When I take the flight response to chaos and refuse to fight for the freedom Christ promised, I get stuck in fear and insecurity. I let my environment dictate my happiness and forget that the source of all joy goes beyond this world, these circumstances and season.

This month, I had to remind myself where my peace comes from. My family is going through a season where the future is uncertain, financial concerns mount, and stress continually threatens to take over.

There have been days where I can relate to the disciples in Matthew 8, when Jesus decides to take a nap during a storm described as being, “furious,” overtaking the boat.

Lord save us! We’re going to drown!

Matthew 8:25 NIV

 Yes, men. I feel your frustration. God, what are you doing? Are you asleep? Do you see what’s going on?

And yet, Jesus was completely calm and actually rebukes the men for having so little faith.

“Why are you afraid?” he asks.

Matthew 8:26

I think at this point the disciples must have looked at Jesus in shock and disbelief. I mean, seriously? Who would ask such a question?

Only the one who can calm the storm with one breath.

So the question becomes this. Do I believe God is still in control? Do you?


Faith based on a trouble-free existence isn’t faith. It is worship of “the good life.”

There is no doubt that storms will come. And when they do, we have a choice. We can ignore them or become hyper-busy, as I often do, creating a safety net of our own oblivion and spotless kitchen floors.

Or, we can fix our eyes on the one who remains constant, unwavering and sure in the midst of all uncertainty. Our circumstances may not change, but our outlook can.

We can stay stuck in fear and uncertainty, or take God’s hand on a wild adventure.


*This post is part of the #Write31Days challenge. You can find all posts for this series here.

*Linking up with #CoffeeForYourHeart and #LiveFreeThursday.

When You Want to Hide From Fear

bicycle 2

All I wanted him to do was pedal.

I pleaded and coerced, ran behind the bike and offered words of encouragement.

“You can do this. You know how. Just keep going.”

But as soon as I let go of the seat, his feet went down. Every time, without fail. And as much as I tried to hide my frustration, I knew it was as obvious as the sweat gleaming on my face.

I wanted him to succeed at this, but I couldn’t do it for him.

We put the bike away for a few weeks and he went back to racing his Dodge Viper around the cul-de-sac. Yes, my six-year-old was driving a nicer car than his Mama, complete with a rechargeable battery, radio and gear shift.

Little brother rode shotgun, occasionally grabbing the wheel and crashing the car into the overgrown flowerbed. A loud mixture of laughter and aggravated shouts poured out of the vehicle.

I buried myself in my latest copy of Hello, Darling and told myself the training wheels would come off eventually. He wouldn’t start high school with them on, right?

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing what God showed me about fear over at PurposefulFaith.com. You can read the rest of my post here.

How Do You Let Go of Fear?

perfect light

I awoke from the dream covered in sweat, trembling. Where was my phone? I needed to call my in-laws.

Yes, that’s where the kids were. Were they okay? Had something terrible happened?

Perhaps this was God’s way of telling me about some impending tragedy. I couldn’t get the visual of the body bag out of my head. Everything trickled in and out of my subconscious but was so real, so palpable. I grasped my surroundings to remember where I was.

My mother-in-law immediately texted me and told me the boys were fine. I sighed and my body relaxed little. It was the morning after a weekend blogging conference and I busied myself with packing and checking my flight itinerary.

But no matter how much I occupied my hands and feet, I could not occupy my mind.

For days, the images flitted in and out. I analyzed possible meanings and wondered if the enemy was plotting an attack.

My mind went down an endless trail of what-ifs. God’s grace was nowhere to be found in my endless wandering around the land of the unknown.

When I considered telling others about the dream, I held back, thinking I’d be judged. Or perhaps, even worse, my fears would be confirmed.

Over the next few days, my thoughts were consumed. I was convinced something catastrophic was going to happen and I braced myself for it.

One morning as I sipped coffee and checked email, dear friends sent voice texts back and forth. After our usual pleasantries the topic shifted. Here was my opening. They were discussing fear. Still, I hesitated.

When you bring your worst fears out into the open you have to encounter the worst one of them all: the fear that they are real. With everything in me, I longed for this not to be the case.

With obvious uncertainty, I told my story. I brought my burden before my sisters and relayed all the horrific details of the nightmare. And instead of judgment, I received love.

God’s perfect light cannot cast out fear which is left in the dark.

When we bring our worries out into the open, the body of Christ can speak life into us and help us see the truth. They show us that fear is not of God, but of the one who wants us to live my life in a state of paralysis and what-ifs.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

Friend, if you’re struggling with fear today, I encourage you to bring it to your Heavenly Father. He already knows, and is more than capable of easing your anxious mind. And then, tell someone else you trust to help you gain perspective. It’s amazing how often our mind exaggerates situations which are beyond our control.

That afternoon, as I stepped out of the dark and into his glorious light, I saw everything around me more clearly. No weapon formed against me would prosper. No, I was safe in the arms of the Father.

Stepping out into the lingering warmth of summer, I had spring to my step for the first time in days. And the view was magnificent.


*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.