Weeping in the night, Joy in the Morning

I am convinced that sleep deprivation from the baby/toddler phase is the mom version of fasting. My flesh becomes so weakened and my reliance upon God becomes absolutely everything. I cannot help but rely on His grace to do pretty much anything. If you count third trimester lack of sleep from the uncomfortableness and countless trips of waddling to the bathroom, I literally haven’t slept through the night in almost two years. This isn’t hyperbole- my 17-month-old has NEVER slept through the night. My middle son took 25 months to do so- which was only six months before my youngest was born. It’s been an extremely physically and mentally (and often emotionally) trying season that has lasted years.

I don’t share all of this to complain or receive sympathy or ask for advice. I share to remind you (and myself) that the Lord is near to those suffering and in that suffering, He brings unspeakable joy that is not dependent upon our circumstances. No matter how overwhelming it may feel, His grace is sufficient in your weakness. Lean upon Him, and He will strengthen you and transform you in your suffering to look more like Him.

When I was praying the other night in the midnight hours during the on and off wakings (awakened every one-two hours because of his teething pain and what I can assume is the 18 month sleep regression), I said “God, I know he is a gift…please help me.” And as I reflect upon this trying season, I’m realizing the ways my son is a gift from the Father, along with all my children, of course. I cannot help but praise God in the midst of my pain for the Lord’s faithfulness to me. Even though my circumstances have not changed, He is changing me. I am encouraged by these verses in Psalm 30 to give thanks and remember that joy always comes in the morning:

“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:4-5, NASB

When my flesh is weak because of the difficulties that come with this season of motherhood, and I am humbled to my knees, by God’s grace, I am able to bear fruit and walk in the Spirit in a way that pleases the Lord. Instead of asking God to rescue me from my weeping and struggles with my son’s sleep, I find myself thanking God through tears of joy for this sleep deprivation. Suffering is a gift and with it comes joy and a heart full of praise to God for His faithfulness. May we ask the Lord for eyes to see our suffering in that way.

Heavenly Father, I’m weary and hurting. I have asked so many times for this suffering to be removed and for You to rescue me from this storm. I feel depleted. I feel like I’m drowning. But I realize that You have not called me to live by my feelings or by what I see happening around me; You have called me to walk by faith. And as my faith in You rises up in me, I trust that You have me exactly where I am supposed to be- totally dependent upon Your grace. In my weakness, I know that You are my strength. I praise You in my pain, and I ask that You would use this trial, this suffering, this storm to change me to look more like Christ- all for Your glory. I know that I may endure weeping in the night, but Your joy always comes- a joy that is not dependent upon my circumstances but is everlasting and sustaining even in the darkest of nights. Thank You for Your nearness to me in my greatest time of need and pain. You are a faithful Father, and I am so thankful to receive Your mercy and be called Your child. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Raising Tiny Disciples

I have been studying parenting styles recently, and it has helped me better understand myself as how I grew up and how I want to raise my three boys. In my understanding, raising kids with an intentional lack of guidance (“do whatever makes you happy” kind of mentality) causes more harm to them in the end. Children need guidance from their parents, especially when they are young and don’t fully understand the world around them yet. “Free-range”-style parenting is actually quite harmful to the psyche of a child; they are children, not chickens.  

Parents, we should not be afraid to lovingly, yet firmly, set boundaries and tell our kids no and why, especially if you know it may become harmful or damaging to them now and even later in life, as small habits can form into behavior and behavior can form into lifestyle.

They may be frustrated at you for a time, but honestly, it is the most loving thing a parent can do. I truly believe your children will thank you for it when they get older. We are raising the next generation…what do we want our world to look like as our children grow up?

It is our job as parents to teach and guide our children and protect them the best we can. I know for me, as a mom, I most definitely cannot do this without God’s grace and wisdom. Learning from what He has to say about parenting has been so much better than all the world’s advice could offer me. The book of

Proverbs is full of wisdom and a familiar verse from chapter 22 gives us direction as parents:

Train up a child [d]in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6, NASB

There is only one right way and that is God’s way, which is the way of life. Early training secures lifelong habits and parents must be diligent to guide their children, teaching them God’s Word and enforcing it with loving discipline raising the child in the admonition of the Lord. The world is ready and willing to disciple your children, especially when are young and impressionable. It is best that they are discipled by you as the parent instead. It is loving to give your children boundaries and rules to follow, which will help shape their independence so they can make good decisions while they are still young. You are not alone in your parenting journey. There will be hard days and simple, strife-free days. May the Lord give you wisdom so you can steward the lives He has entrusted to your care! 

Heavenly Father, I know that You do not want children to raise themselves. You have given children parents to train them in good, godly habits that will help shape them as adults. Most importantly, help me teach them more about You and glorious gospel. My hope is that they will long to love You and live for You all the days of their lives, spreading Your truth and love to the world and raising up the next godly generation. I lean on Your grace and ask for Your wisdom every single day. Thank You for guiding me and caring for me as Your child. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Finding the Blessing in the Blissful Chaos of Motherhood

As a mom of three boys, my “quiet-time” is not really quiet: it’s full of tiny distractions and interruptions from these little ones. Nap times are quite short and to-do lists are quite long. My days seem to go by in the blink of an eye, and I’m often left exhausted, only getting the chance to pray “Help me, Lord” in between homeschooling, my writing deadlines, continuous snack requests, laundry loads and diaper “loads.” Knowing very well that this season in life won’t last forever, I have learned to cast my cares upon the Lord and soak up the few moments that I can in the Word of God because it is what I need to readjust my focus when I’m tempted to complain. 

The other day, a passage in Mark 9 met this momma right among the blissful chaos with encouragement:

And He [Jesus] sat down and called the Twelve [disciples], and He said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all.” 36 And He took a little child and put him in the center of their group; and taking him in [His] arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever in My name and for My sake accepts and receives and welcomes one such child also accepts and receives and welcomes Me; and whoever so receives Me receives not only Me but Him Who sent Me” (35-37, AMP).

By putting my sons and my role as a mom and wife above my desires and my life’s goals, I have been serving Jesus this whole time! And if serving Jesus, worshiping Jesus!

And if that wasn’t uplifting enough, Jesus calls out our service to children specifically in verses 36-37. When we welcome our children into our lives and make them feel loved and accepted every day, we are also welcoming them in the name of the Lord Jesus every day. Jesus compares being the servant of all, a high position in the Kingdom of God, to those who welcome children into their lives. What an honor!

So to all my tired and overwhelmed mommas out there, take heart! Every time you embrace your child and serve your family, you are embracing Jesus and even more so, your Heavenly Father who is not going to leave you to raise your children alone!

Father, we welcome you into our blissful chaos as we raise up our children to trust in You and receive Your love into their lives so that they may point others to You and Your Kingdom. We are thankful that you give us the privilege of embracing little ones every day. Give us eyes to see opportunities to share the Gospel with our children in everyday moments. We ask for your grace and strength when we are feeling overwhelmed and weary. Help us to serve You with all that we are and in everything we do…laundry loads and all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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A Prayer for Grieving Mothers

October is Pregnancy/Infant Loss Awareness month and although it has been almost eight years since my husband and I experienced the loss of the first child in my womb, my heart has been stirred to mourn with those who have walked through and are walking through the pain of losing a little one…no mattered the age. 

Last year I gave birth to our third child and I recall when I was being admitted to the hospital, the nurse was asking me a variety of routine questions, one of which was “How many pregnancies have you had?” 

When I answered off the cuff, “This is my fourth…my first one was a miscarriage,” she turned around from her computer, looked at me with the most compassionate eyes and said, “Oh, I am so sorry for your loss.” Her response moved me, and I realized that time in my life mattered then and it still matters today.

So much time has passed, and life continues on that I don’t think about it much, but I believe it is important to remember that was my first child. 

I don’t know why women don’t speak about loss or miscarriage much or why we may feel like we don’t have to mention it, but that kind response from my L&D nurse really made me reflect and remember and want to talk about it and share that time in my life. 

I believe it is important to remind your heart that the life that was inside of you greatly mattered to God, and for whatever reason that we do not have to know, He needed them in heaven with Him instead of on earth. We must trust His sovereign plan is for our good and for His glory, even when it hurts so deeply. It has been said that grief comes in waves and you need to give yourself permission to experience each wave as it comes as you walk through the process. Yet, we must remember that when it comes to grief, as believers, we stand apart from those without Christ. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 encourages those who may have experienced the temporal sting of death to fix our gaze upon the life that is to come. As believers, we have a hope in Jesus that a resurrection of our bodies awaits us for eternity. 

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (NIV).

I remind my heart of this great hope that one day, I will meet that precious babe that the Lord knit in my womb. So I pray for each woman who has experienced the kind of painful loss of a child for the Lord to not only bring them healing and peace if the wound is fresh on their heart, but to encourage them to not be afraid to tell others about all their babies…both earth-side and in heaven. 

Father, we pray for all the mothers who have felt the deep pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss of their precious babes that were formed in their wombs all for Your glory. No matter how long their tiny hearts were beating, Your plan for their precious lives had meaning and purpose. Letting go and trusting You during these times of mourning and great questions can be difficult, so we ask that you strengthen and renew their faith that You will carry them through this trial. As the waves of grief come crashing in on them, remind their heart of the hope that they have in Christ. Holy Spirit, help these grieving mothers to fix their gaze upon heaven where the promise of eternal life awaits them. Give them a voice to share their story of Your goodness and faithfulness during this difficult time. Thank You for bringing a peace that passes all understanding and healing broken hearts in Your timing. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Crying Out for God’s Strength

In my current season of life with raising little ones, I am running on empty. My flesh feels so limited most days. I often use the phrase “swimming through mud” when I am trying to accomplish my tasks for the day and met with resistance, distractions, and interruptions. I find my frequent prayer to be “Help me, Jesus.” 

In a culture (yes, even within the visible church) where positive affirmations and self-empowered declarations are the norm, admitting your weakness, limitedness, and failures is seen as negative and perhaps even harmful to your soul. You can purchase T-shirts and find graphics all over the internet that proclaim: “You are enough.” 

Yet, the Bible reveals that we are not enough in an of ourselves or in our own abilities; we are but dust (Psalm 103:14-16). The Lord is the one who gives us the breath and talents to accomplish anything. Admitting our “not enough-ness” provides an opportunity to look to God because He is in fact more than enough and His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12). Ultimately, the Lord is glorified in my weakness and in my feeling of emptiness and “not enough-ness.” 

The Psalmist Asaph boldly admits his frail humanity in Psalm 73:

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

26, NASB

When I am emptied of myself and my grit and pride when I think I can ‘slay all day’ and spin all the plates without them crashing to the floor, it is then that I can be filled with His strength and grace to walk out my calling as a wife, mother, writer, teacher, and homemaker.

When empowerment culture shouts “You cannot pour from an empty cup!” I remind my heart that I can pour from an empty cup, for the Lord is my portion! It’s when my “cup” is empty that I can be filled up with God’s strength.  And that’s the best place for me to be. When I cannot rely on myself at all, I can rely on Him and lean upon the Lord, my Rock. This also means we must take time to be filled up with Him by staying in His Word. If we are looking for “self-care” to be “filled up,” the best care for our soul is to set aside a part of our day to commune with the Lord. God uses “empty cups” to reveal that He is enough!

Father, 

I am feeling so exhausted, stressed, and empty…like I have nothing left to give. But I trust that is exactly where You want me to be so that I can rely on You alone. You give me the strength and grace to continue to pour because Your grace and mercy is fresh for me every day. Instead of trying to muster up the strength in myself, I lift my eyes to You and call out to You for help. When I am feeling weary, I run to You. Help me find moments throughout my day to spend time with You as You continue to teach me that You are enough for me. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Special Delivery: God’s Providential Hand in the Birth of My Third Son

For me, one of the hardest things during pregnancy is not so much the morning sickness (although that is pretty rough). It’s not the weight gain, back aches, swollen ankles, insomnia, constant potty breaks in the middle of the night, or not being able to bend over to pick anything up without making weird noises. Although all of those things can make life a struggle, especially when you are chasing around two other littles, the most difficult part for me is the last few weeks of pregnancy…

…waiting…

…and waiting…

…and not knowing when the day is going to be.

It takes a level of trusting God and leaning into His sovereignty like no other major life event. He is God. We are not. He is in control of all things. And we are not. 

And birth is one of the greatest reminders of that…if you are allowed to let your body naturally call the shots and don’t have any kind of medical interventions, of course, and that was my goal this pregnancy just like my previous one with my son, James.

My hospital experience with Isaiah, my first born, was a bit traumatic- my water unexpectedly broke at 37.6 weeks at 1am, contractions stalled and no amount of walking was helping jumpstart labor, so the doctor approached us with the concern that the longer we waited, we risked infection for the baby, so Paul and I prayed and decided to take the doctor’s advice and be put on Pitocin to help my body along. 

I will just say this: 12 HOURS ON PITOCIN AND NO EPIDURAL was NOT my idea of a natural childbirth, but God gave me the grace and strength to endure those 25 hours from the time my water broke to the time I was holding the baby boy who made me a momma. 

God has an amazing way of taking a painful experience and making something beautiful out of it, and because of the chain of events that happened the day Isaiah was born, the Lord brought restoration to an area of my life that was broken. You can read more about that here.

Although difficult, I was thankful for a healthy baby and a safe labor and delivery at a hospital, but from that moment on, I knew I wanted my next labor and delivery to be quite different, so I chose to deliver our next son, James, at a birth center under the amazing care of midwives instead of an OB. 

To be completely honest, Jesus brought so much redemption and healing with that experience, and I just remember being so filled with joy after I looked at my amazing teammate of a husband in the eyes who was literally my anchor during it all and scooped up my sweet prince into my arms. My water broke to initiate labor this time too, but there was no delay in stopping that boy from being born; In typical James’ fashion, he came into the world like a rocket in just under two hours after arriving at the birth center…as their 1,000th birth since they opened as a facility. You can read more about that birth story here.

When we found out we were pregnant with our third in January 2020 (after only trying once…God is good!), I didn’t hesitate to decide where our next baby would be born. I called the birth center and set up my first appointment where the boys were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and since the birth center had added some new ultrasound equipment since James was born, we were also able to catch a glimpse of the little peanut growing in my belly. Everything looked and sounded great! What a precious memory for me to experience with my two oldest before the whole world shut down just a few weeks later. 

Providence.

That is the word that comes to mind when I reflect on my entire experience with our third son, baby Jude, as you will see.

Just a few weeks after my initial prenatal appointment, I received a letter in the mail from our insurance company- the birth center was no longer contracted with United Health Care. 

My heart sank and tears began to well up in my eyes. I don’t want another hospital birth! I cried to Paul. Especially during a global pandemic! I searched and searched the internet to find another option.

What about the birth center at Mercy Hospital? I thought. Two of the midwives at the birth center worked there! This would be great! 

Sadly, it was out-of-network with our insurance.

What about a homebirth? Yes, that settles it. I am having a homebirth.

If you know my husband, Paul, you know how that was out of the question. He works with data in the medical community for a living and calculates risk for fun. You will never find us on vacation on a cruise. “It’s a death trap! Like being in a giant steel coffin in the middle of the ocean…no thank you!”

But on a serious note, looking back, I see how God had a specific plan for this pregnancy and how He ordained every step of the way even at 14 weeks along. I was able to find a family physician that I had been wanting to see as my own primary care doctor when I was postpartum with James, but she was only accepting patients who were currently pregnant, as she also delivered babies. This doctor was a major contributor of advocating for more natural childbirth at Mercy Hospital and helped their birth center get off the ground before she opened her own practice. She also trained as a midwife’s assistant before beginning medical school. AND her practice was in-network with our insurance! And not only would I get to see her during my pregnancy and postpartum, I would finally have a primary care physician for the first time since I was in college! 

Providence.

My pregnancy was a rather smooth one once we made it out of the dreaded first trimester nausea and fatigue, and I truly enjoyed getting to form a relationship with my new doctor, but every so often, I would get frustrated that I had to go the hospital route, especially as COVID restrictions kept changing. 

As we approached my “guess date” of September 19th, I began to have a similar prodromal labor experience as I did with James. Contractions began to form patterns and they would intensify. I never knew if “this was it” or if the contractions would simply keep me awake through the night only to fizzle out. This in and of itself is pretty exhausting and stressful, especially when others’ schedules are impacted by your personal judgment and being terrified that you would run out of time and give birth in the car on the way to the hospital. 

The week leading up to Jude’s birth was extremely stressful and emotional for Paul and I as our childcare plans continued to fall through and change last minute in addition to having one false alarm that resulted in a hospital trip mid-day to get “checked.” My doctor wanted me to do laps in the hallways to see if things would progress, and because of COVID policies, I had to wear a mask at all times and walk alone without Paul only to find out that I hadn’t progressed at all. Let’s just say I was so over it, that it was hard to hold back the tears by that point. 

Contractions continued to come (and go) at various times in the day and night and finally, the day after my “guess date,” my water broke just like my other two pregnancies….hat trick! 😉 It happened around 7:30pm as I was climbing into the van to go grab Paul some White Castles. We will remember that story for a long time! 

Since it was a Sunday night, Paul’s parents were able to come to the house to stay with the boys with no issues at all and on top of that, my mother-in-law Becky was off work the next day. Something I was so worked up and anxious about, ended up working out with ease.

Providence.

I had been listening to sermons that entire week about not being anxious or worried because my Heavenly Father knows what I need and will provide. I simply just needed to trust Him. I’m so glad I prepared my heart with those teachings because I had no idea how much I would need to trust the Lord as I prepared to give birth to our sweet, baby Jude.

As we were admitted into the hospital, we were blessed with an incredibly kind and gentle L&D nurse who helped us remain peaceful; We were almost certain she was a believer. Suddenly as I got up to go to the restroom while contractions were still pretty mild, the nurse notice a unique coloration that indicated that the baby passed meconium in the womb. She calmly informed us that NICU staff had been notified in advance so that they were ready at the time of his birth just in case they were needed for an emergency situation. 

Contractions continued to get stronger and I settled into position (which I discovered with James’ birth) where I get “in the zone.” Paul was an amazing support by my side, holding my hand and encouraging me through each wave of contraction. My awesome doctor arrived just as I began to make vocalizations to handle the pain and she was also encouraging me through the contractions and giving me sips of water. That is usually unheard of when it comes to OBs who mostly just show up at the very last minute to catch the baby.

Providence.

My doctor was only in the room for less than hour by the time I felt the urge to push. I switched to an upright position on my knees with my arms around Paul to bear down as I began to push, which seemed so much more difficult than I remember with James. I heard the doctor tell me that the head was out, but then I kept wondering why it wasn’t over yet. 

What I didn’t know was that Jude’s shoulders were stuck in the birth canal. 

Suddenly, a swarm of nurses were around me as they turned me onto my back, and everyone did all they could to help Jude out. It was a slow night, so there was plenty of staff to come to the rescue.

Providence.

Finally, there he was, but instead of instant skin to skin like I was promised, they rushed him to the table across the room where Paul met them. The NICU staff worked extremely fast and precise to intubate him to clear his airways because he did in fact swallow meconium and wasn’t breathing. As I was waiting to hear his precious little cry, I just kept praying “Please, Father” over and over again as the nurses by my side were telling me to calm my breathing. Finally, Jude cried, and I threw my hands up in worship and kept saying “Thank you, Jesus.” 

One of the reasons, his birth was so difficult was because he was very unexpectedly two pounds heavier than Isaiah and James. Jude Samuel born at 1:39 am on 9/21/2020, and weighed in at 9.6 lbs- my doctor was absolutely shocked that baby fit inside my little belly. Most often, babies that big result in a C-section, but by the grace of God, Jude entered the world naturally and because of God’s grace and mercy and the amazing staff at Missouri Baptist Hospital, he is alive and healthy.  

Once the doctors and nurses were able to stabilize his oxygen levels enough before they took him to the NICU for him to receive the care and observation he needed, the nurses swaddled him up in a blanket and put a hat on him for a quick family photo op. I was still trying to grasp what had just happened that I could barely smile. As I look at the photo now, I see that Paul’s eyes were welled up with tears and Jude’s gaze was locked on his momma.

A couple days after we came home from the hospital, Paul needed to process what he experienced in the whirlwind of events of Jude’s birth, and he shared with me that Jude was in fact limp and lifeless for what seemed like an eternity. I know it was a scary several minutes for me not knowing what was happening, but the reality of this news that Paul shared with me hit me like a ton of bricks. So instead of thinking about how awkward I look in this first photo with our third precious son, I will forever remember how I had no idea what God had just done, but I praised His name, knowing that He was faithful to hear my cries and saved my son. 

I cannot truly put into words the gratitude that my heart has felt these last two weeks as I continue to process those extremely intense moments leading up to Jude’s birth and the moments of seeing my little man with all the tubes and wires on his tiny body when I nursed him for the first time in the NICU (of which his stay was brief at only five hours total). Truly, the Lord was so incredibly merciful to us that day. What the enemy meant for evil, God turned it for good, and our sweet Jude’s life was spared all for God’s glory.

I can’t help but see God’s providential hand from the beginning of my pregnancy with the birth center dropping our insurance so that I had to give birth at a hospital instead, to the very end with my water breaking to initiate labor to see that there was meconium in the fluid so that the NICU was ready and on-hand just in case.

Nothing with God is coincidence or happenstance; He is sovereign and in control of every detail in our life, guiding our every step. His work in our lives is providential through and through, and He causes all things to work out for our good and for His glory.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28, NASB

After this life-changing experience, this verse is having a profound impact upon my heart as I continue to reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God.

We serve a mighty God who is completely sovereign over all things in our lives. Because of that, He can be trusted.

Thank you, Lord, for our newest arrow, Jude Samuel, who will one day be sent out into the world to tell others of Your great love and share the Gospel wherever You send him. May we raise Him to testify of Your goodness and give You the glory You deserve, all the days of his life. 

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Dying to Live

I sent this pic to Paul on Tuesday after a four hour non-stop cluster feeding session with our newest son, Jude, (#boymom ?) who officially entered our Father’s world on September 21st, 2020. Because of some issues at birth (which I will share at a later date when I am able to sit down and write the birth story), we had to unexpectedly stay an extra night in the hospital. So Paul headed home to be with our older two boys and relieve my mom who needed to be at work the next day. I am so thankful to have had the care received at a hospital this time around (my last delivery with my middle son was at a birth center and it was supposed to be for this pregnancy/delivery too, but they dropped my insurance when I was around 12 weeks pregnant…but nothing is coincidence with God) for a number of reasons I will share later, but I am happy we are finally now home. My heart is full. 

Yet, at the same time, these last several days have been filled with much struggle and difficulty, and I find myself having a lot of flashbacks of my experience as a first-time mom almost exactly six years ago

This is the second time we have brought a new life into the world at the turn of Fall…Paul and I’s favorite season. It’s when we began dating so it holds a very special place in our heart. But with the turn of this particular season, I also have memories of some dark and heavy times in my life as well.

It is rather mind-blowing to me that not only were Isaiah (our oldest) and Jude born around the same time of year (just about 2.5 weeks a part), they have strikingly similar facial features, and what is even more obvious to me is their similar temperament. 

To be completely honest, Isaiah was not an easy baby. Frankly, he was not a very happy baby. I felt like I was failing as a mom because he was constantly upset and uncomfortable. I had trouble soothing him with things that normally worked and when he got upset…he got REALLY upset. Once he cried so hard in the car that he popped blood vessels in his eyes. He also barely slept either during the day or at night…unless I was holding him. (His struggle with sleep actually lasted until he was about 2.5 years old and on and off for another year after that).

It didn’t take long for me to realize that because of a traumatic birth experience, severe sleep deprivation, and my history of struggle with anxiety and depression, I was not handling any of it very well.

But because of my severe lack of understanding of the sovereignty of God and horrendous Word of Faith beliefs, I never told a soul, not even admit it to myself that I was struggling. You just don’t do that because once you say it, it becomes reality (**Cough** Law of Attraction **Cough**Cough*). There’s power in your words…power to speak life and death, I was taught. This, of course, is taking Proverbs 18:21 out of context (and not even quoting the whole verse) to mean we can create every outcome in life with our words.

Friends, that is not what that verse means, but that’s another topic for another time. 

And how could I forget to stand upon my “life verse” in times of struggle… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Taking Philippians 4:13 out of context to mean that I am unstoppable…a super human if you will… because “I am a Christian! I am a child of God…I am more than a conqueror in Christ! I am to walk victoriously in all areas of my life! I am blessed and highly favored! When Jesus died of the cross, He took away ALL sin, sickness, and disease! I am healed and whole. Nothing missing, nothing broken. Anxiety and depression are just attacks from Satan and he has no authority in my life…I bind this anxiety and depression in the name of Jesus! I am not weak!” 

But the thing is… I am weak!

I know to admit that now probably more than ever because of these last (almost) six years of motherhood.

This particular passage of scripture in 2 Corinthians has carried me through so many dark nights of the soul, and I find myself clinging to its truth in my current season:

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NASB

Not only have I learned to admit my weaknesses so that I can boast in the strength and grace of Christ, I have learned a whole new level of dying to self as I lean into the high (demanding) calling of motherhood. 

This morning as baby Jude stirred for a feeding and my body feeling the ache of the aftermath of my third natural childbirth and only 2.5 hours of sleep as I write this, I read these comforting and timely words in an email from Well-Watered Women:

“When the mornings begin to cool and the leaves start to change, so does my heart. The heat of summer is passing, and any sign of a chill in the air causes my heart to soar and my tummy to crave a nice cup of coffee. The changing of the season brings new life to my soul and my home—but at the same time, it ushers in death.

Once-green leaves begin to turn colorful hues before falling to the ground and losing all signs of life. The leaves that previously shaded us from the sun become a crumpled heap we step on. This necessary death brings about new life in the world as well as in our souls.

Death brings new life for believers as well. Death to self brings life in the Spirit (Romans 8:9–11). Death to sin brings life in Christ (Romans 6:6–8). Jesus offers us the invitation to die to ourselves in order to embrace true life in him (Luke 9:23). This year, let the changing of the seasons be a physical reminder of the importance and beauty of death in the Christian life. Death is not the end for the follower of Jesus; it’s the segway to new life in him.

May we die to live. May we lose to gain him—and him alone—as we remember that in the changing of the seasons, he never changes. His truths never fail and they never grow stale. They never falter or become less vital. Rather, his Word sustains us when every leaf falls and the cold of winter comes. His grace gives us hope and enjoyment in every season.”  

Gretchen Saffles

What a powerful reminder of who our God is…never changing even when the seasons change!

So I will end with this…

As we enter this Fall season, and I enter a new season of motherhood that brings me to my knees in the middle of the night and causes me to die to myself a little more each day, I fix my eyes on Jesus and boast of my weakness and my great need for the Lord. 

Jesus’ grace is sufficient today and in every season. 

“This year, let the changing of the seasons be a physical reminder of the importance and beauty of death in the Christian life. Death is not the end for the follower of Jesus; it’s the segway to new life in Him. May we die to live.”

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Imitators of Christ

Change the baby’s diaper, take the dog outside, feed everyone breakfast (including said dog), start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, fill the dishwasher with more dishes, fold and put away the laundry, clean counters, vacuum, sweep, mop, snack-time, school-time, nap-time, lunch-time, snack-time, dinner-time, snack-time, bed-time. Do it again tomorrow. 

As a mom and wife, I am given countless opportunities to set aside my wants and give my love, time, and attention to the needs of my husband and children. Pouring yourself out like that on a daily basis can sometimes be physically exhausting; I find myself praying for supernatural strength often! Yet, at the end of the day, even though I am tempted to wonder where my “me time is,” my heart is always full. 

This is when I begin to see more clearly what the Apostle Paul meant when he said:

“I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

1 Corithians 15:31, NASB

The Biblical principle of dying to yourself has always been true, but I didn’t always live it or even understand it. Becoming a stay-at-home mom has challenged me in more ways than I can count in the area of putting others before myself, and I am always learning and finding that it is truly is more blessed to give than to receive. 

As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to follow Him. That was Paul’s mission in life – to imitate Christ. And it is what he and the rest of the apostles literally gave their lives to preach to the world through their words and actions. We may not ever get the honor to literally die for Jesus Christ because of our faith in Him, but by God’s grace, we can imitate His selflessness every day.

To be able to imitate Christ, we must look to Jesus as our example. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He still leaned upon God the Father for everything He said and did while He walked this earth. Jesus would rise early to pray and seek God for His will for the day.

In addition to seeking God in prayer, Jesus obediently submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even unto death. Each day, we are faced with the temptation to satisfy our flesh and go outside the boundaries of God’s perfect will. We discover what that will is when we read the Bible and study it for ourselves to learn God’s ways. We are not perfect, but thankfully Jesus was, and because of His sacrifice on the cross, we have been given the precious gift of the Holy Spirit as born-again believers.

Ultimately, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others (Mark 10:45). Jesus ministered to thousands upon thousands of people during His time here on earth. John 22 tells us that if all the things Jesus did were all written down, the entire world could not contain the books that would be written!

Dying daily definitely isn’t easy, but it is worth it because Jesus promises us that whoever loses his life will find it and find it abundance (Matthew 10:39/ John 10:10)!

But remember, we cannot die daily in our own strength, friends. The Holy Spirit is who empowers us to choose God’s way through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). With each passing day, by God’s grace, we mature and cultivate a life worth dying for, a life found in Christ alone!

Who is God asking you to serve?

What selfish desires do you need to lay aside to put someone else’s life before your own?

Are you too busy or too distracted to serve others?

Take some time and write down those who may come to mind who you can minister to, even if it is just a simple phone call to encourage someone. May God empower us to die daily and choose others above ourselves.

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How My Son Helped Me Become a Better Daughter

October 11, 2014 at 2:19 am. A moment in time I will never forget.

Not only because I became a mother for the first time, but because my eyes were opened to the reality that I needed to be a daughter to my own mother.

To be completely honest, leading up to the birth of my son, my relationship with my mom wasn’t where it once was many years prior. To put it simply, I reached a point because of so much hurt, disappointment, and rejection from so many people in my life that I told myself that I couldn’t rely on anyone any longer, especially her. She became just another person in my life, and one who I dreaded seeing her name on my phone’s screen when she called.

Of course I loved her, but I kept her at arm’s length because I didn’t want to risk being hurt once again. I was a big girl now; I didn’t need my mom. But in that delivery room, although I had no idea, I needed my mom. She heard me from the waiting room and couldn’t bare it any longer, so she invited herself into the delivery room. Although my husband and I had decided to keep the experience private, I was so glad she busted through those doors!

Because my contractions stalled, I was then experiencing Pitocin-induced contractions and needed as much support as I could during the “breaks” I would get in between each wave of pain. I remember looking up at her and crying out to her- even calling her “mommy” at one point, which I NEVER called her that before in my life. I truly believe it came from the deep recesses of my heart. Having my mom there in that room, massaging my back, encouraging me, and holding my hand was one of the most special moments I have ever experienced with her in my entire life. I am so thankful for it and will treasure it forever.

As the hours went by, another person I struggled to fully embrace entered the room- my mother-in-law. Our relationship had become very surface-level over the last few years because of the same reasons as my mom and I’s relationship- I feared rejection and disappointment and put up walls around my heart, loving at a distance. She never stopped loving me and never stopped praying for me, even in that delivery room. I am so thankful for her prayers throughout the whole laboring process and so thankful for our now-restored and renewed relationship.

I find it so absolutely beautiful that God would take such a physically painful experience and make something so wonderful and life-changing in so many ways for me. I saw years that the enemy had stolen from me be restored to me in an instant and God is continuing to heal and strengthen even more still as the years have gone by.

I thought that the birth of my firstborn would be the only miracle I would witness that mid-October day in 2014, but God had so much more in store for me. I thought that day would be about me becoming a mother, but God had greater plans, as I got my mother and mother-in-law back that day. His love for me completely overwhelms my heart!

God’s grace and love have carried me through these last five and a half years of being a mother, now to two little boys (and another sweet prince on the way!) and I am in awe of the miraculous restoration that has occurred in my relationship with my mom and mother-in-law over the years.

Now every time I look at my children, and I think about how much I love them and how I would do anything to give them all that they need, I am reminded of how much God loves me and cares about all aspects of my life, including my relationships. I am able to pour out that same love without hindrance to all that He places in my life. Because God gave me the gift of becoming a mother, I am able to love so much greater as a daughter. For that, I am forever grateful!

(Thank you, Mom…I love you a bushel and peck and a hug around the neck! Happy Mother’s Day!)


The original version of How My Son Help Me Become a Better Daughter was first featured on iBelieve.com.

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What God Has Taught Me Through the Seasons Where I Felt Stuck

“Hi, my name is Emily, and I am recovering from an addiction to do-ing.”

It took me many years to finally admit that. If there was a goal or task to accomplish, I would throw all of myself into successfully completing it. I still have great work ethic, but the problem was the fact that I was too concerned with what people thought of me based upon my accomplishments. I loved the high from “the hustle” and having my schedule full to the brim. I spent years upon year upon years crowding the margins of my existence with:

Dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, running track, Student Council, Marching Band, Pep Band, Concert Band, Art Club, Peers Group, musicals & plays (“I can’t. I have rehearsal.”), auditions, performances, church choir practice, tutoring, youth ministry, college and career ministry, worship team rehearsals, Bible studies, prayer meetings, church leadership meetings, drama practices, event planning committees, speaking engagements…

…just to name a few.

Entering a New Season

Being successful and driven became the meaning behind every breath I took; I found purpose in my performance and productivity. This was all I knew for well over 20 years of my life.

Then came the day, four years ago, when my husband and I decided it was best that I leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom. Even though there was always a daily task-list before me:

Laundry, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, vacuuming, mopping, dishes, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, lunch, emails, phone-calls, feeding, burping, diaper-changing, dinner, feeding, burping, diaper-changing…

…I didn’t feel accomplished at all.

Feeling Stuck

I felt robotic.

I felt completely overwhelmed and frazzled, drained and exhausted.

My excellent productivity skills had always proven to be such an asset to my daily routine, but not anymore. I couldn’t focus on the here and now, let alone enjoy it, because I was always looking to the next thing that had to be finished.

What did I even do today? I would ask myself constantly because I never felt like my to-do list was completed. There was always more to do the next day too.

Using this Season of Life

Although I would have told you straight to your face that my identity and purpose was not in what I do, I don’t know if I whole-heartedly believed that. In this new season of my life as a stay-at-home mom, I felt absolutely stuck and quite frankly, like a failure. Surely, God wouldn’t call me to leave my job just to abandon me here, drowning in dirty laundry and a sink full of dirty dishes, feeling like it was piling up all around me. Surely, there had to be more purpose to my life than all of this!

This lack of productivity and accomplishment felt totally foreign to me, but little did I know, God was going to use this new season to teach me some of the greatest lessons of trusting Him even when everything in my life seems to be at a stand-still.

Learning How to Just Be

Within the first few months into this new role as a mom, I finally realized that if I didn’t slow down and carve out alone time with God, I would sink even deeper in this place where I felt utterly stuck. I needed to learn how to just be.

I need to learn how to be present. God didn’t need me to DO anything for Him because Jesus had done so much for me already so that I could simply spend time with the Father- now and forever in eternity.

Why would I rush through this life frantically trying to cross things off my task list for the sake of productivity if I allow it all to steal my peace and joy?

Becoming Intentional

Slowly, I learned how to stop going through the motions just for the sake of accomplishment and became intentional about staying mentally present. I made sure that quiet time spent with the Lord was a top priority. He was the only One who could restore my soul from the stresses of the daily demands of being at stay-at-home mom and wife. I chose to breathe it all in and enjoy every moment with my son and my husband, no matter how big or small it seemed, knowing that it would pass so quickly. It was then that I began to experience genuine peace and joy.

An Issue of Mis-Identification

I thought I was getting the hang of this whole “being” business, until God took it to the next level when He convicted my husband and I’s hearts that we needed to search for a sound, Biblical church (you can read about that initial experience of coming out of deception here), thus, removing whatever titles or ministry roles I still attempted to find my identity in and busy myself with. No more worship team, no more prayer meetings, no more church leadership conference calls, no more preparing messages for the youth group, no more drama team rehearsals.

Once again, I felt stuck. I felt so out of sorts. I felt so void of purpose because I no longer had all of these extra responsibilities to fill my plate. Clearly, I still had this huge issue of mis-identification, asking God why, when, how, wondering what this sense of void really was all about and if it would ever go away. Why couldn’t I find contentment in the waiting, in the process, in the stand-still? Why was it so hard to “just be” and trust God was at work in and through my life even when it looked like nothing was happening?

Yielding to the Hands of the Potter

In this season, God stripped me of all of those wrong labels that I was trying to identify myself with by completely removing me from activities and ministry positions. He even removed certain desires and passions, like my writing, which was starting to pick up speed since my book had just released several months prior to this big life change.

It took me two years to finally yield to the hands of the Potter and give him every label and title I have ever held onto and see Him smash them to smithereens with is mallet, y’all. That’s a long time to wrestle with God, but thankfully, as He always does, He won that match! I finally surrendered it all over to God.

Learning Whose I Am

Sure, there were times that I felt like I had lost myself.

But through the process of losing myself, just like Jesus tells us, I found the life God created for me to live.

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39, NKJV

In the season of “barrenness” and stillness, I discovered my true purpose and identity, a daughter of the Most High God.

It’s so incredibly simple, but it is at the core of the gospel—The Father gave His only Son for the whole world so that those who would believe on Him would never spiritually die but have everlasting life, experiencing restored fellowship with their Heavenly Father (John 3:16).

Those who embrace Jesus and put their trust in Him are given the right to be called children of God! There is absolutely NOTHING we can do to earn that position. We can’t work for it. It isn’t based upon our accomplishments or performance; it’s based on Jesus’ performance on the Cross! All that is required of us is faith in Jesus Christ…and we don’t even have to work for that either! God freely gives us that faith as a gift! When we embrace Jesus, the Father embraces us!

Children of God

In Christ, we are God’s children and our purpose is to stand in that identity and tell others the good news that they can have that right, too, through Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

It’s from that place as children of God, in Christ, that we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28a).

Did you catch that: have our BEING, not that we now can have our doing!

Finding Peace and Rest

Although it is so easy to get caught up in fully understanding our individual purpose, I don’t believe what we do while here on this earth is God’s main concern. I believe His main concern for us is that we know whose we are!

You may feel “stuck” right now and feel like you aren’t doing much of anything of value for God, but I am here to tell you that being a child of God is the greatest position you will ever stand in! Today, find peace and rest in believing you have purpose just by being that!

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