Author: admin

My story… is your story.

Slamming the bike into the front door on purpose. Lying from that sweet little mouth. Tearing down the Fox Tail Palm we just planted. Getting gum stuck in those long locks of hair. Tattle-tailing on the kids at school. Whining. Whining. And more whining.

Today has been challenging. And it is only 3 o’clock.

I thought I was in the clear when I survived the sleepless nights, doing away with the pacifier and potty training. But, nothing has pushed me to my limits as a parent more than the last few months.

Eight months ago, we added a fourth child to our family. With every ounce of my being, I believe that this is the Lord’s will for my family. However, despite my confidence in this matter, on days like these, I wrestle with a merry-go-round of questions and concerns.

“How can I do a better job as a parent – to a child who deserves the world?”

“Am I really equipped to handle this?”

“Lord, I need help! I can’t ‘parent’ another minute.”

As I sit contemplating the latest happenings, I struggle. I am on the verge of tears… Enter my eldest son…

“Why did you let them play with my brand new race track? It doesn’t work now,” he moans. (Tears, whining and a mini meltdown ensue.) “Now I am never going to get to play with it!”

My last nerve has just been stepped on.

Amazingly, I hold it together.

I don’t yell. I don’t scream. I don’t break down and cry.

Instead, I calmly resolve in my mind what needs to be done.

“It is obvious you are all tired,” I calmly state. (And if you aren’t, I am. So…) “Go to your room. You are going to rest for an hour.”

The whining continues as each walks to their designated spot.

Within minutes, three are asleep. I can hear the sound of snoring (the most welcomed noise I have heard all afternoon) from my family room door.

This moment causes me to reflect and put life into perspective. So, I sit down and write. To share what I am going through. Because – I know I am not alone. My story— Is your story.

As I write, my son walks into the room again.

“I am sorry, Mommy. I should not have gotten so upset about the race track,” he says.

And that’s when it hit me… These moments at home, when I keep my composure and resist the urge to throw a fit myself, are not unnoticed. Moments like these, seen only by my children… are seen by my children. 

When I invest in them. When I hold my composure with them. When I teach them the way to go or simply the way to rest… Whether it appears that way or not, I am making a difference in their lives.

In these little moments, I am molding them into who they will become.

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Whether the Fox Tail Palm will live or die, I do not yet know. But this, I am convinced of– Every day, I am training my children to be the people they will one day become. The more I act like Christ, the more they will, too.



2 Samuel 6:21,22, “I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”

I hadn’t heard the song in months. And now, for the third day in a row these six words echoed from my radio, straight into my soul.

“I want to live with Abandon.”

The first time I heard them, I noticed them. The second time, I sang them. The third time, the words – sang to me. I have been pondering this phrase ever since.

For days, I have repeated these words over and over again in my mind.

 “I want to live with Abandon!”

But, what really does it mean? To live with abandon…

I actually looked up the word in the dictionary (the online one, of course). Here is what I found. Abandon means to have complete lack of inhibition or restraint; to give up control of; to yield oneself without restraint or moderation.

To give up control… Ouch.

To have complete lack of inhibition… Ugh.

This could be tough. (even for me- one who has never been a control freak, who doesn’t lack confidence nor pay much attention to what others think of me.) But, no matter how tough it is, I have told the Lord over and over again, “I want the life you have for me. And I will do whatever it takes to live itif you’ll just show me how. Please, show me how, Lord.”

Days later, I watched the words come to life before my very eyes.

As I meandered through Publix, I heard an angelic voice singing at the top of her lungs, “Everybody dance now! Bap, bap, bap-bap-bap. Everybody dance now!”

Without knowing what the Lord was about to teach me, I moved toward the voice.

“How cute is this,” I thought, as three year old Selah flipped over the rail at the check-out line singing unashamedly at the top of her lungs. People passing by smiled. Some turned a quick glance. Others laughed. But, nothing stopped her. This little girl just sang and sang and sang– at the top of her lungs. No matter who was watching. No matter what kind of looks she got. No matter who heard… She was uninhibited.

Selah (That means pause and think on that for a moment.)

What a picture of abandonment.

I want to live like that –. All the time. Uninhibited by what other people think of me. Unhibited by my own expectations. Unihibited by my flaws, my dimples, my voice, or my quirks. I want to sing – like no-one is listening. I want to dance – like no-one is watching. I want to speak boldly- no matter who is in the room.

In a world where it isn’t very cool to be a radial Christian, I want to be radical. Not because I want to be wacky or weird, but because I know true happiness. I have tested both sides of the fence. I know where true joy comes from. I live it every day. And now, I want others to know, too.

In every season of life, I want to open my mouth and praise Him freely and uninhibited – no matter the place, the event, or the time. No matter who is listening, I want to honor the Lord with every part of my being. I want to value His opinion more than anyone else’s, in every situation and at all times.

My heart’s desire is for His love to shine through me in tangible ways for others to see. Every. Single. Day. I want to be His hands, His feet, and His mouth. In times of chaos and in times of peace. In happy times and difficult ones.



I want to live like that little girl singing at the top of her lungs.


I want to live with abandon.

Date Night and Alone.

Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore chose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

It’s the second Saturday night of the month. Date night at church.  My husband is working. Again.

I take a shower. Blow dry my hair. Put on my make-up.

What am I going to do?

I have no plans. Ironically, my kids do. I have to pick them up at 10pm. That means I have to kill three hours on a Saturday night. And my husband is working… Did I mention that?

Earlier in the week, I made plans. They fell through. So, here I stand in front of my bathroom mirror all dressed up with no place to go. A few emotions run through me. 1- I don’t want to be alone tonight. 2- I don’t want to be a third wheel. 3- I thought these days were over. 4- I think this is going to be good for me.

For years I thought when I got married I would never have another unwelcomed night solo, but with a husband who works a lot, it happens. Even when I don’t want it to.

In the past two weeks, I have gone out to lunch by myself. Twice. I sat in church alone. Twice. I was the fifth wheel at a dinner party one Saturday night. The next, I went to see the movie, “Lone Survivor” by myself (kind of ironic as I look back.)

Being single for so many years taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin. To go it alone. And to enjoy every moment of it. And so I did. But- it wasn’t always this way. Years ago when I had nothing to do or my plans fell through, my regular day would quickly turn into a miserable night. I would sit at home and think about the life I wished I had. I would end up being the star of my own, personal pity party decorated with crying until my eyes hurt and eating until I wanted to throw up.

Those days are long gone. But it isn’t because I finally have a family and never have a lonely night. It’s because I learned how not to let my emotions rule my life. Just because I feel a certain way, doesn’t mean I have to live in that place. I can choose to live above my feelings by focusing on the good things in my life. By focusing on what I do have, and not what I don’t.

It took years of practice for me to learn… It’s up to me to choose life or death. Much of this choice happens in my thoughts. Before, I didn’t know I could choose my thoughts. Now, I realize I can choose what to think on and what to push out of my mind. I can choose joy or destruction. Happiness or sadness. Peace or worry. Faith or doubt.

This weekend served as a great reminder for me. Life is full of choices. Our choices make all the difference in how we live. Now, rather than sitting down feeling sorry for myself on a Saturday night, I make a choice to get up and do something.

Every time I choose life, my choice pays off.

Fresh Eyes.

1Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

“Has Mitt Romney ever been the President, Mommy?” my eight year old son inquired this morning.

“No,” I responded.

“Good.” He said with a grin.

My daughter, Aspen, was quick to jump in. “Jayce,” she said, “That is not a good thing!”

“Yes it is!” he replied. “Now he doesn’t have to worry about being the president just once. He can still be president -TWO- times!”

Aren’t kids great?

Never mind that Mitt Romney already ran for president. And lost. Forget the countless hours he put into campaigning. And lost. Pay no attention to the many sleep deprived nights he incurred, the enormous amount of stress he endured on a daily basis, hours worth of study for debates, pages and pages of criticism and personal judgments passed by people he has never met. And, oh yeah. Don’t forget… He still lost the election.

Leave it to children to disregard every natural circumstance and look with fresh eyes to the opportunities still possible. By losing the race for President in 2012, Mitt Romney gained the opportunity to be president for two terms in the future.

Hmmm. That’s a different perspective. One I have never considered.

Before I go any further, let me say this – I have no idea whether Mitt Romney would ever consider running for president again. Nor do I know that he should. Quite honestly, my point has nothing to do with politics at all.

What this one little conversation reminded me of, is this… When the Lord looks at His children, He doesn’t see the times we fail or the people who reject us. When He looks at us, He sees possibilities. For every missed opportunity, He sees the ability to rise again. For every disappointment, He sees hope for a bigger appointment.

God is not moved by our past failures or mistakes. He is not moved by our present circumstances. He is not moved by our logic or reasoning. The Lord is, however, moved by our ability to see through the eyes of faith, all of the good things He has prepared for us.

When we gaze at our life from His perspective, there is a world of possibilities that are opened up to us.  With eyes of faith, we can see that every missed opportunity is a chance to learn and grow. To be – Better. Wiser. Stronger. And more satisfied.  Our past failures prepare us for our future victories. To be more. To do more. To give more. And to love more.

I challenge you today to stop seeing the areas you fall short in as failures. Instead, recognize the possibilities that still exist. Begin to look at your life through the wide-eyes of an innocent child. And in doing so, open yourself up to the world of possibilities that your past has prepared for you.

Gum? Anyone.

Psalm 104:27, “These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.”

Today is a special day. Before the sun came up we sang “Happy Birthday” to my youngest son, Ty Owen. He made a wish and blew out the candle in bed. Then we ate cupcakes for breakfast before school.

Fifth birthdays are large milestones in our house. Like driving a car when you are sixteen or getting into a rated “R” movie at seventeen. In the Brandes home, turning five means you get to chew bubble gum for the very first time.

So, after listening to the “cha-cha-cha” rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song, Ty excitedly asked, “Mommy, can I chew gum now?

“Are you five yet?” I retorted.

“Yes!” He beamed.

“Then, today you can have as much gum as you want!” I said.

Years ago, when my husband mentioned the idea of not allowing our kids to have gum until they were five, I thought the idea was rather ridiculous. “What’s the point?” I thought. “Just because you weren’t allowed to chew gum until you were five, you think we should make our kids suffer the same fate?”

Of course, I didn’t voice those thoughts out loud. I simply asked what his reasoning was.  The first was obvious. Little kids stick gum in places it shouldn’t go. Like under the counter, in their hair and on the ground for others to step in. The second was one I had never considered.  “I think it’s good to make them wait for some things,” he said. “It teaches them appreciation for the simple things. And… delayed gratification.”

Delayed gratification? I have never liked the sound of that. But it is something I have learned to appreciate more and more through the years. After all, we don’t learn much from the lessons in life that come easy, or happen quickly, for that matter. And, as much as I hate to admit it, those seasons in life that take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to arrive, have actually taught me the most.

Why would it be any different for the little version of me?

For five years, Ty was told “No. You can’t have bubble gum yet.” When his brother and sisters, cousins, and friends were chewing it, he couldn’t. He learned that “no now” doesn’t mean “no forever”. It was only “no” for a season. Until he was mature enough to handle it.

He learned firsthand at a very young age the meaning of delayed gratification.

Five years of waiting ended this morning. I wish you could have seen him chomping and chewing. All – day – long. The smile… and the gum… never left his mouth.

To an outsider, the lesson here may look small. But from one who knows what it is to wait for something valuable, the implications are far reaching. They go far beyond the surface level and into the heart of that child’s character.  A lesson that will follow them forever.

I encourage you, today, to look for ways to teach your children little lessons such as these in the days and weeks to come. After all, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to sprinkle character building lessons such as these throughout their young lives.

Please, share your ideas below on how you have helped your children learn character building lessons.


I realize it’s bold, but it’s the way the conversation started…

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

His answer caught me a little off guard. “Yes,” he said with his head down. “My wife has always been deeply religious, too. I don’t generally tell people this, but years ago she had two abortions and she has never really forgiven herself.”

My heart sank. Empathy ripped through my soul.

“Have you?” I replied.

He glanced up at me with a look of guilt no eighty-five year old man should have to bear. “No, I guess I never really have.” (Pause.) “I could have stopped them, you know?”

A flood of emotions ran through me. Immediately, I was transported in my mind to the morning just a few weeks ago when I stood in church, hands lifted high singing, “My every stain is washed away. I am forgiven.”

Clearly, this man did not understand what “forgiven” truly meant.

Instead of receiving genuine forgiveness, he chose to carry the heavy weight of guilt that comes with a decision such as this —for over sixty years. Rather than receiving forgiveness from the only One who can wash the stain away, this man and his wife bore this burden of sin on their shoulders. All. These. Years.

Standing next to him, tears streamed down my cheeks. I wept… Just as Jesus weeps when we refuse to accept the free gift He has given us- forgiveness of our sins.

When Christ died, He died for ALL of our sins. Not just the ones we can admit to. He died for the ones we are ashamed of. The ones no one else knows about. The sins we have carried for years and years. Like this man. And his wife.

Mathew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I don’t know what you are going through. Or what you have done. But forgiving yourself is a choice that only you can make. Don’t waste another minute holding on to unforgiveness toward yourself.

Before you ever asked. Before you ever sinned, Christ forgave you.

For the abortion. For the divorce. For the abandonment. For the abuse. For the words. For the thoughts. For the actions. He has forgiven you… For everything you have ever done and everything you will ever do.

The only one left remembering… Is you.

Where is MY Valentine?

Psalm 31:14-15, But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands.”

For years, the mere thought of Valentine’s Day made me want to cry. The best solution my love sick heart could think of for dealing with this dreaded day– was to curl up in bed and sleep– for at least a week. Of course, that was unrealistic. So, instead, I rode the rollercoaster of emotions brought on by this February day. Every year.

I had spent years longing to meet the love of my life. I watched one friend sail off into wedded bliss after another. Some were starting families. Others were traveling to exotic places with their new hubbies. But, I… was still home. Single and alone.

Then, a couple weeks before V-day, 2000, in walked Tom… I felt a spoonful of hope rise up on the inside of me. “Maybe he – is him. Maybe this is the man I have spent hours and hours praying for. Maybe he is the one I have been waiting all these years to meet. Could this year be the end of my single life?”

I hoped so.

It only took a couple of dates to discover that though Tom was a very nice guy, he definitely was not the man I had been dreaming about. Of course, relating “he just isn’t the one,” was not reason enough for my friends and family to accept. So I came up with a excuse not to like him. I distinctly remember telling my sister –“He’s a great guy. But… he drives a ‘car’. And he… isn’t a good golfer.”


That’s all you’ve got?

To complicate things, as I grabbed my keys to leave the office on Valentine’s Day, there sat a dozen lavender roses on my desk. From Tom. My face smiled, but my insides turned.

“What is the matter with me?” I thought. “Here is this great guy- who is kind and thoughtful. Nice looking and a good dresser. He is a good conversationalist and even has a good job. Now, he has sent you flowers on this dreaded holiday. And the best you can come up with is ‘He drives a car and isn’t a good golfer.’”

“What is wrong with me?”

“Am I afraid of commitment?”

 “Should I settle for someone who is good, but not great, to me?”

“Am I looking for something that doesn’t exist?”

Thought after thought ran through my mind. After all, I wasn’t getting any younger. My clock was ticking and time felt very short.

“Where are you, God?”

“What is taking so long?”

“Am I going to be single? Forever?”

It was another two years before I met my husband. In that time, God did an amazing work in me. I became a great wife. To a man I had never met.

I learned how to not sweat the small stuff. I learned how to get off of the roller coaster and live an emotionally stable life. I learned the art of living one day at a time with a hope and expectation for a brighter future. I learned patience. I learned perseverance. I learned self-discipline. I learned how to depend on God in ways I never needed to before. I learned how to trust Him with my heart’s desires. I learned of His faithfulness and unfailing love. I learned how to appreciate – in an extremely intense way – the husband I did not yet know… All of which have had a huge impact on my life. My husband’s life. My children’s lives. And the lives of my grand and great-grandchildren who have not yet been born.

My waiting was not in vain.

Through those years of waiting, I learned that God’s timing is perfect. That His promises are true. And that when you entrust your life and dreams to the Maker of the Universe, the Maker of the Universe moves heaven and earth for you.

If you had asked me back then, “Are you ready?”, my answer would have been emphatically “YES!” When I look back now, I know that is not the truth.

I am the wife I am today because of the work God did in me through those years of waiting. So, this Valentine’s Day, I exhort you… Your waiting is not in vain. Your day will come. You are a bride… whether you have met your groom yet or not.


Psalm 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

When my husband and I pulled into the driveway with our realtor that Wednesday morning, I couldn’t help but wonder why two elementary-aged children were playing outside on a school day.

At the time, many families from our church were choosing to forego the public school system and begin home schooling their children. So, before our daughter started kindergarten, my husband and I discussed the possibility. I spent months praying about where to send our children to school. In the end, we concluded, “Homeschooling may be the Christian thing to do. It’s just not the Christian thing for us to do.”

Now, pulling into the driveway, just six months into kindergarten, we were buying a house next to a home schooling mom. “Ahhhh!!!” I let out a shrill scream on the inside. “Lord, I hope you are not planning to move me here in order to get me homeschooling my children.

It didn’t happen.

Here’s why…

1. I have absolutely zero desire to home school my children. (And I personally believe that when you entrust your life to the Lord, He makes your heart line up with His plan.)

2. The thought of staying home with my children all day, every day, makes me cringe.

3. Even though I love my kids with everything I am, I need time away from them – to be me.

4. Have you ever tried taking four kids to the grocery store? Need I say more?

5. Remember #1…

To me, it would be ridiculous to try to take on something that I have absolutely no desire to do? Wouldn’t you agree? Yet with all of the reasons as to why home schooling is not right for me, I spent a fair amount of time contemplating if it was something I should do.

Why do we do that?

I thought peer pressure was something that only kids get caught up in? Why do we, as adults, feel a pressing need to please other people? To keep up with the Jones’? To do a certain thing just because somebody else is doing it? Why do we try to be someone (or do something) we are not?

The Lord created each of us in His image. Unique. Special. Beautiful. Wonderful. To serve His purpose in our very own, distinctive way. He created you… To Be You… The best you, you can be. So, if for you – that means home schooling your kids. Home school your kids. If for you – that means working outside the home. Work outside the home. If for you – it means being a stay-at-home mom. Be the best stay-at-home mom you can be.

In order to live out your potential, you can’t do what is right for someone else. You have got to do what is right for you!  (And if what was right for you then, isn’t right anymore. Then change it… Be You.)The Lord doesn’t want a carbon copy of someone else. He wants you. With all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. With your creativity and exuberance. Your successes and failures. He wants you…To Be You!

Stop trying to be someone you are not.

Write your own story.

No one can write it quite like you.

Be You.



He Hears.

Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.”

I pray about everything. It is a part of who I am. Big things. Little things. And everything in between. I pray.

I pray. Because without guidance from My Heavenly Father, I would be lost. I know, because for years I didn’t pray much. I only considered the Lord when it was convenient for me. When I needed help. Like – when I had a really big decision to make, was in trouble or wanted protection as I drove home with drunk people. (I know it’s terrible. But it’s the truth.)

In all honesty, I hardly considered the Lord. I went my own way. And I ended up dissatisfied with my life. So I asked God for help. And help, he did.

I learned quickly that without prayer, I wander aimlessly. But when I pray, He shows me the way to go…

Towards the beginning of 2013, I began to notice some singing talent in my daughter Aspen. But, because I am musically void, I did not know if her voice was actually pretty or if I was just hearing beauty – from the heart of a mama. (If you’ve seen even one episode of American Idol, you know what I mean.)

I needed direction. So, I made this simple request to the Lord.

“Lord, I need help knowing what direction to encourage Aspen in. I don’t want to push her on a path that is not your plan for her. Direct my steps. And help me direct hers.”

In May, while playing at the beach, Aspen very nonchalantly mentioned, “Pastor Ray said I would lead worship from the stage one day. Did you tell him I wanted to lead worship, Mommy?”

“No, actually I haven’t told anyone.” I said. “Did you?”

“No,” she replied.

Later that week, I emailed my pastor and he confirmed. Yes. He had said those things.

Wow. The very prayer I whispered in my quiet time was being answered through someone who knew nothing of the situation. And – in an amazing way. I stood in awe of the Lord.

Then. As if that wasn’t enough. The Lord confirmed it again, last night.

A man I’d never seen before greeted me in the hall, handed me a Kari Jobe CD and said, “Your daughter has such a pure heart. She is going to lead worship one day. I see her as someone like – Kari Jobe.”

When I asked him what made him say such a thing, he simply stated, “The Lord told me.”

My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t think he was weird or crazy or anything else. I simply know it was confirmation -for the second time – on what direction I am to lead my daughter in. It was an answer to a prayer whispered in the quiet – Important to me. Important to God.

I haven’t told you these things to say what an amazing voice my daughter has. On the contrary, it still needs much refining.

My reason for sharing this story is simple – To remind you that we serve an amazing God. One who hears the heart of His children; Who answers the prayers we cry out in secret; And directs the steps of those who are humble enough to ask.

No Guarantees.

Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Honor and enjoy your Creator while you are still young, before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes.”

Life is short. I know that. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  I know that, too. But somehow in the busyness of every day, I tend to forget – I was created for a purpose…

For me, it was an ordinary Monday morning. I was caught up in my daily adventure of packing lunchboxes, tying shoes and rushing kids out the door for school. In my bubble, the world was small. Then I walked into work. Suddenly, my bubble burst and the world enlarged around me. My adventure became much more important.

I met Mr. Johnson, a handsome man with crystal blue eyes, at the hospital just days before Christmas. In a short amount of time, I learned a lot about him. As far as the world is concerned, he was a successful man. He had been married to the same woman for many years, had an expanding family and a respectable career.  To the natural eye, he looked and sounded healthy. But with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I had a vague knowing that despite how things looked on the outside, his days were numbered.

It’s amazing the things we assume looking at the outside of a person. But, when we get to the end of our life, it is what’s on inside that truly matters. This my soul knows very well. So rather than focus on the outside, that December afternoon I chose to go deeper. To probe into the heart of this man.

Did Mr. Johnson know the one thing that matters?”

As I shared the love of Christ with him, he simply shrugged his shoulders without any outward acknowledgement of the things I said. I left the room wondering, “Could this man possibly be a Christian? Had my words had any influence?”

Ten minutes later, those words were lost. For me, anyway. Mr. Johnson went home. And in the hustle and bustle of life, I never gave the conversation another thought.

Until Friday afternoon, that is. As I walked into a different room at the same hospital, there staring back at me were those same crystal blue eyes. Only this time, there was little life left in them.

“Hello.” Mr. Johnson, I said. “Do you remember me?” It took all the strength he had for the smooth talking gentleman I met earlier that month to let out a quiet, “Yes.”

For the first time in three weeks, my mind went back to the day we met and the uncertainty of our conversation. Once again, I found myself talking to him about his relationship with Christ. This time, however, there was a deeper sense of urgency. When I asked him if he was a Christian, he shrugged his shoulders in the same fashion. Only this time, he added, “Yes… I guess.”

“Yes. I guess?”… What did that mean?

Come to find out – Mr. Johnson had asked Christ to be His Savior, but never truly lived his life for Him. Now, as his days were winding down, he seemed to be questioning the life he lived and the uncertainty of his future.

So. One last time. I did my best to help this man know that he was loved, accepted, and forgiven by the Savior of the world. Then I left the room once again.

I had done my part.

Christ did His 2014 years ago.

The rest… was up to Mr. Johnson.

When I arrived at work Monday morning, I learned that our conversation was one of his last. Two days after our conversation, Mr. Johnson’s adventure came to an end.

Selah. (That means ‘pause and reflect on that’.)