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Kristin Vanderlip

on
May 22, 2016

Don’t Put it Down


There in the 35 gallon steel washing tub filled with dirt emerged a single, tiny green sprout. (Can you spot it in the picture?). If you’ve followed along with some of my Instagram posts, you’re aware that this first time gardener, who has a black thumb, not a green one, is attempting 3 vegetable container gardens this year.

I have very little idea as to what I’m doing, but I’m doing it because this garden is a dream planted in hope and held together through prayer. Honestly it is. And I’m doing it in partnership with my two little boys. This is OUR garden. They share the work and responsibility. And I so desire to use it for teaching and growing them (no pun intended).


But in the back of my mind, the doubts as to my actually being able to accomplish this like to come out and nip at my dream.

Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe this container thing isn’t going to work. I don’t even know if I bought the right soil or mulch or fertilizer. I probably didn’t space the seeds far enough apart, or I planted them too deep into the soil. I’m watering them too much. I probably already killed the seeds or washed them away. Oops, maybe I didn’t water them enough yesterday. Too much water? Not enough? I have no clue what I’m doing.

Even for a stinking little container garden… the doubts creep in.

What if I fail? What if I fail in front of my children? What if nothing grows? How disappointed are they going to be? What if I wasted our time and our money on this? It’s been a couple of weeks already and there are no signs of life yet. This isn’t going to work is it? Nothing is going to grow in my garden.

The doubts. They always try to speak more loudly than my hopes. They try to breed hopelessness, like ugly weeds trying to prevent good growth from blooming and thriving.

Hopelessness.

It always seems to be a battle for me. Gardening. Parenting. Marriage. Grief. Relationships. Ministry. Passions. Dreams. Hopelessness tries to entangle me.

But I hold on to hope through desperate pleas and prayers before the Lord as long as I can. Some times days… weeks… months… even years.

But so often I can’t see the growth. I can’t see the results. I can’t even see the evidence of change or growth. I can’t see the little green sprout. And hope slips out of my hand. That thing I’m hoping for and praying for, I loosen my grip, I let it slip away. I put it down. I walk away from it. I give it up. Hopelessness wins.


I did it with my container gardens. Counting the days that it’s supposed to take for sprouts to emerge. Waiting and waiting. Watching and watching with no sign of change. No sign of hope for my little garden.

And my heart already tries to surrender to hopelessness.

Nothing is going to grow. 

In fact, I’ve almost declared victory for hopelessness as I watered the soil yesterday.

Nothing is growing. 

Disappointed. Discouraged. Hopeless.

And then… those in my life look at the same silver containers full of brown dirt… and point to things that I missed. They see something I don’t. As though my hopelessness blinded me or prevented me from seeing it.

A single green sprout.

And then more, more teeny-tiny sprouts in another container.

I missed them. In my temptation to lean into doubts and disappointment and hopelessness. I missed the signs of growth.

And now that they were pointed out to me, I can’t miss them. I see them. I marvel at them. I delight in them.

I may have even squealed out and shouted joyfully for my boys to come look at our vegetables growing!

Today as I listened to our pastor preach on change God brought this moment from yesterday to my mind, and He whispered, “Don’t put it down.”

Friends, let me share that with you today. That thing you’ve been carrying with you. That hope, that desperate prayer for change in your spouse or your marriage or your child or a parent or friend – or whatever it is that you desire and hope for, a dream, a career, a ministry, a family – that you’ve prayed about for days, weeks, months, and years over. That thing making you feel tired and weary and you feel that hopelessness trying to speak lies to you…

Don’t put it down.

Don’t grow tired. Don’t grow hopeless.

Yes put it at the Lord’s feet, and surrender it to Him, but don’t put it down. Don’t give up on it. Don’t walk away from it.

God has heard and listened. He hears and listens. God wants you to place your hope in Him to accomplish these good and godly things for your life and for those you love. I know it’s cliched, but God’s timing is not our own, and His ways are not our own.

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17)

Wait patiently. (Pslam 37: 7)

Hold onto hope. (Hebrews 10: 23)

Look for signs of His work and faithfulness. (Phil. 1: 6)

Seek godly relationships who can speak wisdom and show you things your tired eyes are missing. (Proverbs 12: 15)

Don’t put it down.

Have an expectant heart my friends.

Hope in Him.

It’s funny, as I sit here and share these words with you. I think how nearly every time I have wanted to hope for something, I become so discouraged that I put “it” down, even angrily or bitterly at times, that God still works. And then I see it, seriously miracle upon miracle, and I am just flabbergasted and blown away. Things I prayed about for years, that eventually I just put down and walked away and gave up on. One day, they just happened.

Isn’t that encouraging to my friends?

Even if we do put it down. God doesn’t. God doesn’t stop. He is always at work.

But we miss out if we put it down. We miss out on the blessings of seeing God’s work and being a part of it with Him. We miss growing closer to Him. We risk our relationship and intimacy with Him. We miss building our faith in Him. We miss out on ministering and witnessing and testifying to others. We miss out on a lot. God doesn’t want us to miss out. He wants us there with Him. How awesome is that?


What is the “it” in your life? What is the “thing” you have been praying to see changed or have happen? What is “it” that you are hoping for that you are growing tired of hoping for? What is the miracle you so desperately desire from the Lord?  May I encourage you to do those aforementioned things, to continue to pray and ask for it, to wait patiently, to hold onto hope, to look for signs of God at work, to expect God to be at work, to seek out a relationship in your life who can help speak wisdom and give you new eyes?

on
May 8, 2016

Motherhood & Following Dreams

I am so thankful to be sitting down at my antique writing desk in our new home writing this post. This is the first blog post I’m writing in this new precious space of mine (that has a beautiful view by the way), and I’m so thankful. And I’m so excited that after a long, busy month full of change and stress, to finally sit down, have a special place carved out for me to pause and breathe, and have my longing to write be fulfilled. It feels like a glorious thing actually. A sacred thing even.

So yes, my family and I moved (just locally), and over the course of this past month I have faced changes and stressor upon stressor. Have you ever had one of those days or weeks or even month where things just seem to keep going wrong? Me too. That’s where I’ve been instead of writing. And I must admit that during this time, I became a bit of a frantic mother and wife as one thing went wrong after another (complete with a trip to an ER while we were out of state for my littlest one to have his chin stitched up, a lost paci running errands that led to unplanned paci weaning, our dog escaping out of the back gate a few times, and my crashing our van into the side of our new house trying to chase down our lost dog, and more… of just… life).

Sometimes I have to make time for writing, and sometimes I have to put it aside and just make time to deal with life.

All of this to say, that in the midst of this change and chaos happening around me, the urge to write never stopped itching at me. But there simply was no time and no way, and I had to find a peace about that, and I did. And then the Lord showed me a little of how this all played into something that’s been on my mind and heart for the past 6 months or so, and I felt led to share it with you all.

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How to face the struggle of being a mom and chasing a dream.

As though they are two opposing forces pulling us in different directions where we feel it has to be one or the other, and we don’t know how to do both. (I’m not necessarily talking the whole stay-at-home mom versus working mom thing, but it certainly could apply here I suppose. And for the sake of this post, this is written for the moms out there reading this; I do not intend to be insensitive to women whose dream is motherhood and there is a void or struggle or brokenness there. If that is you, I sympathize with you more than you could ever know, I love you, and there is a different post to be written for you for another time). Really, I’m here just generally speaking about being a full time mom and having a dream placed in your heart.

Recently I’ve had several revelations in this area as I’ve learned and heard from other wise women, studied scripture, and experienced God’s voice and direction in my own life as I’ve struggled and prayed over these very things. I think it’s safe to say, based on my own experiences, shared stories and struggles with friends and women in my life, half the viral blog posts I come across, the plethora of new non-fiction books for moms… that this is a very common struggle. One that can bring with it discontentment, anxiety, and a real wrestling in our hearts. And one that if left unattended to could lead to missing out on something  God has in store for us.

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So. You’re a mom, in the thick of motherhood, 24/7 mothering, barely having time to shower and take care of yourself… And God breathes this dream, this calling, this idea into your heart. To write a book. To start a non-profit. To become a foster parent. To get a degree in something else. To start a ministry at your church. To go across the globe. To <insert your scenario here>. And you’re thinking, What in the world Lord? How can I possibly do that? And right now?  How? That dream sounds amazing. But me? I’d love to, but what about my calling to stay at home with my children? What about <x, y, z>? How is this possible? And the questions just abound, and we wrestle and struggle.

When we first hear the Lord whispering a dream or calling into our hearts, and we feel that nudging from the Holy Spirit towards something, I’ve found that it’s common to experience guilt that what we’re feeling means that we aren’t thankful for what we currently have, as though it’s not good enough for us so we want more. But that isn’t the case, and we know that. But we may experience a sense of discontentment. We may question and doubt and wrestle.

Then when the Lord has clearly revealed this dream or calling, or steps to start taking towards it, we may struggle with a sense of frustration like there’s no time, or trying to juggle responsibilities, or even over the approval/disapproval of others. We may feel selfish, inadequate, or insecure, and do some more questioning, doubting.  The whole thing can be a little overwhelming, and so often we just don’t know what to do or how to do it. And that’s okay.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers by any means, but here’s what I’ve found helps when these two great callings collide, motherhood and another God-sized dream. How do we pursue the dream as mothers?

1). First, we have understand who God created us to be and what He designed us to do (both as women and as individuals). I have looked at three examples of Biblical women in scripture found in Genesis (Eve!), Proverbs 31 (that infamous wife and mother), and in Titus 2. Scripture shows us that a woman is designed to be her husband’s helpmate, and her primary responsibility is managing her home. Truly this topic is much too large and deep for this blog post’s sake, but I encourage you to study these women and see for yourself if you’re curious or interested.

One of the things I loved about restudying the Proverbs 31 woman, who seems to just be it all and have it all and can tempt to annoy you with her perfection…. is that she has help!! Y’all she had servants helping her. There is no shame in hiring a cleaning service to clean your home if that is affordable to you and works for your family and opens up time to fulfill God’s calling in your life. Confession: this was news to me! Also, she does work outside the home my friends! She makes and sells things. But you’ll notice it’s not at the expense of her family. She still fulfills her roles in her home as a wife and mother. The real blessing of studying her is looking at the character attributes she possesses, and seeing how her family, her husband, and children respond to her. But more on that all for another time!

Also, don’t forget, God gave you unique gifts and talents… TO BE USED! And used for His glory. Do not let your gifts sit idle. Be a good steward of them. Pray about how He would have you use them! If you’ve been given a dream in your heart, I’m going to bet some of that calling will enable you to use those gifts for that very kingdom purpose. Some of what your calling requires may frighten you and challenge you to grow you and sharpen you and change you. With all that said, spend time learning about who God created you to be, as a woman, as a mom, and as His unique creation.

2). Understand and embrace your season. Are you a mother of infants and toddlers or of teenagers or adult children? Be aware of your season in motherhood, seek to understand it, and gratefully accept it and embrace it. The Lord has you in this particular season with this dream for a reason. And the thing with seasons is that they change, you will not stay in this season forever. So if you feel like you’re up to the neck in motherhood and you’re the mother of young children in survival mode, and there just seems to be no time for a dream outside of the home let alone time for sleep or a shower… Realize that maybe you don’t have time to pursue your dream in the way you might want to right now and that’s okay. Your time may not be now. But in a few years when the kids are off at school full time, maybe that’s when your time will be. Remember the seasons, and trust God’s timing for them and where your dream fits in with motherhood.

For instance, for me, I feel the Lord calling me to write, and write for His glory. And I have a big, picture of a big dream that I feel the Lord pulling me to, but I can also hear Him saying not yet very clearly. He may have given you a glimpse towards something He has in store for you… But He might have you go on a journey first before you get there. For me, I was shown that God is weaving together my journey towards this dream through my motherhood and being a stay-at-home mom over the past several years, maybe even decade if I want to get real. But rest assured, He will make a way for your season of mothering and your dream, but it may look different to each of us with different timing and different stages and different seasons.

3). Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize – and say no. So you have this dream, you’re learning  who God created you to be, you’re understanding your season, and now you’re left with the problem as to how exactly this is going to happen. I sort of laugh when I think about this because we have a God who is known for making a way when we don’t see one – remember when He parted that sea? Oh yeah. Me too. If He wants you to follow Him somewhere, He will make a way, you just need to find it with Him. And I’ve found that the best way to help facilitate that is by getting our priorities straight and learning to say no. Our first priority should always be following Him and staying true to the Holy Spirit’s promptings in our hearts. Our second priority should be to our husbands and our homes (this goes back to point 1). And everything else falls after. As we all know, we are a busy, over committed society. So most of us probably need to learn to say no to some things in our lives and schedules if we want to follow and make room for a dream so that we can say yes to God.

Often times prioritizing is where good scheduling and planning come into the picture. For instance, my husband voiced a concern to me that what I’ve been feeling called to do was taking away quality time in our relationship. I wrestled with that and prayed over it. And then we practically came up with a plan that if this calling truly is from the Lord that I will continue to pursue it, but I need to be wise with my time and mindful of my relationships with my husband and children. So I do my best to write during nap times to not take away from my children and to not interfere with quality time and connecting with my husband in the evening when he’s home from work and the kids are in bed. Of course, if you’re a mom you know this isn’t much time, but I feel God telling me that’s okay. I’m in the baby step process. He will make time when there needs to be more. For example, in the fall, my husband and I made the decision for both of our kids to be in a few hours of care at a local church two mornings a week, and that time will be used for me to more seriously pursue writing.

4). Be patient and trust in God’s perfect timing.  We’ve got this God-sized dream in our heart… and we have to wait. We often cannot see that dream fulfilled immediately. Boy is patience hard!  If the time is not now, then the time is not now, but that doesn’t meant give up or forget about the dream entirely! Seek God in finding out what you’re supposed to do in the now. It’s most likely time to grow. Even though the dream may not be happening just yet, I’m sure that there is work to do. So ask yourself, What baby steps can I take now? What kind of work do I need to or can I put in now? What do I need to learn?  I’ve heard from women who have completely ignored the God-sized dream put on their heart, and they have actually debilitated themselves ignoring God’s calling and been left with anxiety in their hearts and lives, for years even as they ignored and resisted. Sometimes we need to plant before we sow. Be patient for as your dream to blossom. Also, despite the lie the media likes to sell, dreams don’t come to fruition over night. Be patient. And the next point will help a little with this too.

5). Be present. Do not miss what is going on around you to focus on the dream ahead. Don’t do it. As expressed already, it is about a journey. Yes God is calling your towards something, but that journey is part of the calling. The present moments are being used to shape you, grow you, change you, prune you, and prepare you for whatever lies ahead. And in these moments, the dream still exists – sometimes God will give you glimpses at how the present may open a path for that dream to be realized. Sometimes the present feels full of small, insignificant things and that can make us lose perspective if we aren’t careful.

For instance, your present may be full of poopy diapers, and that can be really un-glamorous and can lead to some negative thinking and even that dangerous comparison game as we look at the lives of others. I know because  I’ve been there… But really, you’re mothering your child. And that is part of one of the greatest callings God has ever given mankind. And even if it is diaper changes and runny noses that day, do your best as a mom. Remember, if you’re a good steward over the small things He gives you, think of how He will see that faithfulness and then will give you responsibility over the big things. In Matthew 25:23, Jesus shares the parable of the talents in which the master says, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” And in Luke 6:10 the Bible says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” The present may be full of those small seemingly insignificant things that are actually trying to prepare you for the big things. Also, the present is where pruning and growth occur. The present is where our character is developed, perspective applied, gratitude cultivated. Are you missing the opportunities now that He’s giving you to be faithful in them? I missed them for a long time! And boy did it hurt my heart and warp my purpose and perspective.

6). Most importantly, continually turn to the Lord regarding your calling or dream and seek PEACE and have FAITH. If you do not have an inner peace about this dream, then I would be that there’s something God is trying to tell you or show you where you may be not be following Him. And this is different from discomfort. Now this is a bit of a gray area where generalization has to happen because each woman and calling and situation is unique and specific to her, but if your “dream” is costing your family and hurting them or not allowing you to be your husband’s helpmate or the manager of your home as discussed in point 1, I would suggest re-evaluating the calling, praying, and seeking the Holy Spirit to guide you. Perhaps it is not God’s desires for you at all, but that old deceitful heart of ours.

On the other hand, if you feel a little uncomfortable or overwhelmed regarding your God-sized dream, that can be a good sign. Some times that happens when we are growing and stretching ourselves and leaning into the Lord to trust Him with some big dreams and tasks, to even do the impossible. It may be an overwhelming, scary, seemingly impossible dream, like, Who are you talking to Lord? Surely, not I... Well yes, my friend, He may in fact be talking to you. Listen to Him. And then find comfort and take courage from scripture and all of the accounts of God making the impossible possible with Him. Think the classic David versus Goliath. Think Jesus walking on the water asking Peter to walk with Him. Step out in faith my friend. Jesus is there. Satan wants to paralyze us with fears and doubts, but we serve a God who does the impossible and is faithful.

But if you’re following the Lord, even if it seems scary and uncomfortable, He will give you a peace. Find the peace. If at any time, you feel that just not right feeling, ask the Lord to help you examine your heart. The Lord has been so faithful to me in this area. He will be faithful for you too.


 

Right now my baby steps towards my dream involve things like writing blog posts, learning about social media and writing, learning about platform building, learning from others’ writing and experiences, and well just a whole lot of learning and practice. And some days for me, one blog post takes an entire week to write. Which can be annoying yes, but I’ve learned that’s okay for me right now. I might wish I had the time to write it in one sitting, or have the time to post multiple times a week, but more often than not I don’t. And that’s okay. I’ve learned to be at peace with that. I understand my season, I see this as a journey. I am focused on being present and being faithful day to day with what the Lord is asking of me. But I am still writing. I am still following what Jesus is putting on my heart. But I’m seeing the whole picture of the God-sized dream I have because I see Him putting my family on my heart, serving them first, remembering they are not the distraction, they are my primary calling and ministry. I truly believe He will make time for me to write what He calls me to write, if I am a wise steward of what He’s given me.

And moms, let us remember this truth expressed by my favorite, C. S. Lewis:

Children are not a distraction from the more important work. They are the most important work.

Lastly, if you’re a mom, and you don’t have a calling in your heart to do something else, but you want that, or if you wrestle with a little jealousy over the mom who has already accomplished this great big dream with little kids running around her feet, or if you struggle with feeling like motherhood is great, but you want more, let me speak these words to you. Give yourself grace, but guard your heart. God has you right where you are doing what you’re meant to do right now for a reason. As corny as it often sounds, He does have a plan for you. And sometimes, we need to adjust our dreams and focuses to match what His might be for our lives. They may look different, they may match up, but we need to get with God on that. For you stay-at-home moms of littles like myself, my heart goes out to you. My prayer is for you to see your home as your mission field and ministry first and foremost. Embrace your season. Raising children is the most important role in our world, and it is so overlooked and under-appreciated. You have tremendous value in your work. Tremendous.

When I first transitioned from having a full time career that I loved and was meant for to a stay-at-home mom (which I wanted), it was hard. Harder than I ever could have imagined in ways I could not have imagined. It took me a few years to embrace being called to stay-at-home with our children and see the beauty and glory and purpose in it. At the time, I struggled a lot with discontentment. In fact, I might say I kept trying to put myself on the throne and God needed to keep telling me to get off, that’s His place. But seriously, God needed to do a lot of work in me during this time. A lot of pruning. A lot of perspective changing. And I am so grateful for that time. God wasn’t ready to reveal another calling to me at that time. My calling was motherhood and that was plenty! It is enough! But He needed to reveal certain things to my heart before another dream ever could have room to be spoken there.

Let me end this insanely long post, which probably could be the start of another book on motherhood, by saying God’s purpose and timing looks different in each of our lives. It truly, truly does. But we can be sure, He wants to use each of us to further His kingdom and show others His glory and love. Some days or years this may be as a mother and wife, some days or years this may be as a working mom, some days or years this may be pursuing motherhood and multiple dreams that are intertwined together in a beautiful puzzling fashion in which He gives you eyes to see the whole picture, some days or years this may be in your home, your town, or across the world.

At the end of the day, if you’re struggling with motherhood and purpose and dreams and callings, having none, having one, having too many, seek the Lord for clarity and guidance. Come to Him over and over again. He will guide your paths. Have no doubt. But open yourselves up to those things I’ve been learning, seasons, priorities, wisdom, perspective, patience, growth, being present. God is using you my friend and will continue to use you if you let Him for all the days of your lives. Have an expectant heart in this too!

on
March 30, 2016

A Blessing for My Unexpectant Heart

Expecting God to move in my life is not always easy. In fact, even though my space here is called “An Expectant Heart,” I must confess, I’m often terrible at having an expectant heart. That’s been part of my problem for the past 6 years. But the Lord brought light to my heart / faith issue and started to teach me about living with an expectant heart – to expect Him to move in my life, to answer prayers, to be faithful to what His Word promises, to bless me (how bold it is to say that? But I can!), and on and on I could go … And yet, time after time, here I am, still surprised when He unexpectedly shows up in my life. I know that to do this life well I need to have an expectant heart, but I’m still learning and needing reminders on a daily basis.

Two nights ago, the Lord gave me an unexpected blessing and an answer to a prayer that I didn’t even know my heart had been crying. In light of the fragile, emotional state of my heart as of late, I feel like the best way for me to share a little about it is by writing a letter to my 4 year old son that I would like to welcome you all to read. I look forward to reading it to him one day too.


 

To My Sweet Boy,

You didn’t know I was sad for some of today. You didn’t know that minutes before reading you your bedtime stories your momma wiped her mascara stained cheeks clean from the tears she cried while you played in the bath. You didn’t know your momma’s heart was aching, let alone the reasons why.

And you didn’t know how sweetly timed the precious questions you uttered were to me or how they brought healing to my hurting heart.

Snuggled up beside me in your bed, ready for me to read you your story, dressed in your blue airplane pajamas, you looked at me with you matching blue eyes and so randomly and ever so sweetly asked me about your Grandpa Tom.

You caught me off guard. I paused for a moment, and then I swear my heart smiled (I think I actually chuckled to myself – and oh the irony of your namesake here -Isaac, named for the laughter that came from disbelief).

I looked at you, so appreciative and in awe of your questions and the timing, and began to answer. You asked me about what your Grandpa Tom looked like, how long he has been in Heaven for, you talked about your sister in Heaven and about her and Grandpa together. You, my sweet 4 year old boy, have such an amazing understanding of Heaven already and what it means for your sister, your Grandpa, and to our family and our faith. You asked question after question, each one building upon the other, with a genuine desire to know more about your Grandpa and sister, and I answered and shared with so much gratitude for the conversation you were having with me.

Sweet boy, you have no idea how much your momma needed that conversation, that you were part of an answer to a prayer that even I didn’t know my heart had been crying out for.

You didn’t know that the hour before our conversation your momma was feeling exhausted, facing relational conflicts, and feeling hurt. You didn’t know that earlier in the day I read and watched the post of another babyloss momma in which she shared a bit about visiting her daughter’s grave. You didn’t know that it wrecked me a little. That it made me long for your big sister.

You didn’t know I cried because I miss her, and not only her, but I hate not being able to visit her grave whenever I want. Because the longings come some days, just to go visit her. And I know she’s gone from there, but her grave still means something to me. Something that not many people understand, but this particular babyloss momma (Angie Smith) does, and she put into words something I’ve never been able to:

I remembered this sobering and spectacular truth: death to life, love. That’s what happens. Friday to Sunday. I miss her so much it aches. Yes-it is empty there. It is empty here. But so was the tomb that brought heaven to me… Mercy. I can’t wait to see her again. And I will.

Tonight your momma’s heart was feeling the emptiness, the ache of missing your sister, the ache of not having her here with us, the ache of not even being able to visit her grave. What I wanted and needed, I couldn’t have. But I knew enough to at least expect God to give me His supernatural peace and comfort to my aches, as He always does, but I didn’t expect this. Your words were an unexpected answer and blessing to your momma.

My heart was wrecked for a million different other little reasons tonight as well. I tried to hide as much of it as I could from you. But God had plans of divinely orchestrating something between you and me. Your tiny body snuggled up close to mine, your big blue eyes connecting with my broken heart, you brought me a gift straight from God.

Your heart and questions, so randomly and innocently and genuinely asked, combined with God’s perfect timing, filled my empty places and soothed some of my heart’s aches in a way that I needed, but didn’t know it. The power of hearing their names come from your lips and the opportunity you created for me to speak their names too brought me such joy tonight. Thank you.

Thank you my sweet boy. Thank you for mentioning their names, for giving me the chance to share about your sister and Grandpa. Thank you for your sweet heart. I am so thankful to Jesus for you, my rainbow baby, who can always bring my downcast heart a smile.

I hope you know your momma loves you so, and God loves you even more.

  

 


 

Sometimes I have the habit of getting stuck in a cycle and just suffering through things, offering up my half-hearted prayers or hoping the Holy Spirit will just intervene for me, and I miss out on expecting God. (Does anyone else do this too or just me?!)  I need to expect Him. I need to look for Him. In everything I need.  We all do.

What about you my friend? What do you need? What can you expect from God? How can you start to look for Him to show up?

A great suggestion if you have no clue where to start is in His Word. Look at who God is, what He has done, and what He promises to do. Expect His Word to ring true in your life. (The Psalms and the book of Isaiah are my favorite books to turn to).

Is there a time recently when you’ve had an expectant heart, and you’ve experienced His presence and the fulfillment of His promises or answers? What was that like?

Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear and connect with you!

 


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Not as easy to be vulnerable with such personal details anymore, but I couldn’t finish this post without sharing this image of my dad and daughter together before they went to be with the Lord a month later, two weeks apart, a year and a half before my son was born.

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March 24, 2016

For When You Need Hope to Spring Forth

A symphony of raindrops fell onto my van’s windshield as the wipers steady beat cleared them away. The weather threatened once again to turn the raindrops into snow pellets clicking against the glass. I marveled at the chaotic Tennessee weather—last weekend temperatures reached near 70 degrees and now back down to 30.

On the drive to drop my son off at preschool a couple of weeks ago, I gazed out my window and tried to discern whether the precipitation falling from the sky was indeed rain or in fact sleet. As I did so, my eyes came upon an unexpected surprise in the dreary landscape.

There in the midst of the seemingly lifeless, grey earth, was the refreshing sight of a bright yellow daffodil, like a rare gemstone shining brightly in a pile of rocks.

A treasure to be held.

An unexpected blessing.

Life springing forth.

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The daffodils that bloom at the end of winter, as spring longs to come forth, serve as a reminder of how God came through for me during the darkest season of my life.

Six years ago, during the winter, I entered into a season of suffering and loss. I vividly remember the blizzard my husband and I drove through that turned a 16 hour car ride into a 24 hour one. The weather and travel conditions felt much like the lot that had been cast to us, cruel and cold. Two days after the exhausting, downright agonizing journey, I sat on the frozen ground, the winter wind nipping at my tear stained cheeks, and stared at the tiny casket in front of me, my baby girl.

Grief blanketed my soul as the winter snow blanketed the land, everything seemed dark and cold for a long time. Not only did my daughter die, but more trials and loss came my way soon after. As I began to wonder if hope was lost, the Lord sprinkled signs of His promises and love around me, like daffodils in the winter, hidden treasures in the darkness for me to find.

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD.” {Isaiah 45:3 NIV}

His promises were to be fulfilled.

Hope was to come.

The seasons were to change.

Life was to be made new.

Blessings and hope came in various forms, from a friend’s invitation to take a walk or a sweet message of prayer, to the miraculous sound of my own laugh or the ability to smile and feel my heart warm from a memory or dream. And so God began to bind my broken heart, leaving little stitches of hope and joy.

For six years the Lord worked on my brokenness, and I feel Him making me new, as though I’m coming alive again, blooming up out of the “yuck” that grief created in my life, just like the daffodils I so love to find growing wild along the side of the road. I look upon them with a certain warm fondness and see them as a gift the Lord gave me to remember all He has done—doing a new thing in me, giving me new life, bringing me hope when it seemed impossible, teaching me to have an expectant heart, giving me new purpose, bringing me new joys and strength, and more.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” {Isaiah 43:19 ESV}

If you find yourself facing a dark and difficult season, marked by loss or suffering, or where hope and joy seem to have vanished, hold on tightly to God’s promises, expect Him to fulfill them in your life, and look for the treasures He is leaving for you to discover.

God wants you to know He is there with you. He is bringing you hope. He is going to do a new thing in you too.

The winter, the darkness, the season of mourning or suffering will all fade. The seasons will change. We will sing again, laugh again, and find joy again.

“For behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come.”  {Song of Solomon 2: 11-12}

These words of new life and hope when hope seems lost, death and darkness seem to surround us are so fitting this week, holy week, as we prepare ourselves to remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross tomorrow and celebrate His resurrection on Sunday.

Let us remember as we go about our days, no matter how dark or hopeless situations or live or people seem, Christ is alive and doing something new. New life will come. It will look like different things to each of us, but let us expect it and look for it. Expect to see His signs and treasures of life, hope, doing something new, like the daffodils that spring forth from a lifeless land. If you find one, share it!


Does any of this resonate with you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with me, I would love to read them!

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March 18, 2016

3-18, Not Just Any Other Day

March 18th. Another day on the calendar, or at least it used to be. And then, as some days do, they become forever etched in our hearts. That’s March 18th for me, and I figured I needed write a little about it here, and explain why I’m wearing this St. Patty’s day green t-shirt today and not yesterday.

  
Seven years ago Trisomy 18 meant nothing to me. If you’d ask me if I’d heard of it, I would have recognized it from biology classes and understood it to be a condition where a person has 3 copies of the 18th chromosome instead of the normal 2. Other than that, I didn’t know anything, and it wasn’t on my radar at all.

A little less than 7 years ago, I began buying and reading every pregnancy book ever written to help me through my first pregnancy. In those books, I read the chapters at the end about birth defects and other complications that can occur. You know the section that everyone likes to skip and not think about. Well, I still read them, but like everyone else. I convinced myself to just skim through them and be done with it – no need to cause unnecessary worry I thought. It’s not going to happen to me, not to my baby.

And then, on December 1, 2009, it happened to me, to my baby. That day I gave birth to our first child, a girl. And our story wasn’t written like we’d hoped or expected. The time that was supposed to be full of rejoicing was instead ridden with mourning as we started down a journey that felt like a living nightmare when doctors told us she had full Trisomy 18.

Today, March 18th, is Trisomy 18 Awareness Day. So in her memory, it’s another year, that I will raise awareness about what our daughter’s condition and find a way to speak her name.

Disclaimer: even though we had a child with Trisomy 18, I am by no means the resident expert on the condition. I would encourage you to maybe do a little researching and digging on your own – that would be such an honor to me. But I will share a few things about Trisomy 18.

Trisomy 18 occurs when there are 3 copies of the 18th chromosome.

Trisomy 18 affects every single cell of the babies’ bodies and is considered “incompatible with life.”

Full Trisomy 18 is a lethal or fatal chromosomal disorder, meaning that babies born with it do not make it to see their 1st birthdays.

Full Trisomy 18 occurs spontaneously during conception.

Trisomy 18 babies experience a variety of health problems / “symptoms” from gastroschisis, to small set eyes, to skin tags, to apnea, to heart problems and much more.

For me personally, the most difficult part of having a baby diagnosed with Trisomy 18 was my desire to celebrate and love the beautiful baby girl given to us, while simultaneously walking a through a nightmare as I anticipated the death of my daughter at any moment and grieved her while still holding her in my arms.

There’s so many directions I could take this post and so much more I could say, but for now, I need to say that having a baby with full Trisomy 18 can happen to anyone, the healthiest of couples doing everything right, can still have a baby with Trisomy 18. It affects more families than you realize. So please, learn about it, share about it, and let’s figure out how we can support those whose lives are affected by Trisomy 18.

Yes, a pre-natal or post-natal diagnosis of Trisomy 18 on a baby is devastating… and scary… .And those words really don’t begin to cover it… But the journey is worth it. The fear and pain are overcome by love and hope. 

If someone you know is pregnant or recently gave birth to a baby who has Trisomy 18, first, pay attention to what they share and do your research, find out what type of Trisomy 18 the baby has (there are several types), offer your love, support, encouragement, and positive words, pray for the family, and be sensitive! (There’s really a whole long list of things I could share in regards to that last part, but I think needs to be saved for another day.)

If you are pregnant or recently gave birth to a baby with Trisomy 18 – as much as life is screaming fear and sorrow into your heart, let love and joy shout louder. Your baby is precious and beautiful and yours. He/she needs you to be his/her momma, and you’re going to be the perfect momma for him/her. Lastly, you are not alone in this. The Lord is with you and there are a community of women and families in this with you too. Seek out support, you will find it and it will be so helpful! (Be Not Afraid is a great resource to turn to).

The green t-shirt that I’m wearing today on Trisomy 18 Awareness Day is in honor of my daughter, Hailey. Hailey’s Hope with Project Sweet Peas is the non-profit division I started in her memory, seeking to help other parents and families walking the scary road of having their brand new babies in intensive care units.


 

To learn more about Hailey’s Hope with Project Sweet Peas check out its page on my blog, my division’s page on Project Sweet Peas, and like its Facebook page (please and thanks!).

If you know of a Trisomy 18 baby, please leave a comment and share with me. If you have a question, please ask, and I will do my best to answer.

Lastly, please help me raise awareness today and share or like this post or Hailey’s Hope’s Facebook page! Thanks 🙂