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February 27, 2018

What I Learned This Winter

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman to reflect back on and share what we’ve learned at the end of each season. This has become a wonderful practice that’s helped me reflect, process, grow, and transition into the next season.

As someone who is a self-proclaimed slow-processor and suffers from a forgetful mind/ spiritual amnesia, this has become such a blessing to me each season.

Here are 10 things that I learned this winter – some deep, some spiritual, some fun, and some seemingly insignificant, but somethings I learned nonetheless. Please leave me a comment sharing something you learned this winter!

Read more

August 24, 2017

Comfortable in Suffering

There’s a song by Francesca Battistelli called “If We’re Honest” in which she sings these words:

“The dark seems safer than the light.”

Who could ever imagine the dark being safer than the light? That we could end up thinking that way?

But that was it.

One day as I was listening to this song for hundredth time, those words reverberated in my mind and stopped me in my tracks.

That was where I found myself without realizing it.

In a place where dark seems safer than the light.

Have you ever been there before? Are you there now? If yes please keep reading. If not, please still keep reading, because maybe one day you’ll remember these words, and they will help free you from the darkness and the moment in which it seems safer than the light.

In our lives we will have seasons where the storm rages, the skies darken, a fog falls over us, a blackness consumes us. There’s a million ways to describe it – and most are accurate. None of us are immune to these seasons.

However you want to describe it, the darkness can enter our lives in different ways but functions the same. Maybe it’s through sorrow or fear or pain that comes from death, illness, job loss, a broken relationship, or something else, something else that hurts and breaks and empties us.

Our lives grow dark during seasons of suffering.

The darkness wraps itself around us. Those of us who have experienced a season of suffering know this. But here’s the thing, if we’re not careful, we might end up holding onto the dark and pulling it tighter around us like a blanket.

Like the dark is safer than the light.

We might long for the light and beg to be released from the darkness’s captivity – but how do we experience the light again? Will the darkness ever be lifted? When will we ever be free from it? Is it even possible?  Read more

May 28, 2017

What I Learned This Spring


I’m continuing to love linking up with Emily P. Freeman and practicing the art of slowing down to record, reflect, and share what we’re learning in our lives each season.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of what I learned this spring, especially considering all I learned and experienced in Italy, but here are 8 of the highlights.

What I Learned This Spring:

1. Life Savers were NOT created with a hole in the center to save a child’s life by preventing choking on the candy.

My little boy asked me if he could have “one of those hard circle candies with the hole in the middle, just like Grandma has in her purse.” I shared with a friend that I’m uneasy about giving my little ones any type of hard candy, including Life Savers, because of the fear of choking, even as they get older.

This friend looked at me and unknowingly shared what I now know (thanks to Google and Snopes) to be a myth that has continued to circulate over the years. I had never heard it before.

And so I learned the myth before I learned the truth. My friend’s story made sense, maybe, I thought. But I still wasn’t sure so I “researched.” According to, the claim that “Life Savers candy was so named because the inventor’s daughter died from choking on a non-holed mint” is FALSE.

Really the story behind their creation has nothing to do with choking or saving a life. So mommas, beware this myth and keep your little ones safe.

2. The name “Israel” means “to struggle (or wrestle) with God.”

I labeled myself as a struggler for a long time now. Struggling with various aspects of and roles in life, struggling to be successful or see victory in certain areas of my life and battling feelings of failure, wrestling with God over deep spiritual things…. struggling with almost anything that appeared in front of me, wanting to do better and be better but always struggling to do so…. You get the picture.

I saw my identity as a struggler. I tried to make light of it. My favorite hoodie reads “THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.”

But deep down struggling is tiring and depressing and shame was growing wherever I struggled, especially as someone who loves Jesus and knows and believes His Word.

Of course God spoke softly to my struggling heart, reminding me my identity is one of victory in Him. But it wasn’t until my rereading of the book of Isaiah with She Reads Truth over Lent that I learned the meaning of the name Israel.

Y’all it was a healing revelation.

One of my favorite verses in Isaiah has always been 43:1b:

…the One who formed you, Israel– Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.

But honestly I generally skipped right over the word Israel in the verse, and for all the times the name Israel appears in the Bible, I never took time to pay attention to it’s meaning – at least not until it spoke to me personally.

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and later God gave His people the name Israel: “struggles with God.”

Me, the one who struggles with God. Me, replacing my name with Israel. How much more powerful did this already powerful scripture become. It was incredible and freeing.

I further learned that some translate it to mean “May God prevail” or “God perseveres.” Amen.

3. When packing for Italy, leave the sandals at home.

Italians do not wear sandals. They wear cute and comfy close-toed shoes. I learned this my first day in Rome.

Of course I was wearing smart comfortable tennis shoes for walking that first day, but my suitcase was packed full of sandals.  I quickly noticed NO ONE wore sandals. And I did not want to be “that” tourist so my sandals stayed mostly packed for the rest of the trip.

If you’re ever going to visit Italy, pack multiple pairs of comfy walking shoes and leave the sandals at home (unless you visit the coast in which case you only need a pair).

4. I learned how to make pasta from scratch in Italy. 

This was one of those “bucket list” items / life dreams fulfilled in Italy. I watched and learned and then made my own spaghetti noodles.

It was all that I dreamed it would be. It was simple and beautiful and scary yet easy and so fun. It made me want to buy one of those noodle machines (clearly I need to learn its name) even though I would probably use it once a year. But we’re talking homemade pasta, maybe it’s worth it even once a year??

Did I mention it tasted deliciously amazing too?

5. Dinners in Italy are delicious and late and loooooooong…. 

In Italy restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:30 or 8PM.  The meal is then served course by course, very s-l-o-w-l-y… On average our dinners would last until 10 or 11PM, at which point we always felt like we had to beg (politely) for our check.

Don’t get me wrong, a nice slow-paced dinner is lovely. Especially in Italy. And the food is amazing. But just prepare yourself if you ever visit. It’s just how they do dinner. Late and long.

6. These gorgeous iconic Italian trees are called Italian Cypress trees. 

I had no idea of their name. I only knew I loved them in every picture of Italy I have ever seen. And then I saw them in person.

Thanks to my good friend Google, I was able to determine that these dreamy trees are called Italian Cypress trees.

7. Michelangelo’s David is truly magnificent and stands over 17 feet tall.

Of course it’s a masterpiece. Of course I should not have been surprised by its magnificence in person. But I was.

What I really didn’t expect was how large it would be. I had no idea of the size of the famous sculpture before seeing it in person. It really was breathtaking when I walked in the room standing just over 17 feet tall. Almost 3 times my height.

Not only was its size magnificent, but the detail astonishing. I mean can you see the veins?

8. Yale is in New Haven, Connecticut – and we’re moving there this summer! (Surprise!) 

Proud wife! I will forever get to proclaim “I know someone who went to Yale” and that someone is my husband. He will be attending grad school there. Super excited for him.

So yes our whole family will be moving this summer. This was not in our long term plans at all and just recently unfolded in our lives.

Change is hard. Moving is hard. (Especially when you just bought your dream house exactly a year ago). Starting over is hard. (Especially when it’s for less than a year).

But it’s Yale. And I’m going to be able to visit cities and places I’ve always longed to visit! Like NYC and Boston! And show our kids more of our country. So we’re focusing on gratitude and excitement and good in this new assignment.

If you happen to have any Yale or Connecticut insights to share please message me all the things!

I also learned that as a spouse of a Yale grad student, I can audit courses, which means I can take courses at Yale for FREE! I won’t receive credit nor will I have to fulfill any course requirements. But FREE education at an Ivy League school. Yes please!! Give me all the writing courses!


What did you learn this spring?

Share here the comments or link up on Instagram with #whatwelearned #whatIlearned and tag me in your comments @an.expectant.heart

May 13, 2017

A Mother’s Heart

How are you ever prepared to live with the mother’s heart inside of you?

How are you ever prepared to live with the mother’s heart that beats for children in unexpected and unfathomable ways?

For the aching for children held in hearts instead of hands.

For the breaking for children who live in heaven instead of homes.

For the longing for children who exist only in dreams and not in wombs.

For the swelling of an incomprehensible love that longs to burst forth and pour out.

How did I ever miss the beating of your hearts?

And then they became the beat of my own broken and bereaved heart, and I see you’re never prepared.

How are you ever prepared to live with the mother’s heart inside of you?

With the mother’s heart that beats for children in both expected and unexpected ways and to unanticipated depths.

For the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that ensues.

For the guilt that weighs.

For the selfishness that hinders.

For the fears and worries that attack.

For the overwhelming desires to love and shield and shepherd.

…And of course I could go on and on, forever I’m sure, but you get the picture…

How did I see you mothering but miss the depths of your love and struggles?

And then they became the beat of my own stretched out, expanded, vulnerable heart as I love and struggle with mothering two rainbow boys, and I see even then you’re never prepared for this thing called mothering.

Perhaps one of the greatest blessings to come from all the unexpected ways motherhood has come upon me and shaped my mother’s heart is how everything has opened my eyes to you.

The ones with a mother’s heart.

You know who you are. And I don’t want to miss you. And I don’t want the world to miss you either. Especially this weekend, but every other day as well.

This afternoon I pulled out the thick white book tucked safely away in my closet and thumbed through the pages. I stopped when I reached the date May 10, 2010. The entry begins, “Well… I survived last week (glad it is over), which also means I survived Mother’s Day.”

My eyes skim delicately through the words. I read, “I will admit, I avoided church this weekend. I couldn’t face it, face the unknown. I didn’t know what it would be like if I went. Would they ask the mothers to stand? Would they pass out flowers to the mothers?… I couldn’t face it. Mostly because even the church fails to recognize the pain of Mother’s Day for many women like myself… I didn’t want to start my day out feeling like my motherhood was in question or non-existent… So I didn’t go.”

That was my first Mother’s Day, which also happened to be my first Mother’s Day without my child, my little girl having died just 4 months before. I was hurting, empty, scared. Wanting to be seen, afraid of being unseen and the pain that would cause.

And then I began to see all the women around me with mother’s hearts like mine. And I might dare to say that I think over the years the world is making progress in seeing us too. I know our current church home recognizes us. I see various sources and news outlets on social media recognizing us too just this week. I don’t remember that before.

So whether you’re reading this and you’re the mom with no child beside her, visiting your child in her mind or at a cemetery, aching to hold them. Whether you find no children in your home because you’re an empty nester or you’re struggling with an empty womb and deep longings. Whether you’re rubbing your expectant round belly growing with new life. Whether you’re rocking a baby and nursing and reading this at the same time. Whether you’re changing diapers or chasing toddlers or watching them graduate or walking them down the aisle. Whether you’ve given birth to all your babes or adopted or fostered or are waiting…  I could go on and on with all the ways the mother’s heart can appear for there are so many… whatever the story behind your mother’s heart, I hope know you’re seen today.

Whether or not I see your children, I see your mother’s heart.

The mother’s heart loves and struggles… with fears, worries, dreams, grief, identity, worth, weakness, exhaustion, selfishness, guilt, doubt, pain, inadequacy… and so much more.

The struggles may very in type and degree, but every mother’s heart beats and struggles in common ways. And most of the time we never knew our hearts could experience such depths and heights and struggles.

Here’s what I’ve also learned as my mother’s heart has beat through each of my struggles (as a bereaved mother, a mother of rainbow babies, a mother of boys, a mother of a strong willed child, a mother of children with allergies, a mother of Army brats, a mother who shepherds her children to know and love Jesus):

God created my mother’s heart, and while nothing may have prepared me for it, He knows it, and He alone provides for it.

Nothing may have prepared you for the struggles of your mother’s heart and the ways in which it beats. But I can assure you that God will provide for every need of your mother’s heart.

When our hearts struggle, He provides.

When our hearts grieve, He comforts.

When our hearts fear, He brings peace and courage.

When our hearts feel unworthy, He calls us worthy.

When our hearts feel unloved, He loves us perfectly.

When our hearts worry, He calms with truth as we trust.

When our hearts are scared to dream, He births dreams and writes new chapters.

When our hearts weaken, He strengthens them.

When our hearts feel inadequate, He says we are enough and fills our gaps.

When our hearts feel unseen, He sees them.

When our hearts struggle with guilt, He covers us with grace.

When our hearts break, He binds them back together.

I hope you can see the pattern here:

For every need of our mother’s hearts, God has a provision.

To the ones with mother’s hearts, God sees you and is doing a mighty and beautiful thing with these mother’s heart of ours. And I don’t know about you, but whenever I get a glimpse into His work, nothing makes my heart more joyful or beat stronger or feel fuller or more alive.

Trust that God will provide for your heart today, speaking His perspective, wisdom and truth into your mother’s heart in your mothering season.

Expect God to speak to your heart today, to provide for your heart, and may you find glimpses of Him in unexpected ways to brighten and encourage your heart today.

I turned the page and looked back at the end of that entry from May 10, 2010, that first Mother’s Day I was a mother, and I came across the evidence of God meeting the needs of my mother’s heart even then in the worst season of my life, surprising me in unexpected ways. That rose I wrote about not too long ago. It’s there in the pages.

“God blessed me with several gifts this weekend… He gave me His peace which allowed me to survive and smile yesterday. But He also gave me some unexpected gifts. He blessed me with a beautiful, vibrant, pink rose that fully bloomed [on Mother’s Day]… more beautiful than the pink rose our friend delivered to use the day Hailey died and more beautiful than the pink rose I placed on her casket the day we buried her… I like to think that this rose was a gift from Him and Hailey…”

That first Mother’s Day God provided for my empty and broken mother’s heart.

Seven Mother’s Day later and my heart still has scars and cracks, but is fuller and deeper than ever as God continues to provide so graciously for me and grow me.

God continues to meet me in unexpected ways, and every day I’m learning to have an expectant heart for His unexpected ways and His love and provision and promises that I can expect.

This week we found ourselves “back home” in Illinois where our baby girl is buried. In bed the night before we were to head back our home here in Tennessee, I realized we were about to leave without having visited her. To be honest, it wrecked me a little inside for simple and complicated reasons. But I needed to visit her.

A mother’s longing for her child in heaven. This is what it looks like here on earth some days.

So we pulled up to her cemetery in our van with her brothers before we left town the next morning. No words spoken other than to tell her brothers we were stopped to visit Sister’s grave. Of course which I forgot would quickly bring about a plethora of innocent questions about her and death and who knows what else from the hearts and mouths of our babes in the van.

Sometimes being a slow processor comes naturally to me and it’s frustrating. Other times it comes naturally and I choose to welcome it and retreat within it. This was one of those times. Slow processing means I can shove down emotions. This enabled me to choose to keep a joyful spirit sharing transparently with my boys about their sister and praying quietly within my own heart as we visited her grave site.

My husband and I reached down to wipe a layer of mowed grass residue from the hard black stone with her name. Unexpectedly, little hands joined ours and together we cleaned their sister’s headstone. Our boys observed and commented how they liked the butterflies and cross etched into her stone. There was a mixture of answering their innocent questions and quiet silence. After a few minutes, we said it was time to go. I turned to walk toward the car only to be stopped by the voice of my oldest saying something along the lines of, “Hold on mom I need to give sister a hug.”

And then I watched the most unexpected sight. His 5 year old little arms wrapped around his sister’s black headstone; he tilted his head sideways and rested it on top. He never met her and understanding he has a sister who came before him and died as a baby is difficult I’m sure. But here he was loving and hugging his “big” baby sister in the only way he could. It was so normal and natural to him. And as soon as his little arms reached for the hug, his little brother, two years old, followed suit. And there stood my two rainbow babies, Hailey’s brothers, hugging the hard stone of their sister’s grave, smiling, and saying goodbye to her.

And in my slow processing and hiding and holding back all the emotions that asked to come forth, I inhaled deeply and gave thanks as I felt God hug my own heart simultaneously.

A wordless whisper. A knowing. This moment this week. This was my mother’s day gift.

And it was perfect. For my bereaved mother’s heart. For my rainbow mother’s heart. For my heart.

The rare gift of visiting my daughter the only way I can, of a closeness to her, as close as I can physically be this side of heaven… The gifts of two healthy boys to love and care for and shepherd and momma. The gift of being together with my three children in this moment.

This was not as I expected or ever wanted. But I will count this as good and be grateful.

God saw the needs of my mother’s heart before I even know what they would be this Mother’s Day. And He faithfully provided.

God knows your needs too. He will provide. Hold on. Trust. Expect.

Happy Mother’s Day to the one with a mother’s heart. May He surprise you with His love and goodness today.

January 10, 2017

If You’re Dreading the New Year

At the midnight countdown to 2017, while it seemed as though the whole world around you celebrated and rejoiced ready for exciting things to come in the new year, were you hiding under your covers dreading the moment the clock struck 12?

For some of us, the ones hiding under the covers, the new year came full of fears and sorrows. For some of us, maybe we faked fine to get through New Year’s Eve, and now we’re here 11 days in trying to hold it all together with white knuckles just to make it through the day. The thing is, the world missed us, and you felt it, but they probably missed us because we were silent and hiding.

If you find yourself dreading this year, I see you, and the world needs to see too.

The reality is, while there are many things to celebrate in the New Year, especially as a follower of Christ as we think of all the newness he brings to our lives and his transforming powers, some of us are walking through really hard seasons right now or we can see them looming ahead waiting for us in 2017, and we cannot bring ourselves to celebrate or be joyful about this year.

I know because this was me. On December 31, 2009, I was the girl hiding under her covers, crying as 2010 was coming whether I liked it or not, whether I was ready or not, and with every fiber of my being I just wanted time to stop. I didn’t want the new year to come.

I remember as friends took to social media celebrating all they were excited for in their new years, weddings planned, babies due to arrive, new careers, new homes, I looked on from behind my screen and felt like I was dying inside.

What did my new year hold?

Death. Loss. My world about to crumble right in front of my eyes.

Coming in the new year for me would be the death of the child in my arms on that New Year’s Eve night and the death of my father withering away from the cancer stealing his life. These were the events at the end of 2009 that I knew were coming in 2010, and all I could do was sit back as I helplessly watched the people who had my heart leave this world.

On New Year’s Eve that year, I knew my next year would hold the greatest season of suffering and loss and grief I had ever known. I looked ahead to the new year, and all I saw was pain and loss. I saw my life as I knew it about to be completely taken away from me. There was no celebrating. There was mourning. Fear. Dread. Hopelessness. Despair. And lament, deep expressions of grief and sorrow to the Lord.

Maybe you can relate? Maybe this was your new year in past years or maybe this is your 2017.

Dear one, when all you can see is pain and grief and hopelessness in your year ahead, please hear these words on how you can not only make it through the new year, but how you can live fully in it right where you are and find hope and life:

1. Lament before God

First and foremost, express your emotions honestly before God. Your hurts, your anger, your sorrow, your fear, your whys, everything you’re holding inside. Give it to him. God will meet you there.

This post has come at the perfect time because I just finished the book No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece,** and in her book Esther shares about the need for lamenting. Lamenting is needed for God to meet you where you are, to carry you, to comfort you, to give you truth and bring clarity to your circumstances and fears, to heal you, to give you perspective and purpose. The first step to enduring, persevering, and finding hope and healing during this year is lamenting.

Here are some words I loved that Esther Fleece shares in No More Faking Fine about lamenting:

“Unprocessed laments keep our hearts in chains.”

“Lament saves us from staying stuck in grief and rescues us from a faith based on falsehoods.”

“The enemy doesn’t have as much power to play around in our minds when our laments come to light.”

“A lament is a pathway; it serves a purpose… lament becomes an authentic pathway leading to real healing.”

2. Arm yourself with God’s truth

The reality is, you’re probably under some serious spiritual attacks from the enemy if you’re experience difficult trials. Make yourself alert to this and arm yourself with God’s truth so you do not fall susceptible to the enemy’s lies that want to steal from you and seek to destroy. Study his Word so he can whisper it to your heart in those moments where you feel the darkness creeping in, when the emotions and lies try to consume you so that you can cling to his promises and understand his character and his love for you.

3. Be vulnerable and find your people

Most of us want to crawl under our covers and hide from the world or cry on the bathroom floor behind closed doors in order to isolate ourselves during our seasons of suffering and in times of pain. This is a tactic of the enemy. He wants us isolated and feeling alone because we are more vulnerable to his attacks. While there’s a time for lamenting before the Lord, just wrestling one-on-one with him, there’s a time for surrounding yourself with others because you cannot get through “this” alone. You will need to be vulnerable with godly people in your life who can listen, who can sit with you, who can provide tangible comforts like a hug, who can be God’s hand and feet to you, who can pray with you, who can bring light to your darkness. An added benefit of sharing the hard stuff you’re walking through is that God will use your brokenness and vulnerability to minister to others right in the midst of it.

Esther also addresses this in No More Faking Fine; she writes:

“…one of the kindest things we can do for each other is to offer a safe space where we don’t have to do it alone. The ministry of presence is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer each other, especially in the midst of heartache.”

“As we expose our pain and shame, we draw others to the One who is faithful to redeem all our stories. We also expose the lies that the enemy tells us when we keep laments to ourselves. When we share with others… it allows others to not only surround us and pray for us, but to open up with their laments as well.”

“The thing you are trying hardest to hide may just be the very lament that will bring hope and healing to others.”

4. Dare to hope

Oh I know some of you read this and cringe as you think, “Hope? Are you kidding me? How in the world could you expect me to hope for anything right now?” Friends this is hopelessness speaking, and hopelessness is a liar. Trust me, I get it. But dare to do it. I know it seems risky if not impossible, but it’s worth the risk to dare to hope.

In 2010, I had no reason to hope. The deaths of my daughter and father were essentially promised. My life as I knew it was about to be taken away, and my future and dreams were being erased as well. What could I hope for? I literally was blanketed and blinded by hopelessness. I could not see how my life would ever be “good” again. I was convinced I would never recover from how my heart was about to shatter. I couldn’t envision a future for myself. Maybe you’ve felt or feel this way too?

Friends, these are pure lies from the enemy even though they seem so true. God promises us a future in him. He promises to work things for good. I know, I know, I read these verses and felt like they were mocking me and actually lamented over them to God. But it’s true. Having walked through the hopelessness and darkness and despair, I’ve seen my story didn’t end there. I’ve seen how God is working to bring beauty from the ashes and how he’s giving my pain purpose and bringing me a future.

Remember seasons change. There is a time for everything. This will not last forever. And even in the midst of the seasons where we experience the unknown or loss or suffering, we can find the hope of our God who is doing something right where we are. Draw close to him and you will be able to hope in the midst of your hopelessness.

5. Choose joy

Oh I know some of you are like please do not throw this cliche at me right now. I know. I was there with this one too. But oh do it. Even though it might be hard, hard work. The enemy is attacking you and coming to steal your joy, but God (oh that phrase “but God” how I love it) is coming to bring you joy and life (John 10:10). Believe it, look for it, choose it.

Ask God to help you have his perspective in your pain. Ask him to help you choose joy. Find reasons to give thanks, and you’ll find joy following. Choosing joy doesn’t mean fake fine, pretend you’re happy, or feel pressure to act like the pain isn’t there. Through lamenting and intimacy with the Lord, you’ll find him offering you blessings of joy in him, little gifts to comfort you, to make you smile, to see him.


6. Live with an expectant heart

Expect God to meet you where you are in your brokenness, in your lamenting. Expect him to be faithful to his promises as you study them and cling to them. Expect him to provide for you in your pain, through being vulnerable, through others, for every need you have. Expect him to be at work right where you are. Expect him to heal your pain. Expect him to bring hope, joy, and purpose to you right in the midst of your season. Expect to experience his love and goodness even when life seems far from good. Expect, wait, hope, find. In choosing to live with an expectant heart through your new year, in each day, you’ll find your way through.

“Our ‘why’ laments, even when unanswered, can teach us how to wait expectantly for the Father’s will, and in our waiting, He blesses us with closeness to Him in our distress.” (Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine).

So, to the one dreading this new year… I hope this brings you encouragement and a way through the darkness and enables you to receive God’s miracles and blessings in your life this year.

 **Note: This post contains NO affiliate links. I wasn’t even intending to use this post for promotional purposes but with the timing of the book and the post I had to link them together. Also, I’ll be including a review of No More Faking Fine in my monthly newsletter for February so make sure you’re an email subscriber so you can receive it.