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Dear Fellow Mama, God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

August 26, 2017

I know that our secret is safe with him. He’s not telling anyone, not unless his limited vocabulary of “Train!”, “Fish!”, and “Snack!” can somehow relay the message. I’m pretty sure we are safe. And so I find myself here and there bending down to whisper into his toddler ear, “You’re going to be a big brother!” He giggles and runs off to play. At the same time God is whispering into my own heart, “You’re going to be a mama again.” His words need time to soften the edges of my heart against this shock.

I had guessed this one wrong before. And timing said this shouldn’t be possible. But I had a feeling. For nine tests, most within the window of time that they should have given me a solid answer—they all read “No”. But that last one remained in the drawer. And every Mama knows that when there’s a suspicion, those tests cannot remain unused. So I took test number ten, really just to assure my heart that I was indeed crazy, and that life was not about to change in a very big way. I brushed my teeth, set to getting ready for the day, and let that test sit on the counter doing its thing. But then I glanced down and my heart shot into my throat. “Yes+”.

“This is ok, right?” I asked with shaking voice as I held up the test for my husband to see. I sank to the floor, knees weak. “Of course it is.” He assured me. Or tried.

Of course it is. That was seven weeks ago. And now my belly is rounding out with this new life carving out its space within. And the past seven weeks have been filled with that question, “This is ok, right God? We can do this?” And His sovereign, patient answer of “Of course it is.

Are you asking the same question today? Whether you are braving sleepless nights with your first newborn, or belly swollen with a second, third, maybe fourth baby on the way—perhaps you find yourself in this same arena of doubt that I’m in. It’s too much. I’m not enough.

And I’m too tired.

This week as I was waiting for my husband and our second son outside of the restroom at the aquarium, our youngest son was running wild. He ran into the restroom yelling, I called him back. He ran back out yelling even louder and jumped onto my leg. I waddled away with him grasping my leg like a monkey, riding atop my foot. A woman tapped my shoulder, “Hang in their Mama, I’ve got two of them!” She must not have noticed my six-year-old standing nearby. And she couldn’t have known of my four-year-old in the restroom. And my 11-week baby bump was hidden within my sweater. I wanted to laugh and thank her, then kindly let her know I have four. I didn’t. Because the truth is, no matter the number of children we have—they are more than we can handle.

When God gave me this new baby, He gave me too much. He also gave me too much when He gave us our third son. Our second son was too much for me also. Our first son? I was completly insufficient for him, too.

It depletes us, this high calling. Shatters us. Empties us. Exhausts us. Then asks us to do it all over again. Every single one of you raising a baby (or seven)—you are incredible. Please just take me at those words.

We do not have the energy. We do not have the attention. We do not have the kindness. And the hardest to swallow as a mama—we do not have enough love for them. Jesus does. And this is exactly His design for motherhood, that only in leaning into Him can we be enough for these babies.

On those days, and there are many, when you feel wholly insufficient, know this:  God does indeed call us to more than we can handle, and it is all a piece of His beautiful story.

In Genesis 17, I am certain that Sarah, upon hearing that God would give her the long-awaited child she had dreamt of for years, felt wholly incapable. She was ninety years old, for goodness sake. And I think I am too tired for another baby?

And I am sure that Mary, upon hearing from the lips of an angel that she would bear a son as a young teenage mother, felt very insufficient. Especially when she found out that her child would be the promised Savior of the world. No pressure there, Mary.

And yet, as with every other calling that God places on His people, He equips us for every path He leads us down. However many children you have, however difficult those children may be—He chose you for them. And He will not let you down, not even on those darkest, most difficult and trying days.

He stands up to His promises. He remains true to His words, “His divine power has granted us all things pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Everything for life and godliness—this includes raising every single one of those babies He gives us.

So yes—He will give us more than we can handle, but only because His divine plan includes us depending on Him through every doubt, every heartache, and every mistake. He is enough for our motherhood. He is enough for our children. He is enough in our not enoughs. Dear fellow mama, we’ve got this—but only through Him who gives us strength for the journey.

Devotional Faith Life Seasons

Will We Trust Him When Life’s Pain Does Not Make Sense?

April 25, 2017

It felt ruthless. Anything but caring, tender, or nurturing. It felt like taking life rather than giving it. But this is where my five minutes of research and a YouTube video had landed me.

“Boys, come here. I want to show you how we do this.” They stood on the opposite edge of the hole I had just dug in our front yard. Curiosity shone in their eyes. Carefully I pressed the blade up and out of the X-ACTO knife and began slicing through roots of the Dappled Willow. I could picture it a year from now, hues of white, green, and pink splashed across its leaves, dancing outside of our kitchen window.

And yet there I was, severing the life system it had worked hard to web together over its short life. My knife snagged itself on a thick root. I pressed the blade in deeper.

“We have to score its roots,” the boys’ eyes were locked on my task, “that way they can stretch out and grow into the new dirt.” They nodded. Yes, they understood. But not fully.

They could see the torn roots, the hole in the earth, and the potting soil ready to encourage our tree’s new life system. They could piece it together. But could they piece together that this was exactly what their Daddy and I had done to them a year ago? Could they look at this tree and connect it to how we had cut away at their own roots when we moved them away from all they knew, all the while asking ourselves whether this was the best for them?

Maybe they can see it, just as we will witness it in our Dappled Willow a year from now. That sometimes the cutting away, the letting go, the transplanting is all a part of sinking our roots down deep where we are given the most promise to thrive.

I feel it myself every day. The severing, the cutting, the pruning. I feel it deep as God redirects my roots away from shallow soil. He cuts, and I am sure that He feels my pain. But wait, He promises, I have so much more for you. Such richer soil. Life fullest. I know it hurts now, but just wait. Sink your roots down deep where they will thrive.

I feel it every day as He teaches me of marriage, motherhood, ministry, and following Him. He slices those misguided roots–sometimes a whole tangled web of them, and graciously He plunges them into richer soil. And right where I was left bleeding, I begin to thrive.

What roots of yours is He cutting away at today? Trust His hand. He wants us to thrive, to stretch out our roots beyond that tiny web that we once counted sufficient. He has more. So much more beyond that tiny tangle we’ve been clinging to. He wants us to dig our roots down deep and thick and forever where we will not be moved–not be shaken. And He wants us to trust in who He is when we don’t understand what He is doing. Then, with time’s passing, we can look back and see it–that we thrived. Roots cut and scored and sliced away at. We thrived.

Faith

I Am Not Reading My Kids The Whole Story Today

April 14, 2017

My head is heavy. Requests for granola and cups to be filled with water and Play Doh jars to be opened, I can’t take them right now. Not before I have had a chance to pour myself a cup of coffee. But then my five-year-old makes a request I cannot say no to. “Mom, can you read us a Bible story?” Steam rises from my mug as I pour that first cup, and settle down onto the floor between a pile of boys. I know just the story. But they’re not going to like it.

Sure enough, my three year old speaks up when he sees the first illustration painted across the page. “I do not like the parts of this one, Mom.”

“I know Love,” I tell him, “but do you remember that today is Good Friday?” I hold up three fingers and give them the same visual we have been talking about all week. “Do you remember that there were three days? And on the first day, Jesus had to die on the cross. Today is that first day, Good Friday. And today we remember that Jesus chose to die so that He could rescue us. We have to remember the sad parts, and then in three days, we can remember the happy parts.”

I begin to read. And when we make it to the final page of the chapter, we meet an abrupt end. Most stories in their Children’s Bible end on a chipper note. A conclusion. A happy ending. This one ends with a dark sky and an occupied tomb.

Because after all, it is only Friday.

I flip to the next page with a new chapter heading, and a painting of three women approaching the tomb. I want so badly to read on. I know what happens next, I know the hope waiting on the other side of that tomb. But I cannot. Because it’s only Friday.

I want my boys to land on the happy ending. For their hearts to rest in the good news. But today? Their hearts, as well as my own, need to rest in the Friday news. In the filled tomb. In the torn veil. In the blood spilled. In the sting of the real cost of our sins.

It’s only Friday, after all.

And on this Friday we will dwell on the sad news, eager and anxious and waiting for the third day. Because we know what the disciples and friends and Mary could not quite grasp back on that dark evening. Their Friday? It was spent mourning, confused, angry, and with a deep sense of hopelessness. Our Friday is different.

Our Friday lays nestled in that Bible right between the promises of hope, and hope rising. Our Friday holds the promise of Sunday. The image of that tomb empty. The truth of death conquered. His death, and our own.

And so today I only read to my boys the story of Friday. And we leave it at that, for now. Because we know that Sunday is coming.

Rest in this Good Friday, friends. Settle in. Feel its heaviness. Sense its hope. Sunday is coming, I promise.

Faith

When God Left Me Alone During The CT Scan

April 6, 2017

 

I unlaced my sneakers, slipped them off my feet, and placed them into the plastic bin. Patting my jean pockets to make sure they were empty, I walked forward as the TSA agent waved me on. My plane was scheduled to take me home in an hour and a half, and I would not be on it.

I could not have known that before the hour passed, I would be back at that security checkpoint, tears streaming down my face that was flush with fear and embarrassment. The TSA agent turned towards me as I spoke through cracking voice. “Excuse me… my plane leaves in an hour, but I am very dizzy…”

She had already rose from her seat, and was patting it, telling me to take a seat. With shaking hands I gripped my bottle of water as she called for medical help. “We are going to take care of you.” She assured me. Then she began praying out loud over me. Minutes before I had asked God, Show me what to do. Show me who to talk to.

He had.

Within minutes more security agents had arrived, circling around to shield me from the crowd of people making their way through the security gate. The paramedics arrived. “Where are we going, Sweetheart?” The EMT asked me.

“The hospital, I guess.” Tears slipped down my cheeks. “Oh. I mean Denver. I was going home.

Time evaded me as the ambulance carried me to the hospital. All I could think about were the nine hundred miles that separated my husband from me. I sent a desperate text message to my dear friend who had dropped me off an hour before. “Can you come back to Memphis?”

When she arrived to my bed side, I was already adorned in a hospital gown, and I.V. in each arm. She told me of the two churches and various small groups in her town that were already praying for me. “Flight is booked” My phone buzzed with the text message from my husband. I prayed that he would make it to the airport in time to catch that last plane.

The nurse pulled back the curtain in my room to reveal a wheel chair. “They want a CT scan.” He explained.

“You’re going to be fine.” My friend whispered to me as the nurse wheeled me away, legs trembling and heart racing.

Despite my complicated health history over the past thirteen years, I had never had a CT scan. And as the technician wheeled me into the room, it struck me just how much it looks like something you would see on an episode of ER or Grey’s Anatomy.

He strapped me to the bed and positioned my head. “This should only take three or four minutes.” Then he disappeared into a small room separated by glass.

I was alone.

I closed my eyes and tried to take deep breaths as the bed moved into the white cylinder machine. It revved to life, and I couldn’t help but notice how the droning of the machine sounded a whole lot like the drone of the aircraft I was not on.

Three or four minutes stretch much longer when you are counting every heart beat, wishing to wake up, to not be alone. I tried to pray. But I was struck by the lack of peace. God, where are you? Have you left me alone in this room, with this machine, and nine hundred miles away? I heard nothing but the whirring of the machine as it orbited my head.

It would not be until the next day, with my husband next to me, searching his laptop to find us a flight home, that I would see it. I wouldn’t see it fully until we arrived home, and had some solid answers from doctors. Only looking back on it would I be able to see it–His presence. His sovereign, loving hand in the details.

From the prayer of a TSA agent, to a friend who refused to leave my side until my husband could arrive to take her place. From the last flight of the evening to bridge that gap of nine hundred miles, to EMTs making me laugh in the ambulance. From dear friends taking in and loving on our boys, to a week of meals from friends waiting for us when we made it home. Even in that sterile room with the white machine suffocating me in fear and loneliness–He was there. Never leaving. Never blinking.

Just as Peter stepped out of the boat only to nearly drown in his fear, so was I in those moments. Sometimes all we can see is the wind and the waves, the white machine and the nine hundred miles. And we teeter on the edge of drowning until we look up just long enough to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ outstretched hand. Sometimes we don’t see Him until we are actually back on shore. But He was there. “I believe, help my unbelief.” And He does. He works with our faith, no matter how small and full of holes it may be. He stretches out his hand.

In the darkest of places, when fears drowned out faith, He is still there.

He never leaves our side.

Faith Family Parenting

When He Asked Me If God Made Us Like Puppets

March 29, 2017

One busied himself sweeping a paintbrush coated in deep teal paint across the makeshift doorframe of their wood-and-tarp firefighter house. The other swung through the air next to him on his tree swing. I watched them, hot tea in hand and sunglasses perched atop my head, from a chair out in the back yard.

“Mom, is Mary dead?” The oldest one was asking for his little brother, who had just posed the question to him. It took me a moment to gather what they were asking. Right. Mary. Mary mother of Jesus. Got it.

“No Love, she is with Jesus in Heaven.”

My oldest, five-year-old Zeke, thought for a moment before posing his follow-up question. “So, is she dead in Heaven?”

This was getting harder.

“No….” I began precariously, “she lived a long time ago. She died here on the world, and  now she is alive with Jesus in Heaven.”

Both boys nodded and went on with their play. I took a triumphant sip of my tea. I felt pretty good about our discussion. They have been getting harder recently. Yet as the questions dancing on the tips of my boys’ tongues become deeper, and my answers hold more weight, I find that my heart discovers so much purpose in these conversations. The big questions wave casually into our everyday, catching me off guard, as if the boys have been thinking on them for hours, and suddenly they pop into our car, or in the grocery store aisle, or at the coffee drive-thru line.

This happened a few weeks ago as we were driving through the mountains. My husband and I chatted, and the back seat had been quite silent. Then suddenly Zeke asked, “Hey, did God make it so that we can talk? Or did He make us like puppets?”

My husband and I glanced at each other wide-eyed.

We attended the same Bible college, my husband and me. And so we had both been through the same classes on God’s sovereignty, and had immersed ourselves in the same types of discussions about how much God controls, and what type of free will He has given us.

But Bible school never prepared us for explaining Calvinism vs Arminianism, and what God causes versus what He allows, in five-year-old vocabulary.

“God made it so that we can choose what to say, Love. He wants us to be able to make decisions, so that we can decide to love Him.”

The silence from the backseat told me that my answer was satisfactory.

They have been coming more and more frequently, these questions. Most of the time they catch me off guard. But sometimes I see them, working their way through my little guy’s mind. He grows silent, and I see the gears turning. I see that question sitting in his mind right amidst wonderings of how airplanes glide through the sky, or how caterpillars transform to butterflies.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by this task. As parents, we hold the responsibility on our shoulders of helping our children navigate these questions. We feel as though we are teetering on the edge of Well Done! and Well, You Screwed That Up! depending on the answers we give. We place incredible weight into each word, questioning ourselves the whole time on whether we’re explaining things right.

At least, I know that this is how I have felt. As though their future and eternity rests in the words I choose to craft my answers from.

It feels terribly delicate.

But then, just the other day as we were pulling onto our street, I overheard our middle guy nearly four years old, chattering away. He spouted off something about “God running away”, and Zeke didn’t miss a beat. “Ellison,” He began, seriousness dripping from his voice, “God does not run away. He loves us.”

And that’s when I saw it—or heard it, rather. Child-like faith.

He may not understand the intricacies of God’s sovereignty, but then again, neither do I. Yet sometimes I think that this child’s faith is actually bigger than my own.

It ends up that my answers are not quite as weighty as I place them on my shoulders to be. Rather, our kids come to understand faith and Jesus and love and beauty through what we show them every single day.

They see the grace of God every time I forgive them, and every time I ask them for their forgiveness. They see God’s beauty every time we take them out for a hike or a walk through the park. They see God’s creativity every time we sit next to them and splash paint on paper, speaking about how God is creative, and made us to be the same. They see God’s power every time we as parents stop relying on our own power to do things or say things just right, and instead trust God to work through us.

This is how our children come to know their Maker. Yes, we are called to be intentional with our words. We need to pay attention to the opportunities spun into everyday conversations to explain to them just how great and beautiful and loving our God is.

But we also need to stop placing all of the weight of their eternities into our perfectly manicured answers. We need to trust that God chose us as their parents for a reason. And we need to trust that He will work powerfully through our words throughout our everyday conversations.

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.” Deuteronomy 11:19-21

Faith Life Seasons Motherhood

When Your Limitations Are Staring You Straight In The Face

February 9, 2017

I saw it coming, though ever so subtly. I would be sitting at a table talking with a friend, and the whole room would shift as if balancing on a delicate axis. I’d sip water and concentrate hard—on anything—until it would pass, only to have it wash over me again like a line of unending waves in the ocean. It quickly accelerated from occasional to everyday. I’d find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a project, and having to brace the table before me to steady myself, although I wasn’t actually falling—yet. And so, on the day when it finally gave way, I was not too surprised to find myself collapsed on the couch for the whole of an afternoon.

It is difficult to remember that this used to be my regular existence.

Over a decade ago when I sat in that sterile room, my parents in those cheap chairs next to the exam table where I sat fidgeting; the doctor spoke it, “Yes, she does have Addison’s Disease”, and I wonder if we knew at all what it meant.

Back on that day, we wondered whether it would mean that I may not be able to have those three babies I kiss goodnight every evening now. Or that I should probably never try anything like running that half marathon I completed a couple of years ago, our third boy nestled safe in my womb as I crossed the finish line. I don’t think we knew back on that day, in that little room, when words of prescriptions and doses and tests were exchanged, really what kind of life I could expect to live. If I could ever chase big dreams like writing books or starting businesses or raising babies. We had no idea what to expect, aside from limitations.

Sometimes, on the hinge of words spoken or a diagnosis given or our own doubts crowding—we become a little afraid to dream. Because who wants to dream a dream that their limitations—be them physical, emotional, or other wise—will never allow them to chase after? 

In that first handful of years following my diagnosis, my parents fought hard to dissect this disease, and learn every little detail of how it might be affecting my body. And they fought even harder to encourage me to never stop dreaming. And then, five years after we sat in that sterile room, they handed over the position of Chief Encouragers to my husband, as we stood on that altar and exchanged vows. And as he took my hand, he eagerly took on that responsibility to never let me give up on my dreams.

And he’s kept that vow.

And so, on weeks like these, when seasonal colds and stressful weeks culminate in my disease reminding me—hey, I’m still around—I’m caught a bit off guard.

We have a way of forgetting about our limitations. Somehow we become comfortable with them. We tame them. We create a system, balance the weights, and set up safe guards. It’s what my husband and I have been fighting for over the past years, as we’ve learned how to live a life abundantly—with a chronic illness. It’s a good thing. But then, when we finally become comfortable and well adjusted—we round a corner to find those inhibitions staring us in the face—the floor falls out from beneath us.

Whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—whatever these limitations be, they have a way of reminding us that we are but clay and dirt and finite. We are limited. And it hurts, to want such big and beautiful and wondrous things for our lives, but to feel terribly hindered by things outside of our control. It hurt this week, in the midst of big dreams and plans and deadlines, to lay on that couch unable to even make dinner for my family.

And yet, I am discovering that my limitations are an invite.

This week, they invited me to lay and read that book I’ve been too busy to pick up. They invited me to watch my boys as they ran circles around the house in boy-made Superhero capes, exclaiming “It’s my pleasure!!” Every time I would ask them to grab my notebook or my blood pressure cuff.

My limits were my invite to not care about the dirty socks and half-completed art projects scattered across the floor, but instead to hold my toddler boy as he waited for me to fix his Lego truck. My limits were my invite to remember that I am, indeed, limited—and that’s ok. In fact, once in a while, I need to remember those limits. Because they have this stunning way of springing up within me a longing for that which is above and beyond and bigger than me and my limits. They make me ache for my Creator, who made me wonderfully, and calls me Very Good. The One who is my strength in weakness, my ever-present help. These physical limitations that drive me to that couch or my bed—they also drive me to my knees in prayer. And call me crazy, but it makes me a little bit fond of these hindrances.

Our limits have a thing or two to teach us about ourselves, our loved ones, and the pace of life. Sometimes they are our invite to rest, when we’ve been to stubborn to give ourselves a break. They invite us to ask for help, to accept grace, to stop. Refocus. Refresh. Restart. and Remember the One who gave us life, calls us to great things, and gives us everything we need—right in the midst of our limitations—to pursue those great things.

Back on that day when the doctor handed me a diagnosis I couldn’t, at fourteen years old, begin to understand the intricacies of, I couldn’t have anticipated the gifts hidden within. Limitations are funny like that, don’t you think? A blessing in disguise, if we choose to see and treat them as such. What is that limitation staring you in the face today? They stand there, intimidating and threatening and discouraging—and inviting. Take the invite today. The one that calls you to your knees, to rest, and to embrace a life that says that we are not enough—and that’s ok.

Faith Family Motherhood

When I Run Out Of Compassion For My Children

February 3, 2017

I felt him climbing ever so precariously across the bed towards me; each small movement pulling me further out of my sleep. He laid down across my stomach, face centimeters from mine, his little boy morning breath warm against my skin. I opened my eyes to just a squint and found them peering into his soft baby blues. “Mom.” He began, ever so matter of factly, “You are not making me breakfast.”

And so my day began.

As do many of them, right here in the beautiful mayhem of raising three small children. It seems as though most mornings, the boys roll out of bed right along with their constant stream of requests, ready to meet me before the dawn of the day, or any chance at that first cup of coffee.

Motherhood, at its very core, is a demanding call. It requires that we serve and serve and serve some more, and then wake to do it all over again tomorrow. It is sweet and humbling and wonderful—and depleting. And sometimes, if I am honest, I just don’t feel like giving any more. Or, I feel as though there is nothing left to give even if I tried. I’m guessing you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are right now.

It was in one of those extra demanding seasons, when I was feeling suffocated under projects and deadlines and baskets of dirty laundry and endless requests for more snacks or another episode of Thomas The Train that I glimpsed something within myself. And when I did, it stopped me in my tracks.

It was a recent morning while studying a passage with a room full of other mothers that I saw it. Or rather Him. Jesus— and His disciples, anchoring their boat along the shore, exhausted and hungry and anticipating rest and dinner. It came after a long shift of serving and healing and performing miracles and teaching. They were weary, and ready for a break. Much like I feel every single afternoon.

“And He (Jesus) said to them, Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while. (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) And they went away in a boat to a lonely place by themselves.)” Mark 6: 30-32

In all of the serving, they didn’t even find time to eat. Sound familiar? The anticipation of a break was palpable. But then…

“The people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.”

Their break— hijacked. I know the feeling; the disappointment, the frustration. When you lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes, and then you hear that little voice calling your name from the other room. When you manage to wake earlier than the kids for a few moments and a cup of coffee to yourself, and they choose that morning to wake extra early, stealing that time away. Or when you lay them down for a nap, retreat to your desk, open the laptop to catch up on work, and he comes out asking if nap time is over yet. Your whole body aches for that little bit of rest. So much so that you can hardly even enjoy it when it comes, unsure of how long it will last. You’re afraid to drift into that sleepful state, lest a tiny voice yank you out of it, asking for another drink before bed.

And when those interruptions come, it becomes all too easy to overact; to voice my rights—what I feel I deserve after all of my serving. But then I look to that shore where Jesus and His disciples had just landed their boat, licking their lips at the thought of grilled fish and breathing deep at the anticipation of a good night sleep. And I see Jesus’ reaction.

“And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

I have serious doubts that those “many things” Jesus began to teach the people were of His need for rest and their selfish actions to interrupt said rest. No, He showed compassion; without beating an eye or groaning under His breath. He laid aside His rights, and what He very much deserved, and He chose love.

Of course, He is Jesus. I, on the other hand, am a flawed Mom. Weary, tired, and often times selfish. But then, the Word says that He took on flesh. And, standing there on that shore teaching the multitudes—He certainly had. Flesh and blood and heavy eyes. Just as He would soon know the very real sensation of whips ripping apart His flesh before His crucifixion, I am willing to bet that He felt the very real sensation of fatigue after a very long week of serving.

He has been there, and He meets us there today, too, in our very desperate places. When we want to give up. When we don’t know how to keep giving. When we feel a little lost in this calling of motherhood. And He shows compassion to us, too. He meets us in our weakest places.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The same compassion poured out over the multitude who chased them down and hijacked their rest—poured out over us in our most weary moments. It is a beautiful thing, to embrace His strength within us. To believe in it, live in it, claim it as true, and see it produce a new sort of compassion within us—one born of His grace, unfazed by the circumstances surrounding us.

And in those times when we do just need rest or a few moments of quiet, and the interruptions come—may our voices be laced in compassion when we explain to our children, “Mama just needs a few moments.” Or to our husband, “I really could use a couple hours by myself this weekend.” May compassion wind its way around our hearts, and through our actions and words.

Let’s embrace that kind of compassion today; the compassion Christ offers to each one of us, the kind that lifts us out of our tired, emptied state, and up to new heights. This compassion that overflows in us, out to our children, and can change the entire culture of our homes, and the legacy of our family. That kind of compassion that only Christ can create within us, when we run to Him on that shore, hungry for truth.

“but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Devotional Faith Writing

Six Important Questions About That Dream On Your Heart

January 19, 2017

I placed the lens close to the dark, dry, rutted skin. Focus, shutter, snap. I came in near from another angle, focus, shutter, snap. Repeat. I set the camera down, and gently rearranged the avocados; placed the onion in a new position; picked the camera back up. I had no idea what I was doing.

Slipping the camera card into the card reader, I downloaded the photos, and acquainted my fingers with the laptop keyboard. It felt foreign, despite its daily use. This was new territory, and it felt strange. I was uncertain at that point what I would do with this. And I had no idea that day when I sat down at the computer that I was chasing a dream.

It was a dream that would take seven years to take seed, root down, unearth many parts of me, sprout, and flourish. Seven years comes next spring, when a book I never could have anticipated on that day that I created a tiny little food blog, will sit on bookstore shelves.

Dreams are funny like that, they seem to take on a whole new life apart from us; melding and twisting and transforming and becoming their fullest nature, but only when we show up. Everyday. Often unaware of what we are doing, or what we will become.

Maybe you feel a little bit of that today. There is this thing on your heart that you just cannot let go. It’s constantly on your mind, and when it resurfaces, your heart beats a little bit faster. It brings with it a vision; perhaps of people being helped, of words moving others toward good, of products thoughtfully composed and sent out into the world marked with your name.

And maybe you are wondering, at the dawn of this new year, if now is the time to chase that dream.

Mine took two and a half years for me to realize what was taking place; that this dream was much bigger than I am; much larger than what I could have ever known back when it was in its seedling stage. But when I saw it, I knew. And that, right there, changed everything. There was no hemming and hawing. There was just clear evidence, set up in advance, waiting for me to arrive at its threshold and see that it was time.

Maybe you are looking for that kind of evidence today, that “Go ahead, it’s time”. Maybe you have been waiting a long while for it. And it feels like a desert land, dry and endless and wanting. The waiting can be excruciating, when you have such a dream on your hands.

Perhaps with the days passing by at merciless speed, and half of January gone, one twenty-fourth of our year, you hear that familiar taunting. This is not the time. This is not the year to chase that dream.

But maybe it is.

And maybe you need some clear-cut guidelines for figuring out if that “Go ahead” is now. Perhaps you have prayed and kept silent and ran numbers and dreamed your dream at a low volume where no one can hear or see or poke fun or question. And now is the time to measure it up to some real conditions. Perhaps now is the time to sit down with a pen and paper, and ask the hard questions, the ones that sift out dreams and sort them into “Ready” or “Wait” categories. Questions like these:

  • Have you been in God’s Word lately, exposing yourself to His truth, which sheds light on the way we should go? Does your dream contradict anything you see in God’s Word? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
  • If you are married, have you sat down and discussed all of the details of this dream with your spouse? Have you chased it down to its end, talked of its worst-case-scenarios, and shared with them your passion behind it? Are they on board? Your dreams are part of their story too. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8)
  • Have you talked of this dream with someone you admire, who shares the same beliefs as you? A mentor or sister or dear friend, who you know will tell you as it is, and help you discern the validity of this dream? “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
  • If this dream is one that will produce an income, have you decided how much, and to what cause, you will give a portion of that income to? “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
  • If you have a family, have you thought through the impact it will have on them? How much time will it take, and where will that time come from? Our time is one of our most limited, valuable resources. Is this dream a good investment of it? “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
  • Are there 3 Red Flags? Each of the above questions can raise red flags that need to be heeded and addressed before moving forward. However, smaller red flags, that often go unseen or overlooked if we are not paying attention, can also serve as a compass when we are deciding whether to pursue a certain dream. My husband has a “3 Red Flag” rule. If three smaller red flags arise during the decision process, that is enough for us to step back and put the idea on hold until we can gain more clarity on it with a spirit of discernment. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Answering these questions might take you a couple of hours at the coffee shop, or months of revising your answers as you dig deeper into your own heart. Give them the time they are due. The thing that I have learned about dream chasing is that these dreams take time to develop. Even when we do not realize it, these ideas and aspirations and passions are rooting themselves down, and preparing to bloom—when the time and conditions are right. There have been several times that, when my husband and I have decided it was time to pursue a dream, we could look back and see how God had been preparing us for that decision; equipping us with certain skills and knowledge and friendships that we would need.

Trust that the Lord is working in the details of your life, behind the scenes, even now. Trust that He has great plans for you. And trust that He will lead you in those plans and purposes, when you are attuning your heart to His. And then, when the time is right, walk forward confidently in this command and promise: “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Faith

“I’m Writing In My Journey”

October 15, 2016

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I didn’t see it until late that evening; long after his little head had hit the pillow. “What is this?” I fingered the cover, adorned in truck stickers. “You didn’t see that? He made it at camp.” My husband smiled. I read the crooked letters that he’d just learned to put together the week before. “Zeke”. I opened it to the first page to find a heart and a note. “I love you Mom. I made this heart for you.” I could picture his teacher, bending on a knee next to my boy to help him with the letters.

The next morning when he woke, he went straight to the notebook. “Oh Mom, I need to write in my journey.”

I smiled and turned my head slightly. “Your what?”

“My journey.”

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I went to correct him, to teach him the meaning of “Journal”, then I stopped; thinking his title to be more fitting. He pulled a marker out and began stringing together a sequence of letters. In the following days, he would repeat this practice every morning when he woke, and every night before he went to bed. I would offer to help him with words. “No, I can just write whatever letters.” He’d kindly reply, not taking his eyes off the page. “Ok, that’s enough for today.” He would declare before setting the book carefully on his desk, and running off to play with his brother.

I think of this now, each time I open my own leather-bound collection of thoughts, or come to this tiny corner of the internet where we’ve recorded and shared a small smattering of our stories. These are the places I come to write our journey. I look back over the span of our parenthood and I see the big moves, even bigger fears, great triumphs, and magnificent failures that make up our journey. And I am so thankful to have it written down.

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This week I read of another journey. One of 2 million sojourners dragging their feet through a dry land. “The people became impatient with the journey.” Impatient. I read the it and dig deeper to its roots. In its truest form—curtailed. Cut short. Cheated.

They felt ripped-off.

When have I felt ripped-off along my own journey? When have I come with pencil to that paper, and written of great discouragement and letdown? “And the people spoke against God and Moses.” Tummies grumbling, lips parched, hearts hardened, they threw up their arms and tossed in the towel. Why have you even brought us here? Clearly the hopelessness of their recent slavery had slipped their minds, or any thought of the Promised Land that laid ahead. They could only see what was in front of them, dust and discontent.

“There is no food or water, and we loathe this miserable food.” I have to read it twice to make sure this is what they actually said. There is no food….we hate this food. I picture a child complaining of nothing to eat, while standing in a kitchen full of food. I wonder how many times I have stood in the midst of God’s provision, and complained against Him because His gifts do not look like what I had asked for.

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A few days later I read of another sojourner. He sits on the edge of a well, wearied. Who wouldn’t be, after stepping into a new job, and facing immediate accusations and allegations? He’s come for water. A woman approaches, empty bucket in hand. She nears the well, and He startles her with His words. “Give Me a drink.” She looks at Him perplexed. People of her kind and people of His kind, they didn’t associate. I can see Him looking deep into her eyes, making certain that she catches this next part. “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

He came wearied. She came empty. Both came for water. But only Living Water would quench. And I wonder, how many times do I come with my empty bucket, looking to fill it with something that will never quench—something that will never satisfy?

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I see these fellow sojourners. A group of grumpy travelers rebelling in their discontent. And the Son of God who took on flesh and suffered the marks of humanity—tired and weary. Much like me on my own journey.

And this is when I pray. I pray that every time I sit to write in my journey, that it will tell the story of girl sojourning with a heart of gratitude, always seeking Living Water. I pray that mine will be a story of giving thanks, even when the provisions are not exactly what I had pictured. And I pray that when my journey grows wearisome and I come to the well, that I will fill up only on that which satisfies for the long haul.

What about you? Your journey is taking on new words today. Everyday our stories go on creating new plots; taking us through dry lands and to wells of water. And how our stories look in the end, when all is said and done, depends so very much on our responses in the desert and at the well.

So let’s write our journeys well today.

Faith

When Did You Last Feel Small As A Child?

September 6, 2016

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He ran up ahead of me, the sound of gravel crunching under sandals joining in chorus with the water cascading down rocks beside us. “A waterfall! Mom! A waterfall!”

His little brother followed close behind. “Oh!! A waterfall!” his little voice squealed. The baby fidgeted in the hiking pack strapped to my back. I could feel his eagerness to explore as I unstrapped the pack and set him down to his adventures.

I could see it reflected in their eyes within the shapes of mountain peaks and aspen—wonder. I’ve witnessed it more and more since our move to the Rockies. The boys have these certain looks, smiles, a depth in their eyes, reserved for those holy moments when their spirit is overwhelmed by wonder. And as I’ve witnessed these moments of awe pouring forth like a flower at the height of its bloom, I have felt small. Magnificently small.

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“Mom! This is our playground!” Our oldest yells back to me when he spots a meadow of trees rich with just-the-right-climbing-height branches. As I watch them balance across the dark, twisted trunk of a felled pine tree, or observe them scaling boulders six times taller than their tiny frames, I see them beholding something larger than I could ever offer. This is beauty I could never create for them. This is peace I could never devise of my own ideas. This is imagination I could never inspire. This is play I could never coordinate. This is awe I could never script.

I can only bring them to where these things are found, and set them down straight into the midst of God’s glory.

And the more their tiny hearts grasp of this magnificence, the more they want. Mystery, artistry, intrigue, delight– it draws them. The encounter with glory and beauty transcending anything they’ve ever known or seen—these experiences tug at their hearts; tell them this is right. This is good. This is the work of their Creator.

It’s not lost on me that since our recent move, my words have been infused with talk of the mountains. They are kind of my thing. And I’m curious—what is your thing? What is that one piece of creation that, when you encounter it, it steals the breath right out of your lungs?

What is that one thing that makes everything insignificant fade from your thoughts?

What is that one thing that makes you feel small?

I see it as my boy kicks at pebbles next to the stream, towering summits meeting together as his backdrop. He looks tiny. And right there, small in the midst of grand, he is most happy. And I find the same is true of myself.

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In a world that touts largeness and praises grandeur and acclaims loud—I find that true peace is found where I feel smallest. This is where perspective shifts, and anything without lasting value loses its allure.

This is where glory overshadows the distractions that pull me every which way, and shines light on the path to true significance.

This is where we find joy in servanthood, peace in letting go of our expectations, and purpose in making His name known….not ours.

This is where we discover that we don’t have to do it all. He has, and He will.

This is where we find comfort and refuge, knowing the One who commands the wind and waves. The One who feeds the sparrow and clothes the flower. The One who knit us together, and said of us, very good.

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When did you last feel as small as that child lost among the lilies of a vast meadow? When did you last come face to face with your own smallness, and God’s largeness? Perhaps that is where peace awaits, where God’s glory shines light on our own smallness, and we discover relief. Relief from the pressure and push and strive and fear. Maybe this is where we find room to breathe and trust in the only One with power greater than our impossibilities, and love deeper than all of our wanderings.

I suppose, “He must increase but I must decrease” was meant not only as instruction, but also as gift. That as we let go of any boasting or striving of our own accord—when we let go of having big influence, making big money, chasing big dreams, or building a big name—then we discover His big blessing.

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And perhaps we will only begin to discover these things when we find ourselves standing next to a fourteen-thousand foot mountain, or dipping our toes into an ocean with depths beyond our comprehension. Or maybe we’ll sense it as we stare into the eyes of our newborn child, or lay on a bed of pine needles and stare up into the Redwoods, or sit in a graveyard surrounded by headstones telling of unthinkable stories authored by a skilled and gracious Creator.

This place of smallness; this thing that brings you to your knees and in a moment jolts everything back into perspective—chase after it with great abandon. Don’t let it out of your sight. Set your eyes on where you encounter God’s glory, and run straight ahead. Chase this feeling of small. Pursue what makes His name big. And wherever you find it, sit down, settle in, be renewed, and return often.

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