For Those Who Dread Mother’s Day

For Those Who Dread Mother’s Day

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 FullSizeRenderme 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)

BraveGirl Robyn

DSC_9876

How The Battle Changed Me

How The Battle Changed Me

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.

IMG_1943 (4)

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Signature_Guest

Jennifer

Jennnifer profile pic honest conversationJennifer 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/

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

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.

Signature_Guest

 

 

Erin

10696463_950947881586261_3679685812034055593_nErin 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.

You can read Erin’s previous posts from this series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” by clicking on the following links: Are Your Ambitions Selfish?, Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation, Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against? Is Your Marriage United?

The Other Woman

The Other Woman

So I had a moment when my child’s pediatrician appointment morphed into a therapy session…for me.

Has anyone else ever been there – in that frustrating place of feeling overwhelmed and “not enough?” This is exactly where I found myself last week. My second daughter was born recently, and at this particular appointment the goal was for her to gain back enough weight to break even with what she weighed at birth. As Dr. Jackson and I discussed my daughter’s eating habits, he paused and said, “You know, the expression on your face is telling me that maybe you just need a break.”

With this astute observation from a wise and seasoned doctor, the dam broke and all the insecurities, guilt, and doubt I had been holding inside came flooding out. The gentle, non-judgmental way Dr. Jackson spoke to me made me realize that the voice I had been listening to was the complete opposite: my inner voice had been speaking harshly and critically to my heart. It had been lying to me, and I was believing the lie yet again.

I think that as women, we all have a tendency to buy into the lies our Enemy tries to sell us. Depending on our age, circumstances, and desires, the lies we believe are as unique as we are. These lies feed on comparisons, dissatisfaction, and self-absorption. As I drove home from that appointment, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a thought I had been clinging to subconsciously for days…the lie that was currently holding me captive:

“Somewhere out there, there’s a woman with a three-year-old and a newborn baby, and SHE’S handling life better than I am.”

HER house is clean.

SHE exhibits saintly patience while meeting the needs of two attention-demanding children.

SHE has managed to shower every day and looks refreshed and pulled together.

HER postpartum body is already bouncing back…abs are showing…jeans are fitting.

Do you see what I did there? It’s amazing to me how effortlessly my mind can be convinced that these statements are absolutely factual, although I personally don’t know anyone who proves the validity of even one of them! So my lie starts to look more and more like truth, unfounded in reality but propagated by the ungodly amount of pressure I put on myself to be some sort of superwoman. Then there’s the guilt I heap upon myself when I fail to be perfect. This cycle of thought is what caused me to break down in a doctor’s office. It’s what grips each of us when we allow ourselves to dwell on that other woman.

For me, the other woman is a mother and wife who has a Pinterest-worthy life complete with planned out healthy dinners, beautifully decorated, uncluttered rooms, and kids who don’t need screen time because their days are filled with art projects, play dates, and enriched learning experiences.

Who is the “other woman” for you?

Is it the newlywed who just shared glamorous wedding pics on Facebook?

Is it the co-worker who dresses impeccably and has an “in” with the boss?

Maybe your other woman is strong, fit, and dedicated to her health. You scroll past her gym selfies while indulging in your favorite fat-filled snack and instantly feel defeated.

Or, perhaps like me, your other woman is mythical, a figment of your imagination. She has everything you wish you had or think you need, and your life seems so “less than” by comparison.

While you ponder the lies you might be harboring in your own heart, consider these three truths about your other woman as well.

1. The other woman is not my competition.
2. I can learn from the other woman.
3. I am the other woman to someone else.

The Other Woman is NOT My Competition

The next time you or I find ourselves comparing our lives to others, I hope we would have enough truth hidden away in our hearts to combat the lies. Galatians 5:26 speaks volumes. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Wherever you are in life, whatever season you find yourself in, is where you are meant to be in this moment. Instead of being jealous of those who have already reached the next rung on the ladder of life, try to focus on what’s good and holy about your current situation. For me, the harrowing nights with a newborn are a true test of my character. Instead of kicking my feet tantrum-style under the covers and wishing away the multiple midnight feedings, I can choose to focus on the sweet helplessness of my baby and soak up the warmth and innocence of new life that disappears all too soon. I am right where God wants me as I care for my family, and there is joy in claiming that truth.

Envy and resentment make a convenient couple. The more you compare and find yourself coming up short, the more space you’ll find in your heart for bitterness to take up residence. That bitterness acts as a wall, keeping you from forming friendships and building a support system with other women. This is one way Satan works to keep us bound by lies. The only way to break the cycle is to bravely reach out to the women who fit into the “other” category. I’ve found in my own life that the very ones I compared myself to or judged to be too good for me have ended up being some of my closest girlfriends. It took vulnerability and authenticity. It took time. But it’s been worth the effort and my life has been enriched by the deeper relationships that formed once I gave up my tendency to compare and compete with others.

I Can Learn From the Other Woman

Sometimes God uses the other women in our lives to teach us lessons we can’t access anywhere else. I remember when I was in the throes of infertility and it seemed that everyone around me was announcing pregnancies and giving birth. These women were living my dream. It was hard to receive their good news without a twinge of self-pity. To this day I can tell you the names of celebrities who carried and delivered babies during the three years my husband and I longed for a child of our own. But guess what? As I heard stories from these “other women,” I realized many of them had been right where I was. They too had struggled to get pregnant or had lost children through miscarriages – a tragedy I cannot comprehend. Their wisdom gave me hope. They shared verses that I learned to cling to myself. I understood how to faithfully walk through infertility because I let these women in.

Who can you learn from? The women who seem to have it all likely don’t. And what they do have has not come as easy as you believe or been without a high cost. What if the key you need to finally unlock contentment in your life is being held by the other woman? Are you willing to listen, ask questions, and learn from her story?

image

I Am the Other Woman to Someone Else

In the journey to learn from these other women, maybe all you need to adjust your outlook is a fresh understanding that you yourself are someone else’s “other woman.” Now that I am a mother, I have dear friends and family members who are where I was all those years ago. They see my daughters and their hearts ache for the children they so desperately want. Now it’s my turn to pour into their pain and love them the way I was so tenderly loved.

So, my friend, the next time you catch yourself comparing or competing, make it a habit to identify lies and replace them with truth. Get to know the other woman in your life and learn from her. And when you begin taking precious gifts for granted, remember that you know someone who deeply desires the very thing you’ve become accustomed to.

Think about those around you and how they might view your life with a sense of longing. There are countless ways to turn your status as the “other woman” from something negative into a thing of beauty. If you allow your life to be a conduit through which God can pass blessings, truth, and love on to others, you will be the embodiment of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

image

May we be women who embrace truth, encourage each other, and enjoy the season of life we’re currently in!

Signature_Emily

 

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

March 8, 2007-

A time when the world seemed to stand still in disbelief that she was gone.

IMG_3335

It was 10 years ago today that my sweet momma went to meet her Creator, the lover of her soul, her precious Jesus (as she would call him). In one month of time, my mom went from what we knew to be a healthy 62 year old, to a victim of stroke and to find cancer in various parts of her body. I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time, with just about 3 weeks out from delivery. Only one month…one month…and she was gone. Today I don’t share with you my grief or my sorrow, but the unexpected joy that I recall from the loss, the life and the love I have encountered in these past 10 years.

I lived 5 hours away from my mom and I was pregnant, sick and very much waddling around at this point of pregnancy. But I was determined to go and be by her side.  I remember walking into that hospital room, locking eyes with her eyes, only to have to remove myself before the flood of emotion and fear overtook me. She was not able to speak due to the stroke, but she had eyes and a touch of her hand that spoke volumes even in the silence. I collected myself together and went back in to spend time holding her hand…No words exchanged…and really none needed in that moment.

The hospital flooded with friends and family coming to visit and pray over my mom. We gathered to lay hands on her believing in the miraculous work of God and healing over her body. My dear sweet friends from five hours away drove to see her only to bring some laughter to the stale hospital room. RyRy, as we call him, grabbed a hospital rubber glove only to blow it up and make obscene funny noises that brought a half smile to my momma’s face. It may have seemed inappropriate at the time…but man did we need some laughter for our souls!

Nurses would comment how precious or kind my mom was-though she couldn’t say a word. They would come to change an IV, give a dosage of medicine or make her bed comfortable, and somehow, just the touch of her hand on their face brought them to tears. All I can say is they experienced the love and kindness of Jesus through my mom. Her actions spoke louder than words in those moments. She loved to laugh. She loved people. People loved her. One of my favorite memories of that month was my husband staying the night at the hospital with her. Like I said, I was pretty big and prego and the hospital chair wasn’t going to work for me. So my man said he would graciously stay in my place because I so longed to stay with her. Again, no words were exchanged. But I remember him saying, “I did what I know she would love…I read to her from her Bible.”

IMG_3359

I will never forget gathering with my siblings in the stairwell of the hospital to discuss my mom’s current status-and at that moment realizing things were most likely not going to get better-but we were still believing God for big things. I am the youngest of five siblings -and I am sure they would all agree -my mom spoiled me rotten. But hey, I was the baby…so of course I was! So even though my mom was in the state she was in, I selfishly wanted her to immediately get better so we could get back to “normal” life. I would stand next to her hospital bed and she would lay her hand on my belly. I would remind her that she needed to get better to help me finish all the things she was sewing for my nursery -things she had just been helping me decorate a few weeks prior. I would remind her that I needed her to stay so that she could meet sweet Payton. I reminded her that I NEEDED her…and so did this grand baby. I knew things weren’t going to change, but I wanted it so bad. Time seemed to last forever that month and yet it seemed so incredibly short all at the same time. She soon stepped from this fallen world, releasing all pain and suffering and walked into the light of Eternity.

FullSizeRender

One month from her departure from this earth-we welcomed our second Beautiful baby girl-Payton. And can I just tell ya-weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning. And that is what this baby represented…JOY in the midst of sorrow and grief. A tangible expression of the goodness of God wrapped in this incredible and beautiful 7lb baby girl. When I think about God’s timing of it all, how I wanted to be angry that my mom would never meet her this side of heaven, I couldn’t help but be so overcome with Joy. There was significant timing for her birth-for many reasons-but for such a time as this. It was one of the greatest distractions that kept a blanket of peace and joy in the midst of heartache. I remember feeling that the presence of my mom was in the hospital room as Payton made her way into the world. This baby girl is now about to turn ten in a few weeks and boy is she the spitting image of yours truly. My mom would defintely say I am paying for my raisin’-but Oh she would be so in love with this girl. A girl full of life and love for others…A girl who is as messy and scattered brained as her momma….A girl who jumped up on my bed at the age of five insisting that she wanted Jesus in her heart.(She had been asking at that point for almost a year). A girl, who I know, God has BIG plans for -she’s confident, she’s a warrior and she desires to see people healed everywhere. Her Gigi, my mom, would be so incredibly proud. And can I just tell you, the story only gets more beautiful from here…

Momma Sharon (or that is what we have come to know her as) a woman who is a tangible gift from the Father to my family. A woman who came into my life only a few years ago only to bring an unexpected Joy. (Do you see the theme here?) You see, the day I met Sharon was at VBS through our church. And within moments of meeting, I will never forget my words to her, “I know this may sound weird, but you look just like my mom.” I proceeded to stare and then asked her to take a selfie that I quickly sent to my siblings! I couldn’t believe the resemblance. Sharon and I formed a pretty quick relationship which turned into a bond that I can’t describe. Her mannerisms, her handwriting, the way she gets on to me like my mom and even deals with my dramatic self-it’s really quite unreal.

IMG_3344But the thing I am drawn most to about Sharon, that is most like my mom, is her absolute Love and honor for the Lord…She loves Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. She pours truth into my life, into my husband, and into my children like only a momma can. She goes to battle in prayer on our behalf only like a momma can. She encourages, listens and soothes a wounded soul, only like a momma can. I am constantly in awe of the goodness of God through my relationship with Sharon. She will never replace my sweet mom but when I look at my 10 year old daughter and I say “Do you want to know what your Gigi was like-look at momma Sharon.” She gets to see a glimpse of what it would be like. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. His ways are higher, His ways are better and His love exceeds them all.

So in the midst of loss, new life and love, I find an unexpected Joy in all three of these stories. Stories and lives that are weaved together through the Father’s hand and His good plan. Today I celebrate the legacy of Colette, my sweet momma, a woman who taught me to love Jesus with all that I have…  A woman who I know can’t wait to greet you and me as we make our way into Eternity. (I use to tease my mom that she should have been a Wal-mart greeter-I am pretty sure thats her job in heaven). Someday, she will meet this beautiful daughter of mine and I’m sure share stories of what a rebellious child I was and how much she reminds her of me. And she will meet momma Sharon, maybe share a coffee and thank her for loving her girls on earth.

Jesus-I am overwhelmed by the unexpected. Thank you.

Signature_Cheryl-1

cheryl profile pic

 

The God You Know

The God You Know

While reading in my Bible the other day, I stumbled across a verse that struck me. I’m sure I’ve read this verse many times before, but on this particular day, it pierced my heart afresh. It was Judges 2:10:

“Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. “

Just to give some context – the generation coming of age in Judges 2 follows the generation who lived through the parting of the Red Sea, wandered with Moses in the desert, saw God as a pillar of fire and a cloud, partook in Joshua’s victory at Jericho…in short, a highly unique and privileged generation to have experienced a Holy God in such an intimate way. And yet, this generation failed to pass on to their children and grandchildren all the wonders they had seen.

This up-and-coming generation of God’s people did not learn to appreciate the miracles He performed. They did not know the Lord.

Why didn’t they know?

What communication gap caused the elders in this community to fail to mention their personal experiences with a real God who made His presence fully known? How did an entire generation come of age without hearing these compelling stories of survival and victory? Maybe it’s because the adults in the room were too busy complaining about current circumstances or trying to forge their own path – one without the Father. Perhaps they were so wrapped up in the drudgery of daily life that they just forgot to tell the younger ones in their midst who couldn’t remember or who likely weren’t even born yet all the incredible things God had done for them.

So the younger generation grew up without hearing about God. They did not know Him. They had no reason to follow Him.

In our modern society, we might not experience seas parting or pillars of fire. But in each of our lives, God has been and is continuing to work. As believers, we have all uniquely encountered a REAL Heavenly Father – and we each have a story to tell. Failing to recognize and articulate how He weaves the pieces of our days together is failing to raise up the next generation to love and seek Him for themselves. It’s our responsibility to pass on to our children the story God has written in our own lives. They need to hear of His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. If they only hear complaints and grumblings…if they see us chasing after other gods besides Him, how could the next generation possibly want to follow Christ?

How are you representing your savior to the youth around you? Are you inspiring them to worship with awe the One who worked miracles in your life, or are you pushing them towards idols of this world with your misrepresentation or avoidance of talking about Him altogether?

Let’s be a generation of believers committed to unabashedly proclaiming our devotion to and worship of the God of the universe. Let there be no room for doubt in the minds and hearts of the ones who will follow after us. Let’s introduce them to the God we know!

May this generation be a living witness to

His majestic mercy,
His glorious grace,
His time-tested truth,
His pervasive power, and
His limitless love.

Signature_Emily

Be Still and Know

Be Still and Know

This weekend I got away with a girlfriend to a cabin on the lake, and it was a refreshing time for my soul. We did some leisurely shopping and ate a lot of yummy, bad-for-us food. It was all wonderful, but my favorite part of the whole trip was the time we spent resting. We threw on sweatshirts and enjoyed a slow morning on the deck, sipping our coffee while nestled under a quilt. We marathon watched HGTV and colored in adult coloring books. We were intentional about not being busy, and we didn’t feel guilty about it.

It got me thinking about the value of resting in the midst of a chaotic, loud, busy world. Jesus created us to work. But he also created us to need rest. Not only does he allow us to rest; he encourages it.

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

I know a lot of us struggle with the concept of rest because it can sometimes carry with it a certain amount of guilt. We get used to the busy schedules, traffic jams, ringing phones, and – if we are so blessed – noise from a household that is busting at its seams. We are so conditioned to the busyness, we feel like we are wasting time or being lazy if we carve out some time for quiet.

img_1385

Can I just remind you that it was God who created the Sabbath? He is Holy and perfect, and he himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

Resting refuels our soul. It makes us better parents, employees, spouses and friends. It extends a shortened fuse, recharges our enthusiasm, and allows us time to hear God’s voice.

Remember Mary and Martha? Martha thought she was doing right by staying busy in service to God, but Mary was the one who was praised for sitting at his feet. I think God knew we as a people would need lots of reminders that rest is not only okay, but it is very good!

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God wants more for us than constant motion, service, and completed tasks. He wants us to sit at his feet, hear his voice, and simply be still in his presence. It is a gift he has given to us as his dear children.

When is the last time you sat at His feet and let him refresh your soul? He is ready, waiting and well-equipped to lavish you with love and soothe the unrest that burdens your soul.

Breathe in his goodness. Be still and know.

 

BraveGirl Martha

IMG_4430

Joy Comes In The Mourning

Joy Comes In The Mourning

It was a Friday afternoon in February of 2000 when my life suddenly changed forever. 

I’ll never forget the phone call that came after business hours. I was in my office with coworkers and picked up after the first ring. The voice at the other end of the line was my children’s father, my ex-husband.

His voice was filled with concern as he said, “Sharon, you need to sit down.” Of course I didn’t as I recall…and then he said bluntly as if he had to say it before he couldn’t, “Chris is dead.”

I remember being stunned and confused about the words before they sank in, wondering why he would say such a horrible thing. I even remember asking, “Are you sure?” which I know was my mind begging for one more moment of not knowing. My knees weakened as he finished telling me what he knew about what had happened.

He had been out of town on business and upon returning, found our oldest son alone and gone from this world. Mercifully, gratefully, he had gone home to be with Jesus and that ray of Hope would be the shred of life that would survive while my heart and mind pulled on a shroud of deep black darkness.

The next few days I lived the nightmare of my greatest fear since becoming a mother, losing one of my boys. My heart was filled with infinitely more pain than my fear of it ever had. I isolated myself most of the time as family and friends came to the house offering condolences but I wanted to be alone…in my darkness. Even though I took comfort in knowing Chris was a believer and I would be reunited with him in heaven, my mother’s heart was aching and struggling with accepting he was gone from this earth.

Since Chris was an otherwise healthy 24 year old, his father insisted on an autopsy. The following
Monday was a holiday, so in short the funeral was postponed until almost a week later. I’m not sure how, but it was arranged and attended by more than 800 people I was told.

I can recall only bleak snapshots of that miserable week of waiting…my dad sitting in my living room in the navy tapestry wingback staring blankly overcome by grief, food piled up on every countertop and bulging from the refrigerator, and our house busy with well meaning guests. Then I woke up in the emergency room after blacking out for an extended period of time. I remember hoping to see Chris one more time and for some strange reason thought he was at the hospital. In times of deep sorrow and shock, your mind takes strange pathways.

In the following month, there were many beautiful cards, (I still have every one of them), visits and frequent phone calls of consolation. I returned to work way too soon because I didn’t know what else to do. Sorrow and emptiness became my new painful normal.

Grief is exhausting…not only emotionally but physically as well.

I often tried to pray, but the prayers never seemed to make it above the ceiling. Even though Chris’s dad was very angry at God for the untimely death of our son, for some reason, I never was. But I couldn’t feel His Presence.

Weeks turned into months and months into two years. Cards and visits had long since stopped. Everyone had resumed their own lives. The cruel emotions of hurt and self pity were added to the suffering because I felt so alone in my sorrow.

Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. Dread. Pain. Despair. PURE DARKNESS…EMPTINESS.

And then one Sunday morning we were getting ready for church. I was weary and worn thin from the weight of my grief. I had prayed to die so many times, but this morning, I literally looked toward heaven and cried out loud in total desperation, “God, please replace this horrible darkness and grief with some kind of joy!”

IMG_4955

That morning, as I sat in the comfortable stadium seat of our church with hundreds of others, the message was entitled…
“Where Do You Turn When Life’s Not Working?”

I don’t know if there was a single other person in that congregation who needed to hear those words more than I did. I felt as if they had been eternally penned for me. I knew in the depths of my soul that it was God’s answer to my desperate plea earlier that morning, delivered by His obedient servant, a pastor I hardly even knew.

The message clearly charted the course of the healing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As the words washed over me, I experienced a lifting in my soul. That day I actually felt for the first time the warmth of His Loving Arms enveloping me. I saw a beam of His Radiant Light shining from the far end of the heinous darkness in which I had hidden for the past two years. I saw Him…I felt Hope.

It’s not that I had never heard the things that were presented in that timely message. It’s that I had not chosen them as my foundational truths. I had spent a lifetime of self will ignoring the very thing that sustains us through times like this.

God loves us and is constantly pursuing His independent self willed creation.

IMG_4956

He already knows every detail of your struggle and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him for help.

Even though I had experienced salvation at the age of eight, and had been in church most of my life, I confess I had not invested in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and had grown very little spiritually. My quiet times were never very quiet and those spent in His Word were hurried and rushed. There is no wonder why my faith was so shallow…

I trusted Him with my eternity through my salvation experience but thought I could handle the “living on planet earth” on my own!

Simply put, when faced with the most difficult challenge of my life, I had chosen darkness instead of His Healing Light!

During those two years, many times, I had begged God to let me die, to be free of the pain. But He had chosen not to answer those misplaced prayers.

He did not send His Son to die so that we would be left in darkness!

IMG_1332

The awakening that day was only the beginning of my healing. Over time, the hole in my heart was graciously being filled with His Truth and Promises as I spent time with Him, meditating on His Word. Leaning on Him for my strength and direction was infinitely the better choice…it was filled with hope and the blossoming of joy and new life.

One day as I was in His Word, He gently reminded me that He had also lost His Son and He knew exactly how I felt.IMG_4958 2
And there it was, the very essence of Truth that sponged up the last ounce of my self pity. How could I have ever felt alone? The Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, knew how I felt. He had never forsaken me. I had NEVER been alone.

The realization of His intimacy flooded over me! I finally knew in my heart that throughout every moment of the journey since that Friday afternoon phone call, He had been right by my side. I had missed the miracle of it because of my foolish self will.

I realized His desire for me to live was a blessing. He was not finished with my story. He wanted me to share it and His message of hope with the world!

Would I have ever wished my son would die? Of course not, no mother would. But I will tell you that had I not gone through the devastation of losing him, I may never have ever known the glorious riches of walking with my Lord and Savior!

Someone said, “He never wastes a hurt.”

So be encouraged no matter what you may face, THE God of the universe loves you. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for you. There is nothing too big or bad for His sacrificial Love to cover. You only have to trust and receive His beautiful Gift of Salvation.

Life is full of crossroads and choices…choose life! Let Him lead you into His Marvelous Light!

He is a good good Father and His Mercies are new every morning!

In the past fourteen years, I still grieve over Chris but I have also experienced more Joys than I could have ever imagined because I opened my heart up to Him. Please don’t miss it! He will give you joy in your mourning too. Let Him have that chance. Open your heart up to Him…and ask Him.

IMG_4957

Dear our precious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for your love, your faithfulness, and your son Jesus who died for us. We thank you for the person who is reading this post. I pray for the one who is struggling to open her heart up to you in her time of pain and grief. Please soften her heart to want to know you. Give her a hunger for your word. Give her your peace, your rest, and your comfort as she prays and cries out to you. Give her a humble and open heart that is ready to receive your joy and blessings and lean into you every day so that as you carry her, she finds her rest in you. Amen.

Signature_Guest

Sharon

Blessings of a Full Dishwasher

Blessings of a Full Dishwasher

photo here

I opened my dishwasher on a Friday afternoon and my eyes filled with tears. But not for the usual reasons. Not because it melted yet another one of my son’s favorite sippy cups. Not because I was so weary of housework that I barely had enough energy to unload it. Not because I’m a wife and mother of two small children, which meant the burden of most of the household responsibilities fell on me and I was feeling sorry for myself again.

Not this time.

No, this time things were different. This time, my tears were tears of joy…and thanksgiving.

I was emotional over a full dishwasher because it meant things had finally changed. We had one more person at the dinner table where there once was an excruciating void.

My husband had come home.

Just four months earlier, my husband of 14 happy years walked out. I was left alone and confused and betrayed. I was served divorce papers. I was left to care for our children on my own. My heart was shattered. I had been told I wasn’t loved by the one person I loved the most. I had been rejected and abandoned.

But not by my Jesus.

He held my hand and my heart. He whispered promises into my very soul. He sent his people to care for me, encourage me, and pray for me. He comforted my children. He provided our every need. He spoke life and truth to me daily through his word. He told me not to give up.

What happened?

My husband came back…in fact, he came home with a new light in his eyes and a fire in his spirit.

Jesus had been working in him just as he had been working in me.

God rescued him and made him a new creation. What I heard God whisper as I fell on my face before Him so many times was true. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength.

It took a battle like that to open my eyes.

I have a different perspective today. God has placed His divine, unconditional love in my heart. He has restored and renewed my marriage and my family. It took the worst experience of my life to change my perspective.

I know now

A full dishwasher means there have been meals shared on actual plates with conversations and warmth and a sense of family. It means we are blessed with food to eat and more importantly, people to share it with.

Serving my family and loving them as imperfect as they are is a joy, not a burden.

Laundry overflowing means I have a house full of people to love. People who play hard and experience much and have the wrinkles and stains to prove it.

A mess of toys all over my living room floor means I am blessed with children who won’t be children for long, but who find joy and happiness and laughter in my home.

A husband who keeps me awake with his snoring means I share my bed and my heart with someone who has chosen to be there. Someone who continues to choose to be there, no matter how much work it takes to be able to crawl into that bed night after night.

Wives. Mothers. Women. I know many of you today are battling in the trenches facing difficulties in your marriage or with your children, dealing with the busyness of life, the stresses, the fatigue, the worry. I encourage you today…Don’t Give Up! Pray for your family. Fight for them. And…

Strive for a heart like Jesus.

Strive to see and love your family and others the way He sees and loves you.

“God can raise marriages from the dead and He can restore life and purpose to those who have given up. He can forgive and purify the vilest sinner. God’s specialty is raising dead things to life and making impossible things possible. You don’t have a need that exceeds His power.” – Beth Moore

IMG_9483

No matter what you are battling today, never give up. Let Him fight for you. He will reward you for your faithfulness because you are His child.

“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

BraveGirl Robyn

DSC_9876

Hope for the Mom Who Thinks She’s Failing

mom

One of my favorite holidays is Mother’s Day. This is because it’s all about me, and I love celebrating me. I believe that carrying a child in my womb for nine months, giving birth, changing diapers, making lunches, wiping up vomit, and kissing boo-boo’s is deserving of a day of celebration and fanfare. Who’s with me?

So the truth is, I don’t quite feel like I’m Mom of the Year every day. In fact, those moments are few and far between. I, like many of you, struggle with believing that I’m not scarring my children for life. On any given day, I’m battling large amounts of guilt because I feel like I just can’t get this mom thing right. I didn’t put cute notes in their lunch boxes. I didn’t get the laundry done. I forgot about picking up the kite for “kite day” at school and I fed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Slim-Jims for dinner… Again.

And some days, those are my shining moments, because the real truth is that sometimes, I mess up in far bigger ways. I yell in anger. I stare at my phone, interested in everyone else’s life while ignoring the three little people sitting in my living room. I get distracted and don’t remind them who they are in Jesus and instead, rush through the routine so I can binge watch Parenthood on Netflix. There are days I fail and camp out there, letting feelings of regret, shame, and sadness overwhelm me.

I’m learning that when I fail with my kids, it’s usually because of one of three big reasons. I’m living in fear. I’m dealing with insecurity. Or I’m battling emptiness.

When I’m fearful, I’m actually just failing to trust God with my children. I feel out of control and become paralyzed with fear. So in order to get back the control, I yell or become angry and unkind.

When I’m insecure, it’s most often because I’ve spent way too much time comparing myself to all of the other amazing momma’s around me. Often in my skewed perspective, every other woman is nailing this mom thing and I will never measure up. Therefore the pressure grows and I can’t deal, or I give up altogether.

In addition to these struggles, I often parent on empty. I’m simply not prepared to pour out love, grace and wisdom because I haven’t been spending time with Jesus – the one who pours love, grace, and wisdom into me. Difficult days will come. Hard moments will try me as a mom. I know the truth is that I have to be filled up with the grace of Jesus in order to pour that grace out onto my kids.

So today, I’m speaking hope to you and to myself. There is hope for us mommas who don’t get it right all the time. That hope is found in Jesus. That hope is realized when we know and believe that he is a God of forgiveness and favor.

He forgives. Let this truth sink in. Your Father, the Creator of the universe, loves you so much that he created a pathway for forgiveness. As much as I wish I would never hurt my children, I know I have and I will again. But there is mercy for my failures. And I know a few reading this, simply cannot believe that you can be forgiven. I know you believe that what you’ve done is unforgivable. Maybe, you’ve led a life of deceit, hurting your children in the midst. Maybe, you’ve been addicted and absent and the relationship with your children seems broken beyond repair. Listen to me. Our God heals and restores. There is no one beyond His reach. He will forgive. Even you. Even me.

I can also know that he grants favor. That is, he gives us the grace we need to lean into to make it through each moment. His grace is all we need.  All of his blessings are undeserved, but it’s his nature to bless us anyway so that we can walk in the strength of his favor daily.

Forgiveness and favor are ours for the taking. They make the difference and set us free and sister… if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed! (John 8:36)  It’s not enough to know they exist. We have to receive his forgiveness and take hold of his favor.

I’ve been a momma for almost 14 years now and I’ve learned a few things that have been difference makers in this journey.

Know who you are. Get in God’s word and know the truth of whom He made you to be.

Understand the power of the repair. We will mess up; in small ways, and in big ways. You need to know that our God restores. When you blow it, ask forgiveness from your kids, remind them of truth, and pray with them and over them. Ask God to heal any broken places in your heart and theirs. Pray bold prayers of protection over your relationship.

Let the Holy Spirit work. Believe that if you are a child of the Most High God, then you have his power at work inside of you. God’s word says that his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)  My need for God’s power has never been more evident to me than in my desire to parent and to love my children well.

Don’t do this alone. No lone ranger momma’s allowed. We need each other. Find friends who can speak God’s truth into your life. Look for momma friends who will walk this out with you. Be that kind of friend to someone else. No more judgment on other moms. We’re all fighting a battle. Our enemy is not each other. When you see that momma in the grocery store with the screaming child; figuratively, link arms with her, pray a prayer for her, and give her a smile and a word of encouragement. We’ve all been there. I’ll probably be that mom later today, and if you see me, I will most likely desperately need your grace.

My Ella, Sam and Drew are precious gifts from God. They deserve the best, but they wound up with me. And the good news is that I’m the best momma for them. I will fail- maybe not today – but most certainly I will continue to do this momma thing very imperfectly. I’m so grateful for grace and new mercies. So, I’m ready for Mothers Day. I’m ready to celebrate all the ways I love my children well and I’m ready to celebrate a gracious God who fills in the gaps with his forgiveness and favor. Happy Mother’s Day, sweet sisters. Party on.

File May 03, 8 37 36 AM

         Momma, Ella, Sam & Drew

 BraveGirl Angie

Angie