Soon

13576827_10100713984985605_422606740353858805_oIf this guy had a tattoo, it would read: ADDICTED TO CUDDLES.

He can’t help it; it’s in his genes. After a wonky day where he missed his morning nap and only had a few snoozes here and there, I put him down for what I thought would be a solid afternoon nap. Forty-five minutes later, “MOMMY!!! MOMMY!!! MOMMY!!!” (Okay, no. He doesn’t say that, but that’s what he means.) When I scooped him up and saw his little red-rimmed eyelids, I knew he needed more sleep, and that he needed a little extra help.

So we wrapped up in our favorite wrap and gently bounced. As I patted and petted and hugged my little bundle, I had this thought:  One day soon, he will be in another woman’s arms when he’s worn down. When the world becomes too much for him now, I am his refuge, but that won’t always be. And then — I’ll admit it — with a brief flash of future jealousy, I wondered how I will cope with only hearing from my sons once a week, or every other week, or less. How does a mother’s heart survive this trauma, knowing another woman has stolen her son?!

Refocus.

Oh, this is how You planned it, Lord. Fashioned in a woman, birthed of a woman, nourished through a woman, nurtured by a woman, destined for a(nother) woman. Oh, let her — this other woman — let her be humble and kind.  Both girls — Bennett’s and Luke’s — let them love You fiercely and love my boys fiercely. Let them let their husbands and help their husbands be good men. Let them be humble and kind and holy and brave and strong.

I breathe in his scent, hear his soft snores.

Thank You for these boys, this royalty worth dying for. Thank You for entrusting me with this high and holy calling. Help me to get them ready, for time is so short.

If I had a tattoo, it would say: SOON.

Soon, no one will be pulling at me or screaming for me.
Soon, no one will call me “Mommy.” (Or “MOMMYYYYYYYY!!!”)
Soon, I won’t have to remind anyone that our hands are for showing love and kindness and so are our words, or that God gave us toys so we can share them.
Soon, my chances will be gone, and I’ll hope what I did was enough.

Soon is a word I use to focus myself.

Today, it was a bittersweet moment as I imagined the future. Knowing it will come so soon, yet determining to savor sweet baby breath. Hoping for faithful daughters-in-law, yet cherishing chubby cheeks, wrists, ankles. Soon, this baby will be a man. But right now, he’s a baby, and there’s so much beautiful ahead of us. This is such a good moment. Keep rocking. Keep praying. God is good.

Yesterday, it was a desperate moment as I despaired the present. A preschooler in the other room needed me while I held an inconsolable infant while I internally counseled this tear-soaked woman on her fourth day of fever and sickness with this one word: SOON. Soon, you will feel better. Soon, the baby will stop screaming. Soon, what the preschooler needs help with, he will be able to do on his own. Soon, your babies won’t need you quite so much, and that will be good, but hard. This moment is also good, but hard. Keep rocking. Keep praying. Keep crying, too; it’s okay to fall apart sometimes.

Soon, Mama. Soon.

 

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What is Courage?

This morning, my not-yet-three-year-old son went completely underwater *on purpose* for the first time. After two weeks of IMG_0955swimming lessons and countless “tries” that included only dipping down to mid-ear, he agreed with his swim teacher that on the last day of lessons, he’d do it. That day was today, and he spent five minutes with me trying. He kept getting a little deeper and a little deeper, and then he finally did it! Do you know what I said to him when he came back up? “That was SO brave!”

But was it? Based on a lot of public opinions I’ve seen on the topic of bravery over the last few months, I’m wondering if I may have used the wrong word.  Not all people who do scary-to-them things are recognized as brave. So, what exactly is bravery? How do we define courage, and why?

I think so many Christians — not wrongly — wrap up their definitions of courage and bravery with a sense of obedience to God, regardless of the cost. Trusting that God will fight for you; honoring Him when everyone else opposes you. This is very Biblical. The first verse I thought of regarding courage was “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 — probably a conglomeration of different versions). And there are very many others along the same lines. It has become natural to many of us to interpret courage from a spiritual standpoint, but does that therefore exclude people who don’t believe the same as us? Or align with our morals and values? If what they stand for is not Biblical, can they ever be truly brave in actually standing for it?

Publicly changing your gender doesn’t quite seem to fit the Conservative Christian mold, and generally, Conservative Christians (including famous, leader-types) are being awfully snippy and rude about how some are recognizing this act as an act of bravery. But is that really fair? (Or loving?)

19006598825_f67d5615ec_oCaitlyn Jenner is being compared to soldiers, police, firefighters, etc., as though their courageous acts negate hers. True, the former Olympian didn’t put her life on the line for anyone else. Or did she?

Have you noticed how she’s been vilified, ridiculed, mocked, and virtually spat upon since she (while still a “he”) went public in an interview with Diane Sawyer? She knew that would happen, yet she still did it. She intentionally went public. Was it for her own publicity? Maybe a little bit; she is a celebrity after all. But did you listen to her speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage? I did — you can watch it on YouTube. Here are some of the things she had to say:

  • People are dying. Literally — today, yesterday, tomorrow. People are killing themselves and being killed because of gender identity issues. They’re being bullied, harassed, abused. Every day. Someone needs to help.
  • With the spotlight comes responsibility. Speaking to a room full of athletes and celebrities, she reminded them that how they conduct themselves matters.
  • Accept people. People are going to be different. Accept them anyway.
  • Trans people deserve respect. And the inevitable byproduct of respecting them is having compassion for them.

Really great, Biblical points, by the way. MY point is that she’s not doing it just for herself. Caitlyn Jenner put herself out there intending to help other people. Regardless of whether we agree with her beliefs, values, or methods, the fact remains that she is willfully positioning herself to be ripped apart by Christians in an effort to help the lost, the confused, the hurting, the scared — the ones we’re tragically not that great at loving — in a way she thinks will give them hope. Knowing the inevitable backlash, she still moved forward with others’ pain as a major motivator.

Isn’t that ironic? What love she’s showing, and what judgment and ugliness we’re throwing back at her.

I would definitely call her courageous.

 

The Practice of Waiting

For months now — for months and months — I have been waiting on the Lord for something. This something is dear to my heart, and the longer I wait, the dearer to my  heart it becomes and the harder it is to keep waiting.

This morning, I read Joshua 16 and 17. Don’t look it up. If you do, you’ll be all like, “Why did I look this up?” I’ll go ahead and give you a taste, since I know you’re dying with curiosity:

The sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance. Now this was the territory of the sons of Ephraim according to their families: the border of their inheritance eastward was Ataroth-addar, as far as upper Beth-horon. Then the border went westward at Michmethath on the north, and the border turned about eastward to Taanath-shiloh and continued beyond it to the east of Janoah. It went down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, then reached Jericho and came out at the Jordan. From Tappuah the border continued westward to the brook of Kanah, and it ended at the sea. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Ephraim according to their families, together with the cities which were set apart for the sons of Ephraim in the midst of the inheritance of the sons of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.

See? It’s a lot of this kind of stuff in these chapters. Foreign words we can’t say right and ancient places no longer on the map. But God spoke something beautiful to my heart through the discipline of reading through unfamiliar geographical accounts and waiting for His voice. Here’s what spilled onto my journal page:

God chooses our lot. And God’s choice is always good.

You may not have noticed those crucial few words in the passage above, those words that pierced my heart and opened my ears to the Spirit. It’s likely that you skimmed past it or had even stopped reading before you got there. Let me highlight it for you —

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Ephraim according to their families, together with the cities which were set apart for the sons of Ephraim in the midst of the inheritance of the sons of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.

They didn’t get to choose their portion. God chose it in time past, according to His wisdom and goodness, because they were His children. If they’d been given a choice, they might not have chosen this. Would they have preferred to execute God’s judgment on foreign peoples and take their lands? Probably not. I bet if given the choice, they would have rather liked finding an empty, unclaimed land. And if given the choice, they would have liked that land some 40 years prior, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, but God doesn’t operate on our timetable or with our tiny thoughts or shortsighted reasoning. He made them wait, and then He made them fight. Their honey- and milk-flowy inheritance was truly grand and extravagant, but it wasn’t handed to them on a silver platter. It was messy, and bloody, and not for the faint of heart.

And that made it so much better.

How much better did they get to know the Lord in the waiting? In the fighting and in the trusting? How much more did they appreciate the gift, the sovereignty and the majesty and the extravagant grace of the Lord?

(Kind of the same lessons we try to teach our kids — “Good things come to those who wait” and “You’ll appreciate it more if you work for it.” We don’t like these lessons anymore than they do, right?)

wait-661072_1280So here’s what I believe He’s telling me right now: Just wait, and press into the waiting. Give thanks for the practice of waiting for the Lord, and be ready to fight. Don’t settle for anything less than the lot He’s already set aside for you. Don’t be fooled by man’s counsel or the devil’s craftiness. This waiting is a blessing — this is true spiritual warfare — this is beautiful and worth it, and God is worthy to be praised in it and because of it. Just wait. It’s gonna be good…

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

~Isaiah 40:28-31

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

~Psalm 27:14

Write it Down.

100_2374In 2013, I started keeping a praise jar. It’s rather straightforward; every time there was something to praise God about, I tried to remember to write it down and put it in the jar. In January of 2014, it was so amazing to lay out all of God’s blessings (that I had noticed) month by month for the previous year. I spread them out on my kitchen table and just looked, in awe.

I never knew.

Never before had I kept such a meticulous record of every way God had blessed me and my family. And to be honest, I wasn’t all that meticulous about it. If I’d really written everything down, I’m sure my whole house couldn’t have contained all the sticky-notes.

Last year, I continued the tradition, but this time I included every answer to prayer — not only for us, but also answers to our prayers for friends, for relatives, for acquaintances, or for whomever else God had put on our hearts to pray. So this month as I looked back on 2014’s blessings, I also saw 52 specific answers to prayer.

Babies were a theme. We saw miracles for Ridgeley, Hunter, Caleb, Samuel, Deacon, Ethan, Emma, Abby, another Samuel, Josiah, Noah, and Graham. I tear up as I write these names, because some were “everyday” miracles of birth, but very many of them were miracle healings — babies who weren’t supposed to live; babies who were supposed to have extreme abnormalities; babies whose mommies had very high risk pregnancies; babies whose mommies’ doctors told them not to waste their time continuing gestation. All of these tiny people are alive today, healthy, loved, and a continual testimony of God’s mighty hand. We prayed fervently for these babies, and look! Look what God has done! Great is His name!

Oh, but I can’t forget baby Robert. We prayed fervently for him, too. We prayed; we begged; we wept; and God answered. God brought him Home as his mommy held him tight, whispering love.  I still cry over this beautiful baby; I cry for the loss his family feels. I remember May 12, knowing that when it comes again in a few months, and again next year, and again forever, his momma will feel a deep hurt resurface. But despite this pain, baby Robert is in my family’s praise journal because he is dancing with the King! Healthy, loved, alive, and not regretting a moment of his little life on earth. Look what God has done! Great is His name!

Friends were healed from cancer. Others were hopeless, then given hope. Missing, and then found. Hurting, and then comforted. Jobless, then employed. Addicted, and then freed. And so much more. Look what God has done! Great is His name!

I would have never remembered. Who remembers all of this? We may rejoice in the moment, at the news, but inevitably there’s dinner to cook and laundry to fold and butts to wipe. Life goes on, and we get right back to complaining about the dinner and the laundry and the butts.

We forget to notice the blessings. We forget to see the answers to prayer. We forget to recognize the miracles. We forget to praise God.

No wonder He seems so far away — we refuse to see Him. 

I was somewhat negligent in my attempt in 2014 to keep up with praises and answers to prayer. I forgot a lot. But even in the little bit I remembered, I recorded 52 specific answers to prayer and several more sweet blessings.

That’s because I wrote them down. This year, just like last year and the year before, I will see God.

Will you?

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
The Lord keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

–Psalm 145

 

 

 

 

Imitation

(Handwritten in my journal on July 18, 2014)

I just had a profound experience reading a blog post entitled, “To My Future Daughter-in-Law.” In it, the author refers to her own infant son as the future daughter-in-law’s husband. I have prayed for my son’s future wife, but I have never considered it in those terms, that he is her husband. Of course, I tell God all the time that I know Bennett is not really mine, but His. This is hard enough. I must confess my immaturity and jealousy here when I consider that another woman will take him from me!

Of course, I know this will happen. I just don’t want to think about those chubby cheeks giving way to rough stubble, or that poochy belly slimming and revealing lean muscle, or his eyes sparkling for any girl besides myself. These things are good and God-ordained, but it hurts to think about it. I need to pray more intentionally that God readies my heart, for this boy is someone’s husband. 

But, this was not the main part of the post that affected me so profoundly. It was this prayer: 

Lord, make him a man among men. A leader among leaders. Make him strong, resilient, brave, loving, and humble. Make him a good man in a storm.

That’s where I totally lost it. I want all these things for my Bennett, and it’s my responsibility to teach him all of it in between shoe-tying and counting. How can I teach these things if I am none of them myself?

I blend in with the crowd, but you, Son, go and lead. 

I am weak, easily beaten down, fearful, selfish, and prideful. I’m panicky in a storm. But you, Son, do as I say, not as I do. 

I totally lost it when I read this prayer, because I know I can’t do it. I went into the shower and nearly choked on the water, I was sobbing so hard. A tearful, snotty, soaking wet mess, I stood naked before God and lamented the irony that I want more children when I am so woefully inadequate in shepherding this one. I cried in fear because I cannot control who my son becomes, even if I WERE strong, resilient, brave, loving, and humble. And God’s answer?

Oh, He’s all grace on this one. I may have no control, but I am far from powerless. I may be weak, but I am not alone: 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
(Joshua 1:9)

Lord, make me a woman among women. A leader among leaders. Make me strong, resilient, brave, loving, and humble. Make me a good woman in a storm, a sincere and sold-out follower of Christ, and a leader of others into Your Kingdom. Make me all of these things so that I might be able to say to my children with confidence in You, 

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1)

And thank You, Lord, for Your grace and wisdom in giving my children an amazing father who is all the things I am not. I am not alone!

~Amen and Maranatha~







I am on a one-year journey through the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This month, I am practicing the discipline of Christian meditation, and the experience related in this journal entry came out of meditation on the truths shared in the above-linked post and, most especially, on Joshua 1:9. He’s had me meditating on that verse for days. I hope to share more from my experiences as I journey through the spiritual disciplines over this next year. 

After the Retreat

Thank you so much to those of you who prayed for me this past weekend. Your prayers were powerful and effective! All in all, the retreat was a success.

We hit a little road block at the beginning with some major technical issues that delayed our start time about 20 minutes. (At a four-hour event, this is a big delay!) Because of this, we ran out of time at the end. However, we had some great people and some powerful prayers, and everything got mostly back on track. I said half jokingly to our tech support guy that the enemy was working to derail our event, but I actually completely meant it. The devil is in the details, right? The way it got back on track suddenly was a small miracle, so that just confirmed it.

At the retreat, I taught two 45-minute sessions, complete with face mic and PowerPoint. (Pretty slick, huh? I was waiting for someone to come in at any moment and call me out as a poser!) Anyway, all nervousness had already slipped away, and I felt completely confident in what God had laid on my heart to share. After hours upon hours of preparation, multiple confirmations through prayer, Scripture, and God’s people, there was simply nothing left to be nervous about. I knew God had it.

Of course, I already have a few things in mind that I would change for next time. I’m young-ish and fairly inexperienced at this type of thing, so of course that’s going to be the case.

In the end, however, I felt satisfied that I had been faithful to the message that God put on my heart to share. I received such kind feedback from the ladies, and I feel very blessed and even more confident that I was obeying God’s call in speaking at this retreat. I look forward to more opportunities in the future to do this type of thing, but in the meantime I have a kid to raise! I’m not so great at balancing two jobs, anyway. However, this experience will be tucked away into my “Confirmations of What God Wants Me to Do with My Life After Kids” file. (It’s getting chubby, but I’m so grateful for dreams, direction, and a destination!)

She is Blessed

Her children rise up and bless her.
~Proverbs 31:28a

There is no shortage of blogs dedicated to motivating underappreciated mothers. You know what I’m talking about: the kind that remind you that changing your child’s vomit-soaked sheets for the third time in the third watch of the night has eternal weight. The kind that draws tears down your nodding face as it applies inspirational Scripture to your triumph in NOT locking your bedroom door and burying your head under your pillow as your two-year-old mashes poop into your carpet whilst in the throes of the worst tantrum this side of the Pecos. And that side, too. Way to go, Momma — that little monkey will surely rise up and be the next Mother Teresa because of your patience through The Crap Catastrophe of 2014! 

I appreciate these types of posts as much as the next mom; truly, I do. Tears stream down my nodding face when I read them, too, because it really does remind me in those mundane moments that I’m sowing eternal seeds — that anyone would be hard-pressed to think of a more important mission than shepherding little hearts and teaching them big truths about the God who loves them with a love even bigger than Momma’s. The vomit and poop aside, there is no greater job.

And of course, my little goose rises up every morning and blesses me, just like the verse predicts.

He says, “Thank you, Mom, for always being there. I know you work hard to make me food five times a day, and to keep my environment clean and enriching. Oh and I know that cleaning my booty isn’t fun. But it’s so great that you do those things, because I’m just a little kid and otherwise, I’d be hungry and bored and stinky and really upset all the time. Oh and the best thing? I LOVE it when you tell me about Jesus! Tell me more about Him, Mom! Right now, while you change my diaper!”

(Or some variation thereof. This is just a general idea.)

Or, maybe it’s more like this:

I hear him call, “Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Ma-ma!” through the monitor when he wakes up. He knows he can trust me to be there.

If he’s feeling happy, he smiles and laughs when I open his door.

If he’s feeling grumpy, he whimpers and cuddles in close when I pick him up.

He tells me all about his dreams as I change his diaper, and then he sits sweetly with me as we watch Imagination Movers before breakfast.

He shows me every day that he’s learning new things, like words and letters and numbers colors and how to follow directions and — oh this one’s the best — how to pray with me. (“‘Sus, kank oo. Wub oo. Mama. Da-ee. Bobo. Mahmen.” Which translated is “Jesus, thank you. Love you. Bless Mama. Bless Daddy. Bless Bobo. Amen.”)

He trusts me. He knows I’ll help him when he needs it, and he knows I’ll kiss his boo-boos. He comes running up to me for no reason, says, “Mama!” and hugs me.

His eyes sparkle when he looks at me.

He rises up and blesses me — every morning.

All kids do, in some way. We’ve got to cling to those precious gifts — those little affirmations that it’s worth it. We must persevere through the defiance and the attitude and everything that makes parenting hard and remember that every morning that they rise up and look to us, trusting us for whatever they need, they are blessing us. They can’t help it.

It’s our job, then, to recognize every victory — no matter how small — as the blessing it is. If you look out for these blessings, you’ll see your child(ren) blessing you even on the most difficult of days and through the most difficult seasons. Persevere; keep doing what the Lord has called you to do, keep learning how to do it better and how to be more faithful, but don’t miss how your child(ren) already bless you, despite your mistakes and theirs.

 

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, Not only are you blessed, but you are a profound blessing to me. Every single day, even the hard ones. Thank you for being you. 

My Love, Thank you for all the support you’ve given me in this journey of parenthood. This post is about Bennett, but you bless me every day, too. Your post is coming soon. 🙂

My God, What a magnificent array of blessings You’ve bestowed on me through my guys. I am so thankful and so humbled that You gave them to me. Give me the strength and the wisdom to be for them the wife and mother they need and deserve!

♥ ♥ ♥

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)