It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.
Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.
I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.
As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.
Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…
My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”
My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.
Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!
I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.
There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.
Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!
We hear about abiding. Abiding in Jesus. Abiding in His Word. Abiding in the vine. But what does that mean? How does this work? It should be easy, right? But some days, abiding can feel hard and maybe even scary. We feel far from God or question if we are “doing it right.”
A few months ago, I was praying and felt like God gave me this beautiful picture of what it looks like to abide in Him:
I look out. My view is breathtaking. I see Amazon-like rainforest stretching out as far as the eye can see. Lush green growth. Hills and trees far into the distance. I am up above it all but also surrounded by thick leafy green. My view is shaded and framed by branches and leaves, a thick canopy above me and a living floor of leaves and ferns below me. I am clinging to a vine, suspended high above the ground. This vine I cling to is The Vine. It is thick and strong and healthy. Even with my full weight on it, it is secure. I am confident it can and will hold forever and never fail if I continue to cling to it. So, I cling. I hold it with a death-like grip that makes my hands ache. I cling with everything I have out of fear of what will happen if I don’t. I am safe, but there isn’t rest.
As I cling there, I begin to look around. I see other vines hanging nearby. They aren’t nearly as thick and strong as The Vine, but I think, “If I just grab onto one or two of those as well, I will be more secure. After all, more is better. Right?” I reach out and grab one vine. Then I notice two more close by so I grab those as well. These other vines seem to be helpful. They seem to add to my security. They are things like money, recognition, relationships, careers, material things. However, with each small vine I add, my grip on The Vine gradually loosens as it becomes just one among many that I am trying to grasp.
Suddenly, one of the small vines fails and falls to the ground. I am shaken to the core as the earth seems to crumble around me, and I slip down until I grip The Vine once again. Over time, this happens again and again. All the other vines fail. Some quickly. Some over time. But one by one they all fail. They all fail to last. They all fail to give true security. They all fail to be trustworthy and faithful.
After surviving these failures and disappointments time and time again, I realize something.
THE Vine is still there. The one that has always been there. The Vine that is secure. The Vine that is strong. The Vine that has never failed and will never fail.
I realize something else as well. I am still clinging. Even though life has been filled with heartache, I am still clinging, and I still know deep in my heart this is the only vine that will last. I will cling only to it. The other vines are still there, always nearby. From time to time one falls to the ground. But now, their falling does not cause me to be shaken because I am holding on to The Vine.
So, instead of looking around for other vines to grab, I begin to look at and study The Vine. The more I pay attention to The Vine, the more I notice and love about it. I see how full of life it is. How it never withers. I notice tendrils perfectly placed to secure my feet and give my hands a rest. I spot another place where I can entwine my arms. Each of these revelations brings me closer to The Vine. I am becoming part of The Vine, truly abiding and resting in its love rather than clinging to it out of fear. I allow The Vine to wrap around me, it is a restful and relaxing place. My fears, once so strong,—fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of death—have fallen to the ground along with the other vines. Those fears have been replaced by appreciation and admiration and love for The Vine that has held when all others have fallen. I am being held securely by The One True Vine.
In fact, I feel so secure and free that I begin to swing. I throw my head back, hair blowing in the wind, and I swing. I feel the freedom of a child on a playground, and I swing. I feel ready for whatever lies ahead because I am with The Vine, and I swing. I laugh and smile and breathe in life as I swing with Jesus, The Vine.
I am so thankful for this beautiful picture God has shared with me, and now I get to share with you. He has reminded me of it so many times when I begin to chase after and cling to something other than Him. He has also reminded me of these truths.
More of Jesus is the only thing that is truly and eternally better.
All other things will pass away. Everything else will wither and fade and disappoint, but God will remain forever—faithful, loving, and true. He will never leave me or forsake me.
Jesus came that I might have life and have it more abundantly. Abundant life is found when abiding in Him. When I abide in Him, He will abide in me. Wrapping His powerful arms around me. Loving me with His perfect and never-ending love. Speaking truth to my heart. Holding me in his nail-scarred hands.
Lacey Lett is a wife and stay-at-home mom to two beautiful children. She fills her days running a small business, chasing kids around to various activities, and trying to find time to read and craft. God has given Lacey a heart for prayer and seeing people realize the power of praying to our amazing God.
I see you. The girl with too-thick eyeliner and overly contoured cheekbones. Your clothes reveal precious secrets about your body. The pictures you share with the world show a beautiful girl who doesn’t quite believe it, but you desperately try to convince everyone else that you do. Everything about your life revolves around getting him to notice you and then stick around. You compromise who you really are if it means the guy you’re crushing on likes you back. When he looks your way and smiles, you know he must be The One. He gets you. He says the things you need to hear. He completes you.
I see you. The woman who never has to share the remote when it’s time to binge on Netflix. You fill up your free time with all the things you’re into because you can. You schedule weekly girl’s nights and countless first dates, but long for the familiarity and companionship of a spouse. The image you project to the world is one of an independent and confident woman – and you are – it would just be nice to have that special someone to walk beside you. To fill the empty spaces in your heart. To help complete your life.
I see you. The wife who dotes on her husband, treating him like royalty. Your daily desire is to meet his needs above all others. Your social calendar suffers, but if his clothes are clean and his belly is full you don’t mind so much. To outsiders you appear to be the perfect wife, but you humbly brush aside their praise. Serving your man is the least you can do – after all, he’s a keeper! You’re so lucky to have him. You tell yourself it’s ok to obsess over his life because he’s seamlessly completed yours.
I see your striving, hurting, longing heart. I get why you’re tired of being single. I know how easy it is to pour yourself out for the one you love. I just wish you could see that it’s not a boy or a man you need.
No, he doesn’t complete you.
But Jesus can. He will. He does.
The Enemy has made you believe that everything you need can be found in an earthly relationship. The truth is, no relationship will ever come close to what it’s meant to be until your relationship with Christ has become the most important thing.
You see, I was that girl. Riddled with insecurities, I had daddy issues that left gaps in my heart. I met a guy who swept me off my feet and quickly became the axis on which my world revolved. To keep him interested, I morphed into a chameleon of sorts, molding myself into what I thought my boyfriend wanted me to be. I felt a constant need to be in this person’s presence so I let my friendships suffer. I lost interest in my own life and instead forced my way into every detail of his. He tolerated this for a while, but eventually the pressure I put on him to be my everything was just too much for him to handle. He broke up with me and utterly shattered my entire world. I didn’t want to be alone, but there I was. The pain I felt was magnified by the fact that I didn’t know who I was without him.
Months later, in desperation, I cried out to God. Literally. In my dorm room I crumpled into a pathetic heap and wept. I was suffocating myself on heartbreak and I could not bear one more minute of the intensity of it all. I opened my bible to Colossians, and there I read a verse that rocked me to my core:
“and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
In that moment, I began to realize my mistake. I had misplaced my affections. The ardor that my soul had been created to lavish on my Savior was being directed at a mere boy instead. What a tragedy! All this time I had been essentially worshipping my boyfriend and neglecting the Lord.
If you find yourself relating to my story, I’m here to tell you that Jesus Christ is better. If your identity is wrapped up in another human being, that relationship can never be healthy. Until you truly believe that you are a uniquely created, valuable, cherished daughter of King Jesus, you will continue looking for someone else to make you whole.
Just as He did for me, Christ tells you in His own words the truth: you are complete in Him. God alone holds the key that unlocks the deepest desires of your soul. He knows you better than anyone. He loves you so deeply and perfectly. Nothing else compares!
When someone breaks your heart, Jesus steps in to heal every wound.
When loneliness overwhelms you, Jesus offers comfort and friendship.
When you fix your eyes on Jesus, He breathes new life into your marriage.
Daughter, we’re all incomplete. We’re all looking for love and acceptance – it’s just way easier to access than we dare to believe. My prayer for you today is that you will find your wholeness and identity in God alone. That you will let Him complete you as only He can.
As Mother’s Day weekend approaches, I’m looking forward to the special treatment I will receive from my own family, but I’m ten hours away from my mom this year and it will be the first time I won’t get to spend it with her. It makes me think of how difficult this day will be for so many women for so many different reasons.
I lost my dad when I was just two years old and every June when Father’s Day arrives, I feel like I’m hit over the head with reminders that I didn’t even get the chance to have a relationship with him before he was taken from me.
I dread Father’s Day. I can’t hardly stand to log onto Facebook and see all of the heartwarming photos and posts about how much everyone’s dad has enriched their lives and made them who they are. I fight back tears every year at church when they ask all the fathers to stand and I am reminded just how unfair life can be.
I know there are so many of you who dread Mother’s Day too. Some of you have lost your mom at a young age, or maybe even recently. A lot of you live far away from her, like I do. You might have a mother you haven’t spoken to in years or a biological mother you’ve never met, but always wanted to know. You might still be dealing with feelings of abandonment or a broken mother-daughter relationship. So many of you are longing to be a mother yourself, but are struggling with infertility. You are mourning a miscarriage or the loss of a child. Whatever your pain associated with motherhood is, I feel the ache of the empty place in your heart right along with you.
If I could, I would reach through these words and hold your hands so tightly. I would tell you that God sees you. He feels your pain and knows your heart’s cry. He loves you and knows you more deeply than any earthly mother ever could and you are blessed because you know Him. I also know it’s much easier to say those words than to let them sink into your soul and believe they are true.
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the LORD will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10)
So, try this. Look around you this weekend. Are there strong women in your life who have wrapped their arms around you when you needed it? Do you know a kind woman who has fixed you a meal or taken you shopping? Do you have someone you can count on for sound advice? Maybe God has placed a woman in your life to help fill the void, but you’ve never thought of her that way before. Maybe you are blessed with an incredible dad who has tried his best to make up for what’s missing. God provides, even when we don’t acknowledge it or give him the glory like we should.
Have you been that mother figure for someone else? If not, could you be? Is there a young girl in your life who might need some extra love and attention? Is there a motherless teenager in your youth group you could invite out for coffee? Could you step in and help out an overwhelmed single mom? Is there someone who needs to hear the infertility story that you’ve been too afraid to share? Is it finally time for you to answer the calling on your life to foster or adopt? Maybe you could send flowers to another hurting woman for Mother’s Day this year. There are ways to help fill that void in your life and it might just be to help fill someone else’s.
So for those who are struggling on a day that most people associate with brunch and Hallmark cards, I pray you won’t associate it with grief, pain, or loss. I pray that God will replace those feelings with good memories, a willingness to help others, thankfulness for the relationships that you do have, and hope for what is to come. I pray that when the enemy tries to remind you of what you have lost, God will remind you of all that you have gained by living a life for Him. I pray that you will take that time and look around and honor the women who have been there for you.
For me personally, I couldn’t be more thankful to have a mom who stepped in and played both roles for my older brother and me after my dad passed. The strength and courage it took to suddenly find herself as a single mom at 30 and then later raise 9 kids in our mixed family is beyond my maternal comprehension! While it’s so hard to understand how God can allow a young parent to be taken from his children, He helped fill the void through my relationship with my mother and for that I am so grateful. She has enriched my life and made me who I am. Thank you mom.
And when Father’s Day approaches and I’m struggling, I know God will remind me of His goodness and faithfulness and these words I share with you today.
I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child. (Isaiah 66:13)
I remember when the comments first started. They would sting. Walking through the store, I would suddenly be blind-sided by words. Words.
“Look, mommy, that girl has cancer.”
“Look, daddy, that girl doesn’t have hair.”
Sometimes there were no words. Just a darting glance or an uncomfortable parent shushing their child. I pretended not to notice. I learned how to quickly flash a smile to somehow communicate that it was okay. That I was okay with the stares. With the remarks. It was more than this recovering perfectionist wanted to handle.
My daughter’s bare head often draws attention. I have become accustomed to reassuring others that it is not cancer. That it’s only alopecia. Only alopecia. As if that somehow disqualified us from the battle.
A battle for which I was ill-equipped. A battle against whom or what, I wasn’t sure. Little did I know, I was being prepared for heart surgery. I was about to be forever changed by one familiar story and one precious little girl.
The story was David and Goliath. One I had heard many times before. One whose familiarity put it at risk of losing its’ impact, but it’s hard to ignore something that God keeps putting in your face. This story kept finding its’ way to me – in teachings, on the radio, in conversations.
I wanted to get it…to learn what I was supposed to learn, so I read it over and over and over again, for weeks, each time asking God, “Where am I in this story? Show me what I need to learn.”
At first, I imagined that I was David coming victoriously against the giant, but that seemed too easy; almost juvenile.
Then, I feared that I was Eliab, David’s oldest brother who discouraged David from battling the giant. In the name of being “realistic”, I had become discouraging…
“Don’t you hear what the doctors are saying? They said there’s no cure. They don’t even know what causes it. Why should we expect any different?”
I wanted to accept defeat. My husband wanted to fight — for us, for our daughter, for an answer…for Hope.
Still, I continued asking, “Lord, show me. Where am I in this story?” Then, God gave me understanding. I hadn’t been asking the right question. Instead of being so concerned with who I was in the story, I needed to be asking a very different question. I needed to be asking, “Where are you in this story, God?”
When I started asking the right question, the story came alive…
I saw myself, a soldier on the hillside. Crouched down. Terrified and dismayed. The enemy was across the valley shouting his terrible shouts. Taunting,
“Why even bother to fight? Did you not hear what the doctors said? There are no answers. There is no cure. There is no hope.”
My thoughts were distorted. My heart was paralyzed. Without realizing it, I had begun believing the lie.
I had begun believing the enemy. I had begun believing in hopelessness.
But God has a way of changing things…
He sent a David to bring Bread to the battle lines — broken to give life for weary souls. Bending down low he saw what my mouth refused to speak, “This is too much. I can’t do this. I want to surrender.”
But God doesn’t leave His children on the battle lines to fight alone. He enters the battle with us. No…He enters the battle for us. With grace and mercy, He spoke the words my heart desperately needed to hear,
“Do not lose heart. I will fight for you.”
Then, He set off toward the giant. Reaching into the stream he chose five stones. No sword. No armor. Just stones. With stones in his pouch, He stood before the giant who was still shouting, “Come down and fight me. If you win, I will become your subject. But if I win, you become my subject and serve me.”
Most of us know how the story ends. With one stone, David killed the giant and sent him tumbling to the ground. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he severed the head of the giant using his own weapon against him making victory a reality.
This battle is one that God has used to teach me much.
My battle was not so much about my daughter’s diagnosis, but more about learning to choose which god I would submit to in the face of my trial—
the god of hopelessness or the God of Hope.
Throughout this journey, one message has echoed loudly…”Don’t waste your trials.”
When we face a trial, no matter how big or small, we are faced with a choice. We must choose whether we will believe God’s promises to work everything together for our good and, consequently, submit to His work in our lives. If we choose not to believe His promises and don’t allow Him to work in our lives, then we let our trials go to waste.
Trials are a blessing that have the potential to deepen our walk with Him.
Through this experience, God has grown me to be a true student of His Word. To truly see His Word as the Bread of Life necessary for the sustenance of my soul. To see His Word as the well from which I draw my hope, strength and peace. My heart reveres Him as Holy and cherishes time spent in His presence. My thoughts regularly turn to Him throughout my day.
God has taught me the importance of being honest with Him. When I was trying to pretend like everything was okay, God was instead giving me permission to not be okay. I had to learn to simply surrender and cry out to Him. I needed to slow down enough to experience the gravity of what was happening.
God has taught me to trust my husband’s leadership. Under the weight of fear and doubt, I was unintentionally hurtful. I learned to pray in new ways for my marriage. Not only for a spirit of unity, but also for a hedge of protection around my husband…from me. I began praying that God would give him a wife worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). I learned to respect my husband’s opinion even when he disagreed with the doctors. Together we learned that doctors don’t always have all the answers. I learned to trust that God was leading him, too.
God has taught me gratitude. He took my grumbling heart and transformed it to see everything as a gift. Now, my heart can recognize even the smallest of gifts…like eyelashes.
God has shown me that He cares intricately for Brianna. Shortly after turning 3, she told me she wanted hair on her head, for the first time. I delicately explained to her how God made her beautiful without hair. But, God had a different idea. A few weeks later, God led me to cross paths with an organization that provides real-hair wigs to children with hair loss. Through this organization, Brianna received the gift of hair. This was a reminder that God has his hand on Brianna’s life and that He is taking care of her.
We never know how God might choose to answer prayers. It’s not our job to know. All He asks of us is to simply trust Him and His plan. Brianna’s story is just beginning. We know God has great things planned for her. She has already touched so many hearts. Through her, God has deepened my walk with Him. He has strengthened my marriage. He has proven that He is taking care of the details of our lives.
The battle has changed me. Some might think…, “It’s just hair.” I know. I tried to tell myself that for a year. I would feel guilty every time it felt like a big deal to me. I didn’t understand why it was so hard; why it was such a struggle.
What I learned is that every battle is personal. I am her mother. It is my nature to protect her. For me, it’s about protecting my daughter’s heart. It’s about shielding her from the arrows that will come when the world starts telling her a different definition of beauty. It’s about helping her find strength, when she starts feeling different.
And now that I’ve been changed by the battle, it’s about sharing with her what I have learned. I will share with her a powerful secret.
That God gives the biggest battles to His fiercest warriors.
I will train her for battle and teach her to use the right kind of weapons.
Battles are about accepting every ounce of who God is
in every moment and in every season.
It’s about allowing God to work in every circumstance, the good ones and, especially, the difficult ones.
Whatever you’re facing, right now. No matter how big or small. Find your hope in Christ. Cling to Him. Hold onto His promises. He has equipped you for this battle. Hopelessness has been defeated.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).
Jennifer lives in Arkansas with her husband, Jeff, and their four daughters. She is a Christ-follower who doesn’t like to be put in a box. She has experienced first-hand the sweetness of God’s redemptive love and has a passion for helping others see the beauty of God’s way. You can find her sharing stories of faith and encouragement on her blog, www.jennifermariepowers.com. And catch her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jennifermariepowersblog/
Think about the last time you saw a friend and she asked you how you’ve been. Go ahead. Take a moment. What did you say to her? Did it sound like, “Girl, things are great – busy!” Or “Ug, I’m so busy.” Or maybe just simply a sigh followed by a weary, “Busy.” We’re killing ourselves in this crazy, gotta-keep-up age of smart phones, kids’ schedules, work schedules, expectations, and To Do lists. I’ve been there. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to wear an adjective like a badge of honor. I don’t want to be defined by something I’ve done to myself – and make no mistake, we take busyness on ourselves. We’ve grabbed onto busyness like life-support and it’s killing our marriages.
I don’t do Pinterest, but if I did, this would be the equivalent of that recipe that should be pinned over and over again. It’s a book called Crazy Busy, and thankfully, for us busy bees, it’s short. In it the author talks about how much of our busyness can be a result of the following (and these are only a few examples):
#1: You’re busy because of the Killer P’s: people pleasing, possessions, proving yourself, pity, poor planning, power, perfectionism, prestige, and posting. What does this break down to? You’re too concerned about what other people think and you’re making yourself busy trying to live up to a standard that’s unrealistic. Pride is usually at the center of this one.
#2: You’re trying to do what God does not expect you to do. Did you know Jesus was known to hop into a boat to escape people who were badgering him? Did you know he could have healed more people than he did but he sometimes said NO? Why? He needed sleep, rest, and balance. He was divine and yet we think we can do more than him – so we overfill and over-highlight our calendar.
#3: You’re losing touch with reality because you’re too engaged in technology. When you’re home from work, are you present or are you still working on your phone? How does your technology and your job follow you? The bathroom? The kids’ playroom? In bed with your spouse? All that time on our phones – in all those moments that are meant to be quiet and private – we’re losing touch with the contents of our hearts because we’re focused on the content of our newsfeed.
Now that we know we’re to blame for our chaos we like to complain about it. What’s this busyness doing to us as couples? Here’s an excerpt from the book that will move my point further in the right direction:
In the “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than a thousand children in grades three through twelve…One key question asked the kids what one thing they would change about the way their parents’ work was affecting them. The results were striking. The kids rarely wished for more time with their parents, but, much to the parents’ surprise, they wished their parents were less tired and stressed.
Similarly, Galinsky asked kids to grade their parents in a dozen areas…The biggest weakness, according to the kids, was anger management… (70).
Does this give you a little punch in the gut like it did me? We work so hard to make sure our kids are well rounded by putting them in a million activities that we don’t think how that stress is impacting us and tearing apart our families.
What about our marriages? Whether or not we have kids, when we’re too busy, our stress level increases, and our aptitude to be kind takes a nose dive…among other nasty side affects.
My husband told me once that I have different versions of Busy Erin: one when I’m writing (she’s quiet and moody), another when I’m focused on my business (she’s often on fire and focused), and another when I’m obsessed with the messy house (she’s usually crabby and talks to herself). He didn’t tell me any of this as a compliment. These are the different ways he perceives me, followed by reasons he tries to stay out of my way in those moments. What’s a shame is the things that keep me busy are the same things that push my husband away – because I struggle to find balance. Not only that, I’m so focused that I lose sight of the one who makes it all possible. Usually that would be God, but in this example, it’s my handsome hubby. Our marriage is a union that has made our lifestyle and my passions possible.
Does your spouse wish you were less_____________? Fill in the blank. Less stressed? Grumpy? Touchy? Tired?
Who’s getting the best of you? Your busyness or your spouse?
Because our children and other priorities demand so much of us, our spouses often receive even less – because there’s this notion that they can take care of themselves. They can BUT that’s not what God called marriage to be. God called marriage to be a unity of flesh – two conjoined into one. There’s an innate responsibility in that – on both sides. You give and you take. It’s not either or, and it doesn’t depend on your mood or your calendar. When our spouse is last on the priority list, we’re denying our own flesh. And that will hurt us in the end. And there’s no Band-Aid big enough for when we let that wound fester too long.
If our children can see a correlation between our state of mind and they don’t even have fully developed brains, why can’t we see what’s right in front of us? Why are we doing so much? Why are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by strangers on our phones when we should be connecting with our spouse? Don’t let others – and that includes you, my over-achieving friend – dictate your priorities. God has already given you a guide, and notice that busy doesn’t even make the top three: God, marriage, and your children.
Erin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.
I’m learning a lot about The Craftsman. As most steady, reliable artisans do, he takes great care in the details of his creations. Though capable of mass-producing beautiful works of art, he often chooses to instead make each piece unique, intricate, and with just enough “wow” factor to distinguish his creations as something only He could have made.
It’s unfortunate that it took me so long to realize that such intentionality and beautiful customization requires me to sometimes wait longer for the end result. Also, I’ve come to realize that The Craftsman is most quiet when he’s working. I’m here to tell you about the time I mistook his silence for apathy.
You see, we had a meeting; and though it was, admittedly, mostly one-sided, I was clear about exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it by. Because I heard no audible rejections, I assumed we were on the same page with this vision I had cast. I felt confident as I left my orders in his hands and walked out of his workshop on that bright day full of hope.
The door shut behind me, and I went on with my life for the most part. Occasionally, I thought of the plans I had laid out for The Craftsman, but I knew he was the most skilled artisan in all of the world, and that even if he had to tweak my plans a bit here and there, the end result would be worth it.
Some time went by, and I still had not received an update on the status of my requests. Friends began to ask me about it, and I reassured them that my plans would come to fruition because I knew I had left them in good hands. I spoke with confidence, but secretly wondered if The Craftsman would be contacting me soon.
Time continued to pass, and I began to imagine the worst: perhaps The Craftsman had been so busy with other work orders, he had completely forgotten about mine. Maybe they were lost in a pile of dust-covered plans and though he originally had good intentions of getting to them, they were simply lost in the shuffle. That’s when I decided that maybe he needed a friendly reminder of what I had asked for and the deadline for which I had requested.
I approached his workshop door, and in preparation to knock, noticed a small sign hung outside. It read “Just Trust Me.” I wondered whom he had left that note for. After all, I was sure our issue had nothing to do with my lack of trust and everything to do with a small miscommunication or even just an honest mistake on his behalf. I mean, I understand he’s busy. He’s the best there is, and everyone is constantly piling demands on him. I decided I would be gentle in my reminding him of my orders that I had submitted long ago…way before my friends had put their orders in and already received theirs…but that’s beside the point. I’m sure it was just an honest mistake and The Craftsman merely needed me to pop in to remind him that it was my turn. I was excited to let him know that I wasn’t too upset and that I could forgive him.
I knocked but he didn’t answer, so I left a note asking him to please give me a call so we could discuss the status of my order.
After another period of time passed, my patience began to fade as I watched everyone around me receive what seemed like immediate answers to their requests.
One dark, cloudy day, I marched back to the workshop and pounded on the door. It was silent inside and the words “Just Trust Me” stared back at me from the sign on the door.
Shaking my head, I yelled, “I did trust you!” as I pounded harder on the door. “What did I do to deserve the silent treatment?” I implored. “Talk to me! Give me something!”
The silence that followed was deafening, and bitterness flooded my soul as I nursed the rejection I felt. I paced back and forth outside, shaking my head and casting glares in his direction in hopes that he might see me through the window and feel a taste of the disappointment I felt. “THANKS A LOT, GOD.” And with that, I turned and walked away, convinced he had forsaken me.
What I most regret about that day is reacting based on assumptions of what I thought was going on inside that workshop instead of the reality that I was too impatient to discover. What I couldn’t see was just on the other side of the door with the sign that read “Just Trust Me.” What I couldn’t see was the hands of The Quiet Craftsman, dirty and calloused, working around the clock to widdle, carve, sculpt and weave together the most beautiful masterpiece I could’ve ever imagined. What I couldn’t see was His face, quiet and steady, with a tender and loving visage as he thought about me while he worked. I didn’t see him softly smile at the notches as he carved them with careful skill. I didn’t see the tears that spilled out of his eyes and landed on my masterpiece as I yelled at him from outside. I couldn’t see his heart broken by my lack of trust.
What I didn’t understand was that his silence came not from a place of abandonment or apathy but rather from concentration. The Quiet Craftsman was doing his job. The most intricate of masterpieces take time to complete.
Since that day, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the silence. I’ve learned that in order for The Craftsman to complete his best work, sometimes he needs quiet. And time. And trust.
I know that the day will come when the door of his workshop will swing open, revealing the most magnificent, breathtaking masterpiece I’ve ever encountered. And the best part about it is that it will be my very own, unique in its character and details.
I returned to his workshop one day recently with a marker in hand. I approached slowly, with fondness and reverence. I smiled and ran my fingers across the words “Just Trust Me,” then placed the tip of my marker on the sign and wrote underneath, “I do trust you.”
Mark 3:25 says that if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. In the context of marriage, our unity is measured in three different areas:
emotional, physical, and spiritual.
Emotional: Our spouse is supposed to be our best friend, right? But over time we forget what we used to like about each other – even things we previously adored. We all can think of something here. Right? When we got married, my husband loved my passion, but as time moves on he’s learned that my passion comes with a price. My love of writing, for example, can be isolating, and I can become trapped in my head for hours without realizing it. Did you know Satan will use even the good things in your life to break apart the emotional unity in your marriage? My love and gift for writing, for example, is great when I’m writing to show women how they can move closer to God, but it’s a problem when my obsession for words moves a wall between me and my husband. Anything we love can come between our spouse and us: our children, our job, even those hobbies we took on to balance our chaos.
Emotional unity can also be threatened when we isolate and keep quiet, when we bottle anything that needs to be poured out immediately.
Emotional unity is a unique algorithm for every couple. There is no universal code to crack. It comes from plugging into each other, and keeping God at the center of the equation.
Physical: Okay, ladies, I hear you. This one has a tendency to make our eyes roll before another word is said. As we’re pulled in one direction and then another, this is an area where we feel like failure is our middle name. Because let’s be real, men need more than we do, and when we deny it, not only is it a sin against the plan for our marriage, it has its’ own consequences. When we aren’t physical as a couple, we allow Satan to use our tendency for lust, comparison, and our own vices to take control. Before anyone gets angry with me and comes at me with a pointed nail file, remember that physical intimacy isn’t just about that three-letter word. What about the kisses? The hugs? The hand on the back or on the thigh. Momentary physical contact that says, “I’m with you – and no one but you.” We need to come together as a couple and communicate our needs. Try to get on the same page. We might not get what we want 100% of the time (who ever does anyway?), but at least our spouse won’t have unrealistic expectations and we won’t feel like we’re always letting him down.
Spiritual: Our relationships with God are personal and grow at a unique pace. There are right and wrong ways to come together in a spiritual way. This is a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts.
Pray for grace for you and your spouse. Allow them to walk at their own pace with Christ.
Ask if there’s anything you can pray about for them. (This is not a statement like, “I’m going to pray for patience for you today because you’re being a jerk!”)
Connect with God together when possible: praying together, reading the bible, watching faith-based movies, talk about God, etc.
Focus on your own relationship with Christ.
Push them regarding where they are in their walk. Example: “You should be”, “You need to”, “Why don’t you”… you get the point.
Beat Jesus into them (this is my husband’s specialty).
Compare your walk to theirs.
For Mike and me, our category of disconnection can depend on the day and the week, and on how open our hearts are to each other, without distraction to wedge a space between us.
Erin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.
I’ve got a terrible confession to make. If you know me, you might already know I do this and are glad I’m finally figuring it out. Maybe I’ve hurt you specifically. Hopefully by confessing it here, I will feel a bit more accountable and therefore aware of what I’m doing, so here it goes…
I am extremely cliquey.
I have my cliques and I like them. I love my friends. I love getting really comfortable with certain people and don’t always like to let others in because I don’t feel like I can be myself around them.
I’m comfortable being around people who believe what I believe. I enjoy spending my time with people who are in a similar season of life. I want to be with people who get me. I like to go to bible study and talk to women who agree with me on most big issues. Is this a bad thing? No, unless those are the only people I choose to be around. When I start avoiding relationships with others who are different from me, it’s time to make some changes.
I hadn’t given this a ton of thought until I came across the story of Matthew, a tax collector, who chose to get up from his tax collector’s booth and follow Jesus. He took Jesus to his house where they, along with the disciples, had dinner with many other tax collectors and “sinners”. The Pharisees saw this and asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Jesus heard this and said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
When I read this, conviction rushed through me. I started asking myself some hard questions. When I reach out to others, are they mostly women who are like me? Do I only offer to pray with women I know pray too? Do I spend my time reaching out solely to my own circle of Christian friends, rather than searching for those in need? Do I only share what God has done for me with people who already know Him?
If my goal in life is to strive to be more like Jesus, this just isn’t going to work anymore. Instead of always reaching out to the neighbor I’ve gotten to know, who is my age, and in a similar stage of life, maybe it’s time to take a plate of cookies to the neighbor who lives alone and is a whole generation of life experiences ahead of me. I bet I could learn a lot from her and maybe I could make her feel a little less lonely.
There are so many things I can do, but maybe I’ll just start there. One day at a time. One person at a time. I want to pray specifically for wisdom as I go about my day. Who can I reach for you, Jesus? Who is lonely? Who is struggling? Who is depressed? Who needs to know you? Send me to them so I can be your hands, feet, and voice right here in my community. Show me where to show mercy.
Don’t get me wrong. Close friendships are such a vital part of getting through this messy life. I know from experience that a strong group of like-minded sisters in Christ will help pull you out of a pit like no one else. Don’t give up these friendships. Just look up from that comforting circle every now and then to see who else might need to join in. Just like the disciples joined Jesus and the “sinners” for dinner, include your friends in your attempt to reach those in desperate need of some truth, comfort, laughter, prayer, and friendship.
I don’t want to be “cliquey” anymore. I don’t want to close my dinner table to outsiders. I want to bring them in to dine with me so I can love them like Jesus would.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,