Expectations and Grace

I had one of those “I feel like I’m failing” moments yesterday when both babies were fussy (most of the day) and I couldn’t figure out what they needed.

All parents have these moments where we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s a normal part of this journey.

While I try to not fall into the comparison trap, it happens, especially in those areas in which I am the least confident. It’s SO easy to see another mom with her children (whether online or in person) and compare your performance to hers, making yourself feel disappointed and like a failure. When it comes to social media, it’s likely more “performance” than reality, anyway!

When I finally got them to nap, I had a chance to think. How many of these self-imposed expectations are actually relevant to the care of my babies and how many of them are merely an effort to measure up to my perception of what the perfect mother looks like?

And I realized something important: my babies don’t think that I’m a failure, that I don’t know what I am doing most days.

To them, my presence is enough. I walk into a room and (most of the time) they smile wide. They are thrilled just to be in my arms. So why do I compare myself to unfair, self-imposed ideals and expectations?

They don’t compare like we do because they have NO idea what other moms do. I am the only mother they know! If I were actually failing, they would have absolutely no idea. Therefore, there is no way for them to be disappointed (until much later 😉) in me.

Isn’t that freeing?

My babies delight in me. They love me. And their opinion (meaning what brings them joy, security, and comfort) should be the only one that matters (God and my husband aside) when it comes to parenting them as infants.

THANKFULLY they don’t have social media to show them what other moms are doing with their infants, and I need to remember that. And maybe I need to reduce my social media consumption on days when I’m feeling like that.

This realization is the first of many reminders throughout my life to show grace to myself during these (sometimes difficult) days of infancy with twins. And toddlerhood. And childhood.

After all, their joy is what matters right now, not my comparison to what I think others are doing. ❤️

The What or The Who (Not the Band)

Last week’s sermon hasn’t left my mind much since I heard it.

The focus was on 2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 19-20.

“Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!””

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-16, 19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This passage highlights a few important things for our life on this earth:

  • Christ’s love should control us. Not influence us, but CONTROL everything we are and do.
  • We are ultimately here to help people know Jesus and to see them as He sees them.
  • We are ambassadors entrusted with this great work!

The pastor commented that so often in this life we (are taught to) stress about the answer to the question, “what am I here for?

We wonder if we’re accomplishing that which we are here to do, and we often allow that question to cause unnecessary anxiety and fear. “What is my purpose? What if I never find it?” We allow that to drive our choices and actions.

I know people who have left their “secular” career to do something more “spiritual” while missing the fact that God needed them exactly where they were to be a light for Him (#MissionalLiving).

Instead of focusing on what we should be doing, the pastor said that we should be focusing on this question: “For whom am I here?

Who, not what.

Who has God placed in our sphere of influence? Our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are our purpose here.

Most importantly, we should never pursue the “what” at the expense of the “who” because EVERYTHING we do is just an excuse or a platform to lead others to Jesus. Everything.

We all have gifts and strengths and we have roles to play with those gifts and strengths; and we all have stories that others need to hear. God can use any job, any situation for His purposes, if we allow Him to do so.

In closing, he encouraged us to ask God to breathe mission into our current life and circumstances instead of asking Him to change them, to be content with the what and focus on the who.


This is relevant to me in a unique way:

Lately I’ve been struggling with being content with the sales of my book. Numbers. Rankings. Influence. This part of my journey has not gone as I expected.

Before it went to press, I had a modest goal in mind, one that I deemed easily – and quickly – attainable. I poured my heart into telling Tori’s story and it is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. Her life and the lessons learned from her life matter and I just knew that I would sell thousands and thousands of copies!

As of today I have only reached 10% of that goal. Ten.

(I don’t tell you that to make you feel guilty if you haven’t bought it – though I wouldn’t mind if you did decide to buy it! 😉 There’s a point to all of this.)

Of course, I’m humbly thrilled that ANYONE has wanted to read it, and each sale means that someone new has learned about Krabbe, about Tori, and about our Heavenly Father. THAT is what matters.

But, if I am honest, I am also disappointed because I thought I would sell more given the number of people who have followed Tori from the beginning.

I’m human, after all. Pride sneaks in when we least expect to see it. I worked hard on the book and emotionally invested myself in it, so I obviously want it to “succeed” in terms of high numbers. But is that success?

I had been trying to brainstorm how to increase sales, how to market it on a greater scale (with zero dollars) in order to get the numbers up. It began to consume my thoughts (when I wasn’t caring for babies).

And then I heard that sermon last weekend and I understood what the Lord was asking of me:

Do I really trust the God of the universe to put my book in the hands of those who truly need the message? Is it about the number sold or about the soul reading it?

As one of my favorite songs says, “You’ve brought me this far, why would I question You now?” He opened the doors for it to be published, but do I trust His intentions? Yes. I just needed to be reminded, to refocus.

It’s not about numbers, it’s not about selling millions (though that would be incredible): it’s about my obedience in telling our story and allowing God to use it as He sees fit. Him, not me.

It’s so much more than just book sales. My book is just another way – not the only way – God is using my circumstances, my story, my faith, and my life to reconcile people to Him.

I have to remember this. Daily. And whenever I am tempted to be concerned with the numbers (often), I need to surrender it all to the One who is in control. And I need to pray that He will continue to use my life for His Kingdom and glory.

That’s what it’s all about.

So, We Missed a Wedding Today

We left our friends' house in the Lynchburg, VA area for Raleigh around 10:30am today to attend our friend Breanna's wedding. We allowed for plenty of time to get there and were enjoying the beautiful day.

We stopped along the way at a CVS to get a few things; I came out of the store, put the key in the ignition and I couldn't even turn the key. It was bizarre.

Brennan tried, I tried, and finally, after replacing the battery in the key fob, we called AAA. By this time it was noon, and the wedding was just two hours away (and so were we). They said it would take ninety minutes or so for a tow truck to get to us.

We were going to miss the wedding.

After a few minutes of being grumpy and frustrated, we decided to make the most of our day. It was a great temperature, not a cloud in the sky, and we happened to have camping chairs in the van!

We got some strange looks from people, understandably, but whatever. 😄 We were comfortable and having fun.

A kind woman with four children (including a four week old baby) asked if we needed any help and offered her jumper cables – too bad our battery was SO dead that it didn't work. Still, her kindness was so appreciated! She was the only person to offer assistance.

When the tow truck arrived (just as the last of our shade was disappearing) we realized that there weren't any open repair shops around! Thankfully we found one and they were able to fit us in.

The van was done by 4pm, so we missed the wedding entirely. While we aren't happy about this, today was another reminder that we have a choice to make every situation joyful or miserable.

We had a good day despite the disappointing outcome of missing the wedding. We chose to look for the positive and found a lot of things for which we could be grateful! ❤️

  1. It was breezy and nice.
  2. We had chairs in which to sit.
  3. We had access to a restroom!
  4. We had a AAA membership.
  5. We had water and food.
  6. We had an opportunity for quality time.
  7. We made memories together.
  8. The repair was not expensive!

Remember in moments like this that it's going to be okay, that someday you will look back and laugh, and that there's always something for which you can be grateful. ❤️

The Consequences of Resentment 

Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. (‭2 John‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ NLT)

We are told as Christians to do two things: love God and love others. By focusing on those two things we will end up obeying the law of God and the law of man without even realizing it most of the time.

There are many things that can hinder us from fulfilling this command, many things that can negatively affect our perspective and perception of others without us realizing it.


In photography, the lens is how you see the world. The quality and integrity of the lens is crucial. Everything depends on the lens, even the quality of the final image.

If your lens is cracked, smudged, or otherwise compromised, your image will be unclear or even indistinguishable from the view/reality you saw with your eyes; your perspective will not translate into a beautiful finished image like you had planned. It will be distorted. You will be disappointed, possibly angry, and unfulfilled. There was nothing wrong with the subject you were attempting to photograph, but the lens made it appear to be flawed.


Similarly, forming a first impression of someone happens automatically. You meet someone, and based on the first few minutes of your interaction you form an opinion. Those first few moments do not provide insight into a person’s context, character, or true self. You merely catch a glimpse instead of knowing and understanding them fully.

Once an impression is formed, overcoming that perspective can be difficult no matter what experience may prove to be the truth.


I mention these things because I have been pondering what the Bible has to say about bitterness, anger, resentment, and how those things affect our perception of people and circumstances.

When we hold grudges and harbor bitterness, anything the “guilty” person says or does will be viewed through a cracked lens. The perspective will be skewed, and the relationship may be further damaged because we aren’t seeing things clearly.

Perhaps this is why Jesus told us to resolve our issues with people directly and promptly (Matthew 18); to get rid of all anger and bitterness (Ephesians 4:31) ; to get rid of the plank in our eyes before judging the splinter in the eyes of another (Matthew 7:3-5); with these things in our heart, our lens is cracked and we cannot perceive the actions and words of people correctly and therefore cannot love them as we are commanded.

When we are bitter, angry, or resentful we cannot love God and others the way He desires and commands us to do. We cannot fulfill our mission.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)

Resentment prevents you from seeing situations clearly and in proper context. Resentment is a dangerous thing.

Many times in my life I have seen the aftermath of built-up resentment that is never resolved biblically. It has split churches, destroyed friendships, and created friction in families.

Someone can do something or say something to you with great intentions, but because you are harboring unspoken resentment and bitterness you will read between the lines in order to justify your feelings. We’ve all done it!

Rather than going to the person as soon as the alleged offense occurs to find out their true intent and to clear up misunderstandings, you choose to remain silent and allow bitterness to eat away at your heart, all while pretending that everything is fine on the outside.

Pride is a dangerous companion to resentment.

This is a human flaw that we all deal with at some point in our lives, and that’s exactly why Jesus spoke about this issue in Matthew 18:

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.

If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

(Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭15-17)

There are so many verses that tell us to not be bitter or resentful, but to love; here are a few:

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭3‬ NLT)

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. (‭2 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭14‬ NLT)

This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (‭1 John‬ ‭3‬:‭11‬ NLT)

But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. (‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4‬:‭9‬ NLT)

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Don’t let bitterness, resentment, anger, or irritation destroy you. Don’t let them destroy relationships or communities. The enemy LOVES when Christians do this! Don’t let him have the satisfaction.

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭29‬:‭11‬ NLT)

And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. (‭1 John‬ ‭3‬:‭23‬ NLT)

I strive to take the following steps whenever I am in situations where I am hurt, and I do my best to not assume anything about the person. These have helped me tremendously and I hope they are useful to you as well:

  1. Consider the context: What is the person going through? If you don’t know, then offer grace and understanding instead of becoming angry immediately. Ask questions instead of assuming.
  2. Remember that no one is perfect, including yourself. Offer grace.
  3. Think about the true cause of the offense: why is it bothering you? Was your pride hurt?
  4. Always assume the best about the people you love and not the worst.
  5. Communicate! In person is the BEST way to do this, but if the other party won’t consent to doing so, make your written communication clear and your emotions known, remembering that words are powerful. Text leaves so much to the imagination and it can often make issues far worse than they were at the beginning. Talk about things immediately, don’t blindside someone years later.
  6. If the person matters to you, make the effort to humbly make things right. Put aside your pride.
  7. Don’t allow misunderstandings and misperceptions destroy relationships. Life is too short and too precious to allow bitterness and resentment to steal our joy.

We are here on earth to love one another, to encourage, to build-up, to lead others to Christ. Resentment prevents us from fully loving God and others, and it lets the enemy win.

Choose love, choose joy, choose humility. It’s worth it.

Easily Offended…

of·fend·ed (əˈfendid) adjective: resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.

Of all the things that bother me about the way our culture in America has changed during my lifetime, the tendency to be so easily offended is probably at the top of my list. It’s something I don’t understand, and, unfortunately, I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

You don’t dare say something that might “offend” anyone, even if it is the truth. This goes hand-in-hand with our culture’s lawsuit mentality – another thing that drives me crazy. People live their lives in fear that they might accidentally say or do something that someone will sue them over, and it has become absolutely ridiculous.

I worked in the political arena – as a volunteer and as an employee – for several years, and I saw this all the time.

In the political world, people allow party lines to be roadblocks to open communication. In the legislature, simply knowing that a bill was written by someone of the opposite party can mean that it won’t pass, despite its merit and worth to society. People choose to be offended simply because someone sees something differently than they do. This is especially amusing because our culture says that everything is relative…

One of my favorite quotes about this topic is from the movie The American President – which is one of my favorite movies of all time.

‘America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”‘
– The American President

Our Founding Fathers didn’t agree on everything, but they didn’t let these differences prevent them from coming up with solutions. They had reasonable discourse, even if heated at times, and they were respectful of different ideas (as evidenced in many documents from that time).

They realized that we all come from different backgrounds and have different ideas, and all of them are worthy of consideration. If we all thought the same way and believed the same things, life would be incredibly boring and we would have nothing to discuss. Yet, our culture has lost the ability to respectfully dialogue and discuss issues with the intent of truly learning from the other side.

Our country was founded on the concepts of several freedoms, one being the Freedom of Speech – and that freedom only works if you are willing to respectfully listen to those who disagree with you (as the quote above says). History aside, this is a significant problem in our culture today.

In terms of the Freedom of Religion, the best example I can come up with at the moment is Christmas: Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is a religious holiday – more specifically, a Christian holiday. But, don’t you dare mention Jesus or have a Nativity scene set up to celebrate, because you might offend someone.

Yes, I realize our culture has largely changed Christmas into a secular holiday as well and has made it all about gifts and Santa and whatever else, but it is supposed to be about JESUS. It’s not called “Christmas Vacation” anymore in schools because you might offend someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday (which, really, is a very small amount of people since it has become so secularized). People say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” for the same reason (even though holiday comes from “holy day” so it’s essentially the same thing).

When did we become so sensitive, and why?

This is something I simply cannot understand, because I have never been offended by a Jewish menorah or Star of David. I have never been offended by Kwanzaa or Ramadan. I have never tried to secularize these holidays so that I can benefit from the celebrations. Why? I recognize the right of these groups to celebrate what they believe in openly and publicly. As long as what they are doing is not destructive or harmful, then why does it matter what they celebrate? It doesn’t. So why are Christians and Christian holidays singled out as being so offensive?

From a theological standpoint, I understand why people are offended by Jesus. The Gospel offends because it acknowledges sin in our lives and we don’t like to be told that we are wrong. There is also a very real enemy who roams around the earth trying to turn people against Jesus. I get all of that. But it seems like the only religion that brings offense in our culture is Christianity. 

I maintain that it is a choice to be offended. It is a choice to refuse to listen to the other side of the issue and discuss things rationally. And the root of this is selfishness – “it’s all about me, so don’t you dare do anything that I don’t like.”

We have forgotten how to love our neighbors. We have forgotten that each person has value and deserves to be respected. We have forgotten that there’s a huge difference between tolerance (“the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with“) and acceptance, and we let our emotions and selfishness rule our behavior.

This is a dangerous path and if we don’t take the time to instill within the younger generations what true tolerance is, and encourage them to not be easily offended, things are only going to be worse in the future.

New Chapter and Healing from the Previous One…

I began a new chapter in my life this week – moving from unemployment/temporary work to a new, “permanent” position.

I had a difficult time in the weeks leading up to this new beginning as I was unsure of whether or not I should have accepted the position. It didn’t have anything to do with the job or the employer itself – it had everything to do with a “fear of commitment” in regards to jobs that I didn’t know I had developed. It had everything to do with past scars caused by some awful supervisors that I’ve had in the recent past. And it also had everything to do with the fact that this isn’t my “dream” – this isn’t what I feel so passionate about, and I was afraid that taking this job would prevent me from further pursuing that which God has placed in my heart. Essentially, I was afraid of what might be around the corner and I was afraid of making the wrong decision.

From the very first hour of my new job I began to see that the negative things about my past job are nonexistent here. From the smallest to the largest things, God has redeemed my employment situation. I also began to see that I had built a wall around my heart during my last job that was preventing me from being excited/feeling blessed about where God has brought me now. I didn’t realize that I had done this, but God is using new experiences each day to slowly remove one brick at a time, which is showing me just how high the wall had become. Still, even now, I am having a hard time letting myself be excited and letting myself just accept that God has brought me to a place where I am neededwanted, affirmed, empowered, treated with respect, included…

Looking back (hindsight is 20/20, after all) over this past summer, there is no doubt in my mind that everything God allowed to happen was incredibly intentional:

May 17, 2013: Laid off from HE&R (SO THANKFUL!!!!), beginning a time of solitude, reflection, unknown, and healing.

At the same time, Brennan and I are beginning to feel that we shouldn’t be “regular relief houseparents” at the Milton Hershey School anymore due to family/church circumstances…we begin praying.

June/July: Able to do photography for Christian Retreat Center‘s camps because I was laid off, reminding me of my love for photography.

June 25: Jon Acuff sends out an email/blog post/tweet about joining him on an adventure and I accept.

Brennan and I decide to try to become “emergency relief” at MHS which would allow us to be home each weekend (unless called) and would allow us to still be involved with the students.

July 15:The START Experiment” begins…my risk was to focus on self-discipline after several months of not-so-subtle nudging from the Lord…

July-August: I realize through the START Experiment and the accompanying community what my dream job really is and I begin to pursue it. I start Essential Harrisburg and begin sending my portfolio to potential organizations.

I also interviewed for this new job at MHS in August.

We are told that we wouldn’t be allowed to be “emergency relief” due to the number of couples already in that status. I also find out from HR a few days after my interview that I cannot accept a potential job offer from MHS if we are still “regular relief” because of the number of hours I would be working.

We are faced with an incredibly difficult decision to either quit or stay on as “regular relief”

One Sunday, while covering a student home, my supervisor “just happens” to come by and I am able to pour my heart out to him regarding all of this and our desire to stay on with the school as houseparents.

We find out on September 3 that we have been granted “emergency relief” status…and an hour later, I am offered the job that I later accepted. 

September 12-17: I had the incredible privilege of attending “The START Conference” in Nashville, TN and finally got to meet some of the amazing friends I made through “The START Experiment” and was able to further clarify my “dream” and made some connections with professionals in that field. AMAZING. I came home filled with energy, excitement, peace, and even more trust in what God is doing behind the scenes.

Our God is not a God of coincidence. Nothing that happened this summer is a coincidence.

If I had not been laid off…if I had not accepted Jon’s offer of adventure…if…

This new chapter of life is still very new, and my future is still very “fuzzy” and obscure, but I already feel so at peace.

I know that God has placed the dream in my heart to travel around the world, taking pictures and telling stories, and I have no doubt that He will bring that to fruition in His timing. For now, I am going to do my best here, at a job about which I am passionate, telling the story of Mr. & Mrs. Hershey and their incredible generosity and legacy, while waiting for whatever God might have in the future.

 

 

The Start Experiment, Round Two: Day Nine

Today, one of my wonderful fellow “Starters” posted something that almost made me cry because it spoke directly to my heart.

Know what isn’t the only reason you’re not working for your dreams? It isn’t always your fear that is preventing you from being successful. Sometimes it is your unwillingness to sacrifice. You’ve got to decide today that the pain of staying the same and not chasing your dream is costing you more than it would to chase it.  — Ashley Revely

Oh my. Between that and the email that Jon Acuff sent to those of us in Round Two today, I feel broken. In a good way. I forgot my journal at home, so I decided to just blog about it since I’m sure that others feel the same way and might need this encouragement.

Jon’s email today talked about not just settling for “jobs” when they’re not something that makes us feel alive and when they’re not part of our calling. I have done that my whole adult life. Every single job.

Funny “coincidence” that after I read that email I headed to an interview for a job that I could do and could do it well. But, it has nothing to do with the passions in my soul and my new-found mission in life. Same with the job I interviewed for last week. In fact, I honestly feel that accepting either of these jobs would be detrimental to my dream. Interesting what a new perspective can show you.

Ashley’s quote doesn’t only apply to my dream, though: it also applies to weight-loss and health. Before our wedding, perhaps because I had a goal, I lost 20 lbs and worked hard at it. I felt GREAT and loved what I saw in the mirror. I felt thin. After the wedding, I gained it all back PLUS some because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice things along the way. I’m realizing now that the cost of staying the same is far more painful than chasing my dream and working hard.

Today I’m going to break both my dream job and my dream of weighing 45 pounds less into simple steps and look at WHY I’m failing at weight loss. I know that most of it is due to lack of preparation and planning, but some is still due to laziness. What will it cost to pursue my dream and what sacrifices are necessary? I am thinking that any sort of permanent job is at the top of the list. I’m also thinking that getting up at 5am to ensure that I have plenty of focus-time will continue to be a must.

What is it costing me to stay the same? Joy, peace, self-image, contentment, passion.

What might it cost me to change? Time, effort, maybe financial sacrifice, trusting God a whole lot more.

The pain of staying the same is DEFINITELY costing me a lot. It’s time to sacrifice things that are standing in the way so that I can fully pursue what I am called to be.