To the stressed-out Christmas mama…

Dear Stressed-out Christmas mama,

Oh precious maker of Christmas magic; you who thoughtfully chose gifts, decorate cookies, hang garland, applaud at Christmas pageants, hang out at the grocery store more than your own kitchen, and fearfully watch your checking balance dwindle; I promise you that what you’ve done is enough.

It is enough.

You can breathe.


Sit down.

And know that it is enough.

In this home stretch—this Christmas Eve eve—our tendencies as makers of Christmas magic is to do just a little more. Buy just a little more. Make just a little more. Plan just a little more. Wrap just a little more. Run hard at the very end to ensure our people have a wonder-filled Christmas morning. And yet more often than not our sprint toward the finish line adds nothing but stress, fatigue and resentment.

And so today let’s make a pact to take Christmas Eve back! To allow truth to seep into our souls—the truth that there has only been, and will only be, one perfect Christmas and one perfect Christmas gift. And so the pressure is off!! We can’t add to perfect. And we can’t outdo the perfect Christmas. So let’s not even try.

In fact, think about that first and only perfect Christmas for just a minute:

There was no beautifully decorated house. No garland. No twinkling lights. No stockings hung from the mantle. In fact, there was no house! Only a barn. And no Yankee Candle from which wafted the scent of evergreen Christmas meadow. Nope, the only scent wafting was ode de cow manure!
There were no matching pajamas. Only strips of cloth wrapped around a wiggling baby.
There was no feast to be found. No cookies to be iced, and no cider to be warmed. Only two parents watching their new son in awe and wonder.
There was no Pinterest worthy table set to welcome dinner guests. Yet, guests did come and they were in fact welcomed. Guests who most likely smelled no better than the animals napping in the barn.

No, nothing about that first Christmas would have ended up in a magazine spread.

And yet it was in fact perfect. Absolutely gloriously perfect.

And so to my fellow makers of Christmas magic, this year let’s let ourselves off the hook!

We can give gifts without feeling the pressure of giving the perfect gift! We can entertain guests knowing that at least we aren’t moving a cow over to make room for our aunt! We can say “maybe next year” to those things we didn’t get done this time around.

So let’s agree that:

Whatever gets done is what will be done, and that is enough.
Whatever gets cooked will be what is cooked, and that is enough.
Whatever gets decorated is what will be decorated, and that is enough.

For the truth is—the glorious, unchanging, light-shining truth—it is enough because He is enough.



And ponder the Who of Christmas. For as you ponder the Who of Christmas you might just find that the what doesn’t matter quite as much.

Much love and Merry Christmas,


“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14


Why I am trying so hard to avoid the “S” word this Christmas….

And no, it’s not that “S” word!!! (although I do try to avoid that one too! 😉 )

Nor is it Santa (although who knew that word could be quite so controversial in certain circles!!)

No, the “S” word that I am trying so hard to avoid this year is the word…..SHOULD.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I should put up more decorations.
I should buy more gifts.
I should bake cookies with my kids.
I should want to bake cookies with my kids.
I should make 18 side dishes to go with the turkey, ham and roast beef I am serving to my group of 7!
I should feel happier this Christmas.
I should put up cute graphics with my blog post! 😉
I should…I should…I should….

Maybe it’s my age (after all I am finding my 40’s to be so incredibly freeing!!), but as my mental “I should’s” began to kick into high gear this Christmas season, I found myself suddenly asking:

Says who????

Who says that I should buy more, do more, feel more?

Seriously? Who?

I pondered the internal list of should’s and realized that I was the one saying what I should do. So doesn’t it stand to reason that I could also be the one to tell myself to shut up?!?!

And so I did!

And oh my word y’all! It felt amazing!

So many “should’s” have crept into my Christmas over the years.

Some of them are related to traditions (and yet most of those traditions were things that no one even really missed!!).

A lot of my “should’s” come from the ding dang Hallmark Channel! (oh Hallmark Christmas movies how I love you! but how you cause me such angst when I can’t decorate my home like a movie set, or when my people don’t follow the heartwarming script I’d gladly provid, or when my neatly tied-up happily ever after doesn’t happen. And so I will continue loving you and your sappiness, but dear Lord I will stop trying to expect my life to mimic you!).

And still other “should’s” come from my desire to want to look like I have it all together—the joy filled maker of Christmas magic whose heart is at all times awash with the glow of the wonder of the manger and whose inner soundtrack is at all times tuned to “O Holy Night.”

Well, this year I surrender.

There will be traditions that go undone.
There will be pain-in-the-neck-to-hang garland that goes unhung.
And there will be Christmas songs that go unsung.

But you know what? I have a pretty good feeling that Christmas will still happen! That it really isn’t even about that stuff anyway! And that it might even be a pretty good one!

And yes, there are some things we do at Christmas (and all year long) that we just have to do. But those fundamentals (like keeping the humans entrusted into your care alive and educated) aside what if this year every time we start to hear ourselves say a mental “should” statement we replace it with a “can” question?

What if instead of:

I should really make 89 loaves of banana bread for all my friends and family because…well, I made them last year….

We replaced it with:

What can I do to bless those God has laid on my heart this year?

What if instead of:

I should go buy more decorations…

We asked:

How can I make my home an inviting place for my family to gather this Christmas?

And what if instead of:

I should have the perfect tree, matching family pajamas, professionally decorated cookies and well thought out gifts awaiting the wonder-filled faces of my perfect children this Christmas morning….

We asked:

Lord, how can I simply rest in You this Christmas—the only perfect person and gift ever given?

This Christmas is not gonna be perfect at our house: I found a typo in the Christmas cards that I actually remembered to order on time. We may or may not make the annual gingerbread house. Our tree is way too fat. I didn’t put garland on the piano, we have mismatched lights in our bush outside, and my kids are stressed-out, school-burned-out maniacs!

But, you know what? An imperfect “should-free” Christmas sounds absolutely perfect to me!

May your Christmas be should-free and your heart grace-filled!

Much love,

Our Christmas bush tree!

Maybe you are just what this world needs…

I shared yesterday about Surviving Speech Purgatory. Well, today I would love to share my son’s speech with you: 

Maybe You Are Just What This World Needs
by Andrew Bleakley

The all-American hero.
The all-star athlete.
The celebrity.
The A-student. 

Everywhere we look we see images of the ideal person we are told we should become. The one who seems to have it all together—looks, talent, popularity and intelligence. So, we compare ourselves to them only to find that we can’t possibly measure up. So, we try harder and we spend more in a quest to become like them, because surely, we aren’t good enough the way we are…..are we? 

We keep striving and keep fighting to become like the one we imagine we should be; to become just like everyone else around us. Only in our quest to become like someone else we start to lose ourselves, and we start to become like everyone else. But that’s what we’re supposed to do right? Because we aren’t good enough the way we are, are we? 

Or are we? 

Could it possibly be that our differences aren’t that bad after all—that I don’t have to be like everyone else around me? Could it be that the only Ideal Person we should pursue calls us to be different. To stand out. Could it be that God is actually glorified in our differences—in our different talents, abilities, resources and even in our different skin colors and appearances? 

I believe the answer is yes to all of those questions. 

Just look around you. No two things in nature are exactly alike. No two trees are identical. Plants all are different in the patterns in which they are created. In space, we see great diversity. Out of all the billions of stars and planets no two are the same. Consider the animals, think of all the different species out there. And even though two cats or two dogs may look the same, they will act very differently. We are the only species that constantly try to make ourselves into replicas of others. 

 Why? Maybe it’s because we are afraid of rejection.  Afraid of being told we aren’t good enough the way we are—afraid of failure, afraid of being different. But isn’t different good?  

Where would we be without eccentric scientists like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein? Surely, they would have been considered different in their time. Where would we be if they had decided to act like everyone else? If they had been too afraid of having their own ideas or of being seen as strange? What about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, or even Billy Graham?  What if they too had been afraid to stand out and be different? Afraid of having their own ideas and had just decided to blend in and become like everyone else?

Being different is often necessary for progress and change.  If we were all the same then how would anything new ever get accomplished?  What would this world be like if we all played the same sport or played the same instrument or had the same job? It is our differences that make us who we are and can give our lives purpose and meaning.

We all have unique talents and gifts, and yet we are all part of the human race, and if we are Christians then we are all part of God’s family. So the question becomes how can we be who we were created to be, while still working together to help and support each other.

After all the Bible says in 1 Corinthians that “we are one body with many members.”

 So, while being different is vital in life, we also need to be able to work with others and be able to take their opinions and thoughts. Edison and Einstein were different, but they still had to work with others to get their message and gifts to the world. If we become completely different then we will become isolated and not be able to work together. Being different from others can be a very good thing. But we also need to be able to see things from others points of view, and be able to work with others without letting our differences get in the way.

So is there really an ideal person? Or is a better question: is their an ideal version of ourselves?

Instead of trying to become like someone else, instead of trying to achieve what someone else has achieved, instead of trying to be what we are not, what if instead we tried to become who we were meant to be.

And what if in becoming who we were meant to be—who we were created to be—we just happen to change the world?

If you look around you and don’t feel like you fit in, maybe you aren’t supposed to.

Maybe, just maybe, what makes you different is exactly what this world needs.

My silly, awesome, wonderful, different kids!

































Surviving Speech Purgatory

“Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, but we are in speech purgatory…”

I had typed the words in jest to a friend, however, there is really nothing jovial about seeing your kid stressed out of his mind. This week is speech week at school. The dreaded week when high schoolers must present a 3-5 minute speech they have written themselves. This might not sound like a big deal to some, but to those of us card-caring introverts who struggle with public speaking and would rather have a root canal than stand in front of a group of people, this can be excruciating.


My son has dreaded this day since this time last year. And yet, he loved the act of writing the speech (wonder where he gets that from! 😉 ) In fact, from the first day of the assignment he knew what he wanted to write about. He chose to write about the danger of trying to become like everyone else. He wanted to write about the benefits that can come from being brave enough to be yourself. To be who God created you to be.

I was shocked and excited about his topic choice (since he’s not normally one to “put himself out there” like that.) I was blown away by what he wrote. I wanted to stand up and cheer the first time I read it.

But no sooner than he had saved the document, he realized he would have to present it. And suddenly it felt too hard, too risky, too….much.


He practiced over and over. He fretted. He plotted how he could get out of it. He endured his parent’s “help” and advice.

But in the end he just had to do it. (cause, yep…that’s pretty much how this life goes)

But here’s the thing….he did it!!

Now, we prayed A LOT! Like a lot, a lot. In fact, I don’t think I’ve prayed as hard for something to have a good outcome since my first phone call with Tyndale!!

And yes, it felt a little silly to pray over a speech. To look to Moses and Jeremiah and Peter and remember how God spoke through them and compare that to a 9th grade speech. But here’s the thing…God cares as much about my son facing his biggest 9th grade fear and He did about those Bible people facing theirs and as much as he cares about you facing yours. 

So that thing you are terrified of doing. That thing that gives you hives just thinking about. Talk to God about it. Cry out to God. Admit that it is bigger than you. Admit that you can’t do it in your own strength, and then ask Him to do it through you. 

Prepare as best you can and then….rest in His strength. Rest in His power. Trust in His love. And then just take that first step and invite God to knock your socks off!!

I don’t care if my son gets an A or an F on his speech (ok…I will probably care a little if he gets an F 😉 ) What I care about, what I am so proud of, is that he did it. He faced his fear, he did the hard work, he trusted God and he showed up.

(I am so proud of you buddy!!!)

In fact I’m so proud I will post his speech here tomorrow! 😉

Much love,


News I’ve been waiting four years to share….

After four years of secrecy, five rewrites and countless edits I am so honored to finally, FINALLY, be able to share my book baby with you (well, at least the cover and synopsis).


Meet Joey! (isn’t the cover gorgeous!?!) The design team at Tyndale House Publishers did an amazing job!

It feels so strange to be able to share this publicly after so many years of keeping it a closely guarded secret. But I imagine I will quickly get used to sharing much more about Joey; a horse I met five years ago this month. A horse who, although I’m not really a “horse person,” quickly captured my heart. And a horse whose life stands as a beacon of hope for those trapped in darkness.

Joey is already available for pre-order at Tyndale’s website and Amazon (although it won’t be available until May 8th).

To say I am overwhelmed would be a vast understatement. This has been a long journey, filled with many ups and downs (see post), and yet in many ways it is really just beginning. I have so much still to learn: marketing, promoting, and book launching, but for now I am choosing to just bask in the goodness, kindness and lavish grace of God.

This book, this story, has affected me deeply. Yet, I have NO idea why God chose me (a non-horse person) to write a book about a horse, but He did and I am forever grateful.

You can read a synopsis of the book (and pre-order it if you feel so inclined!) at:
Joey pre-order info

Thanks for being willing to walk with me through this journey.

And one final parting thought: If you are holding onto a dream, maybe a dream you have never even spoken out loud, and yet find yourself longing to pursue it, but scared to death to take that first step…please know that if God is calling you to follow that dream than he will do it through you. Trust him, cling to him, but take that first step. And know that His dream for you may end up being much bigger than your dream for yourself! 😉 But take that first step, I promise you will not be sorry you did!

Much love,