Monday, September 11, 2017

Unequally Yoked

There are times in my life when self reflection comes and I completely karate chop it away.
Who really wants to pick apart the worst parts of themselves?
And then I start to realize it really isn't about ME anyway. It's something greater brewing. It's usually God tapping me on the shoulder saying:
Hey there. Ummm,'re pretty much a butthole. Get it together.
I'm not really sure how else to describe it because I feel like God places a firm grip on my shoulders and makes me EXTREMELY self aware.

*which I pray my children feel this as they grow and mature because I'll tell you they are very unaware of themselves, currently, and let's just say I pray it for them every day*

Being extremely self aware for me is my first red flag that I need to reel myself in.
And by reeling myself in I mean basically just submerging my thoughts and feelings into deep prayer.
Having a large, young family makes it hard to find time for friends and I've definitely been very guarded with whom I spend my time. Mostly because my time is so limited (and by this I mean time spent apart from wiping a bootie, being a personal chauffeur, cheering at sporting events, cleaning up my house, packing lunches, snuggling sleepy kids, laundry, get the point).
I cherish these times so much because they are fleeting and before I blink my kids will be grown.
But I've also been thinking about how important it is to make deep, connecting, relationships with people who are living life in my same season.
This is where it gets tricky.

I've always read this verse and immediately thought of marriage:

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.””
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:14-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

But, for the past week I've been really digging and reading applying this to friendships as well.
What even is being unequally yoked?

Think of an ox with his yoke pulling a cart. If there are two ox then they are yoked together pulling a cart in the same direction. If one ox makes a poor choice and goes in a bad direction then the other ox follows.
Surrounding yourself with those who can help keep you accountable and encourage your spiritual growth is absolutely important. (So you aren't pulled down a path you shouldn't be going).
But on the flip side, God calls us to go out and be a light!
On the surface this seems confusing.

Basically: stop pretending that your every day life is Unimportant for eternity.
Where you invest your time is important.
Every single day is not guaranteed. So am I living my life loving people, serving others, witnessing to others through how I live my life?!
Am I surrounding myself with others who make me a better person?
Complacency is a scary place to be!
I'm tired of living each day like it doesn't really matter.
Because it totally does matter.
The words that come out of my mouth matter.
My body language matters.
Having meaningful conversations matter.
Living with purpose each and every day matters.
You can't live in a bubble surrounding yourself with only people who meet you where you are spiritually.

However, finding your core group of people who challenge you, hold you accountable, and help feed your soul with scripture is absolutely necessary.
That's why being unequally yoked in relationships is tricky.
Using discernment in friendships is super important to me.
Learning how to make sure you keep your spiritual soul health where it should be is a balancing act.
It's so easy to fall in to a routine of being unaware of how your every day conversations and actions (& posts on social media) can come across as self glorifying, arrogant, and basically ammunition for every nonChristian you come in contact with to say:
This is exactly the reason Christians are the worst kinds of people, they preach one thing but live their lives completely mocking all they believe in to be true.

I suck at a lot in my life.

One of the major areas I suck at is being a perfect Christian.

I don't expect my friends to be perfect Bc I am nowhere near perfection.

BUT: Being unequally yoked to a friend or two leads down paths that encourage us to make poor choices.

Listen. One day you're going to need this core group of friends. You never know what life will throw at you.

And these relationships built through toddler tantrums, chasing preschoolers, a glass of wine on your back porch while all of your kids play outside, sitting in freezing cold wind watching your kids play baseball, kids pooping and puking in their preschool class, praying for each other in the middle of a sleepless night, and one ZILLION text messages that would seem completely psychotic & bizarre to others...

These are YOUR PEOPLE.

Hang on to them for dear life.

Wrap your legs around them & never let go.

The extra effort it took to get where you are is worth it.
I've learned a lot over the last 12 years since becoming a Momma. Lord knows I don't know it all. But, I know it matters who you hang around. It matters who you share your soul with and it matters if these people meet me where I am spiritually and encourage me to keep growing.
There are different types of friendships and it took me a long time to figure this out.

I'll never be so shallow that I'll only hang around 'like minded' people. That's completely the opposite of what we are called to do by God. 

But, I do know that there are only a few people whom I will 'yolk myself to' and these relationships have different expectations.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored. As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:17-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Praying for Roots: The West View Story

Miracle stories are my favorite. I especially love the ones that involve the actual, audible Voice of God like this one stick with me to get to the good part. I have only shared this story before with a few close friends, but I have felt that pull and tug all week that someone, somewhere really needs to hear this story today. But to understand the Glory, you need a bit of...


When I moved to North Carolina in 2004 I started praying for roots. I had moved around every few years in my teaching career due to redistricting, relocating, and changes in funding. As a reading intervention teacher, that happened again in 2007 right before Evan was born when my position lost funding at Vance Elementary. I made the choice to transfer to Creech Road Elementary so that I could continue to work as an intervention teacher since I was about to have my first baby. Two years and one more baby later, I lost funding again and moved to Kingswood Elementary in Cary and ended up back in the regular classroom teaching 3rd grade for the first time. I had taught kindergarten and 1st grade but this was a new experience for me. 

Those two years at Kingswood were exceptionally tough.  I had two toddlers, I was driving 45 minutes to an hour (depending on traffic) each way to and from work, my husband was unemployed the entire two years that I worked there, and I missed my reading intervention job. I also was hospitalized for a period of time following several surgeries during both years and almost died. Twice. 

All of that led me to take a position as the preschool director at my church the following year. I adored that job and the people that I worked with. Unfortunately, that was not what God had planned and the preschool closed after only one year. During the closing transition, I was asked to stay on as the church´s children´s ministry director. I loved working for newhope church and certainly needed employment so I agreed to do this and also worked as our pastor´s administrative assistant so that my position could be full time, which my family needed very much. 

Throughout that summer it became very apparent that the proverbial ends were not meeting. We had no insurance, our mortgage had not been paid in several months, and we were simply waiting to see if our house would fall into foreclosure. The unpaid bills from my hospital stays from the last two years just kept piling up as well.

One day in July, my husband looked at me and said, ¨You´re going to have to go back to public school.¨

I didn´t know whether to be sad or angry or just plain worried. I didn´t want to be a teacher anymore. I had given away most of my teaching supplies. I believed that this was what God wanted me to do. And selfishly, I WANTED to be in vocational ministry. I loved working for my church.

But my husband was telling me to go back to public school. And the bible says that wives should submit to their husbands. As much as I detest the word submit, my heart had been working hard to do what was biblical and God was telling me to listen. So I did.

In the back of my mind I thought maybe I could still work part time at the church and part time for the public schools...but...


When God has a plan, it will not be hard to follow if you make the choice to listen. Evan was already registered for kindergarten at our neighborhood school so I knew where I was going to apply first. Even though I had been sending applications to this school every year since he was born with not so much as an email response, I knew that this would be the school where I would work one day. I knew this because God told me so. I just didn´t know when it would happen. There were NEVER posted openings at West View Elementary prior to a few years ago. And when I say never, I mean never. West View opened in 2006 and is definitely a preferred school in our area. It´s difficult to get a job there and I do not say that lightly.

I looked on the Johnston County Schools website that afternoon and there it was, one classroom teacher position opening. And do you know what grade it was? The one grade level I never in my life wanted to teach. Fifth grade, of course. But I submitted all of my online credentials, updated my resume, printed some out, and got myself ready to deliver one in person the next day.

Around lunchtime the following day I hopped in my car with a dress on, left work, and drove over to West View Elementary. I approached the secretary and asked if I could speak with the principal. She told me that she was in an interview but that I was welcome to wait if I would like. So I did.

As I waited I could hear the conversation going on from the principal´s office. They were happy, comfortable sounds. Not the sounds of an interview. There was much laughter. I was not convinced that it was an interview at all but if it was, it certainly sounded like it was going well.

After about fifteen minutes, the secretary asked if I´d like to leave my resume with her. ¨No ma´am,¨ I said, ¨That´s ok. I´ll wait.¨ And I continued to sit and listen. 

After another fifteen minutes or so, the secretary asked again, ¨Are you sure you don´t just want to leave your resume?¨

That is when I heard God speak. He said,¨Don´t move. You need to look her in the eye and shake her hand.¨

Yes, Lord. Then that´s what I´ll do.

¨No Ma´am,¨ I answered. ¨I´ll wait. I don´t mind. I´d like to introduce myself to Ms. Johnson. My son will be going to kindergarten this fall as well,¨ I improvised.

Finally, the young lady from the interview came out. I smiled at her as she passed by and the secretary took my resume back to the principal. I heard my first words ever from Ms. Lorrie Johnson float out from her office, ¨How do you say THAT last name?¨

I laughed to myself and thought that at least she wouldn´t forget me.

Lorrie came out and I stood up and shook her hand and introduced myself. She asked if I could come back the next day for an interview at 10:30. ¨Yes, ma´am, I will be back tomorrow. Thank you for the opportunity.¨

I walked out the front door with the hair on my arms standing up and the overwhelming feeling that the job was mine. I called my husband on the way home and told him that I knew I was going to be hired. 

Days later, after waiting for a very backed up HR to extend a job offer, I learned a very amazing thing from one of the teachers that had been in the interview. Prior to me walking in that day, the team had already made a decision on who they were going to hire. If I had not shown up, resume in hand, waiting in that office at that exact moment, I would never have had a chance. 

I clearly remember one question that the team asked me that day: After being in reading intervention and working in ministry, why do you want to teach 5th grade? My answer was: Because I want to work here. That was good enough for them. I think that was what sealed the deal. I knew that West View was God´s plan for my family and was so sure about it that I was willing to do whatever it took to make His plan happen. Even teaching 5th grade. 😏 They knew it was His plan, too.

In that interview, I also found out that Lauren could join us in the pre-K class at West VIew that year. And so began the planting of roots that I had been praying for since before my babies were born. God answers prayers in His time. He is so Good and His plans are exactly what we need. Beginning our sixth year together, there is an even more important reason that the three of us are still together at West View....I may not be able to update on that for a few months but I promise it will be worth the stay tuned!

Our first, first day all together - September 2012 and our last first day all together - August 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

Here comes THAT FAMILY

There are a lot of times when Im packing ALL of my kids up to go to a weekend of basketball or baseball and I think, whyyyyyyyy?!?! Why am I doing this?

It makes me giggle because sometimes I forget we are quite the circus. Im so used to the chaos and constant chatter that I can't even hear it. (Kdog doesn't do quite as well at this. ha).

This is how I envision us walking up in to a basketball or baseball tournament for the ENTIRE day:

We tend to take up a lot of room. And sometimes my little kids get whiney towards the end. But, Kdog and I decided it was worth all the inconvenience because of a few things that we have experienced in our lives as children and as young adults.

We are THAT family. The one who loads up all the litter and drags them across the valley.

We are THAT family who has dinner together on Friday nights and drags the entire crew to catch the last hour of baseball practice in the batting cages.

We are THAT family who actually likes each other.

Time is precious.

Unfortunately, when Kdog was 12 he lost his Father to colon cancer. When you go through something like that and then have your own children you really realize how time is precious. Tomorrow is never promised and while we have the opportunity to be together we are going to do it. Even if it's hard and inconvenient.

SO many times we've looked at each other in the car on the way home from a long day of sports and just smile (but a lot of times we look at each other and mouth cuss words). Our saying is "at least we were together!" (and sometimes that looks like Kdog yelling at our youngest to get out of the dugout and me chasing 1,436 pages from a coloring book across center field that our daughter decided to throw into the wind). But, hey...we were together!

For our family, being together is one sure way to help us stay together.

I know it may seem odd but Kdog and I actually like each other. We choose to spend time together whenever we can. He's totally hilarious and goofy. He's intense and loud. He's caring and selfless. And that's something I will never take for granted. But I also know we have to work at our marriage every single day. Because raising kids is HARD and DISTRACTING. Sometimes we find ourselves slipping in to a rut and routine that isn't where we want to be. So, we slap each other and get back on track (hahaaa, just kidding. I just slap him.).

This article below is such a great reminder to focus on the NOW and to cherish and build your relationships with the people you love. Kdog sent this to me this morning and I thought, how appropriate!!!

Spending time together as a family helps us keep our bond strong. It's so easy to run around in our own circles and wave to each other as we walk in and out of the door. Believe me, we have had to divide and conquer. Its a new skill we have acquired this past year with three playing on teams (and eventually a fourth! Thank you to my village, in advance, for all of your help.). We go in so many opposite directions during the week that it makes me dizzy. For our family, we can't go in so many opposite directions on the weekend too. It's a sure way to distance ourselves from one another even more.

Our promise to one another is that we are going to protect our marriage during this crazy, running around, busy, kid raising season.

Because it is a SEASON.

And, heck, when this season is over I still want to know who my husband is and get to enjoy him immediately!! I don't want to have to spend years finding out who he is and wondering if I even still like him. It happens all the time. (personally speaking, my own parents, so I do know first hand how hard it can be!).

And for us, this means being together on the weekends and at all day tournaments supporting our kids and dragging the entire litter along even when it seems absurd to everyone else. 

Our kids are with us for such a short time. And the amount of time I spend with them matter to me. I refuse to get sucked into becoming my children but I'm sure as heck going to show them that they are worthy of my time. Modeling this to my kids is important to me. I want them to know they are worth the struggle. And by's a freaking struggle sometimes.

I mean, don't you enjoy taking your four year old poop in a port-a-john at baseball games?!?

Having kids is certainly going to make you learn about sacrifice and compromise.

But, we've decided it doesn't have to make us sacrifice and compromise our marriage in the process.

To all of the families out there who are just trying not to completely go bonkers and keep your family unit a float...

I FEEL YOU.  And I also applaud you!!

This isn't something that a lot of people talk about. But it is a HUGE struggle for so many families.

There are so many families out there who have one parent that takes on most of the load. And I want you to know, that if that is you, your effort and consistency is instilling great things in your children.

I naively knew how hard it would be to raise a family and keep my marriage a priority.

I knew it would be hard. But I had no idea it would be THIS HARD.

You don't quite realize how complicated it is and how society as a whole doesn't quite understand families who prioritize their relationship ABOVE ALL ELSE.

We are all encouraged to enroll our kids in this and in that, more sports, more classes, more opportunities, more more more.

But what are we really doing?

What are all these activities really doing to better our kids and ourselves?

I just don't know.

Ok, yes, I do know.

Most of these activities are actually awesome. And they teach our kids self discipline, character building, how to have relationships with others, etc...

So don't get me wrong.

Activities are good!!

But we've had to really draw the line in the sand to say, ok, this amount is ENOUGH. And sometimes our kids are going to get backlash or less playing time. (Statistically the odds of one of my kids excelling in a sport outside of high school is pretty low. Sorry, kids! Genetically you are destined for mediocrity.).

But I hope and pray that in the end, when my kids are grown, that they can look back and realize their parents made family a priority and felt like they were worth more than an activity to run them to.

What can we really take with us when we die? Trophies? Social status? Job Title?

None of it matters in the end.

Except our relationship with The Lord.

Teaching my kids to love the Lord, their family and friends, and then themselves are my main goals.


The harsh reality in my life that nags me daily is that my kids will model my example. I can fill them up with all kinds of words. My advice means nothing if I don't follow it up with living it out in my own life.

If my life behind closed doors doesn't match up to the show I put on for other people then why on earth would they listen to my advice anyway?

SO, I'll continue to load everyone up, pack a zillion snacks, coloring sheets, and say a sweet prayer that I don't lose my mind too awfully badly (because I WILL lose my mind a little. And if you say you don't lose your mind on your kids, ever, then you are a liar.).

It will be worth it.


Making my family and marriage a priority is worth the struggle.

The advice I give my kids today surely should be visible to their little eyes tomorrow as they watch me living this crazy, chaotic, amazing life.