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November 27, 2017

What I Learned This Fall

At the end of each season I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman and other women as we reflect back and share what we learned in that season. It’s a wonderful practice that’s helped me reflect, process, 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.

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September 28, 2017

2 Ways to Transform Your Life When You Feel Helpless or Hopeless

The sound of bedroom doors opening and closing wakes me from my less than stellar night’s sleep. Before I even open my eyes, my body stirs, and the pain instantly radiates through me. Each small movement feels like my joints have become creaky, old, rusty door hinges.

Why at 32 do I feel like I’m trapped inside of an 80 year old arthritic body?

I painstakingly pull myself so that I’m sitting upright in bed. I swing my legs, or rather drag them with the assistance of my hands because my joints are too stiff and stuck to move on their own, from the bed to the floor. Every movement takes more effort than it should. The pain aches deep inside my bones, and I let out a moan of discomfort followed by a long sigh.

I force myself to stand, pushing against the mattress, once again with the assistance of my arms to get myself there because my legs just can’t seem to function. And then I go to take a small step forward. A simple step. But I can barely manage. I press my foot down on the floor as I step and immediately retract it as it tells me it won’t be holding up the weight of my body this morning. I momentarily hold my leg out in front of me to examine it and test my knee. It won’t bend at all. The pain travels back and forth between my knee and my hip as I try to achieve even the smallest angle. Nope. Not happening.

I look down at my knee that won’t bend. It’s terribly swollen and looks ridiculous on my skinny leg, that’s not skinny in a nice way, but skinny as in I’ve lost all my muscle tone sort of way.

And then I continue my journey to start my day by hobbling to the bathroom, hunched over, using the wall as a crutch. This morning reminds me of the days immediately following my surgery… 6 months ago.

This isn’t good.

This isn’t good at all.

After not seeing the progress I had hoped for, I finally sought the help of a physical therapist. And yet, I’ve seen no improvement. In fact my knee seems to be progressively worsening.

My knee is never going to heal. This pain is never going to go away. 

I notice the tears wanting out as the discouragement and fear barge in, but unlike those emotions that burst through like a pack of wild and unruly children that I can’t seem to control, I try to control the one thing I’ve become good at: keeping the tears in.

But then I recognize what I’m doing as I refuse to let those tears through. I’m storing up things inside of me that are no good, and as a result hopelessness is rising and flooding my soul.

That old familiar lie of hopelessness. I recognize it more quickly these days, but still it comes.  Read more

August 30, 2017

The First Day of Kindergarten, from One Rainbow Mom’s Perspective

Right now many of us moms are sending our babies off to kindergarten.

For many moms this season likely creates a huge ache in their hearts and a trickle of tears down their cheeks that they quickly try to wipe away and hide, at least while still in view of their little ones.

After all, we’re sending our babies off into the world. And perhaps this is one of the first true moments of letting go. And the letting go is h-a-r-d.

This week I was one of the moms sending my baby off to kindergarten.

However, I wasn’t one of the moms that I just described.

Now please don’t hear me wrong, especially if you were / are one of these moms. I can empathize with the reactions and tears and difficulties in sending our babies off to school in a way that is much deeper than most realize and there’s no judgement here.

My experience this week was different. And maybe in a way that you might not expect.

You see, when you’ve walked the unexpected and traumatic road of child loss, as I have, it drastically changes you as a mother, as a person, and affects every aspect of your life including how you think and feel and look at the world.

One of the hardest aspects of losing a baby is that you grieve more than just them, more than just who they were, more than just your sweet one month old. You lose them and their entire future – and the future you had expected for yourself.

You lose an entire lifetime all at once, your grieve a lifetime of losses all at once, and you do it for your entire lifetime.  Read more

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.

April 6, 2017

When You Want to Give Up

I cried into the chicken nuggets as I cut them into quarters for my little boy. The day had been challenging. When dinner time came, everything unraveled.

I had been slowly collapsing under the weight of exhaustion from weeks of sleep deprivation, pain from slowly recovering from surgery, parenting solo, and the seemingly endless whining, crying, and actual hurtful words aimed at me from my children.

It hadn’t just been the day. It had been day after day of the same thing. I struggle to mother well as is, but add on children who suddenly stop sleeping and who whine and cry and speak disrespectfully repeatedly throughout the day, and my negative thoughts tortured me until I felt like a hopeless failure.

I had been holding up the crushing weight of all my stressors and negative thinking, but as I cut those nuggets and heard simultaneous crying and yelling coming from both of my children for the umpteenth time that day, I collapsed into a puddle of tears. Those same little mouths hushed as they sat waiting at the dinner table staring at their momma, unsure of what to make of her tears.

I felt defeated.

In my mind I declared, “God, I cannot do this. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t stand another sleepless night. I can’t stand another single whine or complaint or disrespectful comment from my babies’ lips. I can’t do this. ”

The negative thoughts tried to snowball out of control as they had done many times before in my mind. I tried taking them captive with truth and gratitude. It stopped the snowball, but it didn’t change how I felt.

I wanted to declare defeat. I was done. I had nothing left to give. I wanted to give up.

And I’m no stranger to this place unfortunately, whether it’s experiencing the trials of every day moments of mothering or homemaking or being an Army wife or it’s facing giants of like tragedy and loss, I arrive at this place of defeat more often than I would like to admit.

It’s an ugly cycle I’ve been praying to break free from for years.

And here I was again. At this place of defeat.

And then a miraculous rhema moment.

As I cried out, “Lord I can’t do this anymore,” I heard God reply, “Can’t do what?”

When those words fell upon my soul, everything stopped. I hushed my own cries and leaned in to hear His voice.

“What have I asked you to do that you can’t do?”

I recognized the rhetorical question and waited for God to provide the answer.

“The only thing I ask of you is to love Me… Do you love Me?”

My soul quieted and responded, “Yes Lord you know I love you more than anything in this world.”

“I know. And that’s all I ask you to do. Can you and will you love Me? Yes you do.”

I paused, processing. All God asks is that I love Him, and He knows that I do. A gentle wave of peace washed over me, forcing the wave of defeat past, releasing me of its captivity.

I felt the burden of defeat lift. I felt free.

That was it. The simplest and clearest response I’ve ever received from God in the midst of my struggle with defeat: stop struggling to do all the things I think I need to do, that might even be good to do, and simply love God.

For days I had wanted the answers to be for my toddler to sleep again so I could sleep again, for my children to allow me to cook dinner without screaming or crying at me, for them to be grateful for whatever dinner I placed in front of them, and so on. I wanted God to give me what I wanted. But He reminded me, those aren’t the things I need.

“Love isn’t always giving us what we want; it’s being Who we need.” Kaitlin Wernet

I also realized that perhaps the reason for my feeling so emptied and inadequate and so easily defeated was because I hadn’t been filling myself with His word on a daily basis that week. Sure I was sneaking in time to read all the Christian (and good helpful) things, but it wasn’t the same as spending time with Him in His word.

“I’ve come to realize that the true antidote to my feelings of inadequacy is the voice of the Lord.” Katie Stoddard

How quickly we forget that God doesn’t ask for rule following, measuring up, or performance. God doesn’t place these expectations of what I should be cooking my children to eat for dinner nor does He define me by my child’s behavior or label me a failure as a mother when they complain about their dinners instead of giving thanks.

Whatever I’m struggling with and feeling defeated over, the answer to the struggle and the striving and the feelings of failure is the same:

Love God. Love others. That’s all He asks.

Choose to love. Choose to live loved by Him and choose to pour out His love onto others.

Freedom from striving and victory from defeat are found here.

Maybe you’ve experienced defeat in your life a time or two as well? A time when you just felt tired of trying and wanted to give up?

Defeated by the challenges of motherhood. Defeated by the pain of grief. Defeated by unrealized dreams. Defeated by cycles of sin and hurt as a result of your own doing or them being done to you.

Friends let us realize that defeat is just another word for hopelessness, and if hopelessness is a liar, so is defeat.

Let us remember these truths when we want to give up:

When we want to give up, God hasn’t given up on us.

 “For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

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

Where we see defeat, God sees victory.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Where we see hopelessness, God brings hope.

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again- my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:1-11

When we feel forgotten, God remembers us.

“Yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49 15

Where we see an area of our life (maybe our marriage, our children, our dreams) turn to ashes, God is breathing new life into them and bringing beauty to our lives.

The wilderness and dry land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. It will blossom abundantly and will also rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah 35: 1-2

When we see no way, God is making a way.

“I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

When we feel like we can’t measure up, God doesn’t ask us to perform for Him, He asks for us to love Him.

 “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:38

When we call ourselves failures, God calls us His, His beloved, His children.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1b-2a

Can we believe that if we feel like giving up God isn’t giving up on us or our situation?

Can we believe that where we feel defeated God wants to bring us victory?

Can we believe that the areas of our lives that have turned to ashes will be made into something beautiful?

Can we choose to quiet our voices and lean in to listen to God’s whispers to hear His truth and His hope?

Can we also choose to lean into His love?

When we want to quit and walk away, can we choose to love Him and do the next right thing in love?

Let’s stop striving to live by our own (or others’) expectations, checklists, perfectionism, legalism, etc. and instead live with our hearts set on loving God and expecting Him to show us what this looks like in our lives.

Let’s expect victory where we only see defeat, let’s expect God to resurrect the dead places in our hearts and lives, and for His love to be enough.



“However dry and parched your emotional landscape may feel this season, don’t despair. Because when the rain of God’s reign inevitably falls, your life will bloom.” Lisa Harper


**Some of this week’s revelations and quotes in this post come from the She Reads Truth Lenten study of Isaiah that I am doing. You can check it out here.

Also, Ann Voskamp shared a timely post the day after my tears landed in the chicken nuggets and God whispered this revelation to me: “Help for Parents Who Want to Give Up.”