"Life Beyond the Picket Fence"

Life & Faith Beyond the Storybook Image with Speaker & Writer Brenda L. Yoder

3 Responses to A Mother’s Anxiety

Posted on Apr 23, 2015

In the last post, we identified “what-if’s” that feed a parent’s fears and anxiety. We identified three steps to manage momentary and long-term fears.Stop

1. Stop.

2. Breathe.

3. Listen to God.

You can read about the first two principles here.

Let’s get to the third principle: Listening to God


In the land of “What-if’s,” Christian parents have this assurance:

God already knows..

…….your fears.

…….the needs of your child.

…….what’s best for the situation.

…….the outcome.

This is your hope and promise when your life’s in the hands of the Living God.

When you stop and breathe, the Holy Spirit rests your mind.

If you let Him.

He equips you with peace until you’re sure of “what’s next.”

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The Mother’s Anxiety We All Have

Posted on Apr 18, 2015

When I recently asked for topics you’d like me to write about, a mother’s anxiety came up.

I can relate. So I’ll write.


Anxiety creeps in the minute you see the “+” on the pregnancy test:The Mother's Anxiety

What if something’s wrong with the baby?

What if I won’t be a good mom?

What if I it’s a (boy) or (girl)… and I won’t know how to raise them?

What if the father and I aren’t on the same page?

What if we can’t afford the baby?

What if they inherit my problems?

What if….

The “what-if’s” don’t end when the baby comes. They morph into the next season of “what-if’s.”

What if I don’t discipline their tantrums right and they’re a rebellious teen?

What if they don’t have friends because they’re shy?

What if they can’t succeed in school because of their learning disability?

What if they fall off their bike? Get picked up by a stranger?

What if they get pregnant, hang out with wrong friends?”

It. Never. Ends.


I parented my older children in fear of “what-if’s”. I was overbearing and critical. At age 5, one of them had a melt-down in the bathroom at church over things kids should’t be worried about. While calming them in the bathroom stall, God told me something was out of balance.

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10 Ways You Value Your Children More Than God

Posted on Apr 15, 2015


You honor your sons more than me…” 1 Samuel 2:29b

God’s word is complete for parenting. Even in 2015. 1 Samuel shares a principle parents of teens need to hear:

Do you honor your children more than God?

 It’s an eye-opening question. You strive to raise good kids. You want them to represent your family well. You want them to embrace Christ as their Savior.

But in efforts to parent well, do you leave God by the wayside?

God posed this question to Eli, the High Priest, whose sons dishonored Him. They corrupted the sacrifice, intimidated parishioners, and had sex with women at the tabernacle gate.

Good ‘ole preacher boys.

God rebuked Eli because he turned a blind eye to what his sons were doing.

Are you tempted to turn a blind eye to your teen’s behavior?

Eli, a pastor, honored his children more than God. He ignored their vile behavior and misrepresentation of God. God took the offense seriously. In fact, he ended all three of their lives.

Likewise, God takes our parenting seriously in relation to His holiness.

Where does this question find you? Even the best-meaning parents fall in the trap of indulging and enabling a child’s sin more than honoring and loving God.

God’s asking you: Do you honor your children more than me?

If you’re wondering if you struggle with this, consider these questions.

1. Do you dishonor God by compromising His values for the culture’s as you raise kids? What TV shows, movies, or video games do you allow them to watch or play? Do the storylines honor God or dishonor Him?

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4 Steps to Re-image Your If-Only’s

Posted on Apr 11, 2015

I looked around the room thinking how much solace I’d find if only I lived here. I was in the parlor of a colonial home in the mountains of Northern Virginia.tranquility

I’ve been to Virginia often in the past five years, visiting my daughter who’s lived there since high school. The mountains, the architecture, the history – it all inspires me. On every trip, I find myself thinking:

  • if only I lived in a two-hundred year old house…..
  • if only I could have a view like this, then I could write more….
  • if only I could connect with rich history, then I’d be inspired…..

Do you have “if only’s?”

Life can take you to the land of “if-only’s.” There, “if-only” thoughts embed your life, creating covetousness and discontentment.

The “if-only” dream isn’t really what you’re longing for.

If you’re visiting the land of “if-only’s,” you don’t have to stay there. Whether it’s a physical need, a relationship, or a life-style change, here are 4 questions to transform “if-only” discontentment:

1. What do you really want to change? “If-only” thoughts usually have a root problem needing resolved or changed. My “if-only” daydream was rooted in the need for a private writing space in a house full of teens and college students.

Relationship problems, lifestyle needs, health and workplace discontentment are approached the same way. Acknowledging what you can’t change, honestly ask, “What can I do to make the situation better? Is there an attitude or response I need to change?

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5 Tips for Organizing the Mess

Posted on Apr 6, 2015

When toddlers were underfoot, I longed for less messy days

Then my oldest became a teenager, I had a toddler and elementary kids in between. Life got crazy.

How do you keep track of the mess?

Here are 5 household and lifestyle tips I’ve used to manage the multiple-child mess.

1. Expect kids to be responsible for their mess, no matter their age. The unwritten rule in our house is once you’re old enough to do something for yourself, you do it. Putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, picking up the mess after friends leave, taking care of your own room, etc.

If it’s you’re mess, you pick it up.

5 Tips For Organizing the Mess2. Use organizing totes and bins, and lots of them. Decorative plastic drawers on wheels are my favorite to store toys, school work, sports equipment and shoes in various rooms for different needs. My sanity returns when things are “out of sight” put away. When there are designated drawers, it’s easy to put items away in the moment, or at the end of the day, so the mess is out of sight and somewhat organized.

“Where is my paper to be signed?”……”In the homework drawer.”

3. Make your space work for you. Read the rest here. 

If you like this post, you’ll look forward to my upcoming book on balance, busyness and not-doing-it-all to be released June 1. Stay tuned for details to come this spring!
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Some Memories are Best Left Alone

Posted on Apr 3, 2015

This story is written by a friend who’s asked to remain anonymous. She shared it upon my request. May it speak to you and give hope.

I’ve been told that some memories are best left alone, and so it was until a question I’d been asked triggered memories I Some Stories are Better Left Alonelocked away.

The question wasn’t that profound, yet it was asked at the right time by a caring friend. I had started writing stories of my life.  I tell stories with pictures; but there aren’t any pictures for this story. The words themselves are painful. I can tell you I never saw God in this story. It’s a story of violence and a story of my parents living as a normal married couple.

As a child, you think what you grow up with is normal.

My parents lived in a neighborhood on a tree-lined street with lots of other neighbors. The houses were modest, most of them built in the 40’s and 50’s, with one-story houses beside two-story houses. The houses had backyards where you talked to your neighbors across the alley and porches where you sat and talked with the neighbors across the street. We had sidewalks; some were cracked in an upheaval from tree roots expanding their way.

I grew up in a strict Catholic home and went to a Catholic grade school. As a family, we went to Mass on Sundays and came home.  I enjoyed the rituals of the Catholic faith. There was mystery in the Mass, holiness in the prayers we prayed out of our missal, and the smell of holy incense. Everything was very structured.

The God I grew up with was a mighty God. He was high in the heavens and far removed from my world. We were discouraged from talking to other kids who weren’t Catholic. My world, as well as my mind, was closed-off from the outside.

People ask you of your first childhood memory. I usually tell stories of my backyard adventures. But the earliest memories I have are buried deep inside, not anyone’s business. As I write my story, I’m realizing not all my memories will be adventurous or funny. Some will be just of life.

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11 Truths When Life Seems Complicated

Posted on Mar 31, 2015

My kid asked if we had ancestry.com. He has a genealogy project for school. I got out a stack full of books listing several generations. He 11077388_10206748943066098_6410746213049111239_otraces his roots all the way to an English ship in 1700.

A kid tells me she gets Ramen noodles for supper because Dad only picks up wings for him and her brother. Mom doesn’t fix supper because she’s at the gym every night. Sometimes, the student doesn’t eat, and no one notices.

The newsfeed’s filled with mommy-blogs explaining how to make better bunny cupcakes and be okay with yourself if your yoga pants are too tight.

And there are broadcasts on national news about protests in my home state over something politically incorrect.

I sit at my computer for over an hour trying to put artful words to thoughts from my soul.

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Are You a Mess? You’re in Good Company

Posted on Mar 28, 2015

She had every reason to be a mess. She was one of two wives (every girl’s dream). The other wife was her enemy. Scripture even says so (1 Samuel 1:7). Her rival provoked her and intentionally bullied her.

Women do that sort of thing.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the other woman had children. She didn’t. hannah

In a culture where motherhood was a woman’s redemption, she was childless.

And childless by the Lord’s hand. 1 Samuel 1:5-6 says the Lord closed her womb. He withheld the solution to her problem. God intentionally caused the source of her pain and sorrow.

That’s nice to know.

This woman was Hannah, the wife of Elkanah. Her story is found in 1 Samuel 1-2. She was a woman like you and I, and she was a mess.

Have you ever felt a mess?

I first read Hannah’s story when I was a mess. I checked myself into a bed and breakfast four years ago this week. It was my last semester of graduate school for counseling. I was interning 35 hours a week and attending classes at two different colleges over an hour away from home. As a mom to three at home and one in college, I faced a comprehensive exam the following week. That particular Thursday, I was stressed.

I was a mess.

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5 Parenting Tips for Choosing Battles

Posted on Mar 24, 2015

Choose your battles well..Well-300x300

This would be the single piece of advice I’d give to parents of teens and tweens. As a counselor, teacher, and parent, it’s brought sanity to otherwise overwhelming circumstances.

I wished I learned it earlier.

Instead, I learned it the hard way.

I’ll be honest – I was over-bearing and reactionary when my older children were young. I was so intent on raising them well, I said “no” way too much.

When my oldest was sixteen, most things were a battle. Our family was falling apart

Here are 5 things I’ve learned about choosing battles.

1. Relationships with your children are more important than your rights. Parental rights are something to which you innately cling. When your rights strain your relationship with your teen over trivial things, lay your rights aside. Your relationship with your teen is more important.

Read the rest of the article here


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Why I Air My Dirty Laundry on Sunday

Posted on Mar 19, 2015

Once we returned from a family trip in the wee hours on a Sunday morning. After attending church and eating a good meal, we spent the majority of the afternoon relaxing, what we normally do on Sundays. A day of rest. A day set aside for worship. A day different from the rest.

With today’s technology, it’s easy to do laundry without effort. You put clothes in a machine, turn a dial, and press a button. Going to my child’s bedroom requires more work than that.  It’s a simple process.

Last Sunday, I did the unthinkable – I did some laundry and hung it on the clothes line.


I’ve come a long way in being okay with hanging up laundry on Sundays occasionally.  We live on a main highway in a small conservative town. Stores aren’t open here on Sundays. People don’t mow lawns on Sundays. And you don’t air your dirty laundry on Sundays or people will see.

Like other unwritten rules, I’ve learned to assess the root and value of them.

Are they for man or are they for God?

I’ve learned to check my motives for breaking silent codes that bring looks of “I can’t believe she’s doing that.”  Hanging clothes on the clothesline on Sundays is one I’m not bothered by because there’s a principle I value:

I should be the same person in public that I am in private. 

If I’m okay with occasionally doing a few loads of laundry on Sunday, then I should be okay with letting people know about it.  God sees it anyway. I can’t hide things from Him.  He sees my dirty laundry.


Does He see yours? Or do you try to hide it?

For years I hid my dirty laundry from others. Not the stinky-teen-boy kind, but the unhealthy behaviors I struggled with. Having an eating disorder was a very private thing. No one knew my stuff except me and God and my parents on occasions. I was good at hiding things.

Are you good at hiding things?

For years I responded to conflict with anger. As my children grew older, I couldn’t hide it. It began overtaking my relationships with them and their dad. It was easy to hide, too. I could do a lot of good yelling before going to church and sit really calm in that church pew.

There’s an unwritten rule you aren’t supposed to struggle with things.

You definitely aren’t supposed to be angry in a pacifist faith.

I learned to hide things real well.

So people wouldn’t see.

But God saw.

And as He nudged me to address the anger, the hurt, and rage, I felt more comfortable letting Him wash my dirty stuff. He was gentle with  it and He removed the stains and stink and filth and exchanged it for clean, bright, and beautiful through the forgiveness and power of His grace.


It’s been a journey with me and God. As He’s changed me inside and out, things have changed in how I relate to unwritten rules.  I’ve learned to answer to God first, then my husband and family above anyone else.

Paul says, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.” I Corinthians 4:4

What guides your choices?

Having a clear conscious in the eyes of others doesn’t make us innocent.

While it’s trivial, I’ve learned in my accountability with God, is okay to do laundry every once in a while on a Sunday. I’ve learned I answer to Him for my actions. I could have an empty clothesline every Sunday but be cheating on my husband Saturday night.

It’s all in how it looks, right?

Where do you need to get honest with God?

What I love most about God is that He sees everything and yet He pursues us because He wants a relationship with us.  He pursued me for years to change and heal from an eating disorder and to change and heal from anger, hurt, and rage that was inside of me. I’ve learned I can air my dirty laundry with Him and it’s okay.  He makes us clean and bright, to be on full display in His clothes of righteousness, not ours.

Will you let Him clothe you today? It’s safe  with Him. He won’t fail you.

Father, will you speak to each one reading these words and take the contents of their heart and make it what you desire? Will you equip those who struggle with unwritten rules and judgment from others to know you love them and are a God of grace, forgiveness, and freedom?  Will you continue to pursue those who are struggling with things inside their heart that only you know about?  

Thank you, Jesus, for washing dirty, smelling rags and making us beautiful in you. Amen.

How can I pray with you or encourage you as you learn to walk in freedom? I’d love to hear.

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