Between A Rock and Hard Place {Or A Buggy and A Pig}

photo (23)I live in the middle of the third largest Amish community in the United States. Driving in our area requires a certain level of acquired proficiency.  Slow-moving horse and buggies are plentiful, and maneuvering around them is a skill only the locals know how to do.   Only out-of-towners actually follow a buggy until the dotted yellow shows up.   In our neck of the woods, passing buggies is an accepted practice, even when the rules say, “Do Not Pass.”  

Which makes driving behind a buggy and in front of a cop car like being stuck between a Rock-and-a-Hard-Place. 

This is where I found myself recently.  I gritted my teeth in frustration as my Honda hovered at 2 mph.  I just wanted to get through our quaint little town so I could get home in a timely fashion.

Being in tight spots bring dilemmas. 

Dilemma # 1: If I passed the buggy as usual, I would be break the law (double yellow all over the place) and I didn’t want to test Mr. Deputy to see if he followed the unwritten rules or was an enforcer of the Real Deal.

Dilemma # 2: If I followed Mr. & Mrs. Amish Neighbor at horse & buggy pace, I would get home in the next millennium.  So there I sat, frustrated, trotting along in my horseless carriage.  I decided to turn on a side-street to escape the dilemma of to-pass-or-not-to-pass. MP900438355

Freedom, at last!

While processing my options, I was reminded that not every rock-and-a-hard-place situation is that easy to get out of.  Life hands us complicated situations, and frustration follows when answers to life dilemmas aren’t cut and dry.  Rock and Hard Places are difficult moments.

I learned something being behind the buggy.  Normally, I would have {safely} passed the buggy on a double yellow, went on my merry way, no big deal.  Everyone does it.   Sound like life situations?  You know what God’s word says, but you recognize the unwritten rules people live by.  The “everybody does it, it’s no big deal” unwritten rules.  The ones that justify behavior because everyone does it.

I learned something being watched by Mr. Policeman, who personified many things in Rock and Hard places.  For me, I didn’t like being watched even though I was obeying the law. I was afraid of being pulled over and felt the MP900440905 (1)peering, judging eyes of someone behind me.

Can you relate to that? Sometimes hard situations become more complicated because we feel the eyes of judgment behind us, even when obediently walking with God.   I’ve lived in those places, where judgment and scorn peered at me though I was doing what God called me to do.  In those moments, I’ve learned to cling to the Truth God provides, resting in the knowledge I’m being obedient to Him, even though others question it.

There’s freedom in that kind of obedience, even when you feel pinned between a rock and a hard place.

In my Honda, freedom came when I escaped the dilemma of unwritten rules and judgment.   I wonder if it’s like that in life, too.

I’m reminded to seek God and obediently walk in God’s will for my life, regardless of how others respond to it.  In this, there’s peace.

Even pinned between rocks and hard places, there is freedom.

What areas can obedience bring even greater freedom for you?

And remember, when visiting Amishville, take the side roads.

Parenting Series: Be An Encouraging Mom

By Contributing Author, Kristin L. Nelson of Not Alone Mom.Not Alone Mom

“If you can’t say anything nice – don’t say anything at all.”  You’ve heard the saying time and again. We use it to teach our children about the value of holding their tongue and being the bigger person.  When did we as mothers stop listening to our own advice?

Shortly after becoming a mother for the first time and realizing how challenging it can be, I made a vow never to judge another mother, even if they were just quiet questions in my own mind.  I even made mental notes of the mothers I made accidental judgments on pre-baby, and quietly prayed they would forgive me realizing I had no clue what they were actually dealing with.  How could I? I wasn’t a mother at the time.

But something I just can’t wrap my brain around is a mother who makes judgments toward other mothers?  How it is possible for a mother who is dealing with struggles of her own to look down upon a mother she observes who is simply dealing with her own unique challenges?  It’s mind boggling to me.  Are there some out there who truly feel they are “super moms” able to rise above every situation and follow all the parenting books to a tee?

There is no such thing as a“super mom” just like there is no such thing as a “perfect person”. 

We all struggle with “stuff.”  We are all learning and growing as people and as mothers.  God has mercy on us and we should have mercy on each other as we strive to do the best job we know how to do.

What we really need is support, love and compassion.

What we really need is for the motherhood community to rise up, join together and speak blessings into each other’s lives; praying for one another as we all strive to be the best moms we can be.

Circle of friendsedited

So what if my daughter and son both slept on their bellies as babies – they slept better (and in general)!  So what if my daughter was given a bottle before bed until she was 18 months old?  It soothed her and was part of a critical routine I worked so hard to create.  I struggled as a new mom to figure out how to transition her from this “tried and true” sleeping agent without compromising her ability to sleep the whole night through.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize I still seem to struggle with my first child and each of her transitions.   Maybe it’s because I have never experienced it before and the “tips” relayed in articles and books can be difficult to implement in ways that are accepted by each individual child (and each individual mom).

The bottom line – I do the best I can!  And at the end of the day my children are loved, safe and thriving.

Let’s join together as a community of mothers who strive to raise each other up and edify one another in Christ…It’s time we rise above the tendency to look down on a mom who is struggling and join together in love, offering encouragement, and simple reminders that “you can do it”!  Just as with our children, positive reinforcement can go a long way for a mama who is doing the best she can.

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:4-5


Does it feel like sometimes there’s a big, thick wall surrounding you, isolating you from all that is good on the other side?

I call this wall discouragement.  I don’t like it.

Are you discouraged?  What are the bricks in the wall surrounding you today?MP900049425

In discouraging moments, it seems like God is far, far away.

Far away on the other side of the wall.

No matter how you cry, scream or wail, it’s though He doesn’t hear.

There’s silence.

That’s where the discouragement lies – in the silence.

I’ve been surrounded by a silence lately in the midst of noise.  Can you relate?  The world is SO noisy yet what I long to hear most from is my heavenly Father.

I need encouragement.  Do you need encouragement?

I was blessed by a blogging friend as I read her post of discouragement (read it here) today.   I’ve been blessed by the faith of friends who are fighting for the life of their child.  People who refuse to stand, look at the wall, and give up.

I looked into the eyes of a young teen this week who was discouraged.  She was crushed, shot down, and believed she might as well follow the path of what an adult said she was going to become.

I poured into her the hope of her future, the possibilities ahead of her, her own skills, and the shortcomings of others. I saw the countenance on her face change, lifted from discouragement to hope.  She smiled.

Discouragement is a thief of courage.  {Dis} Courage.

It robs us of the truths we know in our hearts.  Truths about situations, people, and God.

Discouragement is a tool of the enemy to make us feel isolated from the goodness we can’t see behind the thick wall of silence.  He builds the wall high so we can’t see what is on the other side.

Courage is refusing to believe the lies discouragement tells us about a situation, people, and God.

Courage scales the walls and shouts with joy at the top when it sees things on the other side.  It has a different perspective.  Do you need a different perspective?

queen of the world

Courage sees good things and believes truths we knew all along, but could not see.

Where do you need courage today?  Will you climb the discouragement wall with me?  I need a partner.  I need an army of like-minded folks to scale big walls that seem impossible to climb on my own.  Will you be my partner?

MP900262450Together, we gain courage to scale the wall of discouragement to gain a different perspective and see truths from the other side.

Won’t you join me?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

What’s discouraging you this week?

The Mommy Test and a Giveaway

I have the privilege to post today at Not Alone Mom on  just that – feeling alone and a failure as a mom. {Have you ever felt that way?}   Read today’s post here.mp900387302

Also, the give away for Isn’t It Time for A Coffee Break is open until Jan. 9.  Find details for the giveaway and book here.


Have a great day – photo13


Relationship Survival During the Holidays

I received this poem in a Christmas letter from a high school friend in 2005. I’ve kept it all these years. When I was teaching, it was in my classroom. Now, it’s a wall hanging in my counseling office. It makes me (14)

These truths are essential for the holidays as you gather with people who put you down, question your life decisions, give you that “You’ll never change” look or jabbing comment. The words provide strength as you contemplate making changes or reaching goals in the New Year.

I appreciate Mother Teresa’s wisdom because it’s REAL. It’s not a Pinterest photo with a cute cat giving warm fuzzies. It gives the real deal how-to’s for dealing with adversities in life, for dealing with people and situations I encounter every day.

  • Those people who are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered? Forgive them, anyway. Thank you for acknowledging that forgiveness does not mean their nature changes. It just makes me easier to relate to them.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Been there, done that. Why do people have to gossip and makes assumptions? Be kind anyway.
  • If you are frank and honest, people may cheat you. Or they might hold grudges, get back at you, lie to you, or stonewall you. Be frank and honest anyway.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build it anyway. Don’t be afraid to take chances. When we step out in risk, God has the opportunity to work. Being comfortable isn’t always godly.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Why is that? Why can’t we truly be happy for one another? Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. The most significant moments in heaven and on earth are the simplest moments in living. Build up treasures in heaven.
  • Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. We’ve always told our kids as long as they’ve done their best, that’s all that matters. Give the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it’s between you and God.

It was never between you and them, anyway.

Amen. May these words give you courage and balance this holiday season as you interact with others who are the “they’s” and the “them’s.” You’ll probably be in gatherings where people will expect more from you, be jealous of you, be unreasonable, may accuse you or forget the kindness you’ve shown in the last year.

Take a deep breath, remember whose you are, and whom you answer to. Smile, ask how they’ve been, and listen.

You’re building treasures in heaven.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you; compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as your Father forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14, The Message.

A Place to Belong

Today, I have a devotional on being Rootbound featured at Circle of Friend’s ministry page. Please visit it, read it and share it if it ministers to you.

Also, to introduce you to the purpose and heart of Circle of Friends Ministry, I am offering my first giveaway. It is the book A Place to Belong by Lisa Troyer, President of Circle of Friends ministry.

The mission of Circle of Friends is to honor Jesus Christ through meeting the needs of women in our local, national and international communities.

Does the title of the book speak to you? Have you ever needed a place to belong? A place of acceptance, authenticity, affirmation, accountability, and action with other women?

A safe place to be?

I have. When I met members of the Circle of Friends ministry team at Carol Kent’s conference this summer, my internal thoughts were

Where have you been my whole life?

How many times have I needed a safe place to be with other women, especially when walking through the most vulnerable and difficult times of life?

Not only am I privileged to partner with them in ministry as one of their devotional writers, but I want to share their ministry with others, and share safe places through A Place To Belong.  Author Lisa Troyer authentically shares about depression and other personal struggles she has encountered. She shares the life-giving hope honest relationships with other women provide.  A Place to Belong can also be used for a bible study or resource for starting a Circle of Friends group.

Won’t you join me in entering the world of authentic, safe relationships?

This is my first giveaway. I may not do this right, but here’s my attempt. 

I don’t receive any compensation from giveaways I may have.  Beyond the Picket Fence is a ministry, and it’s my commitment to readers to share things that will minister the hope and grace of Jesus Christ. A Place to Belong does that and I would like to share it with my readers.

To enter the giveaway once, please email me at with your name, email address, and physical address so I can mail it to you if your name is drawn! If you enter more than once, also indicate in the email which of the options below you have completed.

To enter 2, 3 or 4 times, I would love for you to share the ministry of both Circle of Friends and Life Beyond the Picket Fence by either  subscribing to Life Beyond the Picket Fence via email (right side bar), joining the  ministry Facebook page (right side bar), or joining the ministry on Twitter (right side bar).  You can find all of these tools on the right side bar.  Please email me if you have questions are problems.  Once connected on Facebook or Twitter, please share the link to Circle of Friends Ministry page, the Root-bound devotional, or this post!

When you connect in the ways above,  you’ll be entered for  each time you’ve partnered with us!  I will keep the entry open until Sunday, October 7.

There is an average of over 100 readers per post at Life Beyond the Picket Fence.  It would be my privilege to get to know more about you – to interact personally with you.  It’s also an encouragement to me when others connect with the ministry through social media because it means you’ve been encouraged by being here, for His honor and glory.

Please share the news about the giveaway – A Place to Belong is a must read for women.

Love to you in His Name,