The Last Baby

All my life I have wanted to be a mama. I dreamed of being married to a strong, handsome, and godly man and raising a family with him. There have been seasons along the way that have marked my heart and changed my life for the better: college, an internship, seminary, and studying abroad to name a few. In these places I met friends and my husband. In the early part of dating my now husband, we talked about how many children we wanted to have one day. From the beginning, I always said I’d like to have four kids. My friends and I went through stages together. We all dated someone seriously, got engaged, got married, and started having children. A few months ago, I realized I was pregnant with the last baby. I remember the excitement and anticipation of expecting our first. I remember the surprises that came with reality upon his arrival. As we slowly added his brothers to our family, I sometimes wondered if I had the capacity and grace for four children. There were times of “Let’s wait and see.” Two of the best pieces of advice I received while deciding if I wanted to try for our fourth baby was this: First, what size family do you envision at Thanksgiving? Do you want lots of grandkids/cousins, children and their spouses filling your home or just a few? Second, does it feel like someone is still missing? Or do you feel like your family is complete? My answers were “I want a full house on Thanksgiving!” and “It still feels like someone is missing.”

Monday I had the last baby. As soon as I heard his cry, I cried-as always. It’s that relief that washes over me as I hear him and see him for the first time and no longer just feel him. But it was something more this time. I was cherishing that moment as the last first moment of meeting this person you helped create and looking forward to getting to know them. There will be other firsts-first jobs, first car, first dates, first week away at college, first child married… It’s the symbol of life moving on. I also intrinsically knew that no one was missing anymore. My babies are growing into their own seasons and dreams. This week we had our last baby, but all four of them will ALWAYS be my babies. Here’s to new adventures, and knowing the same God who has always been there for me will always be there for them.

What Makes My Heart Sing

Spring is slowly (ever so slowly here in North Carolina) coming to the surface as evidenced in birdsong and optimistic daffodils. There is a newness of life resurfacing in me. The Holy Spirit is stirring lost, forgotten, or given-up-on dreams and I am holding pieces asking His hands to guide the making of this mosaic. It doesn’t look the way I thought it would. But through His tender mercies I am a mama to three handsome, healthy boys. I am wife to the strongest, gentlest man I know. I have everything money cannot buy and I do not discount that for a moment. There are many colorful pieces, some edges rougher than others. All of them making a beautiful masterpiece. As Allen Shamblin and Steve Seskin’s song “Every Drop of Water” says:

“There’s a masterpiece in every heart an ever changing work of art
We’re all diamonds in the rough we’ll shine soon enough
Let tears of joy and sorrow lead you home
Every drop of water shapes the stone.”

These sunnier days take me back to simpler times of driving through the mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway listening to such as Ricky Skaggs (singing the above lyrics), windows down, cool breeze blowing. The mountains are where my heart sings. Even now, I close my eyes as I hear the birds singing and I can almost envision those blue mountains in my mind’s eye.

I find the more intentional I am to make priorities and stick with them, the more successful I am at taking my life in hand. Not into my hands, mind you. I only want my life in the Best Hands-God’s hands. But as I manage my time, minute by minute I find that I can accomplish more when I am focused, purposed, and aware of my goal.

Secrets for success these days: gratefulness, hope, positivity, and spending more and more time in prayer and Bible study. As I ask Him for what I need and thank Him for my answers, everything falls into place. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” (Matthew 11:28, the Message) I find my heart really sings when I can let go and trust Him, focusing on His goodness and being grateful for it. It’s always easier to do that in the mountains. But wherever there’s a grateful heart, there’s a song to be heard.Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 2.43.50 PM.png

He Will Come

Romans 4:18-5:11

Against hope, Abraham believed. We rejoice in hope. We also rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces character. When we allow character to be produced in our lives (rather than just lying down and having a pity party), that produces hope. When we allow character to be produced in our lives we are able to see the hope in our situation. Hope doesn’t disappoint us because we are able to see what God has ultimately done for us.

At just the right time…before the beginning of time, it was planned that Jesus would come to Earth in the form of a baby, live a sinless life, die on a cross and rise from death. Romans 5:6 tells us that AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  This is packed full of good news. First of all, Jesus died for those who didn’t deserve it (us!). Secondly, he did so at just the right time.

We can have hope in whatever circumstances we face because Jesus came to make us reconciled with God, and his timing is perfect. He is never late. He is never early. He is always on time. We can trust his timing.

I don’t say this lightly. There are serious, time sensitive issues. And I’m not sitting in my mansion with everything perfect in my life as I type out the perfection in God’s timing. My husband, me, and our little family have moved in with my parents for the second time in a year and a half. We have less than a week to move out of where we were staying with friends and there is a snowstorm preventing travel. As I was washing dishes this morning, and after days of begging God to speak to me, I heard him say “At just the right time…” and I remembered the passage as Romans 5, one of my favorites. If he can part the river as the Israelites needed to cross and the priests stepped into the water in faith, if he can make manna fall from the sky each day at just the right time, if he can appear in a furnace and keep three Jewish boys from burning up and not even smelling like smoke, if he can preserve Daniel over night in a lions’ den without a scratch, if a young boy can kill a giant with a sling shot and a small rock, if he can bring me from North Carolina and my husband from Oklahoma and arrange for us to meet at just the right time, he can take care of what is needed today. Hope comes when you realize that he is able and that he is willing. Hope comes when you focus on who Jesus is rather than what things look like. Hope comes when you celebrate the kindness, faithfulness, and goodness of God and trust him to do it again. In this season of Advent, I remember that Jesus is Emanuel, God with us. He took on flesh and became one of us and is well acquainted with our grief.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

At just the right time, he came. And in your situation, at just the right time, he will do it again.

Always on His Mind

8EBCC571-DA24-4E4F-B403-29D75C9F5487“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

As the thunder rumbles and the lightening flickers, I lie in bed praying for two different families with two very different prayer requests. Neither family knows each other, and the situations starkly contrast each other. But one thing they have in common is that they cannot control their situation but trust in God’s ability and willingness to come to their aid.

I wish I could be more at liberty to expand on the differences. But the similarity seems most important. I’m reminded of JJ Heller’s “Your Hands”. The song goes “When my world is shaking heaven stands. When my heart is breaking I never leave your hands.”

I keep going back to this morning’s devotions with my pre k class. I told them God’s thoughts toward them are good and they are always on His mind. As I pray for both families I find myself saying “They love You and honor You and Your word says they won’t be put to shame. They have done things Your way. I speak life into these situations and believe You will be glorified.”

Life is full of storms-like the one outside my window and the one in these hearts-as it says in my son’s bible in the account of Jesus speaking to the storm in the gospels (Luke’s account is Luke 8:22-25) , he told the storm to hush, then turned to his disciples and said “Why were you afraid? Did you believe your fears instead of me?”  As we face unsettling, unexpected storms as Christ followers, remember Who is in your boat. Run to the Peace Speaker. And if you don’t know Him, what’s stopping you? I guarantee you’re always, always on His mind.

My Inheritance

Just this week I was sharing with a friend I mentor that being a parent, while wonderful is not for the selfish. I explained all the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy, the worries of parenthood along with the joys, and having to remember that your children belong to the Lord and He will take care of them.

Being a parent in itself is a full-time job. Then with other outside work added to the mix, you get tired and worn down before you realize it. And if you’re not careful, you will stop seeing the wonder and start plowing through life mindlessly trying to survive.

That’s about where I was when I attended a parent/volunteer meeting at our church. My husband and I volunteer once a month in our older son’s Sunday School class. The name of the Children’s ministry is “Heritage,” from Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” When the pastor opened the meeting with prayer he highlighted that scripture and asked the Lord to help us steward the gifts (children) He had given us. My mind went to the times in just that day I had yelled at my older child because I would ask him to do something six times and he still ignored me. Being exhausted, I realized that while I love my children beyond words and KNOW they are a gift from the Lord, I had not been treating them that way (they may not have picked up on it but I knew for sure this was a check in my spirit).

The Hebrew for heritage literally means a gift from Jehovah, or an inheritance from the Father. If you are tired, worn out, and sometimes in your heart of hearts see your children as an inconvenience (hopefully you’d never say it out loud or consciously think it, but your actions may be reflecting this), start remembering they are your REWARD. They are your GIFT, they are your INHERITANCE.

Of course, mommies and daddies need alone time, together time, self care, and rest. What I am saying is, be conscious of what you are speaking over your treasures and remember how loved they are by the Father. He entrusted them to you for you to steward. They are not inconvenient. They are not too much trouble. They are worth it. They will still try your patience. You will still get tired. But remember you are doing a great job. Take a deep breath. Spend time with Jesus. And begin again. Any good gift is worth whatever it takes to enjoy its fruit. Parenthood is hard. Discipleship is hard. But if you are a Christian parent, you have the help of the Holy Spirit to empower you to make decisions, discernment, and self control in raising up your little treasures. What a priceless gift!parent-and-child-hands-2

When I Can’t Go On

IMG_0245He will tend his flock like a shepherd;                                                       he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11 (emphasis mine)

I wanted to go for a walk around the lake near our home for two reasons: I want to lose a little weight, and my sanity requires exercise. I had my two little ones with me so I put the one year old in the stroller and had my three year old burn off some energy.

I warned my oldest, “Be careful through here. It’s tricky. There is a manhole cover and lots of places to trip.” The words had barely escaped past my lips when his toe caught the raised manhole cover, causing him to eat dirt. He skinned a knee and his nose and had dirt in his mouth. There was blood, but not much and as I assessed the situation I decided a sip of water from my camelbak (which always tastes better than his for some reason), kisses, and putting him in the Tula carrier were the things that would make the last quarter of a mile to the car bearable.

As he was strapped to my body, I was pushing Levi in the single stroller and saying something uncomforting like “If you would listen and use your eyeballs this wouldn’t have happened.” A lady runner with her dog came by and she said “You go Momma! You’re makin’ it happen!” I smiled my thanks and thought “What are my choices? Sit down by the lake and camp there tonight? Leave him behind? Sit him on his little brother’s lap?! Of course I am making it happen. It’s not that I am so dedicated to exercise. He half killed himself a quarter of a mile from our car!”

But it got me to thinking. In this mommy life, a life I dreamed of, coveted after, desperately longed for, I often feel exhausted. I am mentally and emotionally carrying one kid and pushing another on a gravel path. But when I try in my own strength I am more like my three year old than the “momma who makes it happen”. Let’s be honest. I’m the kid with dirt in my mouth, a scuffed up nose and a skinned knee. Thankfully God doesn’t get tired and he doesn’t say out of aggravation “I told you not to…”. He patiently waits for me to stop crying, gives me some of His water, picks me up, and gently leads me.

This verse is my comfort verse. When I think I can’t make another step I remember “He gently leads those that have young” and I hear that well meaning lady cheering me on.

Saturday

Saturdays used to mean sleeping in, staying home all day in my pajamas or going on a day trip with friends. Saturdays used to mean catching up on work and homework and reading.

Now that I’m a mommy, all that has changed. Saturdays are for waking early to feed the baby. Saturdays are for 8:30am soccer practice, and swinging at the park, and going to the farmers market. Saturdays are for being the first inside the library when it opens.

Saturdays are for playing cars on the rug with roads and a town on it. Saturdays are for sandwich lunches and watching Curious George at the same time as a treat.

Saturdays are for catching up on housework, simmering cinnamon sticks with an apple, an orange, vanilla, and some nutmeg to give the house the aromas of Fall while the babies sleep.

Saturdays are for treasuring, whatever your age.

Refresh

The rain is pouring nearly sideways, making golf balls as it bounces off the driveway. Opened windows spill cool, fresh breezes into the house making my heart feel fresher too. Joel is amazed by the rain. He can sit with hands on chin, elbows on window sill for an hour or more at a time. For a two year old, this is impressive.

Butternut squash is cooking in the crockpot in preparations for a yummy Autumn stew this evening. I look forward to ladling it into a bowl for my husband after he has spent this entire day working out in the rain.

Something about this rain reminds me of the refreshing rain of the Holy Spirit. Rain is most prized where there has hardly been any. It strengthens, renews and encourages the weary. In the same way, the Holy Spirit comes and quenches the dry seasons and there is relief. This week, I spoke with the man who first called out the destiny he saw in me. I have been discouraged, distracted and unsure of where to turn or what steps to take next. But after that conversation with a spiritual father of sorts, I came away with a sense of redirection, renewed purpose and refreshing.

What does refreshing look like to you? Do you need a vacation? A timely word? A need met? Ask God to send the rain of refreshing. He will be faithful to meet you at your point of need. He knows what you need before you ask-and even when you may not really know what you need.

Aside

Thanksgiving

Yesterday we made a quick trip to Missions Children’s Hospital for Joel to get fitted for a cast because of his soccer injury. When we got there, the orthopedic surgeon told us that if we wanted to do a boot instead, it would be better for Joel as his fracture is healing nicely (doctor visit monday revealed it was a fracture, not a bruise as a local ER led us to believe). We went from getting off work unplanned and stressed, to being relieved, and tired from going to Asheville twice in a week and still having a little who isn’t quite sleeping through the night yet. We thanked God it was much better than originally expected.

Being the nerd I am, I asked Aaron if we could go to my favorite local organic grocery so I could walk the aisles and unwind (I love grocery shopping for healthy food haha). The front had beautiful pumpkins on sale and cider was available. I looked at the mountain honey and relished the moments of calm as I carefully selected a few items for the babies. Fall is subtly sneaking in. So is a new season.

Joel’s leg will be okay. Cool weather is coming. I don’t live in Asheville anymore.

As I put cloth diapers in the wash this morning, I was continuing a conversation with the Lord I began about nine months ago when we lost our jobs and we knew moving was eminent.

“Lord, I am homesick for Asheville. When can I go back?!”

The Lord whispered to my heart like a parent whispers “you better sit down like I asked” while in church, and He said “If you cannot take care of what I have placed in your hand without looking over your shoulder to what was, and if you cannot be gracious to your husband now…” What was implied is that if I’m not thankful and grateful now, and if I let myself be swallowed in the grief of losing one dream, I might just mess around and lose all of it. Now, I’m not talking about physically losing my family because of ingratitude. I mean that the emotional damage and distance would be irrevocable in the natural and only redeemed in the supernatural.

There I was putting bum genius diapers in the wash and my soul was washed by the water.

I can’t promise I won’t be homesick for Asheville. But my home is with my husband wherever he is. My babies are my first dream. If I were to chase after anything else harder and neglect my family, I would be left empty handed. If at the end of the day we live with my parents and I go to a job that is tiring and unfulfilling, but I get to sing and read the Bible to Joel and pray before he sleeps, I have the ultimate fulfillment. If I don’t have my own home to make but I lay down beside a husband who loves me with his whole heart and greets me with a gentle touch and a kiss, what more is there? Sure I get woke in the middle of the night but that means God did bless us with another baby after miscarrying two.

Yes, a new season has come. Just in time for Thanksgiving. 🎃🌰🍂🍁

What People Are Looking For

Recently my husband and I started back to the gym after having our second child. I have been wanting to get back into shape and he wants to be healthier and to support me in my goals. The place we chose is near where we live, is a decent price and is very clean and inviting. The best part is that you don’t feel judged when you walk through the door. There are older ladies using walkers to get from one machine to the next. There are young athletes training. There is also the whole gamut in between. On their wall they mention that their mission is to be a judgement free place where anyone can be comfortable. You know what? They have bought out the suite next to them and are expanding! People come in droves and the parking lot is full around the clock. Other gyms across town cannot say the same thing after January 15th usually. So what is my point?

People are looking for a judgement free place to come. It doesn’t matter their age or color or background, everyone wants a place to belong. I know I don’t like the feeling of being stared at while trying to do crunches in the corner. In the same way, people who have never been to church or haven’t been in years are looking for a place that won’t judge them where they are on the way to where they are going. I am not the most in shape person, but I want to be. That is why I am going to the gym. I am not the epitome of Christlikeness but I want to be like Him. That is why I want to be around His people and listen to His Word being preached. Just as going to the gym isn’t enough, but must be accompanied with proper nutrition, going to church must be accompanied by daily prayer and reading the Bible for best results. People who are searching for a place to belong are finding it at a gym in town and each time I step through the doors I wonder if the same can be said of our churches.

It isn’t a critique on the church, but rather the pulse of what I believe people are searching for. People want to be set at ease, shown what to do without preconceived judgements, and accepted at face value as they set out to reach their goals. They are willing to take classes to learn what to do and they are willing to work hard. They just don’t want to be negatively put off before they have a chance to reach their goals. Spiritual implications abound! I am challenged to be better at loving people where they are on the way to where they’re going. I am challenged to see past what a person is doing right now to what they want to be doing and who they want to be-especially if they are trying and are willing to learn.  I am challenged to celebrate a person’s potential and their efforts and cheer them toward their finish line-whether that is losing ten pounds or learning more about Jesus.