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When Ideals Become Idols (What I Know Now)

Perusing through the kids section in Barnes & Noble where I worked, I began to make mental lists of the books I wanted my kids to read. Not only did I make a few lists, I picked up a book and took it to my locker to purchase later, in preparation for the day I would have my own little ones to read to. Walking back to the kids section, my assigned domain for the day, I continued to daydream about how wonderful it would be to have children.

I pictured a pig-tailed little girl running around with me in a pumpkin patch. I imaged many adventures I would take with my future girl, and I dreamed of sitting around a table with many children laughing and singing and eating together in joyful harmony. I studied up on discipline techniques, and I read a slew of parenting books. My major in college was human development and family studies with an option in children, youth, and family, which surely put me on track to being an expert as a mother.

There were going to be no surprises because I had parenting all figured out.

Not only did I have parenting figured out, I relied on my grand ideals to usher in reality. I reasoned that because I wanted children and wanted to spend my days with them teaching and nurturing them, of course my ideals would come true.

Of course.

And then I had children, three of them, in five years.

Here is where I tell you what I know now.

What I Know Now

I know that it’s wise to have ideals. Ideals help us to persevere and have vision for our hopes and dreams. They are a standard that helps us focus on our goals. However, ideals can quickly turn into idols if we rely on them/put our hope in them instead of relying on Jesus and how He made us.

How Do You Know If You’ve Made an Ideal An Idol?

The biggest indication that you’ve made an ideal into an idol is that you become angry, depressed and/or anxious when your ideals aren’t working out how you envisioned them.

Looking back, I know that my ideals of motherhood were an idol. In all my dreaming, I had never considered my personality, my bents, trials I would encounter, the reality of sin in daily life, my own selfishness, my own limitations, exhaustion, marriage difficulties, and a million other intricacies that are of life and of me.

When our faith is strong in Jesus, we can weather the falling apart of some of our ideals. When we have put too much stock in our ideals, and they fall apart, so will we.

How Do You Avoid Making an Ideal an Idol

Give your ideals, which is fancy way of saying “standards”, to the One who knows every piece of you. Offer to Him your dreams, and ask Him to give you vision and faith. Remember that you are not a robot; you have a unique personality and woven skill sets and gifts imprinted in the weaving. You cannot be someone else. You are made gloriously! Accept who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths, and trust God will the details (Tweetable). If you have His Holy Spirit intertwined with your spirit, you are being matured and perfected. Let that work be good enough. Let the failures come, look to Jesus, and keep walking. The standards you’ve put on yourself are probably not the ones God puts on you. His standards? Believe in Him; have faith! He sits on a throne of grace, and His burden for you is light.

Ideals are good and helpful. The key is to take our ideals and put them in the hands of God, having faith in His plans and ways, and then walk daily with Him, always asking, “Lord, what do you say?”

Love, SM


Originally posted October 2012

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When you finally get over trying to be perfect


“I don’t want to be a servant — I want to be a Caroline.”

So says the three year old wonder-child who humbles me as a parent and makes me think deeper about life.

I want to be a Caroline.

That’s confidence, isn’t it? And freedom?

I love that about my girl; she hasn’t learned yet to try and be anything but who she is.

She doesn’t know that one day she’ll feel the pressure to be good enough, to be holy enough, to be quiet enough, or wise enough or all the “enough’s” that fill our head and make us neurotic about who we are and how we should live.

The “enough’s” make me tired.

And I think they make a lot of us are real tired, because in all the enough’s we begin to lose ourselves in order to be something else…something better…something expected…so far from who we really are that when we fall apart, we just give up.

Because something has to give.

And we all fall apart.

We break. 

But here comes the upside, the so unbelievably bright side: when you are just done, and broken, and tired, you’ve made it.

You are now about to experience the most profound, amazing, life-altering, freedom and grace that will set you so free you are going to fly.

I mean it.

I mean it.

When you are broken enough and tired enough and angry enough that you just can’t mold yourself, fix yourself, do better, be better, when you are just done, grace is lavished on you like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

The world opens up and humility surrounds you and compassion overtakes you because you realize that life is just so hard and “everyone is facing a hard battle”, and instead of trying to be kind, you just become kind.

And you become grace to others.

Because that’s what the Spirit does in a broken beautiful one: He does the work, you just accept the molding.

You walk, one foot in the front of the other by the faith that gives you the hope you are already changed, perfect (Hebrews 10:14) according to heaven.

And when you realize how much you can’t change yourself, you can see others as broken beautiful ones as well who are just trying to make it through this hard life, and you just want to love them and nod your head at them and say, “I know, I know. And I love you just the same.”

Funny, what happens when you stop trying so hard to become what you already are in Christ; you begin to exhibit the things you were trying so hard to do. I’ll tell you why: it’s because you really get love, and you really get loving God and loving others, and you so deeply get grace. When the Law of loving slays you good, you can do nothing but love.

You still make messes and wound hearts and say stupid things, but you never stop loving and extending grace, because it’s all over you now.

And you don’t have to choose between being a servant or who you are —  because you are both, in one, in One.

So come on, my broken, beautiful sister, and let’s walk side-by-side, not checking to see who is ahead or behind, or who seems to have it together, or who seems to really not have it together at all.

Let’s stop looking around and look up, and walk forward, and trust the One who does the molding in us all.



My Care

This post originally appeared on A Holy Experience.

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He Lifts Out of Pits and Puts Us on the Rock

She broke me, but He found me, and so when she was broken, I could love her.

That’s the story.

That’s the story of what God does; redemption.

He lifts out of pits and He sets feet on the Rock that is steady always.

When I was broken, he held me.

When I tried to run, tried to bleed out, He didn’t leave. He knew. He knew I’d come back into the only arms that can really hold, really love, really stay true.

He loved me in the pit and He loves me now.

I don’t walk alone anymore.

The truth is, I never did.

But I didn’t know it. I do now.

He is the wooer, the holder, the healer, the redeemer.

He lifts out of pits.

He places on a Rock.

He puts a new song in our mouths.

We praise Him.


He brought us through the fire and we know now we can trust Him.

The fire left its mark.

We are now light, and the world sees, and the world feels the warmth and the world draws close.

Because He’s attractive. He is incense to them. It burns through us.

And they cry out for Him.

And He lifts out of pits and places on the Rock.

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Respecting Our Children

They were outside playing and he said he didn’t want to get wet.

She doused him anyway.

My sweet, wonderful, full of fun helper doused the boy who didn’t want to get wet. She figured it was all fun.

And then he went missing. “Where is Caed?” I asked her.

“He came in before us” she replied.


Ah, he was hiding in his bedroom underneath his blanket. He was soaked and when I went to tickle him (thinking he was hiding for fun), he looked up at me with tear-wet eyes and said, “I didn’t want to get wet, and I told her that.”

My children love Miss A, and she loves them and never wants to hurt them or make them sad. She was just playing with them and having fun and had no idea the boy would be so upset. She is so humble and sweet and she went to the boy and said she was sorry. Of course he forgave her, and they went on as usual. But a lesson is learned.

Read the rest at (in)courage today!


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To the Broken One


You blew it. Or at least you think you did.

You’re so angry and you’ve been angry for so long you’re not even sure you know why anymore. But behind the anger, the rage, there’s the dull ache of too-long pain. In fact, right now the pain feels unbearable. You feel like you don’t want to stay but you don’t want to go; it’s all so confusing. What if everything comes crashing down? The walls you’ve built, the ones you thought would keep you safe, are about to be torn down without your say so. You should be in charge, but you’re not. And now you’re scared and you don’t know what it all means or where to turn and it hurts more than you ever thought it would.

What will they say?

What can I do?

Can I fix this mess?

Here is what I want to say to you, the broken one, the one who doesn’t even know how to climb out of the pain and anger and bitterness you’ve carried for far too long: I’m so sorry.

I’m so sorry you’ve had to carry such a burden for so long. The weight of bitterness, of resentment, of regret, of anger, of a loveless marriage, of great loss, is too much for anyone to bear. Yes, you have reaped some of your own pain, but I see you. I see more than your pain or anger or meanness. I know you have a longing soul; I know there are soft places of your heart you keep tucked away. I understand. You’re not the only one.

It’s never too late to let the wall drop.

It’s never too late to say, “I’m sorry.”

It’s never too late to ask for help, to let people into the hidden pain.

It’s never too late to forgive.

You may not know it in your bones, but you are so deeply loved. It sounds trite, I know, or maybe patronizing, but once the truth gets into your soul it becomes the most profound thing, the most important thing of your life. This true love. And because of this love you have the invitation to have your broken heart bound up, healed, made new.

No matter what happens from here on out, you don’t have to be identified with your past or your pain or your failures; only God has the authority to tell you who you are. Have you asked Him? Have you cried out to God and said, “Who do you say that I am?”


And you will receive.

You can be healed in those places of the soul that need healing. You can be made new. You can walk in freedom. You can be weak. It’s okay to be weak. Because when we are weak, God is strong in us. He will give us strength when we have none. You don’t have to be brave or tough. It’s okay to be scared out of your mind. You don’t have to walk alone. But if you want to be free and whole, you will need to surrender. Hands up. Willing.

Jesus will not leave you in the pit.

He hears your cry, and He will turn to you. He will lift you up and set you on solid ground. He will put a new song in your mouth. You will smile, and you will praise Him for what He has done: the impossible. And people will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

All is not lost, though some may be.

But you will make it if you bend your knees. Cry out to God who hears you. Please do. Please let the weak, vulnerable you have a shot because you matter and you are loved. So very loved.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Love to you,


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