The Call to Abide & Flourish

I have a confession. I used to be really good about alone time with God. I mean I was really annoying about it. I woke up earlier than I needed to, sipped my coffee, read my bible, and soaked in the Holy Words while my people slept peacefully in the comfort of their beds.

Recently, I can’t keep up. I can’t even get up. I can’t focus. I can’t feel it. I just can’t.

I also really loved to write. I mean old school style hand write. I loved journaling my thoughts and looking back on God’s hand all over my story. And then I just stopped. Ok, well maybe having two beautiful children has something to do with it…

And maybe I can’t get up, literally, because I just can’t. Because my days are spent cooking, cleaning and changing diapers and my nights are interrupted at 2am to feed my sweet son and nourish his growing little body… I’m just tired y’all.

But here I am up before 7am this morning to soak in the quiet time just me and cal-baby. And I am overwhelmed with devotionals in my inbox trying to figure out JUST. THE. RIGHT. WORDS. I’m searching for the words that encourage, uplift, inspire, wake up, and speak to my weary soul.

This morning my finger scrolls down to an email from the encourager of all encourager, Ann Voskamp. The subject line: “abiding even when you can’t get alone.” Words from Ruth Schwenk. My second cup of coffee in hand and the sun beginning to rise over the horizon. I’m all ears. I dig deep.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  John 15:4

Hooked.

“Being a mom is a calling to selflessness.”

“For all the joy that motherhood brings, the give-and-take can leave many moms feeling wear, overstretched, and empty”

“How do we stay strong and able to give?… The answer isn’t always getting away; the answer is abiding more deeply. Right where we are.”

“We can’t imitate Christ without being joined to Christ. To ‘abide’ literally means to ‘stick to'”

“As busy mamas, abiding can seem impossible at times. we give, and give, and give, and we must be sure to fill up, so we have something to pour into those around us.”

“The task of being a mom is too big and overwhelming to try and do in our own strength… If we don’t fill up, we will quickly dry up.”

And isn’t that the truth. If we don’t fill up we will dry up.

We become… short with our kids, our spouses, ourselves. We are overwhelmed. We are discouraged.

It is in the grace of abiding that we are set free from these battles. It is in the abiding that we receive the strength to make it through. To push through another Tuesday filled with peanut butter and glue sticks.

The call is to get up, to wake up, to abide. You will not be able to bear fruit yourself and for those around you without receiving the daily life-giving sustenance from the branch. 

Recently, I started gardening. My sweet hubby and I, with the help of my mum, built some bed, laid some dirt, and stuck some roots in the ground. And, I’m obsessed. OBSESSED people. Every morning I check for new change, new growth, new life. I analyze the leaves: are they bigger? smaller? yellow? green? droopy? I check on my garden multiple times throughout the day and water it each night. I worry about it at 3am when hail drops from the sky. I’m constantly checking in.

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But am I constantly checking in with my heavenly Father? Do I notice my soul like I notice my garden? The leaves in my garden are attached to the vine, they are reliant on the garden to flourish. I encourage you to breathe deep in the sunlight today. Allow yourself to be filled up. Remain on the vine. Abide in his word. Soon you will flourish.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

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9 Ways to Deal with Back-to-Work After Baby

I debated whether or not to put my make up on for the start of my first day back to work. You hear all of these horror stories of moms crying great big, alligator tears as they send their first little baby off to daycare. I thought for sure I would be one of them. Let’s be honest, I cry at everything. Just ask my husband. I’m an emotional basket case a lot of the time. But for some reason I didn’t cry when I dropped Judah off at daycare that first day, or the first week, or even the second week.  I’m not exactly sure I was that well prepared for it but I have been reflecting on a few things that I noticed these last weeks that helped me to get through so I thought I would share. Here’s how I dealt –

1. Come up with a mantra –

The day before I went back to work I couldn’t get Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” out of my head. So I adopted it as my mantra for the next day. I kept singing to myself –  “I wanna see you be brave!”.  Get a mantra and hear those words on repeat the day before and during. And if it’s a fun song like that, belt it out at the top of your lungs and be silly with it. You’ll feel better and be more prepared to face the day.

2. Like your day care –

Did you spend hours and hours searching for the right daycare? Did you interview, make lists, tour, have a practice session? If you did, then trust yourself. Trust them.  You have done all that you could to prepare and you picked them for a reason. And if you don’t like them you can switch. You aren’t married to them. However, if your instinct tells you something’s up – move along. Trust them but trust yourself more.

3. Call in to check on them, or don’t –

I did not check in myself. But my teachers made it really clear that I was welcome to if I wanted. That made all the difference. Just knowing I could call kept me at ease.

4. Keep yourself really, really busy while you are at work.

Don’t putz around looking at Facebook and scrolling through all those SAHM posts of them cuddling with their kids. Ask your boss for more work if needed. Although most likely you will be inundated with projects to keep you busy if you’ve been out a while. Keep focused on the prize: walking out the door and holding your little one.

5. If all else fails – let the tears fly –

Have your moment. Find someone you trust and let them hug you. Wipe your tears. Try again tomorrow. It will get better. It will get easier. Keep on Keepin’ on

6. Take advantage of every second  at home –

When you get home spend that time with your little one. Dinner might be a little later than usual or you might have spaghetti for the umpteenth time but you’ll love that extra cuddle or play time. And it will be enough to get you through. The week before I went back I made a bunch of freeze ahead meals so that I could quickly pop it in the oven when I got home and get back to playing with Judah. It made all the difference.

7. Carve out time for you –

This is crucial. If you’re not taking care of you, you can’t take care of your little one either. If possible leave him/her with daddy for 10 minutes and take a nice, hot shower or bath. Give yourself some workout time (bust those post-pregnancy pounds right? it’s almost bathing suit season!). You’ll feel better afterwards and have more of you to give to your little one. Don’t force yourself to spend every waking second with your little one just because you aren’t spending time with them during the day. They want the happy, healthy you and the that you can only happen if you take care of you. Make sense? Ok, good.

8. Turn the monitor down –

Let’s get real here, you need sleep. You’re a full time working, full time mommy now and those precious zzz’s make a difference. Let yourself sleep. And notice I didn’t say turn your monitor off  just down a bit so you aren’t waking up to ever little twitch he makes. Sleep, momma, sleep.

9. Don’t lose touch –

Talk to other mommies in similar situations. Tell them your woe’s and let them encourage you and lift you up. You’re not alone in this. We are all in this together.

Any other great suggestions for going back to work? I know I would love to hear them too! Comment below.

Prayers & Promises Part 2: Jacob’s Persistent Prayer

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I don’t think I ever realized the strong resolve of Jacob. Reading through the highlights of Jacob’s story I am struck by his persistence. From the very beginning, Jacob was born grasping his twin brother’s heel. When he was older and his father, Isaac, was old he deceitfully stole his older brother, Esau’s, birthright – his father’s blessing. After leaving his family and home, he went to his Uncle Laban’s and fell in love with his daughter Rachel. He worked 7 years to earn his beloved but was deceived into marrying her sister, Leah. So Jacob worked an additional 7 years and finally was given Rachel. Talk about determination! It appears that one of Jacob’s great strengths was a stubborn resolve.

At one point in Jacob’s story Esau is pursing him with 400 men. Who would blame him? He stole his birthright and his father’s blessing. Jacob is desperate. So he divides his very large camp into two groups and sends each camp, one after another, to meet Esau and offer gifts so that hopefully Esau would show Jacob mercy.

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:24-26)

Did you catch that? “I will not let you go unless you bless me”

“I WILL NOT let you go UNLESS you BLESS me!”

How often, when we are backed into a corner, proclaim desperate prayers to God. We cry out for an answer, a blessing, anything. Sometimes we quit early. An ounce of discouragement and we’re done. One door closes and we walk away. We give up.

“We stop praying because we can’t see any tangible difference with our natural eyes. We allow our circumstances to get between God and us instead of putting God between us and our circumstances”

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker).

What we can learn from strong-willed Jacob is the fine art of persistent prayers. Jacob didn’t give up because he believed in God’s blessing for his life. Flip backwards a few chapters in Genesis, and quite a long time in Jacob’s life, and we are reminded of God’s promise to Jacob: “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south… I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:14-15)

Later in the chapter we understand that the man that Jacob was wrestling with that day was God. Can you imagine? Jacob fights with the God who has the power to give him all that he asks or destroy everything he loves. I imagine that Jacob remembered God’s promise while he was wrestling with him that night. Jacob wouldn’t let go because he believed in God’s promise.


What promise has God given you today? What are you praying for? What are you praying hard to believe? Let me encourage you – do not give up! God’s promise to Jacob is God’s promise to you today. God wants to bless you. He will not leave you. Keep praying. Hang on to that promise, hang on to that prayer. Do not let go until God blesses you.

Prayers & Promises Part 1: Faith Like Abraham

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11: 1

Many people in the Bible demonstrate faith like this verse. Just take a minute and read Hebrews 11. Every person mentioned here is an example of confident faith but let’s focus on Abram (later Abraham).

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

 “I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
 I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him”

– Genesis 12:1-4

Talk about confidence and assurance. God told Abraham to pick up and go so he went. Abraham didn’t argue with God about where to go or complain about how he will miss his comfort and security. He isn’t concerned with getting lost or lack of resources. Abraham was confident in his assurance of God’s blessing. He didn’t know where to go but instead of arguing or making up excuses of all the reasons to stay he took the risk, trusted his God, and left for Canaan.

What holds us back the most from going when God calls? We are afraid of failing. We are afraid of what other people will say. We are afraid that we will lose our comfort and security. We lack the resources to just pick up and go. We lack direction. But – truthfully – we don’t really need any of that. In Abraham’s case – we don’t know if he was afraid of failing. We don’t know if he was afraid of leaving. We don’t know if he was scared at all. What we do know is that he packed up his family and his livestock and went when God called.

How often do we negotiate with God – “If you’ll tell me where to go and how I’ll be blessed, I’m there Lord. I’ll pack up and go just like Abraham. I’ll endure the pain, press through the struggle, and forget what everyone will say about me. Just give me some direction, Lord. Show me what you want me to do.”

We look at Abraham, we see God’s promise to Abraham, and we don’t second guess his choices. Of course Abraham went! Look at how God blessed him! God promised him numerous descendants – as numerous as the stars in the sky! If only we had the confidence and assurance like Abraham to pick up and go. He didn’t know where he was going yet he followed God’s call to go.

By FAITH Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8

God offers the same promise to you. His desire is to bless you: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.” (Isaiah 30:18) What if you knew with absolute assurance that God would bless you? Where would you go? What would you do? What is stopping you?

Is it fear? Deuteronomy 31:6; 8 – “(6) Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (8) The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.”

Is it comfort and security? John 16:33 – “In this word you will have trouble, But take heart! I have overcome the world”

Do you lack resources? Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Is it direction? Psalm 143:8 – “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

Let Abraham’s life be a testament. Have the faith to go – with confidence and assurance – even when you cannot see.

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Blind Faith

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About two months ago I was on my knees praying a very bold prayer. My doctor wanted me to be induced at 41 weeks but I wanted to wait. I didn’t want to go against medical advise but at the same time I didn’t want to push my body into something it wasn’t ready to do. More than anything I wanted to be able to go into labor on my own. I cried, I prayed, I begged – but nothing happened. For nine, long, agonizing days after my due date I waited and waited. Even as we drove to the hospital to be induced my thoughts raced with second-guesses. Is this the right thing to do? Wouldn’t it be better if we waited until Judah was ready to be born? So many times on our way to the hospital I wanted to turn the car around and drive home to wait it out. In a lot of ways walking into that hospital felt like a walk of shame. I had failed. My body had failed. Where was God in all of this? Didn’t he hear my BOLD prayer? Didn’t he care? My mind raced with questions unanswered:

…Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:16

Over and over I pleaded with God for an answer, a sign of what I should do. But the sign never arrived and my prayer was not answered. I was admitted to the hospital on January 9th and after 36 hours of induced labor, Judah was born a healthy 8 pounds 4 ounces.

There are times when I wonder what would have happened if I would have waited. When would he have come on his own? Would he still have been so healthy? Did we make the right decision? We will never know. What I do know is that God was calling us to have “blind faith” in his provision. No answer, no sign, just faith.

In the midst of those crazy, hard life decisions I don’t know why he doesn’t give us absolute peace to know what to do. And I don’t know why he chooses to answer some bold prayers and others. Why some who ask for healing are healed while others lose their battle with the disease. Or, why some are blessed with numerous children and others are left barren. Some marriages are torn apart and others manage to mend their scars to remain whole. All over the world bold prayers are being spoken and some of them see miracles, others don’t. We will never know why God chooses to act and speak the way he does – all we know with absolute certainty is that he cares deeply for us and all he wants in return is for us to trust Him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

He commands us to TRUST Him. Just trust – even when it is hard and even when you don’t understand. In everything you do submit to Him and he will guide you, he will pave the path for you. Promise.

Sometimes God lets us walk in the dark and asks us to trust him with blind faith. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t faithful or caring or watching over our every step. He knows how it all works out and he is orchestrating behind the scenes even when we feel alone.

If you are wrestling with blind faith in your bold prayers, please remember: He is there for you, He is faithful to you, He cares for you. Trust Him.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Burned Pacifiers

“I’ll just put the pacifiers in the pot to boil for a moment” I said before heading upstairs with Judah to feed him. “I’ll remember they are on” I said. “These pots don’t burn pacifiers” I said.

Wrong.

About an hour later I rush downstairs to the smell of melted plastic. “Oh crap.” I peer into the pot timidly hoping that maybe there is no damage as if my nose was wrong about that wretched smell. Burned. Melted. Destroyed. The brand new pacifiers that I just bought less than a week ago to replace the set I burned and melted to smithereens are 100% destroyed. Oh – and the pot’s gone too. In that moment I felt as if I had completely failed as a mother. How could I possibly have forgotten that I had pacifiers boiling on the stove? I collapse in tears on the stairs. Where is my brain? I would never forget something like that before baby.

How often do we feel as though we have failed at motherhood? Quite a lot. Sure, we can dazzle our husbands and friends at the miraculous multi-tasking phenomena of comforting a crying baby, folding laundry, making dinner, and cleaning dishes at the same time.. but sometimes it’s not so pretty and glamorous. Sometimes, the multi-tasking gets the better of us and we are left thinking – “I was going to be better at this.” We are so hard on ourselves.

But thankfully we serve a God of second-chances. A God who knows us and loves us and redeems us right where we are.. burned pacifiers and all. A “Psalm 40:11” God –

“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!”

We are loved and cared for by a faithful and merciful God. He preserves us so we can persevere through these trials and failures. He is a God of grace and caring even in our not-so-glamourous motherhood moments.

As my loving cousin reassures – “Just remember – you melted the pacifier not the baby” So let’s laugh at our mistakes and maybe dazzle ourselves with some grace on this Friday afternoon.

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Jericho spelled “W.R.I.T.E.”

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I sit on my couch in the quiet of mid-morning. My last cup of coffee turned cold (i hate cold coffee) and my babies asleep beside me. My baby Judah, 2 months old, is sound asleep in his rock ‘n play napper with the sunshine pouring in on him through the window. He laughs in his sleep. Is anything more precious? My other baby, a fur-baby I call Chloe, is curled up on the opposite couch. I take my cold coffee and open my Kindle to start reading the assigned chapters I need to finish before our small group bible study tonight.

ImageWe are reading “The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears” by Mark Batterson, a recommendation from my husband, Taylor. I have to admit it wasn’t my first choice or my favorite choice for our next study. Probably because it is a book all about prayer and prayer scares me. You see, I am a person obsessed with words, the right words, and if I can’t get the right words – well… right – then I don’t say them at all. So I don’t pray at all because who has the right words to say to an omniscient, omnipotent God?

But I digress.

Batterson, in Chapter 3, describes the “image” of a prayer circle to be like the Israelites circling Jericho for seven days (if you don’t know the story you can read it here). After circling around Jericho for seven days the Israelites received their fulfilled promise from God – they got their Promised Land. So, Batterson asks, “What is your Jericho? What promise are you praying around? What miracle are you marching around? What dream does your life revolve around?” And i’m floored. The challenge is to name my dream {(do i dare?)}. Because what if I fail? Or, what if my dream isn’t God’s dream for me? I’m shakin’ in my boots but I press on because, as Batterson reminds me, “God does not answer vague prayers.”

“It’s not about being in the right place at the right time; it’s about being the right person, even if you find yourself in the wrong circumstances. Success has nothing to do with how gifted or how resourced you are; it has everything to do with glorifying God in any and every situation by making the most of it.” – Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

So here they are. I’ll call these “My Jericho’s”…

1. To have an incredible marriage

2. To raise Godly children

3. To become a stay-at-home-mom

4. To write something that will inspire and encourage fellow Jesus-loving, God-seeking, scared-out-of-their-mind, insecure, and imperfect wives and moms like me

So this blog will be me just trying to further define these “Jericho’s”. And, Hopefully with God’s help, and a little prayer, I can be “God’s pen” an instrument to inspire and encourage. I hope you’ll join me…