Finding Peace


Hello. My name is Becca and sometimes I awful. Seriously, sometimes I am just awful. Example: when I am very hungry, tired, or stressed I will be incredibly rude to anyone who gets in the way of me attempting to fix any of the aforementioned issues. “But, Becca,” I imagine you saying in your nicest, most compassionate voice, “Most people get like that when they are hungry, tired, or stressed.” Sure, sure. But the problem is I’m like that a lot in my head. I am super grateful that people don’t hear the 10 seconds after I hang up the phone with them most days. And I am even worse when I’m just thinking it. I’ve made many a person cry because of my sharp tongue and biting criticism. Honestly, most of the time I am at least thinking something critical. Which is awful.

And I do it more to myself than to anyone else. I am quick to tear my self down, frequently out loud, over the smallest infraction. Didn’t get up right when the alarm went off? Lazy. Forgot to text a student happy birthday? Selfish. Can’t figure out how much to tip the waitress? Stupid. Most days I can recount for you exactly each and every time I didn’t perform in the way that I think is right or acceptable. I am awful to myself.

And it has to stop.

During Advent our youth ministry takes a couple of Sunday nights and writes daily devotionals which we compile and give out to the congregation for them to study during Advent. It’s become a tradition and our gift to the rest of our church family to help us celebrate the season of Advent more fully. The students write them and then I go back and help them edit. And while they are all impressive and special in their own way there was one that caught my special attention this year.

The scripture was about when Mary went to see Elizabeth. I thought that the student would write about sharing your joy at Christmas but she didn’t. Instead she wrote about why it’s important for us not to judge other people and that we must care for one another because we don’t know what burdens and blessings other people are carrying with them.

Elizabeth could have thrown Mary out, called her names, refused to be kind to her. She could have seen Mary’s condition, a pregnant, unmarried teenager, and simply refused to look any further. Instead Elizabeth embraced Mary and got to share in the joy of knowing the Savior was soon to arrive.
It’s so easy to see only what’s on the outside or to see more and simply refuse to care. It’s so much simpler to judge others and cast them aside because then we don’t have to help them carry their burdens. We think if we ignore it then our lives will be easier, more peaceful. But so far that hasn’t been the case. I’ve pushed myself and only struggled more. I’ve pushed others and even pushed them away and still I don’t have peace. Pushing isn’t peaceful. Trying to be something or someone else isn’t peaceful.

But there is peace in loving others, in seeing their hardships and choosing mercy instead of judgement. There is peace in seeing people as part of one big family instead of seeing them as divided us vs. them or me vs. the world.

I’m tired of being awful.

I’m tired of feeling awful. I want to have peace. I want to share peace.

It is not always easy to love yourself and love your neighbor. But it’s what we are called to do by the Prince of Peace. And I think we’ve believed the lie that peace has to look a certain way. That somehow peace looks all calm and serene. That’s how I look when I’m bored-not necessarily peaceful. I think peace can look like a lot of different things. I think maybe peace is not an expression or a look but that it’s a state of contentment and trust. Stop expecting peace to look a certain way- there’s no peace to be found in trying to force something to be a certain way.

The way I’ve been looking for peace isn’t working for me. I’ve been trying to change people or change myself or change my situation for far too long. So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to take a deep breath and let go.
I’m going to cut myself some slack. Do the best I can at the things I am called to do and stop giving myself a hard time when it’s not what I thought it should or would be. And I’m going to assume that everyone else is doing the same, even when they aren’t, and choose to care about more than just what they do; I’ll try to see them for who they are- a child of God. I’m going to let go of my expectations for myself and everyone else and just do the best I can trusting that God is bigger than my shortcomings, doubts, and worries. I’m going to trust that if I care more about the person standing next to me than I do about myself that I will be able to love them and help them carry their burdens. I’m going to be content with right now and leave tomorrow up to the Big Boss. Because Christmas isn’t about us “making peace”. Peace is a gift that we get when we trust and let God come into our messy, sometimes awful lives. Maybe peace isn’t something we find at all. Maybe it’s simply something we accept. Not with a big shout that we’ve discovered it but with a soft sigh because we have shared in it.

I’ll confess that this one was hard for me to write. I’m not sure this is the answer. I’m not even sure this makes a whole lot of sense. I know all too well that I don’t know anything at all. But I know that I’ve never made myself more peaceful. So I’m going to trust that God promised to bring me peace and be content that He is as good as His word.

May your Advent season be one of peace.

10 tips for dealing with stress

Yesterday was not a good day for me.  I was stressed before I even left the house because I had ZERO clean clothes and a very messy kitchen (still do as a matter of fact) and ZERO time to do anything about it.  By the time I got to work I was not in the best frame of mind to work and I got sidetracked till about 10:30am when I found out that I needed to deal with some budgeting issues.  Y’all…I  HATE math (but it is super important).  So I had to struggle through piles of numbers and info that made no sense and try to wrangle it back under control.  Submit a new (lower) budget.  Then staff meeting with no time for lunch in between.  Weekly email newsletter, planning meeting for a new Wednesday night program starting in January, Advent planning…you see where I am going.  I was herding cats all day long and was getting pretty frustrated.  I like to think that I can keep a lot of plates spinning at once but the truth is that I get antsy when I feel like people are stopping me from keeping them all spinning.  Unfortunately for me this is what ministry work really is!  People are going to need my attention while I’m trying to wrestle with budget numbers.  And I need to be able to be, not just ok with that, but accepting and welcoming of that fact.  So I was busy, stressed, and not being a very great minister.  Bummer of a day.

Almost everybody I talk to on any given day, and for any given reason, is dealing with stress and a busy schedule.  It’s just the nature of our culture.  Most of the people I know are juggling all kinds of stressful tasks like crazy work schedules, loads of responsibilities, parenting, and relationships.  All of these things can be super rewarding and satisfying but they can also cause us to have lots of worry and anxiety.

Weeds and thistles will grow for you,
        even as you eat the field’s plants;
 by the sweat of your face you will eat bread—
        until you return to the fertile land,
            since from it you were taken;
            you are soil,
                to the soil you will return.

Genesis 3: 18-19

I had always read this scripture from Genesis about “by the sweat of your face”, where God is explaining the consequences of Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as though God was saying that Adam was always going to have to work hard.  But a couple of years ago I discovered that what the original language actually meant was that Adam would sweat with worry, anxiety, and fear.   Adam was sweating it out.     You know the feeling.  That same panic and anxiety that comes when you are faced with a difficult situation or job.  That fear or worry that you can’t or won’t get it all done or done right and someone will suffer the consequences.  I’m faced with this pretty regularly and in my case it can be pretty dangerous sense stress can lead to some crazy issues for me.  It’s not good for anybody to be dealing with stress regularly.  So, just in time for Hump Day, here are my top 10 tips for dealing with stress and taking care of yourself.

Disclaimer:  I am in no way an expert at any of this.  These are just things I’ve done and do that help me to maintain some mental health.

10)  Go on Youtube for 15 minutes and watch ridiculous videos.  Sometimes what you need is a good laugh.  I highly recommend this video and I know my sister likes this one.

9)  Make your bed.  This may seem like strange advice but I swear it helps.  If you start a crazy day by making your bed you know you’ve at least accomplished one thing that day.  Plus at the end of the day your bed will be a welcome and crazy-free zone, not to mention a monument to your awesome first-thing-in-the-morning achievement!  Seriously, a little bit of cleaning or organization goes a long way to improving your mental health.  If your space is cluttered your brain can register the mess as additional stress.  Just doing one small chore, like making your bed, can go a long way to helping you to feel like you’re gonna make it.

8) Go for a walk outside.  There is something about being outside, even if it’s just for a minute that I find very relaxing.  Walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine are great forms of exercise but there is something about being outdoors that is refreshing for your body and soul.  Exercise is a super important part of a healthy brain.  Do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t make it work, but do your best to get some exercise at least 3 times a week.  If all else fails do some good stretching before you go to bed and right when you wake up.

7)  Get a physical and take vitamins.  Seriously, you need to be taking vitamins.  Not everyone needs a multi-vitamin though.  It depends on your diet and what you’ve got swimming around in your blood stream.  Make an appt for a quick physical with your doctor.  They’ll check your lungs, heart, and do some blood work to make sure you’re doing ok and can give you advice on what kinds of vitamins you should be taking.  I recently went in to my doctor who told me I should start taking a pre-natal vitamin.  I politely explained that I was in no shape or form needing to prepare for the birth of a child and she politely informed me that pre-natals have vitamins in them that my body needs for my health…not just so I can bear children.  I would have never thought about that unless I went to the doctor.  It takes a couple of hours (that includes driving and waiting…it happens get over it) but it makes a big difference.  You’ve got to take care of your body or else you won’t be able to do the things you need and want to do.

6) Eat real food.  There are lots of great and quick options for real food that aren’t frozen, processed, or drive-thru.  I’m the worst about this one because I crave the bad-for-me stuff.  If you are dealing with stress and you eat a bunch of processed, junk food you are going to feel more sluggish.  On the other hand eating a healthy meal will give you a boost both physically and mentally.  It’s worth the extra 20 minutes.  And make sure you drink some water.  This is my standard line whenever someone tells me they are hurt.  Your body is 80% water so make sure you are staying hydrated.  Ryan Gosling told me it’s important.  

5) Talk to somebody you trust.  Maybe that’s a spouse or a friend or a therapist.  I am a huge believer in therapy.  It’s a great to have a 3rd party who is objective and non-judgemental to share your struggles with.  You don’t have to worry that you are over-burdening them either.

4) Get a hobby…that is not related to your job.  My job happens to also be something I’m very passionate about but if it was all I did or talked about 24/7 I would go crazy.  Take up a hobby, any hobby, that will let you clear your mind and relax.  I love to do different kinds of crafts.  But I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to my crafts so I’ve been able to get a lot of satisfaction from it even when it doesn’t come out perfectly.  Maybe your thing is gardening, knitting, collecting stamps, or photography.  I don’t know what makes your little heart skip a beat but find something and do it.  Here’s the thing though:  you won’t always have time to enjoy your hobby.  So find ways to stay connected to it without spending a lot of time on it.  Maybe a book that you could read while you are traveling for work (or an audiobook that you could listen to while you are driving?).  I have a Pinterest board for crafts and when all I have is the 3 minutes I’m left alone in the bathroom (is this an over-share?)  I’ll look at a couple of projects that I want to try when I have a chance.  Google is a beautiful thing.

3)  Get some rest.  I basically don’t sleep in the summer.  From mid-May till September I run on about 4-6 hours of sleep every night…sometimes less.  Even when I can and want to sleep my crazy brain won’t always let me.  And that’s ok.  Yes, sleep should be a priority.  But don’t mentally flog yourself when you can’t get a full 8 hours.  Allow yourself the time to rest, even if that doesn’t mean sleep.  Practice some deep breathing.  Lay down for however long you can in a room with NO TECHNOLOGY.  That means no tv, radio, or noise (maybe white noise is ok but seriously can’t you just be quiet for a while?)  Get comfy, close your eyes, and let your body relax even if your mind doesn’t shut down.  Let your muscles take a break for as long as you can.  You may fall asleep and you may not but either way you will be ok.  And that brings us to…

2)  Give yourself a break…and expect others to do the same.  You are not a superhero even if you play one on tv.  You are going to mess up, forget things, say the wrong thing, look a hot mess, and accidentally insult your boss.  If you are super talented you may do it all at once (I speak from experience, folks).  Cut yourself some slack and let it be ok when you prove to be less than perfect.  I promise the world will still keep spinning even if you forgot something super important.  Almost everything is fixable even if it is a super pain to fix.  And if people are giving you a hard time feel free to let them know that a) you are doing the best you can b) you are sorry that you made the error and c) you would appreciate some support while you are dealing with lots of stress.  If your boss is being a jerk and you can’t say anything to him/her I understand not wanting to sass them about not being supportive.  But that doesn’t mean you have to internalize their negativity.  Acknowledge it and let it go.  You are doing the best you can.  Give yourself a break.

1)  Pray.  This may sound like the Jesus answer but I promise you it is the best thing I do for my mental health. There was a time when my prayer life was more like a Christmas list.  “Dear God, Please give me a good job and a hunky boyfriend (see Ryan Gosling comment earlier).  I swear I’ve been mostly good.”  But I have found that the more often I turn aside to pray, even if it’s just a couple of minutes,  the more peaceful I become.  For me this started by praying the Lord’s Prayer.  The more I paid attention the words of the prayer the more I found that it had the power to refocus and revitalize me.  If I’m praying for God’s will to be done I’m going to have to let go of my death-grip on control.  If I’m praying to forgive others as I’ve been forgiven I’m going to have to start being kinder and more compassionate to people.  And my favorite part of the prayer…Our Father.  Sometimes the only word I can manage to pray is “Father” on a loop.  And somehow just calling on my creator and knowing He hears me is enough to get me through the day.

I hope these tips are helpful for you.  I’d love to hear of any additional tips or tricks you have for staying healthy when you are dealing with stress and busyness!

I didn’t ask for that.


I remember very vividly the moment I fell in love with my nephew. I was sitting in worship on Sunday morning at the 11am service. We were still finishing up construction so we were in the gym and I was on the far right closest to the kitchen, always a distracting place to sit. It was children’s time and Pastor Pam called all the kiddos up to hear the children’s message. As the kids ran up, some of them laughing and some of them looking pretty nervous about leaving mom and dad behind, I realized that one day in the near future I would see my nephew (or niece we didn’t know yet) run up there. I started thinking about all the wonderful things this new little person would get to try and do and the joy he would bring to every part of our family life. And I cried. Not an ugly cry or anything. Tears of joy.

My nephew was born on May 20, 2013 almost exactly 9 months to the day that my sister and her husband were married. So you see he wasn’t exactly planned. I had the extreme privilege of being on the phone with my sister when she realized she was pregnant and it was both a beautiful and scary moment. Were they ready? This wasn’t the plan. But there was a joy, even in that scary moment of something new and unexpected, that came from the certain knowledge that this was a wonderful surprise. I’ll never forget the first moment I saw him and fell in love with him all over again. He was very unhappy but still so adorable (a quality he retains to this day).

We didn’t know to pray for a miracle like little baby J. We had no way of knowing how to ask for all the blessings he has brought our family. He’s an answer to a prayer none of us knew we had been praying.

There are things in this life that we long for. We pray for them daily, maybe even hourly, asking and pleading with God to hear our prayer and answer it. Sometimes we pray this way for years without ever hearing from the Father. There are people who long for children that never come. People who pray for healing that doesn’t happen. Prayers for relationships that don’t get better and don’t last. We pray for the things we want to see God do in our lives and the lives of those we love. And sometimes it feels like he doesn’t hear us. I have been there and it is agony.

But I have seen the other side of this as well. I have seen God answer prayers I never prayed but would have and should have if only I had known the words.

In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.
Romans 8: 26

I don’t know what’s on your heart or even how God is moving in your life. I don’t know what pain you are in because of unanswered prayers. But I know that God is moving in your life. I know that God does hear your prayers. He never sleeps, never drifts far away. Say what you need to say to Him, even if it is how hurt and alone you feel. If you cannot believe that He is near or that He hears you that is ok. I will believe it for you and pray and hope that one day you will know it too.

It is good to serve a God who answers prayers we don’t know we are praying. A God who blesses us in ways we can’t foresee or think to ask for. A God who sees us and loves us. There are things in my life that I want to have or happen. But all I have to do is look at my nephew to remember that His plan is so much better than mine. It may feel scary terrifying or heartbreaking. And yet when I have surrendered and trusted (and yes, waited…sometimes what felt like forever because I am not a patient person) I have found that the blessings that God has for me are so much bigger and better than any that I could have imagined. Those blessings answer the prayer I didn’t know I was praying.

May you see God at work in your life today and may you know the joy of an answer to a prayer you didn’t know you were praying.

It makes me want to cry

Lately I swear I will cry at anything. Seriously, every tv show, commercial, YouTube video, and Facebook link brings me to tears. For example, the roomie and I were watching HGTV’s Income Property show…you know the one with the super cute host (just saying ;)). And there was a newlywed couple who were looking for a house where they could eventually have a basement apartment to rent out. I say eventually because for the moment they wanted it as a place for the wife’s mom to live because her husband (wife’s stepdad) had passed away unexpectedly and they didn’t want her to have to live alone right now. So at the end of the show they are taking her around the house and of course she gets choked up because of course it’s beautiful. But all of the sudden I realize that the son-in-law is crying too. He isn’t looking at the house that he just bought. He’s looking at his mother-in-law. He kisses her on the cheek…and I start crying.

Then not ten minutes later I’m catching up on Facebook happenings and someone has posted a video for Britain’s Got Talent where a little boy gets stage fright halfway through his song and starts crying. His mother is standing behind the curtain being kept back by the hosts but when her son starts to cry she races out and hugs him with her back to the audience separating him from them.

watch it here for yourself!

I started crying the minute she started running.  She loves her son.   And he knows it.   Just her hug and pat on the back and he is going to try again.  Love, love, love.

Life is hard and often full of nonsense.

But life is also beautiful and full of love.

People are mean, selfish, and stupid lazy.

People are compassionate, generous, and caring.

It’s all these things. Not just one or the other. I can’t pick and choose the things about people I will accept. I have to just love people…which can be really hard sometimes. But Lord knows I’m not always a delight either (don’t anybody rush to disagree with me or anything). I can, however, choose to see the beauty even in ugly situations. I can choose to see kindness instead of selfishness.  I know tv is edited.  I get that.  But I see it everywhere.  The person who rushes out of a store in the rain to help an old lady make it into a building (yes I’ve actually seen this several times…one of the perks of living in the south).  The child that comforts their mom or dad when they are upset.  Teenagers congratulating and high-fiving their friends on getting that position on the team…even if they didn’t both make the cut.  People giving their time and energy to volunteer to hang out with crazy teenagers each week.  Or the same as before but insert crazy adults or kids.  Really volunteering at all…doing anything.

That man could have looked at his mother-in-law and thought about how much this was costing him (it was reaaaaally a nice place). That mom could have been disappointed that her son’s nerves cost him the audition. But instead both reacted with compassion and a self-less kind of love.

Sometimes the world seems terrible, awful, and rotten. But then I take a breath and look again and I see beauty, kindness, and love. And it makes me smile…and reach for another Kleenex.

May you find, even in a messed up world, opportunities to smile today!

The Monday Morning Mess

Last night, like every Sunday night, we had UMY (United Methodist Youth).  What is that, you may ask?  It’s our weekly church gathering of 6th-12th graders.  We eat dinner, play games, have small group bible study time, and in general hang out.  It’s 2 hours of craziness and I often feel like I’m standing in the middle of a whirlwind trying to control the direction it’s blowing.  Lately our group has grown from about 20-30 a week to 40-50 a week.  Which is awesome!  We’ve had to do some adjusting to make that work.  Which means my organized and decorated youth rooms got dismantled and we’re still working on re-mantling them in a way that makes sense for us.  We’ve been doing some projects to get the rooms up to snuff (let me know if you want to help with that!  I’ve got 2 booths and 2 tables that need painting!) and we’re making it work.

By the time the students leave we are looking at a pretty serious mess.  Luckily I’m blessed with some seriously amazing volunteers who always stay behind to discuss how the evening went and help me clean up.  But I’m still the last one out the door (as it should be…not complaining at all!) and I always have things that I need to tackle on Monday morning.  Usually those things are piled up on my desk staring at me accusingly until I stop ignoring them and get down to work.  There are papers that need to be filed, papers that need to be copied, checks that need to be deposited (we are always registering for something it seems), emails that need to be answered, things that need to be put away, attendance that needs to be marked and copied.  Last week I panicked because I thought there was paint on the floor from a project we are working on.  Luckily turned out to be a mushed  M&M.

Basically my worst nightmare.

Basically my worst nightmare.


I don’t enjoy the mess.  I am not a messy type of person.  I like things picked up, filed, and organized.  That fact makes me something of an oddball in youth ministry (although most of the people I know are at least somewhat organized) but it’s the best way for me to function.  For me a messy space= a messy brain and I need all the help I can get in keeping my brain straight.  So no mess please and thank you.  But there’s something about my messy youth room that makes me smile.  Even something about the panic of cleaning paint/chocolate off the floor BEFORE ANYONE KNOWS.  Having a jumble of chairs and having to move things around fills me with love because it means we are making room for more of God’s people.  Cleaning the floor and washing out paint brushes fills me with joy because it means that we have lived in this space.  Picking up bibles and pencils and putting them away fills me with peace because it means teenagers got out their bibles and used them!


I don’t know what your Monday mess looks like today.  Maybe piles of dirty clothes and baby bottles.  Maybe it’s paperwork and emails.  Maybe it’s kids coming back to a classroom.  Maybe it isn’t a literal pile at all but is instead a mental pile of worries and anxieties about money, loved ones, or life choices.  I don’t know what your Monday morning mess looks like but I do know that God is at work in it.  I know that He is moving in this world and in your life.  I pray that you find love, joy, and peace in your messy Monday.  If not today then a Monday in the future.  I promise not all Monday’s will be quite so messy.  I promise you are not alone in your piles of work and problems.  Today I will say a prayer for you and I will look forward to the way God will turn messy into blessing for you.  Monday mornings are messy but they don’t last forever.  May your day be blessed.