Hope for the Days When You Feel Like You Got Nothing Done

My eight-year-old always stops and says “hi” to his baby sister when we pick him up at the bus stop. He climbs straight over little brother, who blocks his way and clamors for his attention. But he lingers a while over Elise. He smiles and grabs her hand while she coos.

Our four-month-old is teaching us all the art of savoring. She’s showing us how to slow down a bit, to stay in those the little moments.

But oh, how I fight it. It takes an intentional choice to be present, to look my kids in the eye, and focus. To stop thinking about what I have to get done. To stop scrolling through my phone.

A few weeks ago I shared how I felt overwhelmed as I navigated life with three kids, but I think another translation of that statement is, “I’m not getting enough done.”

It’s how we base our worth, isn’t it? The dishes are out of the sink. Check. The laundry is in the washer. Check.

But what if we put a check mark next to the time we spent cuddling the baby? What if we added another item to our to-do list: roll around on bed with five-year-old.

What if we placed as much value on the time spent loving others as we do to getting that work project done?

When my firstborn was a baby, I didn’t savor the time. After leaving my full-time job where productivity was measured in numbers, I felt like I had no compass or boundaries. It took years for me to navigate a life with no commute or schedule.

There are still days when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. But every now and then, God gives me a glimpse into his heart. He shows me what’s important, even when I’m forgetful and stubborn.

Jesus was intentional about every moment he spent on earth, but he didn’t rush. And perhaps more importantly, he didn’t make people feel rushed either.

Last week I went through a short study highlighting seven things Jesus said before he died, and what struck me was this: He loved people right up until his dying breath. He didn’t check out emotionally or ignore the people who stood there mocking him and watching him die.

Even while he hung there and suffered, he thought about his mother. He made sure his family was taken care of.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

 John 19:26-27 NIV

Time spent loving others is never wasted.

When we take our last breath and the people around us look back on our lives, they won’t remember how clean we kept our house. And I’m not saying the never wash another dish, although that would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

They will remember the way we loved others. They will remember the relationships we formed and spent time cultivating.

With each child God gives me, he’s teaching me. And baby girl is teaching me how to savor. She’s teaching me how to love all over again.


Joining these link-ups: #ChasingCommunity

A Love That Pursues

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 NIV

It was easier for me to say nothing. I kept reasoning to myself that I didn’t want to create a rift in our relationship or cause unnecessary awkwardness. But the more I tried to make small talk, the more impossible it became.

Years of past hurt swelled in my heart. So with gentleness and restraint, I told my loved one how his choices affected me. To my surprise, he received it without bitterness or resentment.

What did surprise me was this: He didn’t know. He didn’t see how the ripple effect of his choices extended further than those he was in contact with on a daily basis. It affected his entire family, friends and loved ones.

As I look back on our conversation, I wonder how long he would have continued in oblivion if I’d said nothing. Years? A lifetime?

When I see a brother or sister veering off the narrow path God has for them, I often assume they know. I think they are aware of the consequences of their decisions and see the long-term effects, but often this isn’t true.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m honored to be sharing what these verses from James taught me over at Deeper Waters today. Click here to join us.

When “I’ll Pray for You” Is An Insult


Sometimes words said with good intention can be insulting. We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to comment on a friend or family member’s trials, triumphs, and everything in-between. But do we stop to think before we insert our like, love, or laughing face?

I will be the first to say I love emojis and use them often in texts and on social media, but I often wonder what all this instant, no-thought-required communication is really doing to our ability to communicate. Take, for example, the statement, “I’ll pray for you.” Or the comment I see more often, “Thoughts and prayers!”

Now, by no means am I saying we shouldn’t pray for others. Sometimes, as I stated in my previous post, it’s all we can do. And let them know you’re praying. It can encourage a person’s heart to know there are people rallying behind them in prayer.

But what if there is something else we can do? What about the times when someone desperately needs help, and we could be the ones God uses to provide it?

There are times when I see people on Facebook crying out for help. Sometimes, it’s a home that’s flooded and they need a place to stay. Or they’re sick and could really use a hot meal. The possibilities are endless.

If we have the resources and ability to help the person in need, are we really displaying the love of Christ by saying “I’ll pray for you,” and then carrying on with our lives? While I’m certain God is all-powerful and able to swoop down, make the person some soup and deliver it to their front door, do you think maybe that’s what he’s called us to do instead?


When Jesus walked the earth during his earthly ministry, he prayed. A lot. He and the Father were in constant communion and he often removed himself from others completely so he could be alone in prayer.

But I don’t recall a single time when someone walked up to him, begging for help, food or shelter, and he said, “I’ll pray for you.” He knew there was a time to pray and a time to act, and he wasn’t going to mislead others by confusing the two.

John, who was with Jesus during most of his ministry, says it like this:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18 NIV

Friends, prayer was never intended to be used as an excuse for inaction. And I am convicted. I am guilty of turning the other way when I know God was asking me lend a helping hand, but he is showing me that if we are to be his hands and feet, we must act. We must move. We must do something other than say, “I’ll pray for you.”

I know there are seasons when we are stretched thin between little ones, jobs and other responsibilities. Prayer may truly be the best we have to offer. I know there are also times when we aren’t the best person to help.

But if we are constantly turning the other way, we need to reevaluate. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask the question every person who attended VBS as a kid knows: What would Jesus do?

I can guarantee you, he would do more than sit. Let’s follow his example and do the same.


Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Tempted to Climb That Soapbox {Plus a Fun Giveaway}


I come from a long line of opinionated people. When you get my family together, there’s bound to be a clash of views, but most of the time we’re able to walk away with smiles and laughter.

Usually, the subject is as miniscule as college football, but every now and then it’s more serious. I remember one adventure when we were visiting a National Park in Moab, Utah and a family member who shall remain nameless insisted on taking an off-road route to see the arches. They were in a mini-van, but the route’s sign “highly recommended” a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Needless to say, after a few miles a park ranger coming in the opposite direction suggested we turn around. We were able to get back on the paved road and see all the main attractions without getting stuck, but there where a few times when the little van was scraping rock.

We’re able to look back on the incident now and chuckle, but disputes with loved ones don’t always end this way, do they? When we feel attacked, it’s difficult to put aside our emotions.

All too often, I see an issue as black and white when in fact, there are many shades of gray. I want to have the last word and race down an ugly path of pride and narrow-mindedness instead of trying to see the other person’s point of view.

Even when I’m speaking truth, I sometimes forget about love. Instead of trusting the Spirit to speak to someone’s heart, I try to chisel away at it with words that are callous and hurtful.

Friends, there is only one person who can open a person’s heart and mind to God’s truth. He is the Spirit, and he doesn’t speak through resounding gongs and cymbals. We are his vessels, but when we approach others with a voice of pride we accomplish nothing.


There is a reason why scripture warns about controlling the tongue so many times. Because it truly does have the power of life and death.

Whether the issue is big or small, we will never agree with everyone on everything. And you know what? That is good. We were never intended to. But we can learn to approach disagreements in a Christ-like way.

I am a work in progress and on this side of eternity, I always will be. Through the arguments and the heartache, here are three questions his Spirit prompts me to ask when my blood pressure rises.

  1. Do I love this person? This is a question my pastor asked a few years ago and it stuck with me. If the answer is “no” then walk away. Even if you are speaking truth, any words that are not spoken with love will accomplish nothing.
  1. Is this my pride talking, or am I speaking the truth out of love? If I can’t find scripture, wise counsel or experience to back what I’m saying, then I may be speaking out of a pure need to be right. And what’s right for me may not be right for every other person on the planet.
  1. Am I giving this person grace or exercising judgment? While it is healthy to create boundaries, there is only one person who sits in the judgment seat, friends. It isn’t you or me, but Christ alone. Let us hand over the gavel to the One who can handle its weight.

I know there will be days when I’m tempted to climb on my soapbox. But you know what? The words I preach from there seldom do any good, unless you count the boost to my ego.

Arguments will happen and tempers will flare, but we can control the way we handle ourselves. Let’s reflect the mindset of the Creator, even when we’re tempted to let callous words fly.



sept-16-giveawayAs a thank you to my lovely readers I’m giving away two fun gifts: a power bank, which can be used to wirelessly charge your smart phone, iPod, camera, etc. and a Hope & Joy mirror keychain! Just comment below and share this post for extra entries. (if you shared the post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. please let me know in your comment) I’ll announce the winner next Thursday! Giveaway is for U.S. residents only.




Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

HGTV, Pinterest, and the Things That Really Matter {Link-up}

hgtv and things that matter

I have a love-hate relationship with HGTV. And Pinterest. And all of those fixer-upper shows.

My husband and I moved into a fixer-upper several years ago, and while we’ve done a lot of cosmetic upgrades, there are still things I’d like to change. But life doesn’t stop for remodels and the kids don’t stop needing new shoes, so for now we pushed the pause button.

Most days I’m perfectly happy having friends over to eat in my 70’s kitchen. But every now and then, I hear those voices saying what I have to offer isn’t good enough.

It’s a dismal truth, but it’s there.

Those voices interrupted my thoughts several weeks ago when I was having a dear friend fly in to speak at our local MOPS group. She was staying overnight, and in the weeks leading up to her arrival we made some preparations to ensure she was as comfortable as possible.

I was excited to have her visit and for the chance to connect in person, since she lives several states away. That is, until I visited her home. A couple of weeks before her visit, I joined some friends at her house for a weekend retreat.

Her place was beautiful, and looked like a spread straight out of a Good Housekeeping magazine. Since her kids are grown, her floors weren’t perpetually sticky. Her windows weren’t smudged with fingerprints or dog slobber.

It short, it was perfect.

When she came north a few weeks later, her welcome was anything but perfect. As I was speeding down the highway to pick her up, the GPS drained my battery and my phone died.

I had forgotten my charger.

After finding her at the airport, I could not locate my car. We circled the parking garage on foot several times before discovering an airport car finding service.

I wish I was kidding. And yes, the service does exist.

It was like we were living an episode of Seinfeld, except I wasn’t laughing. I was worrying about my cell phone, getting home to pick up my son and making it to our MOPS meeting.

When we finally got back to my house, I realized we didn’t have time to eat the meal I had been so careful to put in the crockpot before leaving.

And in the midst of all the running around and the chaos, my friend didn’t complain. She was gracious and patient, and when we finally arrived at MOPS I realized something.

Her message was about making the most of the time we have with our kids, but the message God had for me was different.

As I sat there listening, I realized time is all we really have in this life.


We can spend it worrying about the age of our kitchen appliances or we can open our kitchens with love.

We can spend it stressing about having the perfect, Pinterest-worthy treats or we can savor the sweetness of each bite.

Yes, the details make a difference. I love a beautiful plate of food. But don’t let the details keep you from looking your guests in the eye. Don’t let them keep you from sitting down and having a conversation.

The perks of a magazine-worthy home can never replace the warmth felt within it.

I’m reminded of a poor widow the Lord asked to feed his prophet, Elijah. She and her son were about to eat their last meal, but at the word of God, she gave everything.

She gave what she had, and the Lord blessed her for it. (1 Kings 17:8-16)

God can take what we have and multiply it into much more than we could ask, think or imagine.

When I visited my friend’s home down south, it wasn’t the décor that left an impression on my heart. It was the welcome. It was the love. It was the what’s-mine-is-yours hospitality.

Those modern appliances? Well, I won’t tell you they don’t make you happy.

But I also know joy comes from a deeper place. A soul-level place. A belly laugh, strolls at sunset, tears over coffee type of place.

That’s the place I want to keep my eyes fixed on. It’s place I try to remember when the weight of this life tries to drown me in forgetfulness.


#RaRaLinkup Time!

1. Link up your inspiring & motivating post with the blue frog button below. (it will direct you to the linkup page)
2. Grab the Kelly Balarie & Friends button to display on your blog or just link back.

*Note: We will conclude our Rays in the Storm Series on Thursday. Thanks so much to all who have read, commented and contributed to a Spirit-filled series. You rock!

Be a Light By Showing Up (Link-up)

be the light

A season of lit trees and celebration was closing and I heard excited talk about picking your “one word” for the New Year. Piqued by curiosity, I reasearched and loved the idea of such specific focus instead of forgotten resolutions, unrealistic expectations and lists.

It seemed doable. Everyone was jumping in. So I followed suit and picked a word God had laid on my heart for months: see.

I thought about the ways I would explore the opposition between the seen and unseen in scripture and committed to searching for God’s light in the everyday. Driven by a desire to reawaken the wonder and the awe of his creation, I took time to notice things I’d often overlooked.

The crisp skyline of winter against the white, barren landscape. A solitary tulip peeking out from the frozen ground during the first glimpses of spring.

It was beautiful. I saw God’s grace in new, unexpected ways. But then another winter swept in and God seemed to hide himself behind a veil.

Clamoring for the peace of his presence, I prayed he would reveal himself.

Where are you, God? Show me your glory. Let me know you are here.

I perused the internet and found stories of terror and finger pointing. Then other news much closer to home hit. A friend was going through a personal tragedy and needed the support of our community.

In shock and grief I continued searching for the light and became frustrated. Both kids were sick, adding to my tiredness and defeat and I wondered why his presence eluded me. During a brief moment of peace and quiet, it hit me.

Sometimes we have to stop searching for the light to be the light.

Often, I think it’s easier to minister to those who are hundreds and thousands of miles away than those in my own backyard. Social media and the internet have made it increasingly easy to do so. And it’s amazing. It’s a tremendous gift. But it also can remove us from being a light to those who are right there on our doorstep.

It is much easier for me to click “send” than to sit in awkward silence or search for words to comfort a grieving mother. It is easier for me to sit behind a computer screen than to feel real emotion as someone weeps on my shoulder.

If I’m honest with myself, I know God calls me to the awkward. He beckons me to those who are lost and hurting.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.

Romans 12:15-16 NIV

Friends, God doesn’t call us to be perfect. He simply calls us to show up. And when we do, he meets us there.

Sometimes, we have to step out in faith even when we don’t think we have the right tools. Those are the moments when the Spirit steps in, takes our hand, and reaches through us. He reveals the Light in us, which was there all along.

We don’t see him, but we hope in the unseen.



Click the blue frog button below to be redirected to the linkup page.

When a Community Gives a Glimpse of Heaven (and an Opportunity to Help)

together as community

Every now and then, a community is given a chance to band together and support one of their own. They’re given a unique opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ extended here on earth, to show glimpses of his love in a tangible way.

Over the past two weeks, my little town here in Western Maryland has done just that. I’ve been overwhelmed watching people work as one to carry the burden of a mama whose load became too much to bear alone. You see, a friend and member of our community received news every parent hopes they will never hear, and when it became public, there was a single common response: “How can we help?”

I sat in front of a computer screen and watched people who didn’t know this family give with no expectation of anything in return. I saw forces rise up in the midst of a darkness we can’t comprehend and put the needs of another person above their own.

It’s moments like these that I’m proud to be a part of such a beautiful place nestled in the mountains of Maryland. I consider it an honor to walk alongside those who turn something tragic into an opportunity to show compassion.

When we give with no strings attached, we shine little glimpses of heaven here on earth.

And this, my friends, is a display of God’s love in its purest, most beautiful form, because it is the way he loves us.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:35 NIV

You may not know Emma, but she is a little girl who loves to play and laugh just like millions of other girls who are home this Christmas season. This three-year-old isn’t just strong, she is Emma strong, and a few weeks ago she was diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma), an inoperable brain tumor.

She is fighting. Her family is fighting with her and for her. But they can’t do it on their own.

If you feel led to give, this family could use every bit of support you have to offer. They are taking time off this holiday season to get their daughter the best care available, and to focus on what is most important: loving Emma.

May God bless you, keep you, and give you immeasurable peace and joy this Christmas as we celebrate the One who gave up everything so we could have the best gift of all: Him.


Click here to support Emma and her family:



How Do You Handle Hard Conversations? {A Guest Post}

life unstuck intro

Today we are continuing our 31 Day series by welcoming my beautiful friend, Kristi Woods, to the blog. I felt an immediate connection to Kristi’s writing when I discovered we shared the same struggles with the gypsy life. We’ve both moved all over the country, and encourage each other in our strides to build community and fight loneliness. She is a true gem and even though we’ve never met in “real” life, I hope one day that will change. Please welcome her today as she shares about a vulnerable experience with conflict.

Woods Family_0154

Kristi Woods is a writer and speaker passionate about seeing women walk deeper with God. She clicks her words of encouragement at http://www.KristiWoods.net regularly and is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions as well as on various blogs. Kristi, her retired-from-the-military husband, and their three children survived a nomadic lifestyle and have now set roots in Oklahoma. Connect with Kristi here: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

How Do You Handle Hard Conversations?

She exploded. The harsh words hammered at me.

The upset mama’s child was hurt. Mine, she insisted, was the cause.

Fiery darts were flying. My mama bear itched to roar.

I faced a choice. How was I going to react to the uncomfortable discourse?

Turn her off, run away?

Suffer in silence or rupture in anger?

Bellow with blame or let resentment reign?

I tried many of them in past situations. However, efforts of “my will” seemed only to result in a worse scenario.

Fruit isn’t borne in the land of our personal will. Maturity doesn’t mount on those plains. No, spiritual fruit flourishes when we utter and trust, “Thy will”, when we make a choice to react with righteousness, not emotions.

It’s not easy, offering “our will” at the cross, opening ourselves to change. But it’s necessary to grow in the Lord.

I survived the difficult conversation that day with God’s peace which certainly passed understanding. There were a few, self-induced bumps in the road later, a few tears too, but I’ll celebrate all day long God’s faithfulness in the midst of the conversation.

Here are three truths to remember for righteous responses:

1. Trust Trumps

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV

Our words are an offering opportunity. Syllables uttered with trust, set at the foot of the cross, are sweet smelling. They’re a beautiful aroma to our God. Trust in God trumps darkness any day.

Keep calm, Kristi. Keep calm. Just listen.

The internal dialogue kept me on the narrow way during the hard conversation. My own selfish will wanted to roar, to react. Truth consoled and took my hand.

Controlling others isn’t an option, but controlling “us” is. It’s all in Who we trust.

Abby McDonald guest post

2. Created in God’s Image

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12 NLT

Enemy! The tag is easy to give when fiery words fly. On the other side of those words, however, lives a person created by the same God as us. Created in His image, there’s an eternal plan for them, too.

The one hurling hurtful words is not our enemy. Darkness is.


3. Give Space for Grace

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 NLT

One thing is certain: We all sin.

There have been times when I was that emotional mama. Self-control flew out the window, trust too. A bigger issue often roars behind the scene, a lie birthing the sinful reaction. It’s much easier to give space for grace when we remember the battle.

In God’s faithfulness, He brings victory every time we trust Him with our hard conversations. He’s so good!

The encounter may still be messy. (Mine was.) Problems might not be resolved immediately. (The earlier mentioned one still isn’t.) But His peace will prevail. (It did… within me.) It might be a subtle, internal change, undetectable to many, but it’s a huge heart victory. It’s available to all of us when we simply trust, responding with God when handling hard conversations.


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

When We Lose Our Faith In Humanity

life unstuck intro

The words caught me off guard.

As I sat pondering them, I wondered if he was right. Deep in my core, I didn’t want him to be. I didn’t want to go through life questioning the intentions of every person I met. I didn’t want to always wonder if those close to me had ulterior motives.

But the sad thing was, I believed him.

“You shouldn’t trust anyone. Just trust in the Lord.”

I’d told him my trust was broken. In this season, I didn’t feel safe with anyone. I’d been violated in ways that were difficult for me to talk about and pain I’d buried for far too long was bubbling to the surface.

I didn’t expect him to confirm my doubts. I didn’t expect to be told to go through life an orphan, never believing in anyone or having faith in a love which goes beyond our own selfish motives. But that’s exactly what he did.

For years I went through life continually looking beneath the surface, searching for the selfish reason behind the generous gesture or the lie behind the cunning smile.

There is no place lonelier than the heart which trusts no one. And the sad truth about a lack of trust is that we will remain stuck in our walk with Christ unless we learn to see others the way he does.

We can focus on the work of Christ in others rather than the work we think they need.

We can focus on the log in our eye rather than the speck in theirs.


I’m not saying to be a doormat. And I’m not saying we don’t need boundaries. But God never intended us to walk through life alone, trusting no one but ourselves and him. He created us for community and unity amongst each other.

He made us for more than a life of isolation with walls so high we can’t remember where the foundation lies. Love goes beyond those walls and reaches out to the lost, the weary and the weak.

We love because that’s what we were created to do.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:7

Love perseveres, friends. Even when we have the breath knocked out of us, we continue to hope. Because the source of our hope goes beyond this lifetime into the eternal.

We trust our brothers and sisters because of the work being done in them. Our flesh may fail, but the Spirit of truth has sealed us for the day of redemption.

And our redemption was bought with too high a price for us to roam this earth as orphans.


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

Why We Don’t Need to Fix People

control freak

The realization came as a blow to both my pride and my false sense of control. He did not want me to fix it. He wanted me to let it go.

For months I’d offered opinions as much as I’d offered up prayers.

For months I’d judged behavior more than I’d offered love and support.

Sleepless nights left me seeking apologies from those closest to me. I knew they were not the source of the problem, but often our wailing falls on whatever ears will listen.

In the midst of my utter lack of control, I tried to keep a spotless home. One day in early fall a friend stopped by for an impromptu visit and remarked on how immaculate my home was. It the middle of the day, but everything was tidy and in its place.

She had no idea how chaotic my life felt. She didn’t know how in my current season, this house was the only place I felt peace.

There are few valleys more brutal than watching a loved one self-destruct. And while you desire nothing more than to offer a permanent solution, the only Fixer is not of this world.

True soul mending comes from above and within, not pat answers and easy formulas.

The best answer we can offer? Unconditional love. Though we draw a boundary to protect ourselves and our families, we let our brothers and sisters know we will love them no matter what.

We will be here when they come home. We will be here when they decide to call on the Name of the only one who can heal even the deepest hurt.

Jesus came to heal the sick so we could share his gift with others, not judge others.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Matthew 9:12 NIV

I think of how far he’s brought me far from the pit I was in, I know it is only by his divine grace that I am here. It is by his mercy that I am not still wallowing in my depression, my anger and resentment.

The only trait which distinguishes me is that I called on the name of Jesus when I was at my worst. And he transformed me into someone who could bring Light and life to those who don’t know whose name to call.

I want to be a Light-bearer, not a control-freak. Lord knows the world is much safer in his hands than mine. So today, I’m giving it to him.

I’m giving him the weight of the world. I can’t handle it on these frail shoulders anymore.

I’m trading my clenched fists for hands extended in praise. Because I know in his sovereign power and grace he can transform any heart and exalt it, in his time.

And time is something I don’t want to waste.


*Photo credit

*Linking up with #LiveFreeThursday and #GraceAndTruth. Come join us and be inspired.