Posts tagged motherhood
Trampoline Parenting: Equipping Our Children with Grit To Bounce Back From Adversity

Last weekend, my husband shared with me the trending Hamster/Hampster Twitter thread, knowing that it would grab my attention. The story is about a young 20-something woman in the workplace who is unable to accept correction or criticism from her boss and defaults to calling her mother to be rescued. Regardless of whether this particular story actually occurred or was fabricated to make a social statement, the story is indicative of what is occurring on college campuses and in the workplace. More importantly, the narrative paints a tangible picture of some of the challenges we face as parents today and the pitfalls to avoid as we move forward. (You can read the original Tweet thread here.)  Bottom line, there is an overwhelming number of millennials who continue to rely on their parents to mediate for them and solve the problems that they are not equipped to handle on their own. Or perhaps more accurately, parents have continued to intervene and create dependency in their children instead of equipping them to launch successfully. 

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We live in a society that has rapidly moved past helicopter parenting to snowplow parenting. The helicopter parent hovers relentlessly over the child out of fear and over-protection, micro-managing every move and decision the child makes. The snowplow parent takes it one step further and intervenes -- removing all obstacles, challenges, or problems for the child. These parents have been faulted with writing papers for their children, calling bosses, showing up to interviews, all motivated by a basic principle that their children can do no wrong and all obstacles will be removed in an effort to prevent any discomfort. 

According to one study, only 1 in 4 children are considered resilient. A lack of resiliency is on the rise with many contributing factors as we are parenting the smartphone generation, both hovering and snowplowing, while simultaneously encouraging individualism and celebrating a self-focus. We are setting our children up for failure when we continue to place them on pedestals, treating them as if they can do no wrong. We teach them that if any one tries to correct or challenge them, we will run to their rescue while pointing fingers of accusation at teachers, coaches, referees, even college professors and employers, and blaming them for “mistreating” our child. We have taught our children to undermine authority, reinforcing that the world is out to get them instead of showing gratitude and appreciation for the mentors in their lives who are simply trying to do their jobs. We live in a culture that demands the bare minimum from our children while everyone receives a trophy just for showing up, regardless of attitude or apathy. We have made our children our idols: living life to serve them rather than equipping them with tools for success. 

This is not reality. The real problem is that our children are not perfect. They will make mistakes. They will fail, but the fall is a lot harder and farther when they have not been prepared with the grit to fall and bounce back.

As a mother of three myself, I would challenge us as parents to consider that we are missing an incredible opportunity to give our children the gift of providing them a safe place to land when they do make mistakes while providing unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace.

While deeply rooted in love, our parenting styles have shifted from Helicopter (protecting) to Snowplow (removing ALL obstacles), and yet, this kind of parenting is damaging to our children. Our children are being robbed emotionally as we have removed opportunities for them to experience real life and the challenges that shape and help them become resilient. The reality is that life has challenges. We will all face obstacles in life, but children require a Trampoline Parent that teaches them resilience and provides them with the tools needed to bounce back from adversity.  As adults, we know it is our mistakes and failures that have taught us valuable life lessons and how to be resilient.

It is no wonder that between social media and being placed on a pedestal, there is a lot of pressure on a child when they know they aren’t perfect, but are having to live that lie. Our children are having a hard time becoming adults when we have removed all barriers, and created a false sense of reality for them. They don’t know how to handle disappointment, challenges, and failure. 

Due in part to social media, depression and anxiety are soaring while suicide rates have increased. It should be no surprise that only 1 in 4 (only 25%) of young people are considered resilient given the toxic combination of comparison magnified through social media while being incapable of taking correction and failing because they have not been equipped for resiliency.  

While the 20-something referred to in the Twitter thread does NOT represent all millennials, the story does draw attention to a cultural flaw and dangerous path we are headed for as a society. Rather than providing encouragement and discipline, teaching character with humility, or providing a soft place to land when failure inevitably happens, we have been in the business of raising weak “snowflakes” that melt under pressure while we sit in the driver seat operating the snowplow. No wonder millennials are struggling with their identity and are quick to blame others for their own shortcomings and insecurities. Removing all obstacles sends a strong message to our kids that they are not capable and we don’t believe they can succeed on their own. We create a perpetual dependency on us rather than equipping them to launch successfully. 

The home is the most important foundation for building character in our children. Parents should be their children’s biggest supporter, encourager, counselor, and advocate. But, in the process, we can’t miss the opportunity to teach our children unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, and character. Teaching our children humility and a willingness to learn and listen to others will instill a respect for those around them. Kids want to know that we believe in them. We must stop sending them the message that they are incapable of success without our hand-holding. We must remove the entitlement mentality that they can do no wrong while blaming others.

Parents must role-model respect to teachers, counselors, and coaches, rather than pretend their child is blameless. Teaching truth in love, we must encourage and challenge our children to become pillars of character standing for truth and justice rather than melting under the pressures of life. We all desire to see our children become successful strong leaders, but we have missed an opportunity in how we have taught these lessons. The most successful leaders in our world are humble, teachable, compassionate leaders willing to learn from others with grit and resilience to bounce back when faced with disappointment. Parents have an incredible opportunity to teach our children resilience and instill character, raising up a generation with a backbone that faces obstacles rather than running from them. 

TODAY.com Parenting Team Parenting Contributor

Chimene Shipley Dupler, founder of Passion4Moms, is an author, speaker, and life coach equipping moms to impact the next generation. Introducing and coining the phrase Trampoline Parent, Chimene spends much of her time addressing the Smartphone Generation, culture, and technology and how we can best provide tools for success with grit and character.

Parenting: Roots of Sin

As I was puling weeds on the gorgeous sunny clear morning, the cool 70 degree breeze made the job a little more bearable. With the hardened and dry ground, pulling each weed and overgrown grass was a struggle. I came across a root that was buried just below the surface, but extended several inches into the grass. As I bent over to pull the root seeing just how far it would extend, I was able to bend it just enough to begin breaking it.

But then…

It wasn’t easy to twist in order to fully break and destroy. Rather, what once bent a little, was now a wrestling match twisting round and round but the root too strong and deep from growth that it would not easily be broken. It was then instantly God gave me a picture of how the sin in our lives, when given a place to grow (in darkness) has the opportunity to grow and thrive growing stronger buried in the ground of our lives. I thought of the many parents that I know who are struggling watching sin in the lives of their children taking root and growing deeper and deeper. In secret, what began as small choices and mental decisions now taking root and becoming stronger and deeper having more control over other life choices.

As I wrestled, with every twist in hopes the root would break, my heart began to break for the mothers whose hearts are broken, whose eyes can no longer shed another tear, who hides in fear of being exposed, who pleads to God for her child.

When we give place for sin to take root in our lives, Satan has access into our lives. We must confess and repent of our sin daily recognizing our need for Jesus, our Savior.

As sin is given a place to grow, often in secret and darkness, it becomes stronger and can take over all areas of our lives mentally, physically, emotionally, making life choices based on sin and not on God’s Truth.

I sat there thinking about how I weep for the broken hearts and how I long to come alongside each weeping mother fighting for her child. There is power in prayer. As I pulled with all my might the root that would not fully give, I thought about the power of fighting together…if only I had a friend here to pull and fight this root with me!

As mothers, when we come alongside those who are hurting, we don’t need the details…we just need to commit to pray. Details quickly turn to judgement and gossip. As we fight for our children, committing to storm the gates of Heaven on our knees, this is the best gift of friendship that can be shared.

I began to think about this root now exposed. There is safety when it was still buried and it could not be seen. But now, in the shadows of strong beautiful budding trees full of flowers and fresh blooms, the exposure of a root that is being fought to be destroyed can be embarrassing. When we fight the sins of our lives, we see those who may be in a strong season and place of thriving in their relationship with our Lord and we want to hide. We don’t want to be exposed.

And yet…that big tree that is flourishing once began small, once struggled, once had battles of its own before it could thrive and blossom.

To every parent who is fighting and pleading for their child’s heart to be changed and turned to repentance, don’t give up. Our battles are not of flesh and blood, they are not of this world. Satan and the demonic are active and alive deceiving the hearts and minds of many. We are in warfare—there is a Spiritual battle being fought daily. Our battle is on our knees in prayer and by the power and blood of Jesus.

  1. Fight for your children with the power of prayer. Pray Scripture over them daily. Douse them with the Word as you pray over their mind, heart, eyes, ears, actions.

  2. Allow others to commit to pray with you and for you. Anyone who really cares to pray doesn’t need details.

  3. Humility-remember with every tree (life) that is strong, they have had their own struggles that have made them stronger. Choosing to not be intimated by strength around you, but allowing those who are stronger to pull you up is a gift—not a sign of weakness.

  4. Confess your sin and repent daily, not giving access or entry to the enemy. Unconfessed sin can take root and grow. But when we confess our sin, our good good Father is faithful to forgive us…every.single.day!

We can’t help fight the roots of sin in our children’s lives, if we are bound by the roots of sin in our own lives.

As Easter is upon us and we reflect upon the sacrifice of the cross, let’s not forget the POWER of the resurrection. We don’t just celebrate and rejoice that Jesus, our Savior, sacrificed and gave His life for our salvation, we rejoice in the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, there is power in the blood of Jesus. Sin is defeated. As children of God, we have authority in the name of Jesus!

Celebrating our Children's Spiritual Birthdays

It’s no secret that I like to have fun (always). I love to celebrate life, creating a space for making memories regardless of life circumstances or challenges. As a living life-to-the-fullest kind of gal, life is short and yet such a beautiful gift from God, our Creator, that making each day count is really important to me. Celebrating our spiritual life as well as our physical life is a gift we can give to our children.

Today is Reagan and Jordan’s spiritual birthday…13 years old!! They are 13 year old teenagers as daughters of the King! Monday is Riley’s spiritual birthday when she will turn 10…double digits!! January is a big month of celebrating God’s incredible gift of salvation, our redemption, and being reminded of who and whose we are in Him!

Why is it really important to celebrate our children’s spiritual birthdays? Personally, I think it reminds them of who they are in Christ. It reminds us all that this is not our home and that the things of this world pale in comparison of our eternal home. Our days are numbered and one day we will all spend eternity…somewhere. Being able to remind our children of their eternal home and that our days on earth are for God’s glory not our own, is really important to me. We celebrate our daughters physical birthdays in a variety of traditions we have created (I’ll share those another another post), but every January I want my 3 Princesses to be reminded they are royalty! They are daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They are created in the image of God-image bearers. They have been created to bring God glory and reflect Him in their words and actions…not just when they are adults but NOW as children and teens! When we remember who we are and whose name we bear and represent, it reminds us that our words matter, our actions, and behaviors mean something. I could not be more proud of my double digit (on Monday) Riley, and my two teenager daughters Reagan and Jordan and how they shine Jesus well!

Here are 3 practical ways you can celebrate your children’s spiritual birth:

  1. Remember! It seems easy, but just remembering to write down the date they ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of their lives is a big deal. The Bible is full of reminders and admonitions to His people to WRITE things down, TELL them to your children, CREATE stones of remembrance so that you will not forget! Every year, for us January 17 and January 21 we tell our girls Happy Birthday and celebrate their new life in Jesus. (If you or your child does not remember the actual date they asked Jesus into their lives, pick a date close to the time of year it was within the year it occurred, and celebrate that date each year.)

  2. Encourage! Find ways throughout the year to encourage your children spiritual. Make sure you are creating a time and space for them to have Jesus time. For my daughters, they do their own Jesus time independently, but sometimes I like to ask them what they are reading and learning. Make your home a place of continual conversation about Truth (Jesus), life from a Biblical worldview, and a peaceful place of worship with worship music as we point our children to Jesus in our 24/7.

  3. Memorize! Hiding God’s Word in your heart as a child is essential. The verses we know best as adults are the ones we memorized as children. Knowing God’s Word in our hearts will help convict and remind us of His truth in tough and challenging situations.

Be Still

Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

It’s been a few years since I have sat beside the absolute stillness of a lake in the wee hours of the morning just as the sun is rising.  When I say stillness, I almost need to add extra adjectives so one grasps how absolutely still the water appeared.  Looking out upon the water, it was if the Lord placed a beautiful mirror upon the surface reflecting back His glory.  This breathtaking view immediately brought me naturally into His presence, as it so clearly was such a display of the grandeur of His creation.  His words kept repeating in my heart…”Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still and dwell upon who God truly is, remember all that He has done and let your heart overflow with thanksgiving towards God who created all this beauty!

As I sat on a bench and enjoyed sipping on my coffee, it was difficult to not just break out in song to our majestic King.  In the silence of my heart I was singing but I was careful not to interrupt the holiness of the silent stillness.  (And I don’t actually sing and didn’t want to cause anyone experiencing this moment to be distracted.)

I didn’t want these moments to end but I knew the stillness would at one point become broken.  I grabbed my iPhone in an attempt to capture the beauty through a lens but of course any digital version pails in comparison to experiencing it with physically with all of your senses.  A photo lacks the true depth of the lake, the changing colors as the sun begins to glisten across the water, the feel of the gentle breeze and the smell of the water.  I want to capture this magnificence into a bottle and continue to live in this moment but I know that I cannot.

I take out my Bible and begin to read and spend some time allowing the Lord to speak to me through His word.  Over time some fish begin to come to the surface and cause a bubble to form, which sends a ripple effect of circles radiating across the water breaking the glasslike water…still beautiful but the perfect stillness was broken.  A few ducks then glide across the surface gracefully creating V’s which follow behind them.  Before I knew it, the breeze picked up and water begins to move with a continuous motion and I know at this point, the stillness of the early morning has left and the day has begun.  Even the boats are beginning to head out onto the water so the natural ebb and flow of the waves will continue until late into the evening.

I want to go back to the stillness but you just can’t calm the water once the movement has begun.

After thinking back on this, the Lord gently reminded me that this is how my heart is often like this.  The Lord wants to meet with me before all the activity of the day begins to disturb the stillness of my heart.  As I wake up each morning, I want my first moments to be taking in His beauty found in His Word without allowing the distractions of the world to lead me astray.

This morning I woke up early before the sun had a chance to rise and I quietly headed downstairs to my favorite table where my Bible, journal and pen awaited me.  I grabbed my coffee and sat down to allow God’s word to fill my heart.  What a glorious time it was to begin the day with the quiet and steadfastness of His Word to fill my mind and heart.

I might not be able to recreate the perfect stillness of a glasslike lake each morning but I can choose to allow God to be the first to enter the recesses of my heart each day.  Too often, I grab my phone first thing in the morning as I sip on my coffee but I am learning how even those few moments of glancing at texts, Instagram and email will cause my heart and mind to wander into “my plans” for the day and it is honestly almost impossible for me to once again to return to the stillness of allowing only God to fill my first moments and lead me into His perfect plans for me.  

Guest Contributor:

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Mary Fahnestock and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

I am Loved

And when I realize this, that the greatest part of my being is that I am deeply and unconditionally loved, it makes me desperate to share the realness and the ability to feel this with those whose greatest feeling in their being right now is a lack of love.

Because this person that I am now, this loved and accepted and grace covered person, is not who I once was.

I spent many days and nights feeling
unloved.
unwanted.
not enough.
overwhelmed.
under qualified.
cast aside.
never good enough.

So to be here, resting in love…it’s surprising.
And yet, so natural. Because I was designed to love and to be loved.
My flaw was in looking to people to fulfill this design.

When I sit at the feet of my Father, I am not at all concerned with who or what Iam.
Because I am HIS.
And He is perfection.
And that is enough.
And I am so caught up in every beautiful thing that He is, that my earthly thoughts of myself fade into the shadow of His wings.
I. am. loved.

I was loved before I realized it.

I had only to open my soul to it.

And now I want nothing more than to pour it out on you.

You. are. loved.

You need only realize it.

Cast your burdens into the shadow of His wings and allow your soul to be enveloped in His love. Find rest. Find healing. Find joy. Find overflow. Find love.

Find LIFE.

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. 

I am a Child of God

Who am I?
I am a child of God.
What does that mean to me?

This evening, when I dropped my three year old off in her children’s ministry environment, she was fussy about it — we’d been traveling, she’d had too much sugar in the past few days, her routine was thrown off, and she just wanted to hunker down and snuggle momma — she didn’t wanna be there.

As our Pastor taught, he mentioned John 14:18 and I had this moment of connection to the angst the disciples must have felt knowing that their leader, their teacher, their beloved, their Messiah, was leaving them.

And I thought of my own children — when I leave them, even though I know it’s temporary — it pains me to see them distraught — and what do I want for them? My hope is that they will have gathered enough courage, comfort, and confidence in their time with me that they go into the environment I’m sending them without hesitation. That they can draw on our time together and what I have taught them, that their spirit is settled in the midst of the unfamiliar because they know who they are and whose they are and they truly believe that I am always coming back to them — so there is no doubt in their precious hearts.

As a child of God — how am I to go into the world, to enter my calling and to encounter all of the mountains, the valleys, and the full spectrum of in between moments, if I’m not spending time with Him? From where will I draw my courage? My comfort? My confidence?
If I am not rooted and established, what will happen when the storms come?
And will I be afraid to step into the blinding sun?
Will I have stored up strength to draw on when it’s just plain dreary?

I find myself praying that I will soak in the confidence, comfort, and courage of my Father daily — learning His ways, absorbing His teaching, and radiating His great love to face this world unafraid, to draw up a peace that passes all understanding, to walk boldly in my calling — knowing both who I am and whose I am.

I, am a child of the King.
the One true God, the Creator of the universe, the Savior of my soul, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Lord, write Your story on my heart that the world You have placed me in might read of Your redeeming grace, Your great love, Your awe inspiring power, and that Your name may be lifted high, Your mighty splendor celebrated, and Your all sufficient holiness adored. ❤ 

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. 

Forced Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29 (NET)

I’m learning a lot about rest lately.  

Rest:  repose, freedom from activity or labor.  Peace of mind or spirit.  A place for resting or lodging.  Something used for support. 

In July the Lord moved our little family to North Dallas, Texas.  This after seven years in the Northern, Virginia/Washington DC area.  It was a massive change for all of us.  We were fully “over-programed” in our big city life.  My hubs was driving a 3 hour round trip commute plus an 11 hour work day.  I was driving the kids 3 hours a day to and from their special school that could help teach them Jesus and accommodate their learning needs.  Our sweet kiddos had some activities, but not as many as most of the children of the land in which we lived.  Mine are kids whose time is spent in therapy and with special doctors, typically a city away.  I was a busy Bible study teacher in our church. It was the joy of my heart, but our life had outgrown us.  As a family we were weary and burdened. 

There was no doubt God called us to Texas.  To a softer life.  A life with a smaller geographical radius, with closer grandparents and helpful schools for our kiddos. And, without notice, He called us to a serious season of rest.   Some stuff we were happy to let go of…we skipped away.  Others we released slowly, sadly.  

To leave my Bible study teaching felt like leaving a piece of my heart in Virginia.  We knew, really deeply knew, God had said, “it’s time to go.”  But it wasn’t easy.  I also knew God was calling me to wait before I jumped into ministry here in Texas.   “One year…”  Kept reverberating in my spirit.  “One year…”  And then, like an exclamation point, I broke my ankle.  

I broke my ankle in two places in November 2017 and it took nearly a year for complete healing.   I started out with a non-walking cast for four weeks, then a boot for six more weeks, followed by three months of physical therapy.   At first, I was in a respectable amount of pain so I didn’t do a lot of moving around.  I thank Jesus profoundly for my bathtub.  And for my husband who did EVERYTHING while I was laid up.  Oh, and my sweet neighbors.  Y’all, Texans line up to bring the food.  Bless them. 

I expected to “work” while I was forced to sit.  I expected to write my Opus Maximus.  Friends said, “I can’t wait to see what God does with this time!”  And I felt the pressure to do something important…at least at first.  But to tell you the truth, after a while I settled into it.  I grew to like certain aspects of my forced rest.  My days were smaller, simpler, cleaner and quieter.  My pain distracted my mind and required a lot of actual physical downtime.  If I were standing up for more than 10 minutes my foot would swell and the toes peeking out of my cast would turn purple.  I had no choice but to sit, foot up, ice on.  I read a lot.  I listened to audio books.  I colored in my daughters “adult” coloring book.  I ordered all of our Christmas presents and most of our groceries online.  I was a late adaptor to Downton Abbey so I caught the first two seasons.  I learned binge watching could be delicious!  Did I mention my bathtub?  

During this season Jesus was speaking to me, asking me to reframe how I see my life.  I see life as a full plate.  Busy, loaded.  If something new comes, I just shuffle things around so everything can fit.  I bet you do too.  I see rest taking up a very small space on that plate.  Like an olive.  Or a pickle.  It’s a garnish, not a main component of my day.  And when I indulge in it, I tend to feel a little extravagant, wasteful even guilty.  

My full plate got tipped over.  During my recuperation life was not a full plate with moments of rest.  Life was full rest with moments of activity.  It flipped.  I lived the inverse of my previous existence.  Of course it was situational, temporary.  We can’t live on the couch and we aren’t called to.  But it taught me something.  I am not the sum of my activities.  I simply am.  To Jesus that is enough.  It’s enough.  This is the starting point.  Add to your life carefully from here. 

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus is talking to the crowds.  Folks who were burdened with guilt and laboring hard under pharisaical laws.  Many laws, requiring strict observance, and impossible to follow.  These people were hamstrung, trapped.  There was no real path to rest for them.  In Jesus’ time the oxen’s yoke had become a metaphor for Jewish law.  It was heavy hard work to carry this yoke.  Everyone knew what you meant when you talked about the yoke of the law. In Bible times, it was the chief work of a carpenter to craft yokes.  Jesus knew about yokes.  And here He is, the gentle carpenter, with a message of rest.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The words spoken here are ours to claim.  He beckons us to come to Him.  That is the initial action we must take.  To come means to put our trust in him.  To give Him our strained and swollen lives.  To open our hands and drop our burdens at his feet and trust him for what’s next.  

What’s next? He gives rest.  Physical rest?  Maybe.  Most of us need that.  Spiritual rest?  Definitely.   We trust - Jesus gives.  It’s His eternal exchange.  Don’t you love Him for it? 

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

First we come, next we take His yoke.  His will for our lives.  His path for our days.  After our initial moment of trust we pursue Him through life.  Yoked to Him, seeking him, letting Him guide the easy days and the hard ones.  Life with Christ becomes, not easy, but easier than doing life on our own.  Now, our rest isn’t given…it’s found.  We find rest in living a life close to Jesus.  Why?  Because a life close to Jesus is a life covered in grace.  Trust and grace lived out, that’s rest.  That’s peace.  

In Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander Maclaren phrases it this way, “The 'coming' is an initial act which makes a man Christ's companion. And the 'Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me,' is the continuous act by which that companionship is manifested and preserved.” 

Initial then continual. A friendship holy, intimate, and blessed. 

Let’s not miss this, Jesus makes Himself gentle and humble in heart voluntarily.  He bends low to share this yoke of life with us.  It’s not his divine nature to be lowly.  He does it for us.  

So what does this look like practically?  To live a life yoked with Jesus?  To find pockets of rest and grace among the clatter of our lives?  How do we get there?  

We go to Him. 

Here’s an idea.  Spend some time alone with the Lord in prayer.  

“Lord, I come to you trusting.  I’m tired.  I need rest.  Your rest.  I long for the assurance that you are with me, guiding my days.  I take your yoke upon me.  Teach me how to be gentle and humble like you.  Show me the path of grace.  Help me find rest for my soul.”

Now sit in silence. (Keep a notepad and pen handy to write down and dismiss all distracting thoughts that come your way.  Use shorthand.  Ex: swch laundry,  p.u. kids)   

Ask the Lord:

1) Where do I need to trust you more?
2) What is my heart longing to do for you?  
3) What is one next step I can take? 

That’s it my sister.  Put time in your schedule and come back to this often.  Block it off in your smart phone.   

Amy Carmichael, the amazing missionary to India in the 1900s, said, “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit, which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”

Know that great things come from resting.  You are not wasting your time.  God uses rest to prime our hearts for the next good thing.  Those things left on your plate, some of them won’t be so important anymore, they’ll fall off.  Others will get the time and attention they need.  

Yesterday, I had a hard day.  My ankle hurt and so did everything else.  I felt sore and stiff.  It’s ok.  It’s what comes from months of limping.  So, I took a rest day.  I stayed home.  Took a slow walk.  Got back in my bath.  And Jesus, my yokefellow, was there saying, “Remember what you learned on the couch.  Come to me.  Trust me.  I’ve got this.” 

*Forced Rest first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

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Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

Proverbs 31-ing

I read this blog post recently and it really resonated with me.

The limitlessness of our modern culture often leaves us either paralyzed by too many choices or continuously burning the candle at both ends trying to do it all, be it all, know it all.
Neither is healthy nor really productive.

I’ve certainly found myself at odds with the image of the Proverbs 31 woman — but the reality is, girl had PURPOSE. She did *specific* things, not all things. She was FOCUSED.

How often do we side track from our calling trying to make sure we’re not missing out on something that “could be it”?
Refuse to move because we haven’t fully analyzed all possible outcomes and balanced how we would react to them?

What if we missed something??

I know I personally struggle with fear rooted in a perfectionist mindset and with wanting to try everything out there instead of honing in on a few things I’m already passionate about and building margin into my life to *be* rather than just *do*… virtue may express itself through our actions but not all action is virtuous… if God Himself took time to rest and enjoy His creation, why do I tend to think I’m above that?

I simply cannot possibly be everything to everyone at all times — and I’m learning to be thankful for that rather than trying to ‘overcome’ it.

His power is made perfect in my weakness. His grace is sufficient for me.

“God has given us enough time in each day to be who He created us to be and do what He wants us to do.” He has equipped me for His calling. I need only embrace His presence. I don’t know about you, but for me, that requires some stillness. And I believe that in that stillness, as I quiet my heart before Him, He will continue to reveal to me my calling and to call me to the actions that most honor what He has created me for and bring Him the greatest glory.

I was designed with intention. And if I will allow myself to clear the clutter and connect to that, then I will be empowered to be much more intentional with how I spend the time that the good Lord has given me.

Wow. Talk about a lesson in time management.
Thank you, Father, for that sweet revelation.

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

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. 

Enough

:: to the one struggling to feel like you are enough ::

Dear individual feeling like you’re not enough,

You are not.

Now breathe a deep sigh of relief with me.

Because you were never intended to be.

***

You see the images and the statuses plastered around your social network, well intentioned and meant to encourage you, telling you that YOU. ARE. ENOUGH. !

You want so badly to take heart with that mantra, to find empowerment and belief in yourself through it…but instead, you find yourself wondering…am I?
What makes me enough? What am I enough of? And to whom?

You’re weighed down by the questions of how many aspects of your life this should apply to? And where does that leave personal development? Should you stop trying then? Or is it in your trying that you’ve reached this nebulous state of being ‘enough’? Who is determining the enough that you are?
If you are enough socially, culturally, then why don’t you feel like it?
If you are enough individually, then why are you still struggling to own it?

Sometimes it’s not even enough to just be enough.
You are occasionally given the assurance that you are *more* than enough!

I don’t know about you, but I was finding it difficult just to wrap my mind around the concept that being enough of anything or everything to anyone or everyone was something actually attainable. Which makes this idea quite intimidating that I’m surrounded by powerful individuals who aren’t just enough. They’re more than enough…
How do they do that?!

I don’t even know how to be just enough or what I’m supposed to be enough of or how many people I should be enough for. Just myself? My husband? My kids? My extended family? Friends?

And what happens when the notion that I should be enough collides with the realization that I can’t possibly be everything to everyone?
Why does the idea of my perceived ability to be MORE than enough leave me feeling more like a failure than a fortress?

Instead of empowering me with freedom and independence, I find this concept chaining me to the perfection complexion I’ve been battling for what feels like my whole life, encouraging me to think that I am fully capable of being everything I want to be to anyone I want to be it to… and then feeling completely deflated when that comes crashing down around me because it just. isn’t. true.

Maybe I’m the only one who’s struggled with this.
But just in case I’m not.

I thought I’d share with you the clarity that I’ve received over why this  “You Are Enough” movement has been bothering me.

It’s not the people  I see promoting it — they are loving and encouraging and beautiful and talented and driven, trying to be a positive force in a broken world!

But if you read the memes and you feel less than encouraged, then this letter is for you.
Even if you love the memes and you have the tattoo and you totally get what’s trying to be said, this is for you too. Because my guess is that at some point you will come to feel like you aren’t measuring up or like you don’t even understand the standards by which you are being measured, let alone how it is you’re doing.

Can I tell you a secret?
A beautiful assurance that at face value seems harsh but brings with it so much grace and beauty…

You are not enough.

And that is okay.
In fact, it’s more than okay.
It’s intentional and God-breathed and it may be the most freeing realization you’ll ever have.

Are you independent?
I’m sure.
Can you do hard things?
Absolutely.

But you were not meant to do this life thing on your own.

You were designed to be in relationship with a loving Creator, merciful Savior, empowering Holy Spirit, all sustaining God! Called to a higher purpose than you can achieve alone, meant to walk this life in community with others — pulling the best out of one another, holding each other up through the hard times, celebrating together through the good times, learning to love like Jesus more and more each day, and all for the glory of God. To be a disciple and to help disciple — to love and to be loved.
In a culture that worships independence, it’s a radically counter cultural mindset — it is intrinsically relational. We cannot do it alone.
That weight is man made.
It is not for you to carry.
Only HE is enough.
And only through Him will you ever find the fulfillment and satisfaction and wholeness you crave.

I would love to see a movement that tries to teach our sisters and our daughters — ourselves — that WE are HIS and THAT is ENOUGH.

I am not enough.
but —
I’m with Him.
And He is ALWAYS enough.
MORE than enough.

He is the Alpha and the Omega.
The Beginning and the End.
The Creator and the Sustainer.
The Author and the Perfecter.
HIs name should be bold on the binding *and* inscribed within.
This is HIS story.
It’s by HIS grace we are saved.
By HIS hand we are delivered.
By HIS Holy Spirit we are ordained, anointed, appointed, and fueled.

That is a truth worth declaring.
Louder than any other declaration my heart longs to make for itself.

It can be a struggle, to get out of my own way and to give HIM the glory and the honor and the power. But that’s why I need a tribe who isn’t afraid to tell me that I’ll never be enough — and to show me how stunningly beautiful that is. So today, I hope to be that person for you — who helps you to walk in the freedom that there is a Redeemer Who is more than capable of supplying all your needs and of doing more than you could ever ask or imagine on Your own. His grace is sufficient for you. His power is perfected in your weakness. You don’t have to be enough. He’s got you covered. ❤

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

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. 

Desiring God's Presence

Exodus 33: 15 ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.’”

Having moved 2000 miles from VA to TX, I dove into the study of Moses and I assumed the Lord would ask me to stop my complaining.  I just survived a hot Houston summer, bugs the size of small rodents, and a record flood and hurricane season, but hey who is complaining? Of course the passages on the grumbling Israelites would put me in my place.  Much to my surprise, the Lord had a bigger issue in my heart, which needed tending to.

Week after week, I was continually drawn to Moses himself as so many aspects of his life and his walk I admired and desired to strive towards.  I spent many hours thinking about how desperately Moses desired the Lord’s presence above all and it was this very thing, his intimate face-to-face relationship with the Lord, which made the difference in his life.  The Lord promised Moses victory over his enemies, promised him land flowing with milk and honey BUT Moses knew the better choice. Moses was willing to give up all those things and stay camped in the desert if the Lord refused to go on with them.  Moses wanted the Lord’s presence!

This made me really think about where my heart truly was.  If I was promised victory over my battles or promised days filled with peace, joy, contentment, self-control, comfort, and security; however, I was given the caveat that the Lord’s presence would not be with me.  How would I respond?  Do I truly want Christ and only Christ?  Is He truly where my complete satisfaction lies?  Or deep in my heart do I desire more…  

The year started off very smoothly and I was feeling quite proud of myself, and how quickly I seemed to have settled into this new life as a Texan.   Then I encountered some rough waters and began to struggle, as I faced a depression, which seemed to come out of nowhere.  The Lord began showing me that in my impatience for the Lord to bring healing to my heart, I began to build my own boat to set sail in.  Needless to say, I’m not very good at building boats.  I was trying to re-create what I had before. Signing up for everything and anything where maybe I could meet a friend and hoping to try to fit in and feel apart of something.  I found myself decorating and re-decorating my house but with no one to entertain, working out until my knees gave way, serving my family beyond what I should and in all of this trying to feel purposeful once again.  One by one idols where being created, attempting to fill the void only God should fill.  So one by one God began taking apart this boat that I had built leaving me floating on the water with Him alone.  That’s exactly where He wanted me.

Like Moses desperately desiring the Lord’s presence, Christ wants me to desperately seek after Him.  He desires that I find my purpose and fulfillment in Him alone. Christ wants to be the boat that I climb into each day.  He will enable me to ride the tossing waves of adversity, to be still while floating on the tranquil waters of patiently waiting, to not fear when the storms clouds of uncertainty roll in and to be anchored firmly when my doubts want to pull me away.  Unlike all those other boats I try to construct, Christ is the only one who fills my heart with true satisfaction.  My circumstances will change but when I am finding fulfillment and purpose in my perfect redeemer, Jesus Christ, I am able to remain anchored securely.

What boat are you setting sail in today?

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

Miracle Red Cowboy Boots

When the Lord first moved our family to Dallas we lived on my husband’s military pension while he looked for the job that would launch his second career.  We were so blessed to have the resources that permitted us to move, plant ourselves in a wonderful neighborhood close to family, and provide our kids with a private school that accommodates their different learning styles.  Our needs were fully met, but we had to watch our pennies.  We had to put little luxuries on hold, just for a season.  Our discretionary abilities were on restriction.  Life became smaller, and in some ways sweeter. 

In my daily prayers for my husband, one of the things I would ask for was peace and confidence in his provision of our family.   Looking for a job is hard on a man and I didn’t want to knowingly add stress to his burden to provide.  So I prayed, and God helped me imperfectly live out my intensions.  This season was hard for me.  My friends who know me well could tell you why.  I want stuff.  I know, we all want stuff, but some of us are better at putting our desires on the back burner.  I’m not so good at it.  We had a new home and I’m one of those who loves to fuss – a little coat of paint, a few new light fixtures, maybe a rug here, maybe a lamp there.  Curtailed, for a season.  In prayer the Lord said, “this phase seems like a test for your husband but it is also a discipline for you, to prune away unnecessary desires that won’t satisfy you…can’t satisfy you.”  

The words of 1 Timothy 6 reverberated in my spirit, But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Red Cowboy Boots_Julianna Mathers.jpeg

And so we set our minds on contentment.  Our kids had to grow in this area too.  I have a tween daughter.  She’s a very tweeny tween.  She has had a very nice life.  And because she is a child, she has no idea how nice it has been.  So when we chose to curtail expenditures, well, it was a bummer for her.  One afternoon we were playing tourists in our own town during a “staycation” Spring Break.  It was a Western sort of day at the Fort Worth Stockyards.  I don’t know why I did this, but I let my daughter amble into a cowboy boot store.  Real cowboy boots, not the ones from Target.  Beautifully stitched, butter soft leather, expensive cowboy boots.  And, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I let her try some on.  I have to admit they were cool - red, with elaborate stitching.  She looked cool, she felt cool…and then she looked at me in anticipation.  “No, not today.”  The answer was predictable of course.  But it didn’t sit well with her.  She proceeded to have what we lovingly call “a hissy fit” in our family.  And it was a loud one.   She was hoping to embarrass me into buying boots that were too expensive for most of us, including me.  What she actually did was embarrass herself.  I took her outside as fast as I could get those pretty boots off her feet and we had a little talk.   She was so certain those boots were vital to her happiness.  And here I was denying her the key that would unlock the answer to all her fashion problems.  

“Look,” I said, “you are not the first young woman who decided the only thing she needed was the one thing she lacked.  Eve with her apple was the first.  We will let these boots go and you will survive the disappointment…be better for it.”  But the lesson couldn’t stop there.  I told her about my prayer for her daddy, who was working hard daily, building his network, and searching out a new way to provide for us.  I told her my prayer was peace and confidence for her daddy.  Was her ingratitude fostering that?  Was she helping?   “Oh no, mom.  I didn’t think about that.  I don’t need those boots.  Never mind…”  

My girl and I love garage sales, thrift stores, and antique barns.  We love the hunt.  God is so faithful. Wouldn’t you know the very next day we were passing one of our favorite resale shops and decided to stop.  Can you guess what was right up front, displayed and waiting for her?  Yep, an almost new pair of butter soft red leather cowboy boots…in her size…at a small fraction of the price of the originals!   At first I wasn’t sure why the Lord had decided to answer my daughter’s “hissy fit” with the very thing she was longing for, but I do not pretend to understand all His ways.  His sweetness in response to our sourness continues to astound me.  I can’t be sure, but I think He was showing my daughter that God meets our needs…and sometimes our wants…if we open our hands and bend our will to His choices.  I think He was showing all of us…

Read with me in First John Chapter 2: 

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

This sounds like an order or a command, and a tough one at that.  How do I not love the world?  The lust of the flesh, our physical cravings.  The lust of the eyes, our longing for things.  The pride of life, our confidence in earthly resources.  These things seem to rule me. How to I resist?  

The answer is simple and complex all at once.  I think maybe this isn’t a command at all.  Maybe it’s really it’s an explanation.  Do not love the world…because the world will not satisfy. It cannot satisfy.  Sure we can buy the new boots and we can over-extend our finances to do so.  But you know what that leaves us with?  Fancy feet and the same old sick soul.  Nothing changes.  Boots wear out.  But when we trust the Lord for our salvation, our provision, our direction on this journey, then everything changes. 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  This, friends, is the secret to a happy life.  It’s like a code.  That thing you want, that thing you can’t live without? Eve’s apple, my daughter’s boots, or my new lamps…it’s not the fix we’re hoping for.  Jesus is the fix.  Only Jesus. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

*Miracle Red Cowboy Boots first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

Julianna Mathers.jpg

Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

It’s Really All About Jesus Anyway, Isn’t It?

Have you read the Bible from beginning to end?  I am sorry to say that I have not, despite being a Christian my entire life.  (Nothing like starting off with a huge confession, right?)  I have read parts of the Old Testament and the entire New Testament, but I have not read the entire Bible.  It’s interesting now to reflect on why I haven’t.  

I remember the first time I tried to read the Bible from start to finish.  My parents had given me my first nice leather Bible for Christmas when I was in 4th or 5th grade.  This was way back before there were as many translation options as there are today, and my new Bible was the King James Version.  It probably won’t surprise you to know that I barely made it past Noah and the Ark!  

As an adult, I purchased the NIV translation of a “Read the Bible Through in a Year.”  I remember keeping up with it for a couple of months, but I found that reading several chapters of the Old Testament, then a couple chapters of Psalms and Proverbs, before skipping over to the New Testament each day was cumbersome.  Maybe it was something about me, but I found it difficult to pick up the next day where I had left off in 3 different places!  

Amid my attempts to read the Bible from start to finish, the majority of my group and individual Bible studies were more “topical” in nature and based on the New Testament.  Topical studies were more appealing, I think, because I could choose what I wanted God to speak to me about.  Although I enjoyed Psalms and Proverbs, I came to believe that there really wasn’t anything pertinent I was missing from the Old Testament.  It’s really all about Jesus anyway, right?  But, I’ve also recently learned that there’s a whole lot to learn from the OT and it IS relevant to today!  

Some time towards the end of last year, I felt the desire to begin with Genesis and read through the entire Bible- start to finish.  This time, I chose a modern translation (New Living) that takes the reader through the Bible chronologically, with no skipping around.  And there is a daily summary, as well as a practical application commentary, that has satisfied my need for the topical part of Bible study.  What I have learned is that the insights, encouragements, and lessons from reading the Old Testament are every bit as relevant and applicable to anything that I have learned from the New Testament! 

This is a big transitional year for our family.  My daughter, Emily, will enter middle school next year and for the last several years, my husband and I have been considering moving both of our girls out of public school to a private Christian school, where they can obtain a faith-based education.  To us, it makes sense that if we are going to move to a new school system, the time to do it would be when Emily is moving to a new school anyway. Along with this decision has been another to possibly to move from our current neighborhood to another.  We have had our eye on another neighborhood for years and now that the girls will be changing schools, it seems like a good time to decide whether we should move or not.  Now, I went into this idea of reading the Bible through without really thinking there would be anything God would say to me about these decisions in the Old Testament.  Turns out I was wrong.  

In Genesis 12:1-4, God calls Abram (Abraham) to pick up and leave his native country and to move his family.  Abram was obedient and did what God told him to do, but what’s most interesting about this passage is that Abram didn’t know where God was telling him to move!  Hebrews 11:8 says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land… He went without knowing where He was going.”  Abraham exhibited true faith and I felt like I was being encouraged to do the same: God was telling me that we just need to keep our eyes on Him and follow where He leads—even if that means staying where we are.  But wait, there’s more!  

God makes a promise to Abraham that his descendants will be many and also that he and Sarah, who were both really old at this point, would have a son of their own.  God repeats His promise many times, but time passes and nothing happens.  So, Sarah and Abraham get impatient and take matters into their own hands.  Abraham and Sarah’s servant, Hagar, conceive a son and this creates a situation that brings much heartbreak.  (Genesis 15-17)  God does eventually fulfill His promise to Abraham and Sarah, but the consequences of their impatience impacted them for years.  

Meanwhile, although there were a few “hiccups” with the private school application process, God continued to lead us forward.  However, the process of looking around at houses became overwhelming.  Initially we were considering just one neighborhood, but then one house/builder lead to another, and we started looking at several other neighborhoods.  With so many possibilities, it was hard to discern if God was leading us to any of them.   Many times along this journey, builders and agents would have loved some money and a signed contract, but so far, we haven’t felt God’s hand on any of the houses/neighborhoods we have seen (nice as they are!).  This passage about how Abraham and Sarah failed to wait upon God came at the exact time that I was feeling the most overwhelmed.  Abraham and Sarah took the control from God and the consequences of this lasted for years.  This passage served as a strong reminder for us to walk with God through this process, and not to run ahead.  

How amazing is it that God knows us and loves us so intimately that He speaks to us about exactly what we are dealing with in life and at the perfect time!  I will admit that I have not read my Bible according to plan every single day, so I’m a little behind.  In spite of this, God brought the right message at the perfect time.  It is it now May and I am still so encouraged!  Now, I will admit that Leviticus is a challenge (smile!), but I continue to believe God is using the Old Testament to speak into my everyday life.    

What about you?  Whatever part of the Bible you are studying, I pray you are hearing God speak to you, too.  And if you haven’t read the Bible all the way through, I hope you are encouraged to pick up whatever translation/plan inspires you, and get started— you don’t even have to wait until January! 

Sherry Fischer-HeadShot.JPG

Sherry Fischer grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia. She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work. Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years. Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9). When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.

Hope-Filled Brokenness

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  

When we had first moved to Houston, I was struggling to adjust to my new normal and the Lord gave me a word picture of how He wanted me to live my life. It was a very broken and cracked vase, which had definitely seen and experienced a lot of life.  It was so cracked that it could not hold water.  As water was poured into the vase, it would begin trickling out of some smaller cracks and gushing out of the larger cracks.  This vase appeared quite useless and without a real purpose, other than as a new décor piece for a mantle.  This was not really the look I was aiming for however at this point, I definitely felt like that broken vase.  I felt quite tired and useless being placed here in Houston far away from family and friends.  The easiest thing would be to stay on the mantle and reflect on all the wonderful memories but the Lord wanted me off the shelf to be used once again.  This is always easier said than done.  

So I allowed the Lord to take me off that shelf and begin to use me in little ways as I stepped out here and there.  The more the Lord chose to use me, the more water would leak from my cracks.  So I found myself beginning to try to patch the cracks in my vase with various things.  I felt like if I looked prettier on the outside, perhaps my cracks would not be noticed.  New hairstyles, new outfits and a newly decorated house only ended up making me fall deeper into a pit of comparison and broke my vase in additional places.  My increased insecurities welcomed in some emotional eating, where food became another coping mechanism to help distract me from the loneliness that was filling my heart.  The additional pounds that I added to my waistline only created more cracks in my shell of insecurity, causing me to want to jump right back onto that shelf and hide.  But the Lord kept pulling me off that shelf and showing me the things I had filled my life with in order to “fix my brokenness”.

Situation after situation came into my life, which brought additional brokenness into my heart.  Emotions, which I thought were placed behind me, came reeling back to me again.  A few dreams that I once held dear needed to be let go and grieved which required me to fully trust the Lord’s plans for me and my family.  The only thing I could really do was spend extra time really filling myself with His truths.  I prayed fervently, I read His Word voraciously and I cried out to the Lord for answers to how to walk in this brokenness, which I was feeling.  Over time as I sought Him, I began to sense that He was not asking me to walk in brokenness but instead was showing me that He wanted me to walk in HOPE FILLED brokenness!  Just two simple words with ten letters but that made all the difference.

When I walk in this type of brokenness, His hope is pouring out of me, rather than my emotions, my sadness or my despair.  Jesus is my true and lasting hope.  He is the One who shines in my life and enables me to love others despite how I may be feeling. I want my heart to overflow with the hope of His return, I want to cling loosely to the things of this world and I want to be filled with the hope of Christ and all that entails.  When this hope is filling my heart, my focus is on Christ and not on myself.  This is the hope He is asking to walk in and to be filled with so when He chooses to uses me, as I am … a broken and worn vase…. His hope would overflow from me by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Are you feeling broken and unable to be used by the Lord?  Know that Jesus desires to shine His light brightly through your cracks as you cling tightly to Him and choose to walk in His hope.  Christ is our lasting hope and He desires that we live our lives hope filled even on those days when we are feeling broken.

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

Shifting Seasons

This morning, it’s suddenly cold enough for winter coats…
I’ll never get over how short the gorgeous fall season is around here.
We probably have a few warm days to go, interspersed amidst the crisp and the all too chilly ones, as it nears the end of October.

This time of year has often seen our family settling into new seasons of life change. Not every year, but often enough that I looked toward this fall with wonder, expectation, and curiosity over what it would hold. With so many shifts over the past few years, I couldn’t fathom what could change that much for us, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to try.

But instead of a shift into a new season, as the weather around us is so eager to do, it seems God is willing us to settle into a season instead. To hunker down, to get under it, and to allow it to do its work in and through us.

To be honest, my heart is longing to step into a future chapter I feel God has woven the desire for, that from my perspective seems it should be coming sooner rather than later — but that’s not what we’re getting to do right now.

He’s also called us to something different in the here and now that I believe He wants us to focus on first. That doesn’t mean we’re letting go of the desire He’s seeded in our hearts for our possible future — on the contrary, I believe that this isn’t a season of merely waiting, but of preparation for what’s to come — really doubling down on a few things He’s pressing into us about as we await the opening of new doors.

However, He’s also called something seemingly unrelated out of this current season, something that is to be sharing our focus and commitment as we diligently prepare for Him to say GO to our next steps and whatever they may hold. In this present season, He has beautifully and graciously aligned us to really uncover what discipleship in biblical community looks like. To learn to study His word more thoroughly, and to discover how to effectively teach others to do the same.

It’s something that, from a bird’s eye view, and from the perspective of those who know us well, we’ve been told seems like such an obvious fit for us — but it’s not something we’ve ever intentionally pursued before, especially at this level.

And it’s scary.

It’s crazy to me how something so close to what you’ve seen yourself doing practically your whole life and assumed would just come naturally, can kind of terrify you as it’s actually beginning to come to fruition…

It’s not the big audacious visions I’ve had, though those are scary in their own right, they still feel far enough off… It’s the calm, intimate, ‘small scale’ callings that are really showing themselves to be what will have the monumental impact and joy sparking capability in our lives and in the lives of those around us. And so I see simultaneously such beauty and such weight in the reality of what this chapter is bringing.

It’s not a monumental shift our world will watch and comment on, it’s more of a strong & steady progression — something internal being poured out as it’s stirred up. It’s intense and deeply personal.

While we may be settling into a season, what is shifting is my perspective on that season — allowing Him to help me view the work He has called us to, not through the lens of the world and its shallow praise, but through the lens of His Kingdom and the joy of bringing Him glory in any and every facet of this life  — not just the big stuff, not just the stuff we display, not just what our community at large sees — but the relational stuff, the hard stuff, the messy people in a broken world stuff. Because at the end of the season, of the day, of the month, at the end of this life, isn’t that what we want to be able to declare? That it was all for Him? Not just that we did the big things, that we shouted from the rooftops, but sometimes I think even more importantly, that we honored Him in the little things — in the things the world may not shine focus on — because isn’t the world upside down without His presence to filter our priorities through? Maybe what matters most in our ministry is what happens on a small scale…not because the big, bold stuff isn’t important — we absolutely serve a big and bold God — but because there can be so much substance in the “in between” moments, in the personal connections — and we also serve a personal, relational God. I don’t know about you, but I often find those to be the things that are the hardest to focus intentionally on, to work through, to glorify Him in — because they really take the most investment. The things that tend to get the most attention in our culture are the big splashes, temporary and fleeting, but I’m learning to see more and more the immense value in swimming upstream to reach people at a heart level — and to invest my priorities accordingly. The things that really make the biggest impact are the ones that are carried through the shifting seasons, side by side, hand in hand. The ones that have a name. A story. That require the writing of pages together. Sharing this life is about giving and receiving — what I give to others, and how I receive them. I’m starting to believe that ministry isn’t primarily about what we give to others — but that they see Jesus the most in how we receive them — into our circle, into our home, into our moment. Though the situations and depths will vary, I believe that truly serving others is more relational than donational. {and yes I made up that word 😉 }.

Regardless of what I think I have to give, an open hand and heart may be the most effective tools I can possess. It can be easy to get caught up in the going and doing — but who are we really *being* with? That’s where discipleship happens — which is the commission Jesus left us with. And following His example, there’s a lot of togetherness in the building of disciples. So that’s the challenge I’m undertaking in this season. Not something new, or shiny, but something authentic and, for me, a bit uncomfortable — in the most convicting and fulfilling way.

It was a line about 2 minutes and 45 seconds into a live feed of this next song that spoke to me in reference to this post ::

“so many hopes and dreams — I can think of a thousand things, that I’m waiting for — but that doesn’t change, who He is to me. No it doesn’t change who He’ll always be”<3!!! and in another version “your leadership is perfect in my life” — what amazing truths to hold onto!

But if you find yourself in a season of waiting without clarity and your heart needs encouragement, just take 15 minutes to connect with God about it and allow this video to speak to you :

If you are interested in Discipleship, you can learn more here.

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. 

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:

Andie Fair.jpg

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.

Am I Distracting my Child from Their Purpose?

Sitting in church on a cold February morning, the Pastor was making his way through the book of Ecclesiastes.  And then it hit me. As I was listening to a message on things that distract us from the meaning of life, I was convicted.  Before I share with you what specifically I was challenged with in my life, let me first be honest. 

I am enamored with "things." I struggle with wanting a bigger house, more furniture, more clothes, more jewelry. In fact, these are things I deeply desire and even can justify why I should have.  Maybe you can relate? And "things" aren't bad. Living a lavish lifestyle and having plenty, in and of itself, is not bad. Abraham, one of the most prominent men in the Bible, was just one of many whom God blessed with "stuff." Wealth is not bad. God Himself pours out His blessings and provides not only essentials, but abundance for His children.

But something struck me in a new and fresh way that wintry Sunday morning.

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As the snow softly fell outside the window, I heard an ungodly statistic fall on my ears. The amount of excess that is disposed of and thrown away by American families is insane. American children have more toys than all of the other children in the world, and yet we don't even value the surplus and abundance we have. So not only is there a gratefulness issue of not appreciating and valuing what God blesses us with, there is a distraction issue. Again, let me be honest. Truth be told, my children have abundance when it comes to things. Their toy room has looked like a freaking toy store at times. Each one of my girls has always had a heart of gratitude and they appreciate and value what they have been blessed with. They go to great lengths to take care of and not destroy the toys they have been given.

Toys serve a great purpose. Independent play and imaginary play are born with dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals.  Sensory skills, coordination, and manipulation, as well as creativity, are mastered when playing with Legos or play-doh. My conviction has less to do with the abundance and more to do with the heart. 

The first challenge is obvious. Are we giving our children an abundance out of our desire for them to live lavish lifestyles to the point that we are not teaching them gratitude? Are we filling their rooms and closets with so much stuff that we neglect to teach them to be grateful and to be stewards of what they have been entrusted with. Do we teach them to take care of their belongings and to have hearts that are thankful, recognizing that they are not entitled to a plethora of toys, books, clothes, or electronics?  We have a generation that is demanding because our children have been taught to be entitled since birth.  We feed their sense of self and then wonder why they are so entitled, selfish, and ungrateful. This leads to my bigger concern as a mother. 

Am I distracting and hindering my children from their intended purpose? Am I contributing to their demise? You see, if I actually believe that my children (and myself) have been created for a purpose, then I must know what that purpose is. I believe the Bible clearly states that God has created each and every one of us with a purpose.  And while each of our individual skill sets look differently and our gifts vary, our purpose is the same. The Bible tells us that ALL of creation was created for the glory of God. God's desire in creating mankind was to bring Him glory and for us to have fellowship with Him. My purpose, and my children's purpose, is to know God and to make Him known--to bring Him glory. That is when it hit me. 

At what point am I contributing to distracting my children from their intended purpose in being created?  Am I giving my children so much that I am feeding their desire to serve self? Am I giving my children in abundance to the point that they are not lacking, but are instead feeding pride, and a sense of entitlement that they deserve what they have? Do I keep my kids so busy, so distracted, surrounded by so much "stuff" that I am actually contributing to their demanding that self is put on the throne of their lives instead of God?  By giving them abundance, am I teaching them that the world revolves around them? 

We are all at war. We are at war and in constant battle to fight for who will win control of our heart. Where is our affection? Satan would love nothing more than for us to stay distracted. Because when we are distracted and are feeding self, we are not making room for God.  We are placing ourselves on the throne of our lives, serving self, and making ourselves gods. But we cannot serve two masters. As a mother, I am challenged to make sure I am feeding what I want to actually want to grow.  I am convicted in areas where I am contributing to teaching my children to feed self, rather than living out their purpose for which they have been created. 

Adoption: Welcoming Sons and Daughters

I remember sitting on my couch during a 6-week recovery from major surgery.  It was summer of 2003 and there was no Facebook, so I was limited to daytime TV since I could not drive or keep my eyes open to read a book due to the pain medications.  I soon filled my mornings by watching 2 back-to- back shows on TLC:  “Birth Days” and “Adoption Stories”.  I was drawn in by the emotional and happy moments these reality TV families experienced; tales of how they came to love the babies they bore the first hour and adopted the next.  I cried happy tears for those families I did not know, but I also knew deep down that they were tears for my own longing to get married and have children of my own.  

I was 37 at the time and had always wanted to be a wife and a mother.  I had a successful career as a medical social worker for 15 years, and for many of those years I enjoyed the perks of being single.   As I started to close in on my 40’s however, worry set in that marriage and becoming a mother would never happen for me.  The medical world backed up my fears, telling me that I was running out of time for motherhood.  Sometimes it was difficult to see so many of my friends get married and then welcome all the new babies that soon followed.  My weekend social calendar was full of both bridal and baby showers for years.  During my quiet times with God, I sensed Him telling me He would work it out, that I just needed to wait a little bit longer.  Walking closely with God during those times gave me hope.  

As I thought about it years later, those TV reality shows were a part of the hope He gave me and they left a lasting impression on me.  I believe they were placed in my life at that time to prepare me for what God had planned to come.  I remember loving these 2 reality shows because either way those babies joined their families, biologically or through adoption, both were wonderful and special.  Those reality families loved their babies whether they birthed them naturally or adopted them.  I also realized that it was then, during my recovery from surgery, that God planted the desire in me to experience both a “Birth Day” and an “Adoption Story” of my own.  

At ages 41 and 38, Karl and I were married and we knew that since we both wanted at least 2 children, we needed to get started right away.  I was a little sad that we would not have some carefree time as newlyweds, but I also knew the urgency of our situation.  The road to having our children was relatively short, but rocky.  Our daughter, Emily, was born after the heartache and anticipation of 4 back-to-back IVF cycles.  After a spontaneous miscarriage and some more infertility treatments a year later, we knew the final chapter of our Birth Story was written and we were ready to start our Adoption Story.  

Adopting was indeed, a very different story.  There was a mountain of paperwork, interviews, and fingerprints to be examined.  And then there was the waiting.  Throughout the whole experience there were a lot of questions, some that we did not see coming or know how to answer right away.  We had not anticipated the level of detail that the adoption application itself would entail.   Would we accept a child or any race or ethnic background?  If not, which ones?  What if the biological family had a history of cancer?  How about mental illness?  What if the mother smoked, drank alcohol, or took drugs while pregnant?  And if some drugs were ok, which ones weren’t?  What if the child was the “product” of a rape?  How about multiples?  Some of these questions were “easy”, and others stopped us in our tracks and caused us some considerable thought and discussion, as we wanted to make sure we were equipped to handle any situation that might come along—as if that’s even possible!  

Other  “interesting” questions came from the people around us.  Perhaps they meant well, but their questions indicated to us that they were leery of adoption.  “Do you think you will be able to love both the children the same even though one is yours and one isn’t?”  “Why would you want to raise someone else’s kid?”  Wow.  It was hard sometimes to not be defensive since we knew this was the plan for our family, and we had little doubt that we would love our adopted baby just as much as Emily.  

The reality is, we are ALL adopted by God, or at least have the opportunity to be adopted by God.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “ But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under that law, that we might receive adoption to sonship”.   God walked with us in some amazing ways through our adoption of Abby because He reminded us that we are all adopted by Him and that was the whole purpose of sending His son, Jesus.  

God welcomes all of us who believe in Him to become his adopted sons and daughters.  There are no limits when He adopts us. He doesn’t require an adoption application and if He did, it wouldn’t matter which boxes we checked and which ones we didn’t.  He already knows all there is to know about each of us and He accepts us right where we are.  His love is unconditional.  He loves ALL and wants ALL to come to know Him and become part of His family.  His love is vast and beyond anything we can fully comprehend as humans.  He loves us fully and equally.  

Eight, almost nine, years later I can tell you with certainty that we love our Abby just as much as Emily.  She is ours, no matter how she came to complete our family.  We can’t imagine life without her and firmly believe that she is the child God planned for us.  We don’t even think about her being adopted, unless we are talking about adoption (which I love to do!)  I like to think of Emily as the gift God gave us, and Abby as the treasure He lead us to.  

Abby sometimes doubts that she is loved as much as Emily because she knows she is adopted.  When she expresses her doubt, we do our very best to convince her with hugs and every “love word” we can think of.  Still, sometimes she isn’t quite convinced.  In those times we tell her she needs to make a choice to believe us, even though her inner voice still tries to make her think otherwise.  It’s that way sometimes with us too; we wonder how God could love us enough to adopt us.  But that’s the whole reason Jesus came- so He could welcome each one of us into His family, in spite of our imperfections. Sometimes, in the midst of doubt, we just need to step out in faith and believe.  And when we accept His love for us, He will always be there to welcome us as His sons and daughters.

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Sherry Fischer grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia.  She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work.  Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years.   Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9).  When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS).  Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.  

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.

Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, it conjures up images of pilgrims, pumpkin pie, football, and maybe even family you only see a few times a year. Whether you are looking forward to Thursday, or attempting to wish it away, I want to pose a challenge. Is it possible to view Thanksgiving, not as only a holiday, but as a choice of our will that directs our attitude? It is easy to forget that thanksgiving is mandated in Scripture. In Philippians 2:6-7 Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:15 reads, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Some of you may be thinking, “that is easy to recite or type, but you have no idea how difficult my situation is!” No, I don’t, but He does. He knows all of our situations and needs, and He wants to be invited into them. At times, we can be so overwhelmed by our circumstances the thought of being thankful for them, knowing that He sees the end from the beginning, when we can’t, is repugnant to us. I challenge you; I challenge me, to start by bringing our needs to Him. If you can’t yet see anything to be grateful or thankful for in your circumstances, start with transparency and honesty before the One who knows all anyway. He says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find…” So, this Thanksgiving, ask. Ask to be shown things in your life to be grateful for, ask for Him to bring good out of situations where you have yet to see any good, and ask for strength and faith to trust Him more.

One of the definitions of thankfulness is to be conscious of benefits received. Let’s ask Him in prayer this Thanksgiving season, whether things are going great or you are in the hardest season of your life, for a greater awareness of things for which to thank Him. Then do it; thank Him, remembering also that with thankfulness comes the peace of God. Reread those verses from above. God’s own peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus when we come before Him and ask for what we need with a posture of Thanksgiving. 

May you enjoy the Thanksgiving season all year long, from your friends at Passion4Moms.