Posts in Motherhood
ps... I Love You!

She crawled up into the seat next to me and looked up into my eyes with a sparkle in hers. I brushed a whisp of hair off her face, over her cheek, and something about that moment overwhelmed me with the need to tell her I loved her. She hadn’t done anything special, it was as ordinary a moment as any, an in-between moment even, but with her attention fixated on me it welled up inside me just the same and I felt compelled to make sure she knew.

As a parent, I think there are few things we want more than for our children to rest securely in our love.

And as a child of God, I couldn’t help but wonder if those little things He does for us, the things that might seem trivial or insignificant to others but remind us of His presence, are His way of brushing the hair out of our face and whispering “I love you”…

I know that she knows. But the more I can remind her in the simple but genuine moments we share together, the more she’ll remember when she’s walking a difficult path and she feels alone, discouraged, or overwhelmed — and the less room there’ll be for doubt.

Maybe the more we draw close to God and seek His face with eyes of wonder and adoration, the more we’ll hear Him assuring us in moments He carves out just for us — the ordinary moments that He makes special with His touch — and we’ll be better able to hang onto that still small voice amidst the crashing waves to come.

Guest Contributor:

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Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Bringing Our Fish and Loaves to Jesus

Do you ever feel overwhelmed as a mom?  Oh, that is an understatement, right?!  Do you ever wonder how you are going to be enough for your kids who need so much from you?  From the first moment we meet our precious little one face to face we fall in love and instinctively want the very best for him or her.  We desire to nurture our little one physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We begin to feel the weight of the responsibility of leading this child into its future.  All these emotions can happen to us in a matter of moments.  I shouldn’t speak this way for all moms, but those were exactly my feelings when I met each of my three babies.  The love that welled up in me and poured out was immeasurable, but along with those loving feelings came the feeling of inadequacy.  Will I be able to be enough, know enough and do enough to always provide exactly what my children will need? 

Maybe you too can relate?  Let’s look at a passage in Scripture that may help us with these feelings.  Check out John 6:1-14.  Take a moment to get out your Bible and read the passage.  It’s the well-known story when Jesus feeds the five thousand.  Picture the scene in your mind.  There were thousands of men, women and children gathering around Jesus that day.  He was meeting their needs spiritually with His words and His presence, but they also needed to be fed physically.  How could they even begin to feed thousands of people?  So, what did Jesus do?  He asked one of his disciples, Philip, to come up with a plan.  Another disciple, Andrew, chimed in and said, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” (v 9)  Then the disciples went to retrieve the small portion of food available, all the boy had, and put it in the hands of Jesus.  We know the rest of the story…after giving thanks Jesus was able to feed the five thousand, with food left over.  Jesus met the physical needs of thousands of people with just two fish and five loaves of barley.  Amazing!

You might be thinking, yes that was one of Jesus’ great miracles, so how does this passage relate to an overwhelmed mom holding her newborn in her arms thinking about the future?  Or to a mom raising multiple children who is pondering if she is doing enough to pour into them physically, emotionally, and spiritually?  Or even to a mom who is in the thick of the teenage years doing her best, but questioning if her best is enough to prepare them for the real world?

Let’s address those thoughts.  There are many truths to take away from this passage, but there is one I have come to love and find rest in as a mom.  Let’s look at the boy with the obedient heart who was willing to give what he had to Jesus.  Then, what did Jesus do?  Jesus Himself filled in the gap between what was given and what was needed.  We, as moms, can learn a great deal from this passage.  God asks us to have an obedient heart, be willing to give what we have to our role as a mom and trust He will fill in the gap.  None of us can parent perfectly, do it all, be it all and ensure our kids will receive enough from us.  BUT, we can give our fish and loaves, what little we have, and watch Jesus make what we give, BIGGER, in His hands.  Bottom line, we need to parent WITH JESUS.  

God invites us as moms to parent with Jesus; to rely on Him, trust Him, walk with Him, day by day.  We can rest in God’s sovereign plan, take our daily marching orders from Jesus, and He will take what we give and make it enough for our kids for His plan and His glory.  He chose YOU before time began to be the mother of your specific children. He knew in advance they would need someone like YOU. (Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 139:13-16) And when you parent with Jesus with an obedient heart, He works through you to grow your children and you each day to be more like Him.  (Philippians 1:6) In the hands of Jesus, you are enough for your kids because you are a child of God, created with a godly purpose as a mother.  Let’s not allow the feelings of being overwhelmed to take over our minds and cripple us from taking what little we do have and putting it in the hands of the Almighty God. (Philippians 4:13,19) Invite Jesus into your mothering, give Him your fish and loaves, and rest in Him to make it into enough…with leftovers.

Becoming Truly You

Motherhood has been a wild journey for me as an individual. And honestly, I’m regularly surprised at my ability to even think of it as an individual’s journey. After all, motherhood is such a communal calling, sacred moments constantly shared (sometimes unintentionally). But somewhere in all of the beauty and chaos, there remains a single woman who used to be a normal human being with normal needs and desires, who communed with Jesus alone, who had deep passions that included having babies one day but wasn’t limited to that. And in a season of pregnancy, infants, and toddlerhood, it’s hard for me to think beyond simply desiring to thrive in motherhood. But that’s what I want to write about: how to thrive in motherhood by finding that individual woman again.

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There are layers to this journey of becoming Mama. For me, motherhood has been a constant cycle of death and rebirth; with every developmental period my son conquers, a new strength, understanding, and grace is birthed within me. And I don’t know if you’re imagining the golden-lit halo of mother Mary smiling serenely when you read this, but let me tell you: these rebirths are akin to actual labor and delivery. I remember, before I was even pregnant with my firstborn, Anchor, I made some pretty massive commitments to myself. I had babies smack in the midst of all of my friends (not the first to get pregnant and not the last). I watched as beautiful, passionate, talented, independent women began to disappear and drown- not in motherhood, but in society’s expectations of them, as if they had suddenly given up their rights to the life they lived before. It wasn’t a conscious transition, and every one of them experienced it to varying extremes; but I heard it in their conversation, in the way they spoke about the past and future, in the words of advice given to new mothers (advice that really sounded more like a warning of what was to come). I saw an incredibly selfless, strong, but beat down woman in front of me who legitimately didn’t see her youthful dreams as possibilities anymore. This was my unexperienced perspective before having children; and, to be honest, I was terrified of becoming that woman. So, I made a list of promises to myself. The top of this list was: “I will fight for myself.”

And if you’re like me now, I smile fondly and I kiss that younger naive me on the forehead and promise to be there for her when the $#!@ hits the fan a couple years from then. Looking back, I love that me; the me that was determined, passionate, and not remotely ready for motherhood. But isn’t that how we all enter into this new role and season of life? None of us has any clue of the total rebirth and revolution of motherhood. 

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A couple years later, I gave birth to my firstborn son, Anchor Joshua, in Thailand, and my world exploded in a trillion colors and emotions and melodies. I cannot even begin to list the encounters of Heaven I have in that boy; he is God’s goodness on earth, hope incarnate. He is the product of years of prayers and tears as we walked the road of miscarriage and infertility for three years waiting for him to come earthside. He came exactly opposite of what I had planned (non-emergent cesarean), and was born screaming so loud that the nurses were startled. Everything about his birth went against my ideal, and I grieved the experience I had lost; all the while, guilting myself for not feeling only bliss at having a healthy baby boy. I started motherhood feeling like a failure. I struggled coming off of morphine and took a steep downward turn into postpartum anxiety for months. I faulted myself for everything, tried to manhandle my heart and emotions; motherhood was kicking my butt and I began to question my determination, my ideals, my passions. I lived to survive those first weeks, panicking at sundown every day as anxiety crept up my throat to suffocate me. 

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Now, this is where grace saved me. And let me tell you, I needed a Savior. God met me in that season in such unexpected ways. I remember someone telling me once that motherhood revealed to her how selfish she truly was…But for me, motherhood has revealed how capable I am of immense sacrificial love without limit. I feel like I’ve gone from being a fresh, plump, grape to wine in just a matter of two years. The process has been both painful and extraordinarily wonderful. Many times, still, I feel I’m under insane pressure, like pressing a flower to draw out its fragrance. Seeing someone become a mother is a miraculous, glorious, excruciatingly beautiful sight; it’s one of Heaven’s hidden gifts to the world. We celebrate the new life of a child, but often we overlook the new life of the woman who bore him. She is radiant with life and love, clothed in the fragrance of her entire being poured out. 

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God began to remind me of my promises I had made to myself. I had made them in secret, I thought, never uttered aloud to a soul outside myself. He began to show me how he chose Mary to mother Jesus. Can you imagine the life of this young, dear girl who had literally no clue how to be a mother or even a wife? This girl went through intense social pressure and persecution, had no intimate connection with her husband, took a long trip on a donkey to have her baby in a barn because there were no hotel rooms left in the city… Plus, hello, she was giving birth to God’s son (no pressure, Mary, you’re just raising the Messiah). But the Father knew she was the perfect person to mother his son. She (in spite of her imperfections and mistakes) could raise him into understanding his identity and destiny by simply being Mary. God didn’t choose Anna who spent the majority of her life in the temple praying… He chose the young virgin with no life experience, the one most likely to be in over her head. He chose Mary to mother Jesus.

He chose me to mother Anchor and our little 32-week baby boy. He chose you to mother YOURS. It was in the middle of my drowning that I realized, I was given Anchor because God knew Anchor needed me and my husband in order to become who he is. It was only in being myself that I would raise the boy into the man he needed to be. Before he was born, God told me Anchor needed to be raised in the wild and dangerous places to grow into his own destiny. God didn’t make a mistake in placing this babe in my arms; he didn’t make a guess either. Our children are purposefully born to us. God is an intentional Father. 

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That revelation is what caused me to finally resurface. In the midst of my fighting this newfound anxiety, intense exhaustion, and my complete lack of experience with things like umbilical cord stumps and breastfeeding, God began to present invitations to find myself again. I honestly didn’t even see myself in this mother of a newborn. But she was in there, still alive and wanting to be heard. It started with small steps towards the things I previously loved. We took a short weekend away to rock climb on a neighboring island. And I have to be honest: I cried packing my bags because I genuinely thought there was no way I could do this. I legitimately thought I wasn’t able to do it and that I should stay home and send my husband without me. It took extraordinary courage and effort to take my four-week-old baby on a wooden long tail boat across the bay to stay in a hotel for a weekend (which, in the context of our current life, is fairly normal and easy to do). But that trip was powerful and life-giving for me. After arriving, I found it was exactly what I needed at a deeply personal level. That first risk revealed to me that my biggest enemies are my own limitations of myself; the war is largely in my own mind. We often don’t try because we don’t believe we are capable of success. I learned I can do a lot more than even the world around me expects of me! That trip was just the beginning, and two weeks later we took our 6-week-old to a conflict area in the desert, where he breastfed on horse-drawn carts and slept through camel rides down sand dunes. And this is the story of our wild Anchor boy, living his life on the road, in the jungles, in the distant mountain towns. This is a part of him and who he’ll grow up to be. 

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We have reached a rhythm now, still often disrupted by some new change or development, but the lessons learned in the first months of mothering have carried me through every new season with my kids. And while that naive and inexperienced non-mama Laci made some pretty radical promises to herself before having babies, God knew that those promises would actually come full circle to make her into the Mama she was always born to be. Because, for God, there are no accidents in making you Mama to your babies. 

So, I ask you: What does it look like for YOU to be yourself in motherhood?  What have you allowed to hold you back from fully living and thriving in your role as a mother, what lies have you believed about yourself? Ask the Father why he gave you the children he gave you, and why he chose you to Mama them. Receive from him the grace that is sufficient, the strength perfected in your weakness. You were made for this!

Guest Contributor:

Laci Hill is a Mom, wife, adventurer, missionary and fiery lover of Jesus. She travels the world sharing her heart, life and the love of Jesus with anyone and everyone she meets and is currently based in Thailand.

Why Just Reading the Bible to Your Kids is Not Enough

I recently read an article talking about the growing popularity of witchcraft among teens and millennials in America. The article said that while interest in Christianity and religion is decreasing every year, belief in horoscopes, tarot cards and palm reading is increasing. Not only do more and more people feel that it is ok, studies show that over 50% of millennials believe that astrology is a science and read their horoscopes daily. I believe that part of this acceptance is due to the normalcy that modern culture puts on New-Age references. Board games, computer games, children’s-fiction, video games, TV shows and other forms of entertainment make the occult seem normal and permissible. 

However, I believe that there is a much larger reason as to why so many teenagers and millennials are leaning towards witchcraft (or other similar mediums) for guidance. I believe it is because we are created to look to the supernatural for direction, and many are not finding it in the Church. 

As human beings, we have a deep sense that there must be something beyond us. Even though many Americans would say they are not religious, a recent study said that 89% of Americans still say they believe in a god or a universal spirit.  It is in our very DNA to long for something beyond us, and we crave a connection to the supernatural. Almost every person still prays to something when her or she is about to get into a car accident or a close friend is dying. All humans are desperate for something beyond them, and yet, so often in modern churches, people go to a church service and leave without ever connecting to the supernatural. Christianity to many people is a good, moral worldview, but in reality, seems absent of any sort of real power. 

It makes sense that people who are actually desperate for a real power beyond themselves may have gone to a church and left because they didn’t find it there. It may not be that they like the idea of Satan over God, but more so that they see the evidence of something beyond them in witchcraft and just a bunch people doing “good things” church. If they are already struggling with how to get through life in their own power, a worldview comprised primarily of a list of rules is not what they need. They need something real.

So how, as Christians, do we help prevent our children from falling into this same trap? Do we try to scare our kids into obedience by forbidding them to interact with anything associated to the devil or the demonic? I don’t think so. In fact, in many ways I feel that this approach does more harm than good, because it is giving off the impression that Satan is stronger than God. 1 John 4:4 says, “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world!” Instead of just telling our kids to avoid Satan, we have to show our kids an even greater power-- the power of Jesus Christ. Once they actually encounter the greater power, they will be able to recognize the counterfeit power that the enemy offers as fool’s gold compared to true gold.

John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” Light is always stronger than darkness. You cannot turn on the light in the room and have darkness decide to stay--it must leave. We should not be afraid of Satan, but rather, he should be afraid of us! The problem is not whether God is more powerful than Satan, but whether we are actually giving God opportunities to show his power.

Our churches need to be places where people come in and encounter something that is beyond themselves. We have to start asking him to speak and learning how to listen. We have to start praying and expecting God to answer. We have to start asking for miracles and sharing testimonies-- and this will only become real in our churches when it becomes normal in our homes. True encounters with God start around your dinner table, in your car while driving to soccer practice and in your kids’ bedrooms at night when you pray.

Some practical ways to lead your kids to actually encounter a real and living God are as follows: 

1. Pray for real things and share testimonies around the dinner table about how God is actually responding to your prayers. All too often we pray for things at night with our kids but don’t report back on how God answers or how He is responding to our prayers. This makes God look like an unresponsive statue-- when in reality he is more real than anything around us! We need to teach them how to listen as they pray and look for answers to their prayers over the next few days and weeks. 

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”- James 5:16

2. Read Scripture together as a family every day, and teach your children how to hear God’s voice through it. All too often we just study the Word like a textbook, but don’t learn how to let God actually speak to us through it. Have them ask God questions, and then as you read scripture together, have them share what God was putting on their heart in response to the passage.

“Direct my footsteps according to your word…”- Psalm 119:113

“For the word of God is alive and active.”- Hebrews 4:12

3. Teach your kids how to encounter God during worship. All too often our children think that worship is just singing songs about God-- when in reality it is so much more. Teach them how to actually connect their hearts to their Creator and respond to what He is doing in their lives with an overflow of worship. One way you can do this is put on worship music at home, give them some crayons and have them draw what comes to mind as they hear the words of the song and share what they felt God was speaking to them through the lyrics. You can also have them write out a list of things they saw God do in their life over the past week before they enter into worship so they actually have something to worship Him about. Another idea is to ask and encourage them to write their own worship songs, or write out prayers during worship rather than just singing someone else’s lyrics. 

“Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will praise You.”- Psalm 63:2-3

4. Teach them to ask God for ideas. When they are struggling with something, have them ask God to put an idea in their mind and share that idea with you so that you can help guide them with whether the idea lines up with scripture. If they don’t learn to ask God for ideas, they will begin to want to go to other sources such as horoscopes, tarot readings and astrology for guidance. God loves to speak to his children, and loves to respond when we ask Him for wisdom!

“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.”- Psalm 138:3

5. Teach them how to walk with God. Take time regularly to pray as a family, and have each person ask God to put someone on their mind or heart to reach out to as well as what they should do for that person. They may have an idea to call a grandparent, or feel like God wants them to write an encouraging note to the homeless guy on the corner. Once everyone shares their ideas, go out and do them and then report back what happened. By teaching them how to live in response to the urgings of the Holy Spirit, they will learn that life with God is so much more exciting and real than just living a life trying to make themselves happy. 

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."- Isaiah 30:21

Most of all, pray for your children. Pray that they will encounter the presence and power of God in a real way. Pray that they will get to know his voice, follow his promptings, and be a light in the darkness. Pray that they become a force to be reckoned with, and that whenever Satan hears their footsteps, he will tremble and flee. Knowing the reality of a powerful God not only means that they can resist the temptation of a lower power, but also that they will be the ones charging the darkness with the light of Christ. Parents, do not be afraid, but instead, lead your kids to experience the reality of the truth that our God is stronger!

A Single Mother Watching God Redeem the Story

In the spring of 2002, I was finishing my junior year of college at a notoriously hippie-dippy party school in the mountains of North Carolina. At 21 years old, I’d spent years looking for something to numb the hurt of a messy and damaging childhood. Even though I’d grown up in the church with a mama who loved me well, I couldn’t escape the adverse effects of my family falling apart when I was in middle school. My heart was like a stew with meaty chunks of trauma and four varieties of immaturity floating in a soup of survival mode. College life introduced me to the flavors of drugs, drinking, and attention from men as everything came to a boil.

In the sunshine of a crisp April morning in the Appalachians, I smoked my last cigarette. I knew it was my last cigarette because I knew I was pregnant and once I took a test, that was it. I’d been in denial for weeks, convinced it was only PMS. I couldn’t remember my last period, but it seemed long overdue. My boobs were so huge and sensitive that putting on a bra was a production of wincing and moaning. As acceptance set in and I looked at the evidence, a test seemed like a necessary formality.

I walked across the highway to the drug store and bought a pregnancy test. I played it cool with the clerk. I told her the kit was for a friend—that she was too embarrassed to come in and buy it herself. When I got home I peed on the stick and then couldn’t bring myself to look at it for nearly 20 minutes. My roommate was asleep in the next room, but once I got up the nerve to turn the thing over, she was startled awake by a shrieking F-bomb. 

“What!? What’s the matter?!” She stumbled into the room, brushing the hair back from her sleepy face. I threw the stick on the floor and started crying, 

“No! No, no, no, no, no!” 

She hugged me and didn’t say much. What was there to say?

I called my older sister to get her advice on how to tell our mom. She told me to come to her house in another town. She said she’d take me home to Charlotte the next morning and we’d tell our mother together. That evening my sister and her husband made sure I knew my “options”. I told them that my options were parenting or adoption. End of discussion. 

“Just hear us out. You’re only 21. You have your whole life ahead of you. You have to be sure about this.” 

As I listened to them talk me through the reality of my situation and tell me that this could all be over if I wanted it to be, I sobbed and pleaded with God for answers. For a split second I did just want it to all go away. As quickly as the thought entered my mind I became nauseous with indignation. Abortion was NOT an option.

“I’m having this baby.”

The drive to my mother’s the next morning felt eternal. At first I was completely stoic. We were almost to Charlotte when the tears started flowing. I couldn’t stop crying. As we got closer to home my sister called our mother. 

“I’m bringing Tia to the house. Can you meet us there?” 

My mom sped home from work at 11:00 am on a Tuesday. She came rushing in the door and the instant she laid eyes on my tear-stained face, she knew. “You’re pregnant, aren’t you, Sweetie?” All I could do was sob in her arms. 

“It’s okay, baby. We’re going to take care of this. Everything is going to be great, you’ll see.” She reassured me until we both fell into bed, emotionally exhausted.

After finishing the last few weeks of the semester I moved back home with my mom where I encountered a loving reception from the Church I’d grown up in. One special friend of my mom’s who had known me since I was nine years old gave me card that read, “Be happy, Tia. Your baby is already loved.” I think that card was from Jesus himself. The words wrapped me in acceptance. Knowing her stance, and hearing words of support from other families in the church took the sting out of the humiliation of my growing bump that lacked the legitimizing left hand accessory.

For a few weeks I talked and prayed through whether or not I would parent the baby. My gut had told me I would be his or her mother from the moment I knew I was carrying. The catch was how I would be able to support myself and a baby without any involvement from the father. After some discussions with family friends, I decided to go to nursing school. Nursing had long been an option in my mind and my mom had always encouraged me to pursue it. Until that moment I’d never had the motivation or incentive to put in the hard work. Now it seemed the secure career path that would provide options for shift work and keep childcare simple as long as I lived with my mother.

While I awaited acceptance into a clinical program, I got started knocking out the few prerequisites I lacked. My due date fell over Thanksgiving weekend, so I negotiated with my professors to be allowed take my exams early. I wanted to be finished before I delivered. Little did I know, my baby girl would not arrive until mid-December! By the time she was born, Thanksgiving was long past and Christmas was coming quickly.

That time of waiting was incredibly sweet as I imagined poor Mary, in my condition, riding on a donkey. Just… ouch! Each morning as I sat in my rocking chair reading and praying, I began to understand the anticipation of Emmanuel like never before. The thrill of Hope took hold in my heart and I knew that we were going to be alright. 

When my daughter was 6 months old I entered a nineteen-month clinical rotation that would earn me the right to test for a license as a Registered Nurse. During that time I worked the night shift as a technician in the hospital pharmacy. On the days I wasn’t in the hospital doing clinical rotations, I studied and catnapped while my daughter napped or played in her playpen. I could only afford to have her in daycare on the days when my mom was working and I had to attend clinicals. I would often go up to 30 hours without sleep. When we become mothers we become capable of enduring far more than we could have ever imagined for the sake of our children’s wellbeing.

I made it through those 19 months by the strength of God alone. Nursing school was the most stressful time of my entire life. I was dependent on my Father for my every need. And He never failed to provide. Subsequently, that season of my life brought the greatest intimacy I’d ever experienced with Jesus. He was my partner, my best friend, my confidant, and my provider. Jesus became my everything. When I crashed into bed each night (or day), I could feel my Savior resting there with me, so close and so sweet.

In September of 2004, three months before graduating from nursing school, I sensed God giving me permission to think about men again. My daughter was one-and-a-half and I really needed to focus on my studies. Besides, I’d been so wrapped up in a romance with Jesus for the previous two years that I hadn’t thought much about dating or finding a mate. After hearing a success story from a close friend in my Bible study, I quietly joined match.com and met a man I couldn’t have even dreamed of. He was cute and outdoorsy, he loved Jesus, he played music, he loved kids, and the list of amazingness went on and on. The moment I saw his profile I knew he was my husband. We married six months later.

It’s now been more than 15 years since that April morning in the Appalachians. In that time my husband adopted my daughter and we had another little girl not long after we married. I spent five years working as a maternity nurse where I fell in love with women’s health. That love was fostered even further by a shift in my career in 2009 when I began working for a family non-profit based in rural Kenya.

Deeply motivated by my own experience, I’m now leveraging my position of privilege to help start a new organization called Flourish Kenya that prevents and supports unplanned adolescent pregnancy in rural Kenya. This new endeavor comes after working for 8 years in the global development sector and never finding any education or prevention oriented programs in an area where the pregnancy rate is as high as 40% in 11-16 year olds.

I was given every opportunity in my hour of need, but in the most remote areas of Kenya, girls are driven into child marriage, unsafe abortion, and even suicide. I'm using my story to help change theirs. God has used my most dire moments to craft a vision and purpose for my life that I never could have conceived on my own. As I work on the board of directors for Flourish Kenya, I’m also launching live events for women called COLLECTED. These events are crafted to create space for women to move forward in their own unique assignment.

No matter what our circumstances may be, we must always remember that God is going to leverage our every moment for His glory. We are each strategically placed and called to boldly promote the Kingdom of God in whatever role we’re assigned to, season to season. May we stay submitted to His authority in our lives and step boldly into our calling as mamas, servants in our communities, and ministers of the Gospel to the nations.

Guest Contributor:

Tia McNelly lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. Her little piece of the internet can be found at tiamcnelly.com where she blogs about hearing from God in everyday life. Tia is also the featured speaker at Collectedcustomized workshops for women. These live events empower communities of women all over the world to walk in the fullness of their identity with purpose and passion. With a background in maternity nursing and non-profit management, Tia is honored to have a seat on the board of Flourish Kenya, a non-profit organization that prevents and supports unplanned adolescent pregnancy in rural Kenya. (Photo credit: allisonkeel.com)

A Mother’s Sabbath Rest

Don't you just love your kids?  Aren't they one of the very best gifts God has ever given you? As much as we love our kids, they do wear us out.  Now let me ask you this, how is your energy level?  When was the last time you stopped to take some time of rest for you?  No, I'm not talking about a nap, or asking your husband or friend to watch/carpool around your kids so you could get a break, but a true rest, a sabbath?  If you can’t remember, read on.

One of the best things I did as a young mom was to begin taking a Sabbath rest.  Did I have time for it?  No.  Was it a necessity?  I learned the answer to that question was YES!  When my third child was about 12 months, I was overwhelmed.  This wasn’t the first time I was overwhelmed as a mom, but this time I was about ready to give up.  My temper was getting short, my patience low and my energy level was below zero! Have you ever been there?  Don't get me wrong, I loved being a stay at home mom, but I was EXHAUSTED.  What could I do?  I couldn’t see an end in sight where I could refuel.

Guess who had the answer?  My sweet and thoughtful husband.  He said to me one night when he could see my desperation, "Hon, why don't I book you a hotel room next weekend?  I'll set it all up, watch the kids and you go take a break."  My immediate response was ”What? Really?  Oh, that sounds like heaven, but I can't do that." My husband said, “Why not? I'm booking it for you right now.  You need this.  Let me do it for you.”

So, after praying and getting over the guilty feelings I had for leaving my kids and husband for the weekend, I was out the door and off on my very first two day/two-night mommy Sabbath rest.  It was a bit of a strange feeling at first walking into the hotel room, alone.  How would I spend all this free time?  Free time had now become foreign to me, but here is a glimpse into my weekend.  I got to sleep (uninterrupted), eat (uninterrupted), shower (uninterrupted), enjoy a TV show (uninterrupted), shop (uninterrupted), go to the bathroom…are you starting to see a pattern here? It was amazing!  All the simple things I used to take for granted before kids now felt like heaven. Can you sense my spirit changing from exhausted, impatient, and short tempered to peaceful, restful, and thankful?

Without a doubt, the most meaningful part of my weekend was the sweet (uninterrupted) time with my Savior.  I was in the middle of a Bible study called Captivating with my close girlfriends. Being away from the kids, I could spend as much time as I wanted working on this study which led me into reading my Bible, singing praise songs, praying, and just hanging out with Jesus.  It was AWESOME!  While using the Captivating study to direct my God Time that weekend, the Lord met me right in my current struggles of motherhood of exhaustion and feeling like I was not enough for this overwhelming role as a mom and wife.  Jesus encouraged my soul in the most personal ways.  My homework for Captivating that week was to ask God why He thinks I am beautiful.  As I asked God that one question and began to journal, the result was page after page of encouragement to my soul from what I sensed was the Holy Spirit putting thoughts in my heart and mind.  He spoke loud and clear to me (not audibly of course) through His Word, my prayers and my journaling.  He told me ‘Laurel, you are enough just as you are.  You’re beautiful.  You’re Mine.  You’re enough.”  The truths He taught me that weekend have been a source of strength for me in my role as a mom ever since.

A Sabbath is not a set of rules to keep, but it is a reminder of our dependence on God.  We need Him, and we can find rest in Christ amidst the chaos that our world can bring.  Jesus even gave us a personal invitation in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  Sabbath is a reminder to abide daily in His rest and His Spirit.  Jesus Himself IS our Sabbath rest.  Sabbath is not only when you take extended times of rest, but can also be the intentional act of pausing in your day to rest, to spend time with Jesus whether in prayer, reading the Bible or worship.  The Hebrew word sabat means “to rest or stop or cease from work”.  God even modeled this rest for us. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)   Remember, we are made in His image.  God knew we would need a time of rest as He did, and commanded us to build it into our lives not only for physical needs, but also for spiritual needs.

My Sabbath rest at the hotel renewed me, refreshed me, gave me physical rest, lifted my spirit of perseverance, and gave me a longing to be back with my family when my rest was over.  Ultimately though, this time reminded me that Jesus Himself is my source for rest.  Have you made time to stop, get alone for a few days and rest?  Maybe this would give God another opportunity to encourage your soul right where you are at in your current stage of motherhood and get some much-needed physical rest?  Why not? 

Several thoughts might be running through your head right now:  *I don't have the time?  Be intentional in making time for rest, it will almost never just appear.  *I have no one to watch my kids?  Pray and ask God to provide a way for a mother’s Sabbath rest for you.  Ask your husband if he will watch the kids or swap kids with a friend, each providing an extended rest for the other.  *We don't have the money to go to a hotel.  You do not have to go to a hotel.  Be creative, you can spend the day at a park, a lake, Starbucks, the library, your church, shopping, meeting a friend, etc. and return after the kids are in bed and then repeat the next day.  Or better yet, ask a friend if you can stay in her guest bedroom and tell her to pretend you are not there! I know you are creative and you'll think of some great alternatives.  Ask God to show you.  He will!

Ever since my first mother’s Sabbath rest I have taken many more.  They have all looked a little different.  Some were alone, just Jesus and I all weekend.  Some were taken with special girlfriends.  Sometimes I didn't feel like I really needed it, but my husband encouraged me to do it anyway, and I was glad I listened.  God has used these extended Sabbath rests to speak truth into my life, touch my heart in personal and unforgettable ways to strengthen my faith, and refresh my spirit and attitude.  This reminds me, I'm ready for another one!

So, are you ready?  What are you waiting for?