(in)courage

Hi everyone!  Today I have the joy of serving as a guest author at (in)courage!  The little boy in the photo?  He’s the tool The Lord used to teach me such a valuable lesson.  You can find my post at … Continue reading

holy plans

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The day that didn’t. That was what I called the day that my plans underwent a total overhaul. It was a sunny Monday just a few weeks after Ella’s birth, and we were finally getting out of the house. Just to Target, but let’s be real – where else do you go with a one year old and a newborn? After loading everyone up, several projectile spit ups and a car that failed to start meant we were back inside, only to find that the fridge sprang a leak in the 0.06 seconds that we were actually out of the house. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to Target that day. In fact, we didn’t make it anywhere except sprawled among a slew of Little People and books in the living room.  But that was exactly where The Lord wanted me and exactly where He revealed a lesson that I’ve hidden in my heart.God's way

Jacob is at a new stage of independence. That stage that is bittersweet to my mama heart. He is so capable now, so smart. He pushes my hand away when I try to help him hold his cup of yogurt or color a picture because he wants to do it himself. On this particular day, when we were stranded inside, he brought me one of his beloved animal books and plopped into my lap so I could read it to him. As I opened the book, he pushed my hand away to turn the pages himself. But his chubby little fingers couldn’t grasp each page, so he turned multiple pages at a time. I know this book by heart, and I know which pages he likes best, so I knew he was missing out on some of his favorite animal pages because he wanted to be in control. He was hurrying to turn so many pages at once that he completely missed the vibrant colors, words, and photos on the pages. As I felt my frustration rise at his demand to get to the last page, The Lord spoke. In my soul I felt Him say, “You do this too. This life I have given you – don’t be in a hurry to get to the end. You’ll miss some of my greatest plans for you.”Proverbs 19

Yes. I’m a planner. A planner who seriously adores picking out a pretty new spiral bound agenda each year. I love meal planning, party planning, play date planning. As moms, we  have to be planners to some extent. And planning is good.  As busy moms and raisers of these tiny kingdom warriors, it’s easy to let our minds constantly wander to their futures. Always thinking about tomorrow, next week, next year for ourselves and our families. I love independence and I like to be in control of my circumstances and my decisions.  I want to plan good things for my family’s todays and their tomorrows.  But really, the Master Planner (and I’m not talking about that pretty spiral bound planner) is truly the One in control. Of everything.  Of today, of tomorrow, of every toddler meltdown, every unforeseen illness, and every plan changed. Every car that won’t start and every refrigerator leak is a detail intricately woven into His plans for us.  Every detail of every day ordained for us was known intimately to Him before one of them ever happened.  And they’re all for a purpose, designed by the One who wants the best for us.  When I attempt to take the reins, I miss out on what could be some of His most beautiful plans for me.

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Are there days when I silently pray for bedtime to come? Definitely. Are there times that I wish I could walk through a store by myself and look at things other than boogie wipes and diaper pail refills? Yep. And there are times that I’m so tired and overwhelmed that I want to fast forward to the weekend. But that would mean missing out on the moments The Lord has ordained for me. What areas of your life are not playing out according to your plans?  Maybe it’s the pressure of work or finances, a strained relationship, the loss of a loved one.  Know that the God who knit you together has it.  He has it.  Nothing in your life is a surprise to Him.  In fact, He has a history of working wonders in people whose plans are second to His.  David didn’t wake up one morning and plan to conquer Goliath, Nehemiah didn’t plan to rebuild Jerusalem, and Mary didn’t plan on giving birth to the Savior of the world.  They were ordinary people with plans just like me and you.  But isn’t that the beauty of the heart of God?  He turns ordinary into holy.   Another day at home certainly wasn’t in my agenda.  But really, I’m so glad we never made it to Target.  We had one of the very best days we have ever had.  My spot on the living room floor, where trains and teethers abound, became holy ground when I surrendered my plans to His.

As moms, we know that these days are precious and sacred. Yes, these are the days when our own interests are few, but these are also the days when our impact is great. These days frequently stray from my plan, but they are the days when I have the two sweetest sets of arms wrapped around me, reading books about farm animals and laughing when the tower of blocks falls over. Days of feeling painfully exhausted but blissfully happy, content right where the hand of God has placed me. Days of pouring out more love than I ever knew I had in me and days of receiving it back in the forms of toothy grins, first words, and slobbery kisses. It is okay if my plan isn’t the one that comes out on top.  When things go awry, remember Who holds your today and all of your tomorrows.  I’ve stopped measuring my productivity in terms of meals planned and errands run. Regardless of projectile spit ups and failed trips to Target, these are the very best days because they were intricately and intentionally planned for me by a merciful Father. And I don’t want to miss a single page of this story He’s written.he will do it

a God who sees

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Target. I’ve never known a mom friend who can live without it.  Or anyone who can bypass that little section right at the front that contains the $1 and $3 seasonal stuff. I’m pretty sure I go there at least once a week. It’s typically a hurried trip to restock on diapers and wipes, so I consider it no more than an errand to be run. I certainly don’t expect my spirit to be renewed there as I attempt to get through the aisles at breakneck speed before the baby needs to be fed again. But on this day, Target became holy ground. Because The Lord spoke into my soul a very clear and impactful message.

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We had just strolled our way into the baby section and had literally only been in the store for five minutes when things went haywire. Jacob was loudly wailing about something while flicking cheerios out of his snack cup and kicking his shoes off and Ella was full on screaming. I was holding her pacifier in with one hand while  stooping down to take a photo of a bouncy seat we needed to think about buying all while blocking the entire aisle with my monstrosity of a double stroller. I hadn’t even noticed the lady who was right next to me until she spoke. She said, “Mine are fifteen months apart. I can see that yours are close in age too, and I just wanted to tell you that you’re doing a good job. Keep up the good work. You’ll make it through this. It gets easier!” I wanted to cry tears of joy but I didn’t even know why. And then it hit me. Someone actually sees me. Someone sees my crazy mixture of happy but tired but happy and my attempt to get through this day (particularly this outing) and that I’m really trying to do this mom thing right. Isn’t that the affirmation that we all seek? At some time or another, we all crave proof that someone else gets it. That our task is worth it. That we’re not in it alone. Friends, the truth is that there’s always Someone who sees us.  Not only does He see us, but even the most trivial struggles of our days are significant to Him.

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Our God. He sees the things we don’t talk about, text about, or post on Facebook. He sees every diaper changed, every towel folded, every tantrum diffused, and every lunch packed. He takes note of every tear wiped dry, every hand held, and every cry lovingly soothed. He is attentive to the tiniest details of our days. On the days that we feel unnoticed, unappreciated, and inadequate, it’s important to realize that we aren’t invisible raisers of babies. We are daughters of the Living God, commissioned with the task of braving the trenches in order to raise up these little souls entrusted to us. All for the glory of a God who lovingly ordained these exact moments and carefully planned out every day that we have breath in our lungs.  And if we really believe that, we can wholeheartedly trust in the fact that every day (including the struggles that come with it) is uniquely designed to accomplish purposes far beyond ourselves.

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And He cares deeply about the mama things that we store away in our hearts – our joy in watching our babies being silly in a bubble bath, our heartbreak over that first skinned knee. He sees all of those things. He is familiar with our daily struggles. He sees me when we are laughing as we build towers with blocks in the living room, and He sees me fighting exhaustion while comforting screaming babies at night. He rejoices with me as I take delight in my children, and He grieves with me when I cry into my cup of cold coffee because of all the things that make motherhood hard on my heart. He is right there beside me, even when I am so distracted that I don’t perceive His presence. And just like that sweet lady in Target, you know what He’s saying?  He’s saying, “I just wanted to tell you that you’re doing a good job. Keep up the good work. You’ll make it through this.”

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I wish I could say thank you again to that lady in Target for serving as The Lord’s instrument. Friends, He sees us. Being mommy is tough, and sometimes the mixture of joy and pain can be staggering. Sometimes the days and nights are so long it hurts, but there’s a bigger purpose here. All of these things are steps in our race, mile markers in our pursuit of the calling we have on our lives as moms. Some steps are easy and some are hard, but they’re all worth it. Keep up the good work, fight the good fight, run with perseverance the race marked out for you. And know that you are seen, really seen, by a Father who holds your heart in His hands. These mama things are no surprise to Him. He formed, fashioned, and molded you to fit perfectly into this role He’s called you to. And praise God there’s not one place on this journey (even Target) that He hasn’t already stood.

You are the God who sees me. | Genesis 16:13

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grace is enough

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In the weeks and months since the birth of our second child, The Lord has been refining my soul in many ways. Ella and Jacob add so much sunshine to my days, and I put every ounce of energy I have into them. I think that as moms, that’s just what we do. And we all desire to do it well. We know motherhood is our calling, so we run full speed ahead toward everything that good mommies should. I believe that The Lord is pleased with the intentions in our hearts, but I also believe that our mothering is most pleasing to Him when we cease striving long enough for His grace to permeate our hearts and our homes. Because the truth is, He didn’t call us to be super mom. He called us to be His hands and feet in our homes.img_3989Shortly after Ella was born, someone came to my house and made a snide comment that stuck with me. Not many thoughts stick with me these days, but this one did. The comment was, “every room in your house looks like a playroom.” There’s a lot of truth to that. The guest bathroom is a perpetual sea of squirting toys, and Thomas the Tank Engine has indeed taken up residence in the dining room. I don’t mind a bit, but that comment stirred up all kinds of thoughts. Being mommy is hard. It’s messy. I’ve had days full of so many mommy mishaps that I start wondering if I really should have signed up for this. Our perfection and success-driven culture has led us to believe that motherhood is a picturesque fairytale of textbook pregnancies, beautiful and epidural-free deliveries, and the subsequent raising of exclusively breastfed, even tempered children who meet (and of course exceed) every developmental milestone exactly on the day the scientific timelines say they should. All while we maintain a Pottery Barn home (because those tufted linen couches pair perfectly with toddlers), attend pi-yo every night, and prepare (from scratch) dinners that incorporate all current super foods. When things go slightly awry – such as when pregnancy becomes traumatic, delivery is difficult, and our children aren’t as crazy for multigrain quinoa kale antioxidant puffs as that Buzz Feed article says they should be, we feel overwhelmed and defeated. We feel that our homes with visible signs of wear and our meals with even more visible signs of exhaustion are just inadequate. Satan loves to plant those seeds of disappointment in our minds because they’ll quickly take root in our hearts. He wants us to run so hard after perfection that we overlook the grace that is ours in Christ.

img_3996Motherhood is all about grace – grace with our children and grace with our husbands, and grace with ourselves. Yes I said it – grace with ourselves. Grace to realize that you are enough even when your lipstick didn’t make it anywhere near your face today, that your child isn’t delayed just because he prefers animal sounds over words, and that no one ever died from the coffee table going un-dusted for a a few weeks or from daddy picking up Chick fil A when dinner just didn’t nab a spot on the priority list. Its grace to put the to-do list down and the Pinterest projects aside long enough to soak up the things that are so preciously fleeting about these days – the slobbery kisses, the chubby hands poking partially chewed pretzel sticks into my mouth, the sweet and pudgy toddler bellies. It’s okay to be finished with those multigrain super duper seaweed crisps and the handmade goldfish snacks (it’s really a thing on Pinterest) and the impending registration deadline for thrice-weekly baby boot camp. Despite what the world wants us mommies to believe, there aren’t any extra trophies for all of those things. I actually just bought a sparkly hula hoop because that’s pretty much the only kind of exercise I have time for. And that’s okay. What we need to realize is that this constant, exhausting pursuit of the unattainable is not what The Lord intends for us as moms. His heart for us and for our children is quite the opposite. It’s to cease striving and seek Him. It’s to conform ourselves and our children to His standards rather than those of this world. It’s to start each morning in His Word rather than on our phones so that we can be transformed every day by the renewing of our minds. That’s what it takes to battle against a Godless culture that desires to engulf us. Our God is not bound nor impressed by catalog-worthy homes or the 50th percentile on the CDC growth charts. His abilities are limitless when we entrust ourselves and our children to Him. Satan knows that if we are physically and mentally wiped out, we won’t have the energy for what God has called us to do. Nowhere does His Word say that motherhood is supposed to be easy. In fact, He tells us that we will have trouble. Plenty of it. We weren’t meant to tackle everything on the super mommy checklist. Instead, we are to take heart, because He has overcome!  img_3991And at the end of the day, what is it that my mama heart really thirsts for? And what is it that I’ll tell my God when I stand before Him at the end of my days? Is it that that my children have never tasted a morsel that wasn’t organic, cage free, grass fed, free range, and non-GMO? Or is it the blessed assurance that they are God-fearing sons and daughters of the Most High who have learned to embody compassion, humility, and forgiveness just like their Savior? Definitely that one.img_3998

So instead of beating yourself up for all the things you didn’t get done, be still, take heart, and give the grace that our Savior died for. Because we are imperfect women immensely loved by a perfect God and entrusted with the holy task of raising up our sons and daughters to love Him back. I rejoice in the fact that my days are often spent in a messy ponytail, eating non-organic cheese sticks and store brand peanut butter Cheerios and dancing to silly Daniel Tiger songs in the living room of our little home. Where every room looks like a playroom. Nothing makes me happier.

One thing I ask from The Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of The Lord all the days of my life. | Psalm 27:4

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blessings in disguise

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With the celebration of Mother’s Day so recently in my agenda, I’ve been noticing The Lord gently stirring me to consider what I celebrate about motherhood.  I’m always thanking Him for the fun days and praising Him for the sweet, goofy little ball of energy He gave me just 15 months ago.  But I realized that I’m much slower to approach Him with a grateful heart on the challenging days (and we all know there are lots of those in the toddler stage).  Yet it occurred to me that maybe the hard days, the tiring days, the days when we wonder what God was thinking when He called us (and it truly is a calling) to be mommies – maybe these are the days that He intends for our good.  That maybe the poop splattered on the wall, the carrot puree smeared on my forehead, the puddle of milk (with toys floating on top) on the coffee table, and the smell of a dirty diaper hidden somewhere in the car are His blessings in disguise.  Maybe these things are worth celebrating, too. Because it is in these moments of greatest weakness and fatigue that He scoops us up, slows us down, and refines our souls.  I am realizing a little more each day that it’s not on the perfect days that I feel His presence the most.  It’s on the challenging days that I am overwhelmed by His goodness and grace.first

As we prepare for the birth of our little girl, I’ve been using Jacob’s nap times to work on packing our hospital bags.  As I folded flowery nightgowns and a frilly pink dress for Ella’s bag, The Lord reminded me that He has answered our prayers.  Funny how a little pink dress could suddenly bring the faithfulness of our God to the forefront of my mind.  A few days before Thanksgiving, we were informed that my risk of miscarriage and inadequate growth was very high due to a hormonal deficiency.  I remember how we were advised to cancel our holiday travel plans so that I could begin a rigorous 60-day medication regimen to help sustain our baby’s life.  I remember how we begged The Lord for the life of our baby and spent Thanksgiving day feeling blessed that I was still pregnant.  Six months and 18 ultrasounds later, we rejoice in her incredible growth and health.  I couldn’t even finish packing her bag because of the tears of gratitude that kept coming.  I know that the months ahead will be exhausting as we adjust to life with a newborn and one year-old, but my prayer is that on the most tiring of days, when I feel like I just can’t do it, I will see my Father’s hand molding me and shaping me into the mommy He wants me to be.  Isn’t that what this motherhood thing is really about anyway?  I am realizing more and more that this busy stage of life is about perseverance, answered prayers, and the refining of our souls to become more like the One who made them.

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I know that motherhood is my calling.  It’s a gift I prayed for and looked forward to.  And I love it.  My favorite part of waking up in the morning is pouring a cup (or two) of coffee and hearing my baby boy’s sweet sounds on the monitor.  I adore spending my days with him.  But there are also days when we start out with not-so-sweet sounds on the monitor and when the world seems so upside down that not even an outing to Target can fix it.  The glitz and glamour of being a stay at home mommy has this funny way of wearing off sometimes, but I’ve learned that these are the days that my heavenly Father’s hand is undeniably evident. He teaches me more and more about Himself when I seek Him in my weakness.  Anyone with several young children knows that there are lots of moments of weakness to be had, but also so many of joy.  In my exhaustion in keeping up with a speedy (and I mean really, really fast) 15 month old while 32 weeks pregnant, I looked up at the magnet board that Daryl built for me and my eyes fell on the craft Jacob made for me at church recently.  It’s a bright blue piece of paper with a smiling sun in the middle and it says “Mom, you are my sunshine,” underneath.  Oh the privilege of being sunshine to a sweet one year old boy.  Suddenly my tiredness didn’t matter and all I wanted to do was love on my baby and take delight in his every move.  And I began to understand more about my Father’s love for me and this sacred, crazy, beautiful role He called me to.FullSizeRender

The naps that seem too short and the nights that seem too long – these are blessings because they are the things that refine me.  The exhaustion, the uncertainty, the fear of failure we moms know all too well – these things force me to my knees in prayer.  I would have never seen a challenging day as a blessing before, but I’ve found that these are the moments and hours that The Lord fine tunes my heart; to love more when my soul is weary, to just smile at the half eaten/partially fossilized animal cracker plastered to the carpet, to give more grace when the bowl of spaghetti makes its way off the high chair tray for the third time, to find joy in the silly messiness of motherhood.  There really is so much joy!  There’s laughter and sweetness and adventure mixed in between the hard things.  These days are fleeting, and I don’t want to forget a single moment.

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So as I pry a petrified Gerber puff off of my favorite sweater, I’m reminded that the slobbery fingers that put it there belong to a little boy who stole my heart the moment he was laid on my chest in the hospital.  He was entrusted to me by the God who called me to be a mommy.  And on top of that, he gives me pictures that tell me I’m his sunshine.  I’m so excited for the arrival of our daughter.  I know that our lives and schedules and routines will change and that we’ve got months of sleepless nights ahead of us, but I also know that the God who called me to this place isn’t going anywhere.  He purposefully placed me in this exact season of motherhood and He’s waiting for me to seek Him daily so that my precious babies will begin to see less of me and more of Him.  That my mistakes and failures and weaknesses will point them straight to Him.  There’s nothing greater I could ever ask Him for.  I pray that Jacob and Ella see Him through me daily, even if it’s through the challenges.  That diaper smell in the car?  It really is a beautiful thing because it’s a reminder that we’ve been given priceless gifts in our children and in our roles as mommies.  I’m so thankful for His blessings in disguise.

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the greatest gift

inheritanceI’ve waited a long time for this December, my baby’s first Christmas.  I think all mommies dream about that a little bit.  As Christmas approaches, I find myself pondering which gifts Jacob would most enjoy this year.  I get so excited thinking about what I’m going to give him.  Motherhood in general has certainly caused me to realize all of the hopes and dreams I have for my sweet boy.  I think of his future, the ways his dad and I are planning to provide for his needs, the ways we want to show love to him, the gifts we want to give him for birthdays and holidays.  But out of all these things and in the midst of the gifting craziness, his salvation is what has been heavy on our hearts.  Knowledge of Christ Jesus is the single, most important, and everlasting gift we can give him.  This season of our Savior’s birth is a daily reminder of that. Every day since the Sunday morning when we welcomed Jacob into the world, Daryl and I have prayed together for The Lord’s intervention in his life.  Our daily prayer for Jacob is simple.  We pray that he will come to know The Lord at an early age.  I began praying for his salvation when he was still in my belly, before we even knew his gender.  But after his birth, we began  praying more specifically, asking God to capture his heart while he is young.  I desperately want him to get to spend as much of his life on earth in a relationship with Christ as possible.  I want him to know the love of a perfect and holy God. No, this gift can’t be found on the shelves at Target and Toys R Us, but it is indeed the gift he will enjoy the most.messiahOne afternoon a few months ago, I was holding him as he fell asleep.  Standing in his room, with his body snuggled against my chest, I could feel his heart beating against mine and I was overwhelmed with love for him.  My first instinct was to pray over him.  It was a short, basic little offering to God.  I whispered, “Lord, please reveal Yourself to Jacob while he is young, so that he may know You.”  And that was it.   But as I laid him in his crib, peacefully asleep, my God spoke back to me.  I felt Him speak into my soul with such clarity.  I am revealing Myself to Jacob.  I am revealing Myself through you.  Through the afternoons you spend folding his clothes while he naps.  Through the seemingly sleepless nights as you comfort him when he wakes.  Through the hours you spend on the floor with him, teaching him to roll and sit up and crawl.  Through the way you honor and encourage his dad, and the way you spend time in My Word every morning.  He will know me through your life.  In that moment, I felt tremendous responsibility. I am a very imperfect mommy and always will be. How can I, with my mess-ups and failures, be the image of my Savior?  But The Lord encouraged me.  Out of all the people in this world I have made, I gave Jacob to you.  This is because I want to use YOU to teach him about Me.  What a calling, what a purpose!  If being a mommy has left you breathless and without an ounce of energy left (especially during the holiday season), take heart.  Your children are yours for a wonderfully divine purpose, formed and fashioned by a forever faithful God. He knew you would struggle and make mistakes.  In this world, godly mothering is no small thing.  I know I am far from perfect.  I know I will fail sometimes and succeed sometimes.  And I know that I’ll weather some challenges of motherhood better than others.  But I also know that my life (including the many imperfections) is a tool The Lord is refining to teach my son about Himself.  His reminder echoes in my heart. He will know me through your life.  He has told me this before.  He has told all of us this.  As followers of Christ, the world sees our actions, hears our words, tests our hearts.  It is our responsibility as daughters of the King to live in a way that draws people to Him, not away from Him.  Because the most important gift we can offer is the knowledge of God and His saving grace.  In no place is this more important than in our homes, where our children are.best sermonKnowing that my words, my reactions, and my deeds will play a role in Jacob’s desire for The Lord can be a little daunting.  I can never be perfect, but I can be firmly committed to living my life in a way gives Jacob a hunger for Christ. I want to fill my mind and heart with only the things of Him so that I can pour Him back into my son.  May my focus not be on the worthless things of this world but on Him alone.  As mothers, we have this once in a lifetime, God-given opportunity to be the shining lights of Jesus Christ to  perfectly innocent, untarnished, moldable hearts.  While all saving grace belongs to God alone, it will be difficult for our children to be drawn to Him or desire a relationship with Him if we don’t model that first.  We have been called to reflect the image of our Father to the sweet babies entrusted to us, the precious little ones who look to us for everything.  As moms, this is our great commission.  To be the gracious, merciful, forgiving hands and feet of our Savior.  No one is looking to us for these things more than our children are.  Godly mothering is the work of a lifetime, a costly yet eternal investment into the kingdom of God.  It isn’t something we can wrap with pretty paper and bows from Hobby Lobby, yet it is truly the most meaningful gift we can give. And it means purposefully setting ourselves apart.  It means acknowledging the calling we have received and committing to walk in it. Daily.  Moment by moment. It means turning our eyes from worthless things and choosing to ignore the things that are so quick to distract us from our true purpose.  It doesn’t matter if your journey of motherhood is tarnished.  We all are.  We all have dents and dings, things we regret and wounds that still hurt.  That’s okay, because all our heavenly Father requires is a humble and gracious mommy, whose heart is redeemed and faithfully committed to Him. He alone is the glue that holds all of our broken pieces together to create a masterpiece that will reflect Christ to our children.Christ in usEven on the days that I am exhausted, the times I am hurt, the moments I am anxious, I remind myself that this is my calling.  The Lord commands me to consider Him in everything and to imitate Him, because a little pair of hazel-colored eyes are watching me, looking for the hope and encouragement and unconditional love that can only come from a mommy fearlessly and faithfully rooted in her heavenly Father.  This is the season of Christ’s birth, the coming of our King!  Refuse to become entangled in the distractions this season – the impossible Pinterest projects, the newest electronics, the debates over Starbucks cups.  There is no more perfect time than now to focus on pointing our families to Jesus.  This world is dark, yet we can light the way for our children so that they can clearly see the path to Jesus.  I’ve been entrusted with this silly, curious, smiley-faced little boy, and my job is to teach him about his God, who loves him and died for him.  Committing to live this life as a godly mom is not easy, and it’s definitely not always popular or pretty.  But it is gloriously fulfilling, richly rewarding, and always worth it.  imitatorsSince that sweet moment with The Lord on that afternoon a few months ago, I’ve added to my prayer.  In addition to asking God to make Himself known to Jacob at an early age, I also ask Him to help me live a life worthy of the calling I have received.  Because I know that He alone can equip me with the tools I need to reflect Him back to my son.  Jacob’s testimony might begin with what he learns and sees and hears at home.  I want all of those things to point him to the saving grace of Christ.  May the salvation of our children and their knowledge of The Lord be the gift on the top of our lists this Christmas.  Pray daily that their hearts will long to know the Messiah, because He is the greatest gift they’ll ever receive.glorious

 

these four walls

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Now that this season of motherhood has settled in, I find that The Lord is refining me a little more every day.  Each time I think that nothing is more humbling than changing poopy diapers and cleaning spit up stains out of baby bibs, The Lord opens my eyes to a whole new perspective on His heart for mommies and this calling to serve.  I’ve been packing up the clothes Jacob has outgrown over the past (almost) seven months, and I am surprised at how fast he has grown and how good God is. Seeing those tiny little onesies made my heart thankful for this gift of motherhood, excited for the days to come, and reminded me of a sweet truth The Lord spoke into my soul recently.

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A few Sunday mornings ago, an international missionary came to speak in our Bible study class.  She told us about her trips to various countries, the incredible works her team is taking part of in Africa, and the hundreds of people she has seen accept Christ.  Listening to her speak, I felt a passion stirring in my soul.  I thought about how incredible it must be to see such glorious acts of God in such desolate places, to be the hands and feet of Jesus every day. As I went about my week, I pondered her words, and I found myself praying to The Lord, telling Him that I wanted to do something like that – something big for Him.  I felt a little discouraged though, knowing that it’s just not feasible for me to be in a different country at this stage in my life.  And I adore this stage of my life.  My joy has never been so complete.  Yet on the days that I’m tired and just worn out, the enemy is quick to usher in thoughts that make me feel that I’m not doing enough.  I wanted to do something big, something that would make an eternal impact and something that would open the eyes of many to the goodness of our God. But as I sat on the couch and tried to sip on my coffee while Jacob played, The Lord mercifully spoke into my soul, your something big is happening right here within the four walls of this home. Those words, breathed into my spirit by a loving Father who cares deeply for me, resonated with me all day.  I couldn’t shake the thought that my “something big” was staring me right in the eyes, shaking a colorful little rattle and smiling up at me in a way that humbles me greatly.  This season, this thing called motherhood, is my something big.

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Every time Jacob catches my attention, I’m reminded of the depth of this responsibility.  The way he looks to me for everything, from feeding him when he’s hungry to picking up the toy he dropped to changing him when he’s wet.  In those seemingly basic and sometimes mundane tasks, I am becoming increasingly humbled by the fact that I have been entrusted with this job, this 24 hour a day responsibility of raising up a mighty warrior for The Lord.  The little mouth I’m spooning pureed peas into is the very mouth that I pray will boldy and unashamedly proclaim the Word of God.  The two tiny little feet that I put socks on each morning could be the very two feet that bring Jesus to the poor, the hurting, and the unreached.  These two pudgy hands that I’m constantly wiping may be hands that deliver aid to the needy and help the crippled to stand.  The weight of these things suddenly transform my day to day from mundane to missional, from drooled-on carpet to holy ground.  I have always loved every part of raising this precious boy (even the hard and exhausting parts), but these truths from The Lord have turned this season into a calling.  And instead of spending my time asking The Lord for a great opportunity, a “something big,” I’m praising Him for the one He has already given me.  This opportunity from Him, molded and fashioned in my womb, fearfully and wonderfully made, is sitting in his bouncy seat looking back at me, waiting for me to teach him everything about this world and the One who made it. I don’t want to ever forget the weight of this responsibility, this life calling I’ve been entrusted with solely out of the perfect grace of a loving and faithful and merciful God.

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So, while I’m not overseas on foreign mission fields, I’m in the trenches daily as The Lord teaches me to pour out myself more and more in the raising of my family.  I may not be sharing the Gospel in the slums of India, but I do have the opportunity to evangelize 24 hours a day, seven days a week within these four walls.  I truly believe that Deuteronomy 6:6-10 is a mission statement for godly mothers. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your hosues and on your gates.”  In the richenss of those words from The Lord, I’ve been sweetly reminded of the magnitude of being a mommy.  The God of all creation has entrusted me with the task of raising my son to know Him, to love Him, and to worship Him.  Remember this.  Out of all the people in the world, He is using you as a vessel to be the visible, tangible hands and feet of Jesus to your children.  There is nothing more eternally significant than pouring your whole being into raising children who will run hard after God, who will bow at the feet of Jesus.  Don’t measure the impact of your witness by where you are, but by who you are.  You are God’s workmanship, created to do this, raised up for this very perfect purpose, for His glory. As moms, we are raising up the next generation, baby boys and baby girls who will grow into men and women who, with the help of godly mothering, will shine like stars in a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15).  And I have come to realize that right now, this is what I was made for. Within these four walls, I have the evangelical opportunity of a lifetime.

“I will never cease to pray for my children…as long as I have breath, I will consider it to be my most important responsibility and greatest privilege.” – Dorothy Kelley Patterson

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at His feet

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It’s funny how The Lord grabs our attention when we least expect it.  In our busy day to day as women, wives, mothers, He exists in the places we would never look.  Motherhood brings a whole new set of surprises to the table, and I’ve been amazed at how God has used the joys and challenges of the past five months to teach me important lessons about His will and about His heart and about how to bring Him glory in this crazy life.  Starting each day in His Word is something I vowed to continue even with a newborn, and I am so thankful that I have.  Because in the graceful quiet of my early mornings with Him and the joyfully chaotic days of raising our little family, my Father is molding me into a better wife and mommy.

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It had just been one of those days.  Really, it had been one of those weeks.  All of Jacob’s gastrointestinal problems had resurfaced like a tidal wave, we had family coming into town, and my husband was very busy trying to prepare for a weeklong business trip on the other side of the country.  Exhausted as I was, I was still running around the house, taking sips of hours-old coffee in between cleaning and prep work for the week ahead of us.  Because that is what I do.  I take great pride and joy in creating a home that is a clean, loving, and nurturing environment for my family.  I attempt this on a daily basis.  While my baby naps, I am trying with all my might to get another household project checked off my list.  That’s the other thing I do.  I’ve always been a list person. My notepads in my planner and on my phone have become even more useful since Jacob was born.  I create a little list for the day and check things off as I go.  But that had been particularly challenging this week, since Jacob seemed to be in almost constant stomach pain.  My days were spent in his room, rocking, boucing, doing whatever I could to help relieve his pain and make the GI bleeding stop.  It was my joy to do these things, but my heart hurt for him.  My hurried mind kept mulling over feeding options for him, and anxiety was creeping in. On this day, I had just gotten up from playing with my sweet boy when I heard my Father’s voice in one of the most undeniable, almost tangible ways I have ever heard Him.  Rest in My presence. 

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Immediately I began a conversation in my head with God.  Rest?  What do You mean, rest?  My son has been screaming, he is bleeding with nearly every dirty diaper, I am making numerous calls to the pediatrician and gastroenterologist,  we are fighting with our insurance to cover a prescription formula he may need, the laundry has been in the washing machine all morning, the mail is becoming a mountain on the counter, and the guest beds need to be made before company arrives.  In my new-mommy mind, resting was not an option.  Jacob finally seemed to have gotten some relief from his pain and was laying on his play mat.  While he was sweetly babbling and momentarily distracted,  I turned on the hot water to start prepping for dinner.  The way my mind was racing that day, every spare second could be used to accomplish something.  But then I heard The Lord again speak gently into my soul.  Just stop.  Put that dishrag down and come sit at my feet.  I want you to learn how to do this.  You can sit at My feet in many ways.  You can sit at My feet by spending your five minute lunch break conversing with Me while you eat instead of typing out a new to-do list on your phone.  You can sit at My feet by laying back down on the floor with Jacob.  Watch him play.  See how I have orchestrated his abilities.  He looks at a toy and touches it.  He reaches for a rattle and picks it up.  If I have enabled this little baby to accomplish these marvelous things, don’t you think I can do the same for you?  I can accomplish through you what you cannot accomplish on your own.  I nearly cried with relief in that moment.  That precious, beautiful, intimate moment of knowing that the very God who fearfully and wonderfully knit Jacob together in my womb knows me.  That He sees me.  That He lovingly invites me into His presence when my heart is overwhelmed.

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I think I just stood there for a few minutes in awe of our Creator,  Our Abba Father.  That He would see me as His daughter, taking keen interest in my struggle and offering me rest.  Not a nap, but real rest.  Rest in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  A chance to lay my burdens at His feet and sit before Him.  So I obeyed.  I turned off the hot water and put the dishrag down.  I put my to-do list away, silenced my phone, and laid on the floor with my baby.  I put my head next to his so that we were both on our backs, side by side.  He has recently learned how to reach up to touch the toys hanging above him, and he had both of his chubby little arms raised to the sky, wide-eyed with awe at everything around him.  He seemed so freeingly happy, suddenly unbothered by the struggles of this week.  As I studied him, I allowed my soul to do the same thing.  To rest in the presence of The Lord.  To be awestruck by His creation.  To take great delight in His provision, His care, and His mercy.  To sit calmly and securely at the feet of my loving Father, knowing that everything is filtered through His hands.

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We stayed like that for almost an hour.  In that time, I learned that resting in the presence of God and sitting at His feet doesn’t always look like a desk with my Bible, highlighters, and a thick commentary.  On this day, I sat in His presence in exactly the way He asked me to.  Jacob played, pulling at the mobile hanging over him and learning to pick up the toy car he loves so much.  And I was refreshed.  Refreshed in a way that I didn’t even know I needed to be.  Sitting in the presence of The Lord in the most basic of ways, marveling at His goodness on my back in the middle of the living room floor, on a fluffy fabric mat next to the baby I love so much.  I’m thankful to serve a God Who knows me better than I know myself.  His gentle prodding of my soul did a work in me.  Dinner may have been on the table a few minutes later than normal that day, but my heart was full, and I was reminded of just how much I adore my little family and my great God.

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I don’t want to be so busy maintaining a perfect home that I miss moments like that, of marveling at the goodness of our God. I don’t want my mind and heart to become so preoccupied that I can’t hear The Lord’s still small voice.  Yes, raising a family is an all-consuming yet indescribably magnificent calling.  There is always so much to do.  As silly as it sounds, I’m finding joy in the endless loads of laundry, lunches, and grocery lists.  More and more, The Lord is teaching me to be still and to be rooted in His presence amidst my everyday. Right now, my everyday looks like diaper changes and musical toys with the occasional splatter of rice cereal on my face.  But in feeding, caring for, playing with, and nurturing my precious son, I see the Father in a new light.  As the Giver of good things even when I don’t complete my to-do list. As the One who sees me, the One who seeks me out in the happily exhausting days of new motherhood, and the One who takes me by hand into His presence.  I’ve learned that it’s okay to rest sometimes.  When your soul is overwhelmed, put that dishrag down and sit at His feet, however that looks for you.  Time spent at the feet of the One who loves you and gave Himself up for you will always be time well spent.

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the wonder of it all

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With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been reflecting on how my sweet husband has wholeheartedly dedicated himself to being a daddy.  One thing that moved me greatly was observing the awe with which Daryl looked at our newborn son when he was born.  The wonderment on his face as he studied and held this tiny gift, the love and mercy and grace of God bundled up in a swaddle blanket.  I won’t ever forget those four days in the hospital and the inexpressible joy on Daryl’s face at every sight, sound, and movement of our little boy.  He was taken by him, so completely and gloriously captivated by his very existence.  While those first few weeks were by far the most exhausting of our lives, he would still always say, “I love this,” and I could see the delight on his face.  While pondering those precious moments and treasuring them in my heart, I am reminded of the way our Heavenly Father delights in us.

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The thing that really amazes me is that Daryl’s sense of wonder with Jacob hasn’t faded at all over these past four months.  He doesn’t take any less delight in our son now than he did on the day he was born.  Sure, he’s not surprised by the same things, but every day brings new challenges and triumphs, small victories and learning experiences that only help us to know and love our son better.  Even the hard days seem to inspire my husband to rejoice more, be grateful always, and love more deeply. How blessed we are that our heavenly Father doesn’t base His love for us on our successes.  His sense of wonder at the sights, sounds, and movements of His children remains even when our faith falters.  He rejoices over us.  Us.  It’s easy for me to imagine Him rejoicing over me when I’m fully committed and excelling in all that He’s called me to do.  But try as I might, I fail.  I fail Him every day.  But that doesn’t cause Him to delight in me any less, and that’s the unparalleled beauty of His heart.

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I was raised by a man who embodied the heart of God.  I could, and still can, see the fingerprints of God all over him.  In his decisions, in his actions, in the way he cherishes my mother and raised two daughters to know and love The Lord.  Ultimately, he taught me what to look for in a husband, the man with whom to raise my children.  In the nearly 18 years I lived at home, he rejoiced in me every day.  Whether it was a good day or a hard day, whether I’d succeeded or failed, he celebrated me and delighted in me without fail.  And years later, even though I’m a wife and a mother now, he still does.  I can’t think of a more perfect picture of The Lord.  Our Father, who lovingly cares for us through the thick and thin of this crazy life, our God who left His throne on high just to be with us, the Savior who bore our cross so we wouldn’t be shamed, the Abba Daddy who reaches down from heaven to hold us and carry us.  The God who enables you to stand on the heights is the same One who heals your heart when its broken.  He’s the One who sees you and delights in you and rejoices over you.  Like a father to his child, He calls you by name, and He paid for you with His own life.

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The selfless, infinite, unconditional love of God manifests on earth in godly daddies.  Fathers who sacrifice and die to themselves on a daily basis if it means something better for their children.  Men who refuse to take part in what society says about parenthood but take seriously the calling to raise up the next generation. When I watch my husband stare in adoration at our son, I can’t help but be brought to my knees by the vastness of this kind of love.  That the Creator of the universe treasures us in this way; that He rejoices over us regardless of our failures and that He saw fit to give us a tangible example of His heart in the form of godly dads.  I can’t thank Him enough for my father and for the father Daryl is to Jacob, but my soul is overwhelmed with gratitude.  Whether you were raised by a man like this or are married to a man like this, take to heart the blessing that he is.   And consider him a daily reminder of our heavenly Father, Who is a Daddy worth celebrating on this day and always.

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that we may know

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Even before my son was born, I knew I’d be learning a lot of lessons in the early days of motherhood.  I’ve been surprised and humbled by the ways The Lord has been using this new stage of life to teach me more about His heart for us. One evening a few days ago, Jacob woke up from his nap crying.  It had been a few hours since he had last eaten, and he awoke so hungry.  In the five minutes it took us to warm a bottle for him, his cries grew louder and louder.  Daryl was so lovingly trying to comfort him while the bottle was in the warmer, and something he said struck me.  I heard him whisper to our son, “Jacob, if only you knew that your food is coming.  I wish you knew what I’m preparing for you; you’ll have it in just a few minutes.”  Isn’t that how we, as children of God, so often approach our heavenly Father?  I thought about all the times I impatiently cry to The Lord, suddenly realizing that I desperately need something, yet failing to trust that He is going to provide it.  Jacob is nearly four months old, and not once have I ever failed to feed him when he was hungry.  Yes, sometimes it takes a few minutes to prepare for a feeding, but never have his needs gone unmet.  In this moment, taking my husband’s words to heart, I understood my God better.

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As a new mother, I am constantly tending to the needs of my baby, and I don’t think this will ever change.  His needs will change, and his dependence on me will be altered by the seasons of life, but my commitment to caring for him won’t.  I’ll always be there, and he is learning to trust me.  The desire of my heart is to love him so fully and so well that he knows I won’t ever intentionally fail him.  How our heavenly Father longs that we will seek to know Him in the same way.  He is our Abba Father, our Savior, the One who made the oceans roar and the stars shine.  He longs for us to lay our dreams, burdens, and needs at His feet and trust that He’ll meet them and accomplish them in ways far beyond our understanding.  His promises of faithfulness and provision are so evident in His Word.  But how often do I forget them?  We are engraved on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) yet often we become so consumed by our needs and desires that we fail to lean on the One who never changes, the One who has promised that He will always be there.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is The Lord, and He changes not (Malachi 3:6).  My needs change constantly, but my faithful God doesn’t.  He made me, and He promises to carry me and sustain me (Isaiah 46:4).  If we trust Him fully, He promises He’ll be there when your child is sick, when you lose a parent, when your marriage hits a rough patch, and when you’re not sure what tomorrow holds.  He’ll be there through anything and everything.

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I’ve also come to understand that my natural inclination to rely fully on The Lord is very much dependent on the depth of my relationship with Him.  I’ve learned this with my son.  Because he is so young, he cries every time he needs food.  But as he matures, he won’t cry when he’s hungry anymore because he’ll know that I will provide his breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  He’ll trust me so completely to provide meals for him that he won’t ever worry about being fed.  As a new Christian years ago, I would so easily be overcome with worry and doubt because my faith was small.  Now, I find that my reliance on Christ and my trust in Him have grown so much deeper as my faith has matured.  There are little things I used to constantly worry about that no longer consume me.  My God has carried my burdens so many times that I don’t worry about those things anymore. I know He’ll take care of them.  But I still fail Him every day.  I still doubt Him at times, as if He hasn’t proven to me that I can trust Him.  I still get impatient, wanting Him to reveal everything to me right now.  When I’m earnestly seeking Him and bringing the desires and burdens of my heart before Him, I find myself frustrated when I have to wait on Him to guide me and show me.  But in those moments, The Lord is telling me the same thing my husband whispered to our son, “if you only knew that I am here. I wish you knew what I’m preparing for you; you’ll have it in just a few minutes.” If I’ve learned anything about our sweet Savior, it’s this – He more than meets my needs.  He meets them with abundance.  He never leaves me hungry, but always fills my soul completely.

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I want Jacob to know that his needs are being met whether it appears that way to him or not.  As his mother, I want the best for him.  And the best takes time sometimes.  This is also The Lord’s desire for us.  When I look back on my life and consider requests I’ve laid before God, I can see the wisdom in His answers and the mercy in His timing.  He has provided for me in the best of ways.  He has met all of my needs.  And sometimes He requires my patience.    Watching Jacob learn patience while his bottle was in the warmer was hard, but it was a good reminder for me.  While I knew he wanted instant satisfaction, it wouldn’t be what was best for him because his bottle would be cold and I know that he likes it to be warm.  So it is with our heavenly Father, Who designed us to rely on Him for everything, trusting that He has our best interests in mind.  My son doesn’t know it, but meeting his need the moment he cried wouldn’t have brought him happiness.  In the same way, God doesn’t meet all of our needs the moment we cry to Him because He knows us.  He sees the bigger picture, and He lovingly refuses to give us anything but the best.   The Lord may not answer my prayers the way I want Him to, but He always answers them the way I need Him to.  Because He knows my needs.  Experiencing this lesson over and over has fine-tuned my trust in Him.  As my needs have changed, I’ve learned to trust Him more and more because He has yet to fail me.  I want my precious baby to learn the same thing about me and his dad, and also about His heavenly Father.  Right now his needs are simple and physical.  He needs me to change him, to hold him, and to support his head while he eats.  In a few months, he’ll be able to hold his own bottle and support his head so well that he can crawl.  And after that, he’ll need me to help him take his first steps and learn how to sing the alphabet song until he can do it all by himself.  And in the blink of an eye, he’ll need help with homework, a ride to baseball practice, and assistance with college applications.  There will be so many unknowns along the way, and the only way to embrace the unseen is to run into the arms of the One who died in our place.  We won’t always understand what He is doing, but we have to trust Him.  Through all of life, I want my son to be so assured of The Lord’s love for Him that he isn’t afraid to place complete trust in Him, even when it’s hard.  I want his reliance on Jesus to permeate his thoughts so thoroughly that He doesn’t doubt the goodness of God when the hard times come.  I’m doing my best to teach him this every day.  My abilities are limited, but my God’s are not.

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Since Jacob was born, I’ve been whispering the same thing to him every day.  In our sweetest moments and when I’m rocking him to sleep, I tell him, “Out of all the babies in the world, I would have chosen you.”  To know that The Lord God whispers the same to us every day is overwhelming.  Even when I am unaware, He is speaking this truth into my soul.  He tells me over and over, “I have chosen you.  One day you’ll see everything I have prepared for you.  Just trust Me.”  Just as it brings me joy to see the trust my son is learning to have in me, it blesses the heart of God when we unashamedly and wholeheartedly depend upon Him.  His Word reminds us that the mountains shake before Him and the rocks cry out His name.  Even the wind and the waves receive their commands from Him and obey, because not once has He ever led them astray.  He has chosen you, He has carried you, and He will sustain you.  You can trust Him.

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