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Faith Parenting

Give Your Child The Gift Of Giving This Season

November 16, 2015


“But Mom, I wanted to help you.” His voice was quiet; on the verge of shaky. I could picture the trembling lip. His words were coated in disappointment.

Every year I try to involve our boys in packing Christmas Shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Millions of these boxes are packed each year with toys, books, hygiene products, and school supplies, and then sent overseas to children in poverty. Children who have never had a new toy. Or a toothbrush. Or a hug. Or hope.

I had planned on taking our four-year-old, Zeke, and two-year-old, Ellis, to the store to pick out items for these kids. I imagined that this year Zeke might begin to understand the idea of poverty, and the importance of loving these kids through these gifts.

But then life happened. And I Amazon Primed our Operation Christmas Child supplies.


The day we were supposed to go pack our items into boxes with our church group, we were all sick with head colds. And so I simply dropped our bag of items off at church. We were driving home from delivering our items when he spoke it from the backseat. “I wanted to help with the boxes.”

My husband looked over at me. “You should pack a few more with him.”

And so my boy and I made a trip to the store together and gathered items to pack boxes for three more boys.

This morning I had planned on packing those boxes with Zeke and Ellis. But first, I played a few videos on the Operation Christmas Child website for them. They watched as children of all ages, colors, and backgrounds beamed ear to ear as they opened their Christmas boxes.


As we watched those videos together, we talked about joy. And poverty. And sadness. And Jesus’ love. And hope.

And when Zeke saw the raggedy old tents that the children were living in, he turned to me and said, “Mama, we need to go make them a house.”

This is when I clutched my two boys near, and I broke down.

“We need to get more things for them, Mama. We need to help them.” he told me.

And you can bet that we threw our shoes on and rushed off to target to do just that.


While I was trying to teach my boys the importance of meeting people in their need and loving them to Jesus, they ended up teaching me something big, too. They showed me that while we still have more to give—then we need to give it. Why stop at convenience?

While there is still a need, and we are able, then we have a job to do. “A mission!” as my boys put it.

“This is a great day!” Zeke told me as we drove to gather more supplies. And then once they were all packed, my boy and I prayed over the boxes together, and the little boys and girls who would receive them. He and I drove to a drop off location, and delivered our boxes. And as he walked out of the church, empty handed, there were no tears. In fact, he was beaming.

He walked away proud, exclaiming one thing: “Wow!”

Last year I read a book compiled of stories from kids who have received these boxes over the years. And it changed my life. Because it ends up that these boxes are about much, much more than giving toys to kids. When those children are handed that box, they are also handed the Gospel. Each child, after receiving their box, goes through a discipleship program. They learn who Jesus is, and that He loves them, and that He has met their greatest need, for a Savior.

Little boys and girls across the globe are finding hope. And it does not stop there. One shoe box has the potential of impacting whole communities. Families are coming to Christ. Villages are transforming. Communities are finding hope. Eternity is shifting.

And right in the midst of it all—my boys are being deeply impacted as well. Not all of us have the opportunity to go and hand these boxes directly into children’s hands. But we do have the opportunity to witness how the act of giving these boxes can transform our own child.


God is using this ministry to impact the world and lead millions of people to Christ—and it is not too late to allow your child the opportunity to be a part of it.

Today begins national collection week. Here is how to get involved.

1. Click here to learn how to pack a shoe box

2. Click here to find a drop off location near you

3. Watch  some of these videos with your child, and talk about the importance of loving people and telling them about Jesus.

4. Pray with your children over the boxes and the children who will receive them.

5. Watch what God does in your own child’s heart.

In the midst of a season tainted by consumerism, we have an incredible opportunity to involve our children in God’s great mission. One shoe box at a time. The world can be changed. And your child can be forever changed, too.


936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

Redeeming The Days Before They Are Ever Spent

September 6, 2015


There is a constant and relentless tension that hangs over each and every one of us mamas.

It is a deep yearning to spend the time we have with our children well, coupled with an immense fear that we will squander these days. A deep dread that we will look back when they are grown and gone, and we will grieve over time given to worthless pursuits; days lost to busyness, hours traded for empty distractions, and moments left unnoticed to be buried under time’s passing.

This tension grates against our souls every single day. As we wake in the morning we feel it pressing, how will we spend this day worthwhile? What is its fullest potential?

And as we lay our little ones down at night, kissing soft cheeks and whispering prayers, the tension pulls at our shoulders and aches in our hearts. Did we spend this day well? Will it be remembered?


Ephesians 5:15-16 urges us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days our evil.”

Another version uses even stronger language. “Redeem the time.”

Yet this is the question that has baffled me for years:

How do we redeem something that hasn’t been lost yet?

I have always assumed that “Redeem” meant to bring something back. To rescue and restore. But how do we recapture days that are still future?

As mamas gifted the task of raising these little ones, this is exactly our calling. Moms are meant to redeem the time.


Time is perhaps our most valuable asset, more so than money. Yet it was money that helped me to understand this concept of redeeming time. Before my husband and I married, we took a budgeting course created by financial expert Dave Ramsey. Ramsey explained that each dollar to our name needs to be given a job before it is spent, or else it will be wasted on frivolous things.

This is how I am beginning to see my days. I must assign to them a job before they pass, lest they slip through the cracks to never be remembered.

This is because time left to its own devices, without an intentional spending plan, is time prone to be wasted.

God knew that without some direction and purpose, we would fritter away our days on things much lesser than what He created us for. Redeem the time, “because the days are evil.”


This week my family decided to redeem the time by spending ten hours of it in the car together. As we drove west from our home in Missouri towards the foothills of Colorado, hope rose within my soul with every passing mile.

At each rest stop my boys would ask, “Are we at the mountains yet?” My middle guy, two years old, scuttled up a mound of dirt 3 feet tall in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas. “A mountain, Mommy!” He was in for a big surprise when we finally crested a hill of the highway hours later to catch our first glimpse of the front range of the Rocky Mountains.


I won’t deny that traveling with young children is stressful. With naps not had and schedules gone awry, our boys have at times been emotional catastrophes this week. And with the baby not quite sleeping through the night, my husband and I have had ample opportunity to try out all the local coffee shops out of pure necessity. Traveling with little kids can seem as jagged and harsh as those rocky mountains themselves.

Yet we know all too well that if we fail to make memories now, then in twenty years looking back, we won’t remember. Our time raising these boys will be a blur.

And I absolutely refuse to look back and see nothing but haze.


Whether on vacation or at home, we are learning how to dog-ear time’s passing with life lived in such a way that the clock’s ticking will never erase it.

We redeem time by restoring its potential for beauty.

We see it when we make the effort to perforate the passing hours with intentional choices. Last night it happened with a simple invitation.

After an exhausting day that began well before the sun began rising and ran hard until 7pm, my husband and I sat in front of a movie with our boys. I scrolled through Facebook on my phone. Outside, the Colorado sunset beckoned.

I set down my phone and invited our two year old to go outside and sit on the porch swing with me. Without a hint of hesitation, he abandoned the television and ran straight to the door in his diaper bottom. Not five minutes later my husband and our four year old followed.


And there we sat for an hour, my husband and I on that porch swing, watching our boys run races around the front yard as streaks of white clouds transformed into brilliant hues of purple and orange. This is how time is redeemed. With porch swinging and truth speaking and adventure seeking. On wooded trails and green grass spaces and time spent just sitting next to each other. With coffee sipping and ice cream licking and distraction resisting.

And by choosing to pursue all of these things before the clock ticks away all opportunity to do so.


Time is rescued from waste when we reroute it into intentional territory, when we weigh down a moment with complete enamor and appreciation. When we finally tell time how we are going to spend it, instead of allowing it to spend us. 

This is how we beat time. How we cheat it. How we expand it. How we amplify it. How we learn to respect its passing instead of grieving it. This is how we redeem the days before they are ever spent.

936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

He Said He Wouldn’t Trade His Kind Of Crazy For Mine

July 10, 2015



It all began when he showed up at the door without calling first.


He had said he would call.

I saw him approaching the front door, and breathed a prayer of thanks that he hadn’t glanced in the window to see me nursing the baby. I hurriedly interrupted my infant’s lunch and unlocked the front door, asking him to give me a minute as I got my kids situated. I threw on the baby carrier and strapped my youngest in. Sliding open the front window, I instructed the older boys to watch from inside, and then I joined the man in the driveway, bouncing my infant in my arms.

He was there to assess the damage on my SUV from when I was rear-ended a couple of weeks ago. “This must have been where the other car’s license plate hit the bumper?” He asked me. I looked up to see my two-year-old running down the front sidewalk. No shoes. No socks. No pants. He giddily joined us in the driveway, his bare toes stepping gingerly across the gravel. All the while my not-quite-four-year-old was yelling from the open window, “I won’t come outside, Mama! I really, really promise!!”




“We’ll need to start the car so that I can take a photo of the odometer.” He instructed. I had left the key inside, and told him I’d be back in a moment. Ellison began to follow me back inside. That’s when I heard the noise of little hands hitting cement and turned to see him on his knees. I rushed to him and reached out my hand. He was crying now and wanted to be held, but I couldn’t manage to hoist him up while the baby was strapped to me. I held tight to his hand while guiding him back inside.

I returned back outside with the key in hand, and this time both boys followed me out, Ellison asking repeatedly for me to put his shoes on. As the man took his odometer photo for the claim, I bent down to the sidewalk. With one hand I balanced the almost-sleeping infant against me while helping Ellison put on his shoes. That’s when the baby woke and spit up half his lunch across my chest.




The man approached, and I rose to receive the paperwork he was handing me, nonchalantly wiping regurgitated breast milk from my front. My toddler, now attired in a t-shirt, diaper, and tennis shoes, ran around the side of the car, and I heard him begin to cry again. I ran to him only to find his right knee now matching the left–scraped and bloody. I gathered him up onto my hip next to the now-awake and crying infant.

The estimator asked for my e-mail to send the rest of the paperwork to. I recited it to him, repeating it several times over the noise of both crying children attached to me.

I could only hope that the spectacle he was witnessing would evoke in him a bit of pity, leading to a nice settlement for the damage on our car.




After he left and I managed to get all three boys back inside, my sweet boy with his bloodied knees went into hysterics. First because I placed a band-aid on his scrape, which he adamantly began yelling at and trying to remove. And secondly because, as it ends up, he thought we were going somewhere in the car. And now that he realized his presumption was misplaced, he was quite upset at the prospect of staying home.

Taking in his bloodied knees and broken spirit, I made a rash decision. “Let’s go to the train station!” I exclaimed it before I could think twice, or realize that it was already time for naps. He choked back a sob and reached for his shorts.

The word had been spoken and there was no turning back now. Over the next five minutes and with the baby wailing all the while, I got us all dressed (for the most part), packed our bag, and we all headed out the door…just as the rain started. Drops pelted down on me as I loaded the boys into their carseats, and then we were off.




I made a detour toward the coffee shop, where upon pulling up to the drive-thru I realized I had left my wallet at home. The boys already had their hearts set on scones, and I needed that coffee—five minutes ago. So I reversed out of the drive thru and turned back towards home to fetch my wallet. My two-year-old frantically yelling from the backseat, “Blueberry scone, Mama?!?!? Blueberry scone?!”

Ten minutes later as we pulled back into the drive-thru and up to the window, our regular barista smiled at me and asked how my day was going. All I could offer was a crazed look and a sarcastic thumbs up while the baby screamed from the backseat.




That morning as the vehicle estimator had handed me his card, wailing infant at my chest and crying and bloody toddler at my feet, I had half jokingly remarked to him that, “Oh it’s always this crazy”. He laughed a little before replying, “I thought my day was crazy. I wouldn’t trade it for your kind of crazy!”

And that’s where he was sorely mistaken.

Because what he didn’t see was the half hour before he arrived, with my newborn babe nestled in my lap, and two sweet boys huddled at my side as we all read stories together. And he didn’t see that morning when my two-year-old ran to me from his room upon waking up. He climbed into my lap next to his baby brother, and with a sweet voice whispered, “Good morning, Baby Way-Wind”, and then gave him four soft kisses on the top of his head.




And he didn’t see that afternoon, when once we resurfaced from beneath the chaos and we all walked hand-in-hand into the train station. Or as the boys ran and jumped and eagerly showed me their favorite model trains.

He only saw the frazzled lady with unkept hair and a screaming baby strapped to her. He only saw the spit up and blood and tears.

He happened to walk into a moment of chaos and became a witness to my kind of crazy. And the truth is that with three boys ages four and under—we tend to have a lot of those moments of chaos around here. But it is also true that, although the man said he wouldn’t trade his kind of crazy for mine, I wouldn’t ever give him the chance, because I’m clinging tight to my crazy and never letting go.

Because my kind of crazy? It is an essential piece of this great love story of mine.


936Pennies Faith Motherhood Parenting

For When I Fear I Am Screwing Up My Child’s Faith

July 8, 2015


It’s been a rough one– this morning.


Our early hours have been infected by their bickering and I’m worn from raising my voice and speaking their middle names. It’s not even time for mid-morning snacks, and I am ready for bedtime prayers.

My Bible lays open on my lap next to the nursing baby. I need it so desperately right now. My spirit aches for its words of peace to reach deep and calm my angst. Yet every time I look down to read I am distracted by another quarrel needing to be refereed, or I’m poked in the eye by a toddler.

I’ve had enough, and I issue a mandatory reading time. They grab their books of choice, and plop down on opposite sides of the living room.




I lower my gaze back down to my Bible and begin to speed read, unsure of how long their attention will last on the pages. That’s when his little voice breaks my concentration, “Jesus died, Mama? Just like in your Bible?”

I glance at the children’s Bible in his hand, opened to a page bearing Jesus’ broken body hanging on a tree.

“Yes Babe,” His question tears me away from my own reading. “He had to die. Do you remember why?”

“Because He loves us.” he replies.

I smile.

“Yes, but now He is alive again!” I keep the conversation going.

His brow furrows as he sorts it out in his mind. “He is in Heaven now?” he asks me.

“Yes. And if we ask Him to be our friend forever, then when we die a long, long time from now, we get to go be with Him in Heaven with Him!”

“But Mama…” he begins to respond.

And this is when his voice cracks and his bottom lip begins to quiver.

“I don’t want to die.”

No matter the circumstance or context, when for the first time words of their own death pass from the lips of your child, your own heart stops beating for a moment or two.




When I’ve read it in the Word, “Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have,” I never foresaw it falling into this scenario.

My boy and his inquisitiveness, how do I satisfy his curiosity while “rightly handling the word of truth.”? {2 Timothy 2:15}




We are in the garden one afternoon when I find myself grappling for a sufficient answer to yet another one of his queries. My toes brush green shoots freshly emerged from the soil. We are checking on the strawberry patch. No berries yet.

He looks up at me with blue eyes glinting in the sunlight from behind those impossibly long lashes; the ones that all the old ladies swoon over. “Is Jesus in the garden?”

The question seems silly, but I know he’s serious; and I know there is a world of curiosity and confusion lying beneath the surface of his inquiry.




“Yes Honey,” I begin to thread together an answer, praying that it might fit into the empty spaces of his fledgling perceptions. “Jesus is in the garden. He’s everywhere really.”

This question is part of a series that he’s been asking me lately. Is Jesus in my closet? Is Jesus at church? And when he hears the laundry machine thump-thumping our clothes around from downstairs, Is Jesus in the basement?

And finally, recently, he’s been asking me if Jesus is in our hearts. This one catches me by surprise the first time he asks it. Why do these questions always seem to sneak up on me? “Yes,” I explained to him, “Jesus lives in our hearts when we ask Him to come in and be our friend forever.”




I see him mull over these huge Biblical truths in his tiny realm of understanding. He rolls these thoughts around in his mind as he continues with his play. I wonder if I’ve explained it sufficiently, or if I’ve only left him more confused. 

It’s not these questions of “Where is Jesus?” that most challenge me. It’s when he begins to tie loose ends together and come to his own conclusions.




One day as we are walking out the front door to the car, he wanders toward the road– too close to it for my comfort. I pull him near and explain the dangers of going in the road, that he could be hit by a car and die. I scour my brain for more words to help him grasp the severity of this.

“You could die and be gone, like the bugs when you step on them.” “Oh ok.” He tells me, and climbs into his carseat. Again I ask myself if my explanation was sufficient; if it will be enough to keep him away from the road.

On another afternoon not long after, he spots a gentleman crossing the road. “Oh Mama, he needs to be careful, or he’ll get dead!”

He’s been curious about death lately.




He has also had a preoccupation with what Heaven is like, and if we will go there.

I see his thread of thoughts beginning to weave together into a fabric of faith. And I worry as to whether I’m giving him the tools he needs in order to understand these truths I swear he’s too young to grasp.

Sometimes I am afraid to answer his questions. I forget that when they handed me my firstborn son under the glowing lights of that laboring room, they not only handed me the title of Mama, but also the titles of Teacher and Guide alongside of my husband.




“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 11:19

Maybe it’s as simple as that. Maybe it’s as easy as keeping these conversations going, spurring them on by pulling out the children’s Bible, and sharing them in a way that excites and engages them—through story. Maybe it only takes making them a normal part of the conversation permeating our home.

Perhaps if I just keep answering his questions while drowning my words in prayer, the pieces will come together in his young mind to form a portrait of grace and gospel.



One morning I come across this passage and it stops me. My eyes discontinue their scroll down the page and linger on hope inked onto thin paper. I absorb them into my soul as I copy them down on a page in the journal I keep for my firstborn.

My son, this is my prayer for you:

‘Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’ 1 Peter 1:8-9″

Perhaps this is the beauty of “childlike faith”, that my son can believe without seeing. That he has questions, but still he accepts that which yet holds an element of mystery. That he understands far less about Jesus and grace and the gospel than I do, yet he can pray simple prayers full of faith; ones unhindered by his questions. He knows without a doubt that Jesus loves us and keeps us safe, and that is enough for him. Maybe It is I who have a thing or two to learn from his faith.

And maybe– just maybe– it is ok if my humble explanations only leave him with more questions, because I never want him to stop asking. Because when he asks those questions, it forces me to pursue the answers. And in this way, he is teaching me.



Family Marriage Parenting

An Open Letter To My Boys About Why Daddy Comes First

June 21, 2015


To my boys:


There’s something very important that I need you to know. I need you not only to hear it in my words, but to see it in my actions; to sense it in the ebb and flow of our home and life.

That guy you tackle hard when he walks through the door every evening, and bear hug tight during bedtime prayers? He’ not only your hero. He’s mine, too. And He’s also my first love.




Please don’t ever think that I say this because I don’t love you enough. No my sons, I say this precisely because I love you so impossibly much. And I know that when I put your father first, I am not only loving him to the best of my ability, I am loving you to the best of my ability, too.

This is because our home and our family thrives best when Mommy and Daddy’s relationship is given its proper place of utmost importance.

When Mommy and Daddy are working together as a team, you thrive. I’m not just saying this, I’ve seen it. 




I’ve seen how your confidence builds when you see Daddy and I hug, and how you smile securely when my hand is nested within your father’s grasp. I know at times you’ve contested Daddy and I leaving on date nights without you, but I’ve also observed how your behavior and character flourish when you see Daddy and I spending time together.

I’ve seen how when Daddy kindly explains to you that, “This is Mommy and Daddy’s time to sit together.” Or, “Mommy comes first”, that you don’t pout, or even look hurt. No, rather your eyes hold a certain contentment, one built of safety and security. You’ve never complained about the fact that we give you an early bedtime, because you understand that Mommy and Daddy need their time alone in the evening.




I’ve seen that when we’re on a family walk, and I choose to walk next to Daddy with my arm looped through his, rather than run up ahead with you, you don’t sulk, but rather your stride grows more confident.

I need you to understand that I choose to place Daddy first because one of my greatest hopes is that one day you will have a healthy, thriving marriage. I put Daddy first because I want you to one day choose a wife who will, after God, place you first. Ultimately I know that if this happens, that your children—my grandchildren—will also flourish in a healthy home. I want to model to you how to build a strong friendship with your wife that will last long after your own kids are grown and moved on to their own families.

I know that everyday you see me choose to love and serve your Daddy, that you observe the model of a healthy marriage; one that puts the other first, and seeks the other’s best above our own.




I choose to put your Daddy first because I know that when I do this, your foundation becomes all the more secure. You see that Mommy and Daddy have a strong friendship and commitment; one that won’t erode with time or tension; one you will never need to question the strength of. You rest secure, and that is a gift I want to give you; I can do that by placing your Daddy first.

I need you to see that when I slipped that wedding band around your Daddy’s finger, when you were yet a distant dream, I was also making a commitment to you; one that could only be held up by me keeping your Daddy first in my heart.

I need you to see all of these things because once upon a time Daddy’s parents and my parents showed us what a healthy marriage looked like. They still do. And we are all the better for it. I want that for you, too.




My boys, the biggest reason I place your Daddy first is this:  God has commanded me to do so, and for a very good reason. God is the one who decided what family is and how it would work. He masterfully crafted it, and He understood that when a Mommy and Daddy love, serve, and place each other first, everything works better.

The whole family thrives—and that is exactly what I want for us.




I want to thank you, my sons. You have showed so much maturity already in your young years in understanding why Mommy and Daddy place each other first. You’ve never complained or taken offense. Instead, you have returned the gift by showing us that our commitment to keeping a healthy marriage is well worth the effort. You have showed us your appreciation for a strong and healthy home, one where Mommy and Daddy’s relationship comes first. You’ve confirmed that when I choose to put your Daddy first, it’s not only what you need, but exactly what you want, too.




936Pennies Faith Family Motherhood Parenting

To Every Mother With A Newborn {A Season Begging For Grace}

May 6, 2015



Thirteen days ago I walked into my doctor’s office for a routine ultrasound, only to be sent straight to labor and delivery, and to welcome my son into the world three weeks early.

I hadn’t packed my hospital bag. I hadn’t washed the car seat cover. We didn’t own a single newborn diaper. His going home outfit was lost in a pile of unfolded laundry…somewhere….

Things were not exactly as I had planned. 

With something so unpredictable as childbirth, things often don’t go according to plan.

That is why this time of bringing a newborn home– it is a season that begs for grace.




With a single cry this tiny new human departs from your body, and tethers himself forever to your soul.

One gaze into those deep pools of dark blue eyes–it changes everything.

It forever changes you.

This babe is born, and you are born all new.

Then it seems as quickly as this tiny being entered the world, you are signing discharge papers, strapping scrawny arms through car seat straps, and fumbling your own broken body out the hospital doors.

And no matter whether you have made this transition before, or this is your first time, this one thing never fails:  the feeling of shock as you pull away from the hospital and head towards home, glancing back to the car seat every 45 seconds to make sure your infant is still breathing.




Those first days, those first weeks, those first months–they stretch before you with so much promise, beauty, fear, questions, unknowns, uncertainty, fatigue, and discovery.

The newborn days are a puzzle; an intimate game of mother and child figuring each other out. And this game–this season of such beauty–it begs for grace.




It begs for grace in those first days to sit. To allow your broken body to heal as others take on your usual roles and serve you instead.

Grace to forget all of those tasks on the “before baby arrives” list that never got checked off.

Grace for a sink of dirty dishes and piles of dirty laundry.

Grace for patient hours spent in the dance of mother and child learning to breastfeed.

Grace for too many cups of coffee.




Grace to be tired. Very tired. And to not feel guilty about it.

Grace to nap.

Grace to be on the receiving end of any and all help offered.




This season begs for the grace to allow the days to fall exactly as they desire to; to be whatever they wish–unrushed, unstructured, and unforced.

Grace to put off shedding the baby weight, and to enjoy the cupcakes brought over by friends.

Grace to make time for reflection, for prayer, for reading, for simply processing this incredible thing that has taken place.

And grace for ordering takeout. Again.




This is a time of grace to get little crossed off the to-do list. Or to get nothing crossed off the to-do list. Or to just not write a to-do list.

Grace to view this not as a season for “survival mode”, but rather a season to take slow and savor.

Grace to wish for nothing more, for nothing less, but to embrace each moment for all it has to give and teach.

Grace to set everything aside, and to gaze at this beautiful thing you’ve created, and to memorize his face.




All of these appeals for grace–your soul is begging for them.

And so you, Mama of a newborn, here’s the truth: it is you who must give this grace

You must give it to yourself.

All of these grace requests, you are the one who decides whether or not they are granted. Because you are the one holding yourself to expectations.

So let it go.

Glean life from the example of Christ, who has given you all grace, and decide to give yourself a little bit of grace as well.

Because that tiny little face gazing up at you, suckling life from your own body, waking you at every hour of the night–it’ll be over before you know it, this precious season.

And nothing–absolutely nothing–should steal the beauty of this season away from you. Especially something as insignificant as a pile of unfolded laundry.



Faith Family Motherhood Parenting Pregnancy

What 32 Hours of Labor Taught Me About The Insufficiency Of Words

April 25, 2015



I have been avoiding writing.


For one, I’ve been busy and exhausted from frantically finishing up last minute projects as our third son’s due date approached. But I’ve also been avoiding writing because I have been afraid.

I have been afraid to do the beauty of life an injustice by trying to bound it by words.

There’s just too much awe. Too much opportunity. Too much in this life that we never deserve yet God gives anyways—and how do I dare try to stick that in a cage barred by vocabulary and imagery? What could ever depict such beauty except the experience of the beauty itself?

I have been disappointed by the insufficiency of words.




This is how I feel today, more so than ever before, after a whirlwind three days of facing head on great shock, fear, emotion, and beauty.

It began on Thursday morning. My husband’s family is in town visiting this week, and I invited his mom along to my weekly ultrasound.

Although I have never had any issues with my pregnancies or deliveries, because of my Addison’s Disease I am treated as a high-risk pregnancy patient. This time around the doctor decided weekly ultrasounds would be best, to keep an eye on baby’s “practice breathing”, fluids, and other essential functions and developments.

We had only had monthly ultrasounds with our other boys, and this seemed as a bit of an inconvenience. When you already have an almost-four year old and almost-two-year-old at home, it’s difficult to adjust home and work schedules to accommodate yet another weekly appointment.

Little did we know that these “inconvenient appointments” would save our son’s life.




Within just a minute of the ultrasound technician placing the warm gel and ultrasound wand onto my swollen belly, I knew something did not look right. “Have you been leaking fluid?” She asked me. Every tech had asked me this same question for the past 6 ultrasounds. I was used to it.

“I don’t think so. I’ve been paying close attention, but haven’t noticed anything.” My fluid had been low for 6 weeks. It was still in the average range, but on the low end at 9cm. Anything below 8cm was dangerous.

The technician did not divert her gaze from the screen as she spoke, “I can only find 4 centimeters of fluid. I’m calling your doctor.”




With that she walked out of the dark ultrasound room. I held my hand out to my mother-in-law who grabbed it and said one of the most wonderful prayers for me and my baby, a prayer I’ll never forget.

Within two hours I was admitted to labor and delivery. Within another two hours I was induced. Having never experienced labor like this, I had no idea what to expect, or how long it might take. Never would I have guessed that 32 hours of labor spanned between that moment and when I would finally hold my son.

My body was simply not yet ready to deliver this baby, and so things moved slowly. Very slowly. The morning after they induced I was still only at 1cm dilation, and contractions were very mild. It just goes to show that nature does not want to be forced.

I undressed myself in the bathroom to shower and glanced at my pregnant body in the mirror. For months I had seen this body as huge. As unattractive. As something needing to be quickly fixed once this baby boy was out.

But today I looked small. Very small. Too small to be delivering a baby into the world.

I lathered and rinsed and returned to the hospital bed to wait. And wait. And wait.




Every time a new nurse would come in she would comment on how small my belly was, and that this was going to be a “tiny one”.

They would explain to me the risks and possible complications of delivering a baby pre-term. Possible respiratory issues. Possible blood sugar problems. Possible feeding troubles. And always the possibility of him needing to stay in the NICU. Away from me.

He wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. But he had to come out.

He likely would not have made it another three weeks. And had my doctor not been tracking him week by week on ultrasound, we would not have known that he was no longer producing amniotic fluid, or that he needed to be evacuated.

We could have lost him.




And here is where I cannot do justice to the beauty of life with words. Because God and His mercy is far bigger than anything I could ever type out on a laptop or pen on paper. Through 32 hours of unexpected pre-term labor, I have come to see beauty in a whole new way. Beauty by way of mercy. Beauty most undeserved.

It took 31 brutally slow hours from induction until I progressed to 5cm of dilation. It then took one hour to progress from 5cm to 10cm.

For 31 hours I had tried my best to convince this little boy that he needed to come out. And now with him pushing ever so urgently against my body, it was all I could do to convince him to stay put for 20 more minutes until the doctor could arrive to deliver him.

I breathed hard into each contraction, doing all I could to focus on NOT letting him out. I told myself I could last five more contractions. The doctor walked through the door with one to spare.

With only a few minutes of pushing, my son entered the world. He cried beautifully as he came out. They placed him directly onto my bare chest, waiting a blissful minute to cut his chord, allowing it to pulse just an extra moment of life from my body to his. He was a perfect mess of birth and shock. I was a perfect mess of relief and hope.




They measured his tiny body—5 pounds and 9 ounces of perfection, and handed him back to me. He fed. And I entered again back into that blissful and unspeakably beautiful phase of life that is being a nursing mother.

I stared down at him, and I still can’t stop even now, a day after. I can’t stop staring. And I can’t stop thanking God—for all that I don’t deserve, for all that I can never explain, for all of the beauty of life that I can only ever butcher with the attempts of putting it to words.

I know my words have done little to express the beauty I have witness in the past 72 hours. But that’s ok. They are a story told by a mother running off four hours of sleep in the past three days, with no energy or conviction to make them perfect—because it’s not about the words. 




These words are simply the raw reflections of a mother who just witnessed a very big God bring her son safely into the world.

They are the unfiltered and imperfect words typed out first draft and without edit—a simple story of beauty that could never be held by story. As I stare over at my precious sleeping son not even a day old–the words fade to nothing–completely insufficient is all they are.

However, as insufficient as they are–these words are what I know. They are what I have to sort through my thoughts, emotions, and experience of these past 3 days; to dig a little deeper into the beauty God has graced me with. And so they are what I will continue to use. Because we should never cease to at least try to share the beauty God allows us to be a part of.



936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

Why Maybe It’s Ok That We Don’t Cherish Every Moment

April 2, 2015



I woke this morning weary bodied from a night of fitful rest,


and heavy hearted after receiving heart-wrenching news from a dear friend. Some days us mothers wake up completely unprepared for another go at speaking life, inspiring dreams, calming fears, and navigating tantrums.

Because sometimes we feel as though the life has been sucked right out of us.

And our own dreams seem so out of reach.

And our own fears roar loud.

And we just want to put down the dish rag and throw a tantrum ourselves.




I groggily find my way through the morning. I sip at my iced latte as if it is the only connection I still have to my sanity. 

That iced latte, it’s the one I tell myself I deserve. The one I’m supposed to enjoy in peace and quiet every afternoon while my young ones sleep restfully.

Only today they don’t.

In fact, they wail. From both ends of the house.

The big one cries of cars he could not bring to bed because he screamed at mama. And he hurt my heart. So no– no cars today, little man.

The little one’s tears come from teeth painfully protruding through his gums. I pick him up, cradle him, gently kiss his forehead. He whimpers.

“Amazing grace..” I sing softly, “…The Lord has promised good to me…His word my hope secures” I sing it mostly to myself.




Finally quiet comes, but only once I agree to let them nap in the same room, something we haven’t yet allowed because we know it will guarantee that nap time won’t take place.

But I need quiet.

My soul needs quiet.

So I lay a weary, diaper-bottomed toddler down into the crib. The big one watches me from his own bed, his eyes red and puffy. A smile spreads across his tear-streaked face. No cars, but his baby brother will suffice.

I return to my latte. I contemplate sleep myself. But there are words to be written, thoughts to be sorted through, dinner to be planned. Always more to do.




They say that as parents we should cherish every moment. But when we are in the throngs of tantrums, mess, and incomprehensible exhaustion; when we are entangled by our uncertainties and fears–we just don’t. We don’t cherish every moment.

And I’m beginning to see that it’s ok. It’s normal.

You don’t celebrate the battle, after all; you celebrate the victory.

The rainbow after the treacherous storm.

The smile, soft kiss, and “I love you, mama”, after the tears.

You fight strong and hard and patiently and graciously and lovingly and wisely–and then you celebrate the victory.




You cherish the beauty that is interwoven throughout the threads of raising these little ones.

Sometimes it’s difficult to detect it–this beauty. But it is there for the finding, around every corner, and within every nook. It is there, and it breathes life back into our souls.

I see it in his face lit up with wonder as he runs across the lawn holding a golden treasure of petals; “Mama!” he exclaims, “I found a Dandelion!” He cradles it carefully between dirt-dusted fingers, the first one of the year.

I see it in the spring’s first fruit flies intruding into my kitchen as I slice the tender flesh of bright red strawberries for him, because they are his favorite.

I see it as I rake fall’s leaves from the garden to reveal spring soil ready to birth new life, and my boys busy themselves with tractors and trucks beside me.




I hear it in his voice one night, only minutes after he turns to bed.

His voice is urgent, I run—afraid something is wrong—but then I hear it, his excitement, and oh how excited he is!

“Come quick!!” He yells. “Deer! Deer!” We open his door to a dark room, lit only by street lamps creeping their way through the window as he holds the drapes back. “Deer!” He points excitedly to the yard, where we can just make out the outline of 4 doe cautiously making their way across our yard.

We hoist him out of bed, lift his groggy brother from the crib, and stand them side-by-side in the windowsill as we all watch the deer in silence.

Beauty–I tell you. It is there for the finding.




I see it in their eyes. Every single day. This beauty defined by discovery, grace, love, learning, growing, overcoming, and simply being.

They know beauty. And in this way they are the teachers, and I am the student.

This is motherhood’s dance. All that is chaotic and busy and exhausting and terrifying—all of it graciously held together by beauty. It is a beauty that grants the power to calm my most unthinkable fears, and breathes the courage into my soul that I need each day to carry on bravely.

It’s all worth it. It is all a gift. It is all grace.

And this beauty carries us onward.



Cost of Real Food Energy Gluten Free How to Motherhood Parenting Real Food

For When You Get That “Elmer’s Glue Feeling” {How to Beat The Afternoon Energy Slump}

March 19, 2015


We’ve been on the receiving end of some wide-eyed stares from strangers lately.


At 31 weeks pregnant, I’m beyond the awkward, “Is she pregnant?” glances, and have moved on to strangers excitedly asking me, “Oh, is this your first?”


“No,” I smile, “This will be our third boy….in under four years.”


This is where their eyes grow wide. Mine too, if I’m honest. 




Whether you’re on baby number 1, 3, or 7–Parenting introduces you to a whole new level of fatigue.


No matter how you slice it, organize it, or color-code it…there is always the unexpected. Always the unpredictable. Always the unprecedented. Always the undiscovered territory involved in navigating children day by day, hour by hour, and imperfect moment by moment.

It can get a bit…untidy. And busy. And hectic. And exhausting.


And trust me—I know exhausted.




My mom has always called it the “Elmer’s Glue Feeling”; you know the one—when you’re exhausted and groggy and feel like you’re moving as slow as glue.

Most afternoons, after I lay my toddler down for his nap, and then tuck in my three-year-old after four “One more time” visits to the potty—I head straight for our espresso machine; which I still swear is the greatest piece of baby equipment we ever invested in.

Whispering a prayer for lengthy naptimes, I sink down into the recliner with my iced latte and Girl Scout cookies—the ones I stashed in the basement freezer willing myself to stop compulsive snacking on. They lasted down there all of two days.

I settle in and allow the silence to embrace me, always aware that it could end at any abrupt moment.




Whether you stay at home, work from home, or work all day out of the home and then return to the work of keeping house and raising babies—being a parent demands enough to rob even the energizer bunny of his get-up-and-go.

And intentional parenting– Parenting that calls us to rise above ourselves and grow, nourish, teach, and guide these little ones to abundant life? Well, that will demand everything of you. Plus some.

Most days we just do the best we can, and pray to Jesus that He’ll fill in the gaps—oh, and that He’ll move someone’s heart to open a coffee shop that delivers to your doorstep. Freaky Fast.




Me: 1, Elmer: 0


As a work-from-home mom, many of my days are marked by coffee– and naps when I should be working, or eradicating the dust colony that’s taking our ceiling fan captive. However, I have discovered one game-changing daily practice that is lending me that extra boost of energy right when I need it.

Not only is it helping me trudge through the “Afternoon Slump”, when my energy reserves are all but extinct; but it is also helping me in my mission of nourishing my sons with plenty of fruits and vegetables each day.

My son, the one who curls up his nose in protest at the sight of any vegetable on his dinner plate, he eagerly helps me count out baby carrots, and place a handful of fresh spinach into our smoothie each day.




He counts them out, “One, two, three”…. And as he places each carrot ever so carefully into the blender, he turns to tell me,


“Mama! Carrots make our eyes healthy so we can see outside!”


This from the child who has broken records with how long he can keep a halved cherry tomato in his mouth all while refusing to swallow the dreaded morsel, lest it contaminate his body. It can get dramatic around here.



Over the past couple of years, we’ve honed this smoothie making business down to a science to craft delicious, nourishing, cheap smoothies.

It’ll take a little bit of experimenting on your own to find what flavors best suit your tastes, and what ingredients fit your budget; but I encourage you to give this a try if you’re looking for an extra boost of energy and nourishment for your days.




First—a few tips for keeping smoothies cheap


  • Avoid using fresh fruit. I know, that sounds absurd. But fresh fruit gets pretty pricey if you’re making big smoothies every day. Instead, opt for fresh, cheap vegetables like organic spinach and carrots, always a banana, and then use frozen fruit.
  • If you have a Costco, they carry very affordable frozen organic fruit. Otherwise, you can freeze bananas (peel them first). Always try to use frozen fruit instead of ice—ice offers no nutrients and takes up a lot of space.
  • For liquid, milk is ok if it is organic and whole, but that can get pricey. We prefer to use homemade kombucha, unsweetened tea, or 100% juice not from concentrate.
  • Skip the fancy equipment. We use a $25 blender we bought from Target over a year ago. We use it every day, and it still works great. And when (not if) it breaks, we will return to Target and buy another $25 blender.




I’ll include a detailed recipe below, but here is what ingredients we typically put into our smoothies, and why:


  • Kombucha tea (homemade or store-bought) for probiotics and energy
  • Fresh vegetables, such as organic spinach and carrots for extra nutrients and energy, and they’re cheap!
  • One banana to make it creamy and add some flavor
  • Frozen fruit for nutrients, flavor, and to make it cold
  • Pure vitamin C powder to fight off colds and other sickness




Sometimes parenting can leave you feeling like you’re trudging through an entire pool of Elmer’s glue—getting no where fast.


But the truth is—as exhausting as this can all be—it’s worth it.


Every fatigued moment is a blessing, because these little ones are growing–and so am I. Even on those days where I’m plodding through an ocean of Elmer’s glue—we’re getting somewhere.

And thankfully, with a hefty dose of coffee, fresh smoothies, and prayer—we’re enjoying every exhausting bit of the journey!


Fast and Cheap Energy Boosting Smoothies

Yield: 1 tall glass, + 2 sippy cups worth


  • 1 1/4 cup liquid (Kombucha, unsweetened tea, 100% juice not from concentrate, or organic whole milk)
  • 1/3 cup organic, plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • 6-8 organic baby carrots
  • 1 small handful organic fresh baby spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/2 cups organic frozen fruit
  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 2 Tbs ground flax seeds
  • (optional) pure vitamin C powder


  1. Combine all ingredients in order, blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add additional liquid or frozen fruit if you want it thinner or thicker.


A note on the vitamin C powder: I won't recommend a specific dose. We "Mega dose" on vitamin C regularly, as we're convinced it is one reason we rarely get sick. Do your own research to find what dose you're comfortable with, although there is no harm in too much vitamin C.

Book Review Motherhood Parenting Time Management

For Any Mom Who Feels Like She’s Drowning {Say Goodbye To Survival Mode}

February 26, 2015



He walked in to find me curled up in the fetal position in our armchair—crying.


Through sobs I spoke of backache, children jumping on me, impossible fatigue, endless demands, and poop—lots and lots of poop.

Only I may have used a different word for poop.

I heard comedian Jim Gaffigan comment once on what it was like when he and his wife had their fourth child. He sad it was like you’re drowning—and then someone hands you a baby.

I’ve felt a little bit like that lately. Maybe you have too.




It doesn’t take four kids. It doesn’t even take three. Maybe you’ve just brought home your first little one, and you already feel like you’re gasping for breath, hardly staying afloat above the surface of the waves.

Motherhood is demanding.

It is impossibly difficult, everyday challenging, and tragically humbling—because it shows us our inability to handle it all—at least not with eloquence and poise.

Because really, who of us are managing this motherhood gig with Pinterest perfection?


At times we can all feel like we’ve switched gears into survival mode.




I challenged myself to read 20 books this year. Minimum. And not any 20 books, but 20 books that would challenge me as a follower of Christ, as a wife, as a mother, and as a writer—20 books that would challenge and inspire me to do life better.

And I could not have begun the year with a better book than this:


Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

by Crystal Paine (




We all know that in this season of raising kids at home, the weather can change rapidly. 

It seems that in just a moment we can go from floating on a cruise ship while sipping a cold iced tea, to flailing beneath the waves of too much stuff, too many appointments, and too little time.

We all have those moments, those days, those weeks—even those years—when there is just too much to handle.

And we are unsure of how to best move forward—so we stay stuck.

Perhaps it’s not an overwhelming sense of “How do I handle it all?!” that keeps us stagnant. Maybe instead, you’re asking this question:

“How do I handle it all in the best way?


Maybe we are afraid to move forward in life—to pursue that dream on our hearts—because we don’t know the best route, and we are afraid to take a wrong step. So we refuse to take any step.




Say Goodbye To Survival Mode is composed of both purposeful hope and practical application.

It helps you first to identify your passions, and what you believe you are called to, and then to use those passions to determine your best priorities in life–what you should focus on.

And then it guides you through how to set up goals and daily strategies to see those priorities nurtured.


Here are a few things this book helped me to discover:


  • I don’t have to do it all
  • I should not do it all
  • How to identify what matters most in my life, and prioritize those things daily so that I live a life on purpose
  • How to set realistic, attainable, and intentional goals
  • How to strategically work towards meeting those goals every single day
  • How to create and stick to a plan for managing my time, home, money, and meal planning
  • And that for those days when you feel like a failure, or like you just can’t get ahead–there is grace for those days. Beautiful, life-changing grace.

This is so much more than a how-to book. It helped me look beyond strategy and methods, and to the motivation behind them–to what drives me; and what God has called me to.




There is no better time than now to pick up this book.

Perhaps you began this year with new resolve, resolutions, and virtuous goals. But now we’re two months in to the new year– and you’ve lost some gusto, and the waves are gaining power and threatening to overwhelm.

The grocery budget went over. The bathroom floor hasn’t been mopped in….well let’s not go there. The child caught a cold, and no one has slept through the night in days. Life with young ones at home is unpredictable and messy. Magnificently messy.

It’s a beautiful thing–and a very arduous thing; this mapping out of how to do life best while our kids are young and at home; how to manage it all with grace and beauty.

Now is the time to regroup; to refocus on what is really important, and pursue those things first. Now is the time to resurface above those waging waves and take a breath of fresh air. Let this book get you started. 



Just a note:

I’m not getting compensated for this endorsement, or paid when you click this link. In fact, Crystal doesn’t either. All of her proceeds from the book are donated to Compassion International!

I just think that when a treasure like this is discovered–it needs to be shared. Order Crystal Paine’s book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, here