Friday, February 27, 2015

freedom from "good": on not having to try so up-late, stressed-out, wondering-if-God-actually-likes-us hard.

It would remiss of me to not quickly mention that much of the heart change I've experienced, and am writing about in this post, came after reading two incredible books by some wise women, both of which are listed at the bottom of this blog post. Thank you Christine & Elyse for listening to God, and for helping women like me break free from the bondage of "good."


I love being a stay at home mom. There are so many privileges that come with the territory, and I don't take that for granted. But on some days, I miss working outside the home.
For one, I'm an extreme extrovert, so I miss the adult interaction that comes with an out-of-the-house job. (This is why I love texting. What did our moms do before they could ask a friend to pray for them and get a quick reply? Or send a "this will be funny in about 20 minutes when I'm not so mad!" story and laugh together about something naughty our kids did?) I miss the people, the engaging conversations, and the rhythm of getting up and getting out to work.

I also miss feeling good about myself.
Ick! I know that's not a good thing. But in the workplaces I was in, I felt like I was able to measure my "good." I was a receptionist at a thriving naturopathic office, where I got to interact with patients, pray with them, and encourage them. I worked at a missionary training campus, where I traveled to other countries to serve, and when I was in the states, helped to train other missionaries to go out on the field. My days felt rewarding. I could look back and name the people I impacted, and I knew that my hours counted for something. Yet the difference between where I was at back then, and where I'm often at today, is that back then, I knew that it was ALL God's grace and mercy that I got to do those "good" things. I wasn't exhausting myself trying to make myself feel good; I simply was accepting what God put in front of me and went after it. I ended my days, my feet up on our coffee table while I nestled into our couch, and felt fulfilled by my work. And that's not a bad thing.

My current season of life feels like a different story. I find myself looking back on those years not just feeling grateful for all that the Lord allowed me to be a part of, but also with an unhealthy longing: I want to go back to the days where my "good" was measurable. I compare myself then, to myself now. And according to my (twisted) calculations, Worker Bee Mackenzie was much more useful to God's Kingdom. Her hours added up to something great. She was doing the right things, and it showed in the finished products. She was good. Stay At Home Mom Mackenzie? She is messy. She fumbles through disciplining and laundry-folding, and just plain trying to get out of the house a few times a week. There aren't many finished products; those laundry piles end up in the "dirty" hamper a few days later, those children throw another tantrum over the exact same thing. Stay At Home Mom Mackenzie must not be doing as much good. 

I spend many nights sitting on the couch like I did before, except now I don't let myself feel fulfilled. That's the kicker, isn't? I don't let myself. In actually, what I'm "doing in life" right now is very purposeful. I know that, in my head. Raising little hearts, serving my husband as he serves me, doing my best to encourage women through Thrive Moms and spending meaningful time with friends, family, and church community - those are valuable contributions to God's Kingdom. But it doesn't feel good enough. It is not so measurable, as my work was before. And so, as I sit on my couch, it's like I spread out all my deeds and all my hours in front of me, like a deck of cards, counting up all my "good." And because most of it is a work in progress, and most of it no one sees, and most of it I'll do AGAIN tomorrow - I don't think I'm doing enough. I, poisonously, long for the good ol' days of feeling good enough. 

This isn't a blog post about working moms versus stay at home moms. It's not a blog post about knowing that wiping sticky faces and diffusing tantrums is GOOD, worthwhile work. It's not even really a blog post about being a mom. Underneath all that, I find a girl who is working really hard to earn her goodness. A girl who wonders if she is good enough. And no matter my role, missionary or mom, or a combination of both - I could work my whole life in order to feel good, and it will never be enough. 
Through reading God's word, some hard but wonderful conversations with my husband, and reading a few books (see the end of this post), I'm learning that I actually can't make myself good enough. I never will be able to make my hours count enough. What makes me good, who makes me good is Jesus. Just Him. That. is. it. (My achieving, productivity-obsessed heart, wants to say, "No, there's gotta be something I can do!" But the BEAUTY of it is, that Jesus has already done all the doing, and He has already been "good." Perfect, in fact. So we no longer have to try so up-late, stressed-out, wondering-if-God-actually-likes-us hard.)

Knowing this truth is one thing; living it, that's another. In my head I've probably "known" this truth for a long time. But in the past few weeks, when I've felt like the Lord has been going to town on my heart and just beating me over the head with GRACE, something major has shifted in my heart. And actually, in my home. And I truly feel free.
It's almost as if God double-dog-dared me to believe what He said was true - and when I've begun to take Him up on it, I've found out that grace actually works. Honestly, I feel like a different person inside. It's a little bit crazy. And it's a lot a bit GOOD.

In the past few weeks, I've traded incredible anxiety for the deepest peace I've felt in a very long time. I've begun to stop wishing away the past, and instead I'm genuinely feeling very grateful for these present days. I've stopped trying to do MORE MORE MORE, and I've begun really enjoy my kids and my husband and really enjoy my ministry responsibilities (instead of constantly wondering if I was doing enough or doing it right.) I've even begun to believe that God loves me when I'm doing the dishes or scrolling Instagram or painting my nails.

I no longer feel this crippling pressure to please God; I'm just living as His already loved daughter. I don't have to chase good anymore. I just have to believe the truth. This is the freedom that the Gospel brings. And it's wide open for us. Let's take God at His word when He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When He gives us work to do, let's go for it! Not because we'll earn anything, but instead for His glory.


If you've made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for sticking with me :) I am so happy to share this victory in my life because I want this same victory for you. If you looked at my life from the outside, a lot of what I do has stayed the same; but inside, my heart has been flipped upside down.

Besides the Bible, I don't know if I've ever been so deeply impacted by two books in my life: Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Good News for Weary Women," and Christine Hoover's "From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. It's like Elyse and Christine were both writing out what has been sitting in my heart, all the striving and the ick - and then they poured out truth and the Gospel.

This next week I'll be sharing an interview with Christine, who's book came out this week! And if you follow me on Instagram, I'll be giving away a copy of her book. So keep an eye out for that. And go get these ladies books, they are amazing.

*affiliate links used

Thursday, February 12, 2015

a quick thrive moms update & an easy way to help moms in need

It is a crazy privilege that I get to be a part of Thrive Moms. If you're a weary mom, and if you need some encouragement and community - #1 me too! and #2 you are why Thrive Moms was created! We seek to encourage moms, right in the middle of the chaos, and to help each other not just survive motherhood, but to thrive.

One of my favorite things that we do is our Support Ministry. We host support groups for moms walking through difficult experiences, and we also get to tangibly support moms in need. We've been able to help with medical bills, send care packages to moms in crisis, write handwritten letters, to name just a few ways we get to support different families.

Today at 12pm CST, Thrive Moms is hosting an Instagram auction, and 100% of the proceeds go to moms in need, via our Support Ministry! If you want to help us help other mamas, and if you'd like to bid on some awesome items, please consider checking out our auction tomorrow!

You can head over to (@thrivemomssupport). The auction starts at Noon! If you can't bid on an item, will you please pray with us for God to provide for this part of our ministry? Thank you!

Here's a sneak peek of some of the items:

Monday, February 9, 2015

on being productive, but not making anything that really matters

I'm a productivity junkie. Finishing a task or being able to measure something and say, "Yes, I spent 30 minutes doing ____ and here's how it turned out," mmhmm that's my bread and butter. That feeling is a great motivator to finish cleaning my kitchen when all I really want to do is watch another episode of Gilmore Girls. #lorelaiandlukeforever. But when I get interrupted in the middle of being productive? (By a tiny child needing something, perhaps?) My reaction lately has been very telling; I get super flustered, and if I can't finish that specific thing, I want to find something else that I can super quickly do in order to have produced something. Clear off that surface real quick; send that short email. Anything so that I can sit down and say, "Wooh, I spent that time getting something accomplished. Good thing, because otherwise..."

The answer to that "otherwise" - it's been a big, fluttering red flag.
Otherwise I will have not accomplished anything.
Otherwise I've just been wasting my time.
Otherwise I'm disappointing myself, my family, the Lord...

I know, slightly dramatic answers to the idea that I didn't get something checked off my to do list during nap time. But when I've dug down into the WHY behind that "otherwise," I've found a gal who is working real hard to feel significant. I've been carefully crafting my time so that I can feel good about what I've done at the end of the day. (And when the day ends with me not having "accomplished much," I mostly feel defeated.)

In reality, at the end of the day, when my day has been all about me and what I've been able to (or haven't been able to) accomplish, I feel empty. I am tired from all the "hard work" I've been doing, but but I still feel so disappointed- because all that work has gotten me what? A cleaner house? A eye-catching calendar with all of it's squares scribbled in?

I spend a good part of my days "accomplishing a lot," but when I'm lying in bed at night and thinking over my day, only a small chunk of that work adds up to feeling like the hours actually mattered

These words aren't easy to write, but my kids don't care if their closets are full of clean clothes, if all they hear during the day is "hold on a minute." My husband and my friends deserve a Mackenzie who is fully present with them, not one who is "listening" to them while mentally scolding herself for what I didn't get done prior to our conversation.

I don't have a perfectly crafted plan for how to accomplish getting over my striving, ugly heart; but I do have Jesus. His Holy Spirit has been whispering to me, "Put the dishes down and build that puzzle with Nicholas - and watch what I, the Lord, accomplish in this sweet time you spend together." He's been using Make it Happen (by Lara Casey) to help me ask the questions, "What really matters? What lasts for eternity? Who matters?" And He's been speaking, over and over again, where my significance truly comes from - my position with Him as His daughter. He's an awesome Dad who has joyfully invited me into His family; that's it. I don't have to do anything, accomplish something, work harder; He's already done the work.

Don't get me wrong, it's important to do my dishes so that my family can eat. God calls me to really good work, and so I need to accomplish things. But I'm learning that checking off a list is just one kind of "work." Work can also look like giving my baby too many kisses, and playing footsie with my husband while we eat ice cream. It can look like giggling, listening, praying. Good, meaningful, lasting work can look like something that isn't measurable - and I want to feel free to work hard at all the different types of work that God has given me to do. I'm incredibly excited about the work that the Lord is doing in my heart. I want to do the things that matter to Him.

*affiliate link included

Thursday, January 22, 2015

17 year olds, butterflies, and choosing each other 10 years later

Photo from the first day we met, at a church winter camp - 
taken with a disposable camera, because those were all the rage in 2004.

A funny little milestone passed a few weeks ago: 10 years since the day Brian and I met. We were both 17, he was the new boy in the youth group (I know, I know), and I was smitten the moment I laid eyes on him. His dark curly hair and those clear blue eyes, you guys, I was a goner. He was charismatic and charming, and when I came home from that church camp (again, I know), I wrote in my journal about how I wanted to marry him. So many cliches and high school hormones. The joys.

The memories feel magical. Boy did my heart beat fast when he asked me to be his girlfriend, and then two years later, his wife. The first time we kissed, yowza! (That's actually a pretty funny story.) But today, with a few more years of real life under our belts, I wouldn't trade places with that young, slightly naive, head over heels version of myself. I'm so happy to be where we are, right now.

Ten years later, we're 27-year-old Brian and Mackenzie, who've experienced incredible highs and some valleys, too. We've fought, we've traveled, we've started a family. We've championed each other and we've been selfish. We've cried, we've clung to each other for dear life, we've prayed desperately and prayed gratefully. I've been at my worst, and well, I'm sure he has too, but 9 times out of 10 he's just a better human being than I am. Through the late nights with our boys, and the laughter with beloved friends, the rejoicing and the grieving- there is nothing like staring into the same pair of eyes, day after day, and continuing on together. It may sound all kinds of cliche but man do I ever mean it: commitment - is there anything more sexy, more "makes my heart beat fast" than that? No, I don't think there is.

Being chosen, day after day, even though I have giant bags under my eyes because our chillens never sleep, and even though I forget to fold the laundry, and even though I can be a big jerk - being chosen in the middle of all that, that's love. Butterfly-stomach, passionate romance is awesome - and there are definitely moments that Brian and I feel that way towards each other. But even those fun feelings pale in comparison to when I watch Brian choose me again, day after day. He knows my dark, he knows my worst - and yes he still chooses me. "Grateful" doesn't even begin to cover how I feel. And even when its hard, and even when I would rather be right than be nice to my husband, and even when we hurt each other's feelings - I am incredibly humbled and grateful for the power of when I keep choosing Brian, and he keeps choosing me. Our marriage, this choosing kind of love, is a gigantic, beautiful, GRACIOUS gift from God. He's makes it possible, because He started that choosing kind of love. He came up with it, and He continues to choose us day after day. We just look at Him, and try our feeble, messy best to do the same.

I'm a floored-in-awe kind of grateful for the gift of looking into that same pair of blue eyes, still ten years later. And can I just say, Brian, you've got even better looking with age? I can't wait to keep choosing you, and I'm so incredibly thankful that you keep choosing me. High five.

Friday, January 9, 2015

january goals

I do have a "word of the year" - actually two of them - but I want things to simmer in my heart just a bit longer before I write them for the world to see. (Because the whole world reads my blog, didn't you know that?) Jokes. Joking.

So I'm doing things slightly backwards, in the blogging world, and sharing my monthly goals before the "big picture 2015" post. My blog, I do what I want. (That came out sassier than I had planned. I meant that in a nice way.)

Anywho - goals for January! I realize I'm starting the year off by being late in putting up a "January goals" post - after all, a week of this month has already passed. But better late than never, right? My family was hit with a cold, and it's decided to stay for 2 weeks, so I'm behind on most things in life. The blog is following suit. :) Ok! If you've made it this far and have read the jumbled mess that is my sleep-deprived, stuffed up brain, you win a million friendship points. Onto the actual goals:

Finish my Powersheets:
I've felt a nudge from the Lord over the past few months to prayerfully, and realistically, set some goals. He has given me a few dreams for this year and I really want to follow through on them - with His grace and His power fueling me.
Lara Casey's Powersheets are in incredible tool to set goals, with real life in mind. I've barely started these babies and I want to finish them this month. 

Read & work through "Make It Happen" by Lara Casey
I'm a few chapters in, and this book is already life changing. No exaggeration. Like Lara writes, I want to make WHAT MATTERS happen this year. I want to love God and love people, and obey the Lord in the specific ways He's given me to do that. This book is another amazing tool.

Plan & go on a vacation with my family!
The past few months have been crazy. And the past few weeks have been EXHAUSTING. Brian has had to go into work every day for different things (including weekends), and we've been so sick. With church plant stuff on top of that - we need some real time off as a family. So we are going on vacation at the end of the month, and we CANNOT WAIT. Never been on a real vacation 

Date night with Brian before our vacation
Whether it's a date night IN or a date night out, we need some mommy & daddy time!

Try yoga twice
This both terrifies and excites me. Being VERY realistic in choosing to try this just TWO times. Oh, and I gotta buy a yoga mat...

Daily goals that I want to become daily habits:

- Read my Bible
This seems to happen daily if I do it right away in the morning. Get kids and myself breakfast, sit down right away and read. Even if it's 10 minutes and the kids are playing 5 feet away.

- Write in my "Gratitude Journal"
I printed this "Gratitude Journal" and it's in a binder with my Powersheets and monthly calendar. I've already written a few things, but I want to fill that baby up! Daily, at least 2 things. The Bible talks a lot about gratitude being VITAL, and I want to make it a habit.

- Turn my stress/worry into prayer
Someone smarter than me once said that "Worry is putting your faith in the wrong kingdom." I want to practice daily taking thoughts that typically cause me to spiral into worry or stress, and instead turn them into a conversation with the Lord. And then LISTEN and see what He says.

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Linking up with Haley for "Goals with Grace."

Do you have any goals for the month?