You’ve Got Potential

“What do you think God thinks about when He thinks about you?” Andy asked this question in a sermon not too long ago as he talked about the prodigal son. I think it’s an important question.

Do your failures and past sins pop into your mind when you think about what God must think of you? Do your prevailing habits or current attitude overwhelm your thoughts and make you want to hide from Him? Do you think when God thinks about you He shakes His head in disgust?

Or, maybe you think He’s proud of you right now, certainly in comparison to some other people you know. Maybe you’re in a season where you’re serving or giving or sacrificing, and you’re feeling good about what He thinks of you. In “musical chairs” terms, if the music stopped right now you’d be golden!

If you’re like most people, the seasons of your life tend to ebb and flow—good times and not-so-good times. Maybe you’re just hoping that in the end, your good stuff will outweigh the bad and your average will be respectable.

I have some very good news. When God looks at us, He doesn’t just see us as we are in the moment. He sees our potential and all that we can be for Him. He sees our whole timeline at once. He doesn’t just shake His head in frustration over our current poor choices or missed opportunities. He actually sees what’s next, and next, and next.

A great example, and an encouraging one, is the way Jesus perceived Peter. Impulsive, sometimes unstable, speak-before-you-think Peter seemed to be one of Jesus’ favorites. His given name was Simon, but since Jesus saw Simon’s future, He knew his potential. Matthew 16 records the conversation where Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, meaning “rock.” Jesus knew that Peter would ultimately be strong, courageous, and influential. He knew Peter would leverage his influence for the building of “the church” and the salvation of many.

At the time of the name change, Peter had not earned it, nor proved himself worthy of the leadership role he would ultimately have. But Jesus knew. Jesus loved him in spite of his impetuous behavior. Jesus respected him in spite of the fact that a little while later Peter’s lack of understanding would cause Jesus to say to him, “Get behind me, Satan!” Ouch.

One of my all-time favorite Bible passages is Psalm 139. I memorized it a couple of summers ago, and I love to pray it out loud. Something about verse 16 overwhelms me every time I say it. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” He’s not writing our stories as we go, surprised by our choices and caught off-guard by our decisions. Every day ordained for me is already written in His book. He knows me and loves me anyway. He knew and loved Peter anyway. He knows and loves you anyway.

So what do you think God thinks about when He thinks about you? I think His Father-heart is filled with joy, knowing your whole story, knowing your extraordinary potential, and knowing what He’s created you to do. All the days ordained for you were written in His book before one of them came to be. I believe that when He thinks about you, He grins from ear to ear. Think about THAT!

Parenting Teenagers, Part 3: A Life of Their Own

IMG_4735 - Version 2“Who in the world told my kids they could have a life of their own?” I remember chronically thinking this while ours were teenagers. Just when we hit a parenting stride that was awesome (awesome… meaning I was pretty much in control of their schedules and daily details, and made sure none of it actually conflicted with MY important plans), they started individuating and making plans of their own.

As parents, this is the season we begin to battle two conflicting emotions: the urge to take back control and the desire to become buddies. Both usually originate from legitimate motives. One, we don’t want them to fail and we believe we hold the keys to that. Two, we want them to like us during a chunk of years when they possibly won’t. Both are a disservice to them.

Since our kids are entering a new season of life, a new parenting approach has to be considered. We loosen the tight reigns of the training years and move to the sidelines for coaching. Coaches don’t the leave the field. They don’t get distracted with other stuff. They watch carefully, call some plays, and pull their players off of the field from time to time. They have no immediate goals of keeping their players happy. Mostly, they encourage their players to run the plays and respond to situations according to the training they’ve received.

Transitioning to the coaching role wasn’t intuitive for me. Disciplining and training had become engrained. What helped me most was thinking about it in terms of “I’m for you.” I’m for your physical safety. I’m for your emotional health. I’m for your relational success. I’m for your mental and spiritual development. I’m for you making it to the end of these middle school years, or high school years, with as few regrets as possible. You’re the player, but I’m not afraid to pull you aside for tweaks, corrections, and sometimes sitting out a game. I’m for you. I know you can do this, and I’m here to help when you need it.

Resisting the urge to control and not caving to the desire to prematurely make friendship a priority brings health to a family. Coaching our kids through those middle and high school years, in spite of a few regrets here and there, is the stuff rich relationships are made of later. In hindsight, my kids gaining “a life of their own” has truly broadened and enriched mine!

The New Rules for Love, Sex, & Dating


Anybody else a little bit disturbed these days by the casual and flippant attitude toward dating and sex? It seems to me that any television series I want to watch is laced with sexual innuendo or straight-up immorality. I usually watch a few episodes, connect with characters, and then have to say my goodbyes in order not to fill my mind with all the yuck. I promise this post isn’t all about television, movie, or culture bashing. I’d like to simply set the stage and highlight an amazing book just released!

Today, The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating is making its debut. If you are in the dating world, the dating-again world, or know someone who is, you need to know about this book.

If you’re a parent, you REALLY want to have this book handy for quick draw! As Andy says in the introduction, even if you’ve already had that “awkward fifteen-minute talk,” you need to consider moving toward “an awkward fifteen-year conversation.”

For high school students, college students, and even dating adults, this book will reframe and reshape views of love, sex, and dating. Andy explores the challenges, assumptions, and land mines associated with dating. He encourages singles to step up and set a new standard for this generation. One that honors God, honors others, and honors the future the reader hopes to experience.

Here’s a link to the INTRO if you’d like to check it out!

Once again, I have some autographed copies to give away! Leave a comment and your email address in order to enter the random drawing. If you’d like to have it autographed for someone else, you can let me know that too.

*Email address is simply so that I can notify the winners.

Protein Bites

protein balls 2

It’s the first day of the New Year, and you know what that means, right? It’s time to make promises to yourself. Promises you’ll keep for a month or so anyway! If you made any exercise resolutions, today is your lucky day. I have just the post work-out treat for you. It’s easy to make, delicious to eat, and fuels your body with the perfect amount of protein to follow a moderate workout. Fifteen to twenty grams of protein after a work out is just about right. So, throw a few of these in a ziplock and into your gym bag. Depending on your protein powder, each of these will provide around five grams of protein. You might find yourself getting that work-out completed even faster just to get to this delicious snack!

Post Work-out Protein Bites

  • 3/4 C. almond butter (or your favorite nut butter)
  • 1/4 C. coconut oil
  • 1/3 C. honey
  • 1/2 C. ground flax seeds
  • 1 1/2 C. rolled oats
  • 2/3 C. protein powder
  • 1/4 t. salt (if your nut butter is unsalted, use 1/2 t.)
  • 1/4 C. mini chocolate chips, optional

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Roll into 20 bite-sized balls. Store in refrigerator. Enjoy!

* If you’re in a chocolate mood, add a few tablespoons of cocao powder or cocao nibs.

My Sweet Mother-in-Law

Anna's Memorial (1)-0These past two and a half weeks have been tough ones for us. Andy’s mom died last Monday after ten days in the hospital battling pneumonia and a few other health issues. Never have I been more grateful for family, friends, and our amazing church. Never have I been more keenly aware that peace and loss are not mutually exclusive. Never have I been more in love with my husband than after watching him tenderly care for, and love, and tease, and sing to his sweet, frail mom.

The term mother-in-law always seems to carry a bit of a negative connotation, but with mine, none of those typical mother-in-law things were characteristic. Anna was never nosey, or bossy, or prone to dispensing unwelcome opinions or advice. In fact, she was such a wise and gracious lady, I would have gladly received more of her guidance, had she been well enough over the years to give it.

Anna’s health issues kept her from being able to spend a lot of time with her grandchildren, but when she did, she made it count. I’ll never forget one particular night she babysat our kids. When Andy and I returned home, she told us that after reading some Bible stories she decided it was time to tell the kids about the devil. So she did. Anna left and we went upstairs to check on them. Every light and lamp were on, and all we could see of the kids were little bits of brown hair, and little bits of blonde hair sticking out of the covers of one twin bed!

One very significant connection that Anna and I shared was the role of pastor’s wife. Being a pastor’s wife is unique and can be hard. People tend to have expectations. They watch closely how you behave, what you wear, how you parent… Anna helped me understand that I didn’t need to feel responsible for everything going on in the church. I didn’t need to worry about what everyone thought about every decision I made. In many ways she freed me to make Andy and our kids my priority over ministry.

I believe this one powerful thing has significantly impacted my relationship with Andy, my relationship with my children, and my relationship with this church that I love so much.

I will be forever grateful to my Heavenly Father for the gift of Anna Johnson Stanley—my kind, generous, funny, and very wise mother-in-law.