The bad habit I want broken for me and every mom


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

In my early years as a mom, just as truly as my lips seemed to be magnetically drawn to the pudgy cheeks of my little ones…  Just as truly as my heart could have burst with zeal to capture all the best that life could offer them…  Right alongside the beautiful stuff of motherhood, the honest ugly truth is that there were several long years when nearly every time my children wore a tie-dye shirt with flower pants, or chewed with their mouths wide open, or tripped someone with the mini shopping cart at the grocery store, or just seemed to take up too much space in a room, I squirmed almost out of my skin.

With disapproval.

With insecurity.

With fear.

Not because I actually thought they should be better.  Not because I wanted them to be perfect for me.  But because I wanted them to avoid every pain I had faced, every joke that had been cracked at my expense, that left a crack right down the middle of my selfhood, every pointy edge of the world’s cruelty that might make them want to shrink back.

I wanted to rescue my children from all of life’s hurts and rejections and exclusions.  

Fear concluded that the rest of world would be hard on them.  So, in my limited, fleshy mind of worry, I unknowingly resigned to do everything in my power to present them perfectly inside-the-box and charming in every way.  Truly, whatever people-pleasing insecurity was tucked inside of my 8 or 10 or 12 year old heart came leaking out of my 30-something skin, and made a bit of a stink in my home.

I had developed this bad habit of trying to fix my children up into perfect little people.  It held a thin hope of protecting them from getting bruised, and a shoddy sense of control to comfort my uncertain heart.  

Several years ago, I woke to a hurt relationship with my eldest daughter, and a rugged hunger for a new way.  As I timidly let the light shine in the deep, dark quarters of my heart where this critical spirit was born, I realized that the backdrop to my constant corrections and tightening grip around my enterprising, torch-bearing, wildly free-spirited girl was a steady stream of criticism of myself, as her mom.

As my own spirit was being crushed beneath the barrage of judgment, the same judgment seemed to be all that could spill out of my mouth.  

Unpleasantly clear to me now is that, as I fought to save my daughter from the harshness of the world, my own harshness was crushing her in advance.  Not with terrible words, but with constant critiques.  Not with outright denunciation, but with a subtle spirit of Not Quite Good Enough.  The same spirit with which I was judging myself.

Since that moment, God has been ushering me into the new identity that has been mine to wear all along — the identity of chosen, redeemed, adopted daughter of the King of Heaven.  One purchased by the blood of Christ, pure and righteous in the eyes of God.  A daughter upon whom God looks and says “You are mine and I take great delight in you.”  A woman leaning and living into a perfect holiness that has already been given me as a gift, in Christ.  Born into freedom.  With an inheritance in joy.

As I lifted my gaze, I found the eyes of God looking on me with tender delight, gentle affection.  

Friends, even sweeter are the curves of your face to the perfectly clear eyes of the God of Heaven, than the face of your own sleeping babe to your eyes.  


Me, a beloved child.  This is who I am to Our God.  This is who you are.  And here is the place from which we can be changed and sanctified into the people God already knows we were made to be.

And here, from this loved place, we have a a true and steady love to give.  

As I journey into the truth of my identity as God’s beloved, I fight to believe the same truth for my children.  Parental love often comes in the form of consistent and firm boundaries, as a path to real freedom and abundance.

But in all our boundary-setting, correction and discipline, we can start from a place of victory and hope, rather than a place of fear and defeat.

The thing is, if we try to fix our children up with criticism, they might just take on an identity of rejection from the start.

At any age, unconditional love and acceptance, as we bump and crash into lovingly set boundaries, is what allows us walk out our potential.

I want my children to know what I’m learning the hard way, that we learn who we are, not be looking around but by looking up into the heart of our Maker.  

So that means we can start every correction with radical acceptance and bold fearlessness.

I’m through with trying to fix my children up into the perfect little people, and I’m trying to remember and share Christ’s invitation to simply be covered by Him.  Because of the promises extended to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can find rest for our souls right in the messy middle of our sanctification journey.  And, in turn, we can lead and teach and train our children with peace, with grace, with hope.

As we get our fear and discomfort with our kids’ mess out of the way and trust God with their hearts, and our own, we become more trustworthy parents.

Sisters, as for me and my house, we’ve determined this habit of trying to fix our children has got to go.

God works on our hearts with full confidence in the end product.  He knows who we are becoming, and his patience is enduring.  His grace empowers and encourages me towards a life of abundance – it lifts me to my feet when I fall.

May we all believe with confidence in the beauty and potential and God-given purpose tucked inside each of our precious babes, and may this hope and grace be a solid ground on which to stand, as we shepherd their hearts.

Hope for the inside of a mama’s head


mamas thoughts pic

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND.’”

Matthew 22: 37

Last night, with sweet friends filling our home, sounds of laughter and connection reverberating, I took notice of the little one who seemed to have no concern for how to interact, or with whom.  Driven by impulse, unabashed in her every move, she ran and spun, crumpling to tears, bursting with excitement, running off with confidence, coming close for reassurance, stopping to tackle her baby brother, running off to grab a friend by the cheeks, taking a quick lap around the house, just because.

Her shamelessness is puzzling and refreshing.  Her haphazardness amazing, beautiful, innocent…

But I’m struck that I sometimes allow my mind to run wild in this same way.  How unfitting.  Unlike the sweet innocent freedom of my baby girl, my chaotic and haphazard thoughts, if left unchecked, threaten my joy, steal my peace, distract and burden me…

I should have reminded the babysitter to keep the basement door closed.  I need to put on the cabinet locks.  I hope the big kids got to swim practice ok.  They all need more of me.  And more play dates, too.  And more alone time.  And probably more sleep.  How am I going to keep the boy from falling behind on reading this summer?   He’s worked so hard.  What if…?   And what am I going to do about that sweet little overlooked middle child who often disappears in her room with her hurt feelings?  What if…?  And how can I get my kids to stop fighting? And how should I cut down on our clutter?  The crafts are everywhere.  Are they learning to take responsibility for their things?   

Are we reading enough?  Are these tantrums normal?  Maybe they need healthier meals.  How do I keep my picky eaters from running our house?  I need to schedule a babysitter for next Friday.  Have I had too many babysitters lately?  Did I schedule check-ups for my summer birthday kids?  Babysitters for those, too.  Maybe we should cut out TV.  And artificial food dye.  But what about birthday parties?  I don’t want to be that mom.  Maybe I should get that wheezy little one allergy tested.  What if…?

My thoughts bounce from one worry to the next, often lacking direction, aimless and reactionary.  They mask their erraticism under the guise of getting things in order, problem solving, decision making.  But in truth, who of us by worrying can add a single hour to our lives? (Luke 12: 25).  

Often our words and actions take priority, and our thoughts are left to their own, seeming ungovernable, idiosyncratic, and presumed to be mostly harmless.

Every mama knows there is much to think about, plan for, change or organize, lead or coordinate, nurture or decide.  We use these minds God gave us for the benefit and blessing of our families…to be intentional, thoughtful and strategic.

But allowing our thoughts to pinball around, frantically condemning the past and resolving to some new future, worrying, fretting, and rolling over the “What if”s”— it is a joyless and peaceless existence.

Our worry is fruitless and distracting.  

Throughout the gospels, Jesus speaks to and answers the thoughts of a person, often instead of their words or actions.  He knows that our thoughts can govern us, drive us, control us, hold us captive.  He also knows that our minds can be renewed to align with his, that our thoughts can be steadfast on him, and lead us to all that he imagined for us as his children.  He knows that he can set us free, renew our hope, keep our peace.  And he longs to do so, through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12: 2).  Our thoughts can run rampant, but we are advised in God’s Word to never let them.

When we call to mind that God’s steadfast love endures forever, his mercies new each morning (Lamentations 3: 22-23), we have HOPE.

When we choose to believe we are whom God says we are – his children, in whom He delights – we have CONFIDENCE.

When we call to mind what God has done, we ENDURE.

When we set our minds on things of God, and not things of man, we live SUBMITTED to God’s sovereignty.

When we choose to believe God is who He says He is, that He will fight for us, we have VICTORY.  (Deuteronomy 20: 4, John 16: 33)

When we place our hope in God, He renews our STRENGTH.

When we cast our burdens on the Lord, we will NOT BE SHAKEN. (Psalm 55: 22)

When we come to Christ with our heavy burdens, we receive REST for our weary souls. (Matthew 11: 28-30)

When we reject fear, we receive God’s HELP and PRESENCE. (Isaiah 41: 13, Psalm 23: 4)

When we take our thoughts captive, and submit them to Christ… When we present our requests to him with thanksgiving, we have PEACE that guards our hearts. (Philippians 4: 4-7; 2 Corinthians 10: 5)

When we turn our thoughts to gratitude, we receive JOY.

These are all decisions we can make, actions we can take.  Our thoughts don’t just happen to us, mamas, we choose and direct them.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4: 8

As our little ones grow out of toddlerhood, they need not simply lose the freedom with which they began.  As they mature, they can grow into the even more exquisite freedom intended for the children of God.  Mamas, let’s walk in the freedom Christ intended for us, and give our children a beautiful example of what true freedom looks like.

Today, sweet friends, let’s test our thoughts against the truth of God’s Word, grab hold of them and allow them to come under God’s promises.

And let’s drink of the boundless freedom, the steadfast joy, the unshakable peace, the enduring hope that God intends for us, his beloved children.

mamas thoughts pic

Why you don’t need to be afraid to give it all


A short-antlered buck gnaws at the lime green leaves of our freshly planted dogwood, and the fresh anxieties of the day begin gnaw at my heart.

My first sip of hot coffee touches my lips with all it’s promise of a boost of energy for the day, and the first cries of precious voices touch my ears, and my heart opens desperate wide for a touch of grace from my King.

Yesterday was one of those days when I drove my van sputtering into the gas station after my gas light came on way too late to be helpful.  And last night was one of those when my body and soul came sputtering into bed, having run the last few hours on empty, as well.  I should have noticed the needle creeping down on the fuel gauge, and I should have seen the signs of my patience and grace wearing thin.

But sometimes we just don’t know what we need until it’s almost too late.

And I want to think that these are just little insignificant moments, but then life is just a collection of little insignificant moments, and what does it looks like to live them well?  These few short years when my kids are here and listening…what does it look like to give them my best?

Sister, it frustrates me to no end that I sometimes try to function like I was made in the image of my gas tank – when, truly – you and I were made in the image of the Almighty God of the Universe.  Our gas tanks and our hearts are actually nothing alike.  We don’t have to use up all our resources, only to hit empty with sputters and short-fuses and failure and fatigue and desperation.  We don’t need to refill with some magical boost of energy and wisdom that will last us the next week or two.

We are far more like a branch on that sweet little tree in my front yard, with roots that grow further down and sit steadier and drink deeper and stay connected.  Unlike our gas tanks, we can choose to keep our souls attached to the source of grace, trusting that the supply will not run out.


There is a still small voice that beckons and pursues our hearts, and offers a lot more grace than my gas light.  We can listen and align and drink and stretch to new heights, as we give the refreshment of that grace away.  

As a mom, I often feel like I’m giving away what I’ve had for about two seconds.  I wake and decide where my spirit and attitude rest, then my children wake and I set the tone with that thing I just decided.  In ugly moments, I have to stop and breathe, and receive the grace not to react – and in that very moment, I get to give away the grace I’m receiving.  My children ask me what’s wrong as I hang up the phone, and I have an opportunity to speak out loud the truth I am deciding to believe right in that very moment about the news I just heard.  The truths we speak reshape our hearts.

There is a time to draw away and be alone with God, yes… seek and pursue this!  But a mama’s reality is that often when we wish to draw away, we cannot…and so, we are invited to give away not what we received yesterday, last week, or even this morning, but to give away God’s grace, as we are drinking from the fountain that never empties.

Don’t be afraid of running out of steam today, sweet sister.  Go ahead, give your service, your attention, your caring, your patience, your grace.   Not in a way that is resentful, or martyr-like, or neglecting self-care, but in a genuine fearless offering of yourself through those moments when you are needed beyond what is comfortable to give.

As you give your life away, you will find it in your Savior who gave his for you.  

There is an ever-flowing, never-emptying fountain of grace available for you, sweet friend.  As you pour yourself out today, don’t empty out like a gas tank… stay connected to the source of refreshment.  Breathe and drink of God’s grace right there in the midst of your moments, believing that the water only gets sweeter and the color of your life only get’s richer, and the heights of your joy and peace only get higher, and the fruit only gets more plentiful.

How to let your children be the beautiful miracles God made them to be (And a free gift!)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 

Philippians 1:20-21


Typical driveway decor. :). They said it’s the name of their “band.”

Left to their own, my thoughts dart around, raising my blood pressure and making me reach for another cup of coffee.  Pinballing from child to child, to overdue items on my To Do list, to unmet needs and forgotten homework, to sports and tutors and appointments and ideas I heard and meant to incorporate, to conversations I meant to have, and friends I want to see — my mind swirls with passions and dreams wriggled up with the needs of the day and the weariness of my bones.

The honest way I navigate these blessed and beautiful and broken days – the way I grow and straighten out a bit of my twisted up places – it happens drowned in grace and one day and a time and almost never linearly.  I experience breakthrough and setback, I remember truth and then I forget.  I’m soaring with passion and then crushed with discouragement.  And as I stumble through, I am ever in need of our unchanging, faithful God.

I wonder where you sit as you read these words, sweet mama.  I’m imagining all the ways that you laid your life down in service to your family today, and what might be swirling in your mind and heart.  I wonder if you are relishing in giggles or if you sit with a heaviness about your failures or disappointments.

If you hid in the bathroom for a moment of respite during the dinner hour, or if you had to check to see if the windows were open for that moment when everyone yelled things they didn’t mean…Sister, I am so with you.

I wonder if you are desperate to love this motherhood thing, but you haven’t slept in months, or you long for a nice dinner conversation, or defiance has you worn to the depths, or your child’s hardships have you tied in knots.  I wonder if you have a tangled mix of excitement and dread for the summer ahead.

Maybe your mama’s heart beats deep today for a child grappling through school, a newly discovered learning disability, a troubling change in behavior, or a diagnosis that feels like a shattered dream.  Maybe you haven’t felt connected, you don’t understand what makes them tick.

I wonder if you’ve had expectations, like I have — about ease in sleep or growth or health or school or friendships,  that your children might love the things you love, or naturally connect with you the way you connect with others, that they would claim faith as their own at a young age, or behave in the way you’ve taught.

I wonder if you’ve found yourself- like I have – sometimes needing a bit too much from them, expecting to have a bit more control than reality allows.

In my last post, I shared about how my wrong expectations of myself and motherhood have sometimes chained up my joy.  You can read more about how I’m finding that as I begin to release my expectations, and trust in God’s sovereignty, I discover a road of beautiful adventure and freedom with God.

But even more…the thing that makes my eyes blur and my soul quake… the thing that really makes me want to fight for truth is the way my unrealistic expectations can chain up my children, hurt our relationship and keep them from living in the joy and freedom they were made for.

Several years ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks that there was a fabric being woven by a million tiny interactions that I didn’t mean to have, weaving together a pattern and life and relationship designed by unfair expectations and too little grace.  I was overwhelmed by my life and the house that needed cleaning and the baby that needed feeding and all the things I felt like I should be doing, and so I’m plopped my needs right down on the tiny shoulders of my children.
I found creeping into the corners of my heart this silent need for my children to fit in the metaphorical box I had made for them, taking up the exact amount of space that I had to give, which was sometimes infinitesimal…

The evidence was in my subtle disapproval over clothing choices because I didn’t want them to be teased the way I was, my quiet repulsion over table manners that I didn’t have the fortitude to endure with grace, forgetting to offer tenderness and back scratches when I felt like I was running on empty, too many words of correction and instruction and too few words of encouragement and blessing, unintentionally guiding my children to the activities with which I was comfortable, talking too much and listening too little, expecting my elder children to mature in accordance with my need.

As my capacity shrunk with each child we added to the mix, or each time daddy’s work schedule ramped up, I was shrinking the space for needs and moods and unpredictability that my children were allowed to have in our home.

I tried to fit my children’s needs into my life in predictable and methodical ways.  I wanted their growth to be linear.  I wanted their behavior to be ever-improving, their independence to be ever-increasing, their knowledge and understanding to be visibly multiplying.  I wanted to know how much of me mothering was going to take today.  I wanted the chores to be done because I had a plan, and I implemented it, and I needed it to work.

You and I both know, it doesn’t go that way.

We get them sleeping and then they stop.  We get that behavior worked out, and then there’s a new one.  They get over their separation anxiety and then it springs up tenfold.  Friendships are working for them, and then they suddenly aren’t.  We had big plans for the day and then a fever.  They usually bounce out the door for school, but today they don’t want to go. You dreamed of football and he wants to dance.  You imagined dresses and hair bows and she wants sneakers and t-shirts.  Today he’s not sure about all this God stuff.  Yesterday that joke was funny, but today it hurt.  Family time feels impossible because someone is always punching someone.   Reading just hasn’t clicked.  It’s hard for him to make friends.  Or maybe you’re a mama who just longs for the “normal” struggles because you can’t take a single day or milestone for granted with your child’s health or special needs.

Our children and their circumstances and their days are beautifully tragically humanly predictably unpredictable.

But with painful clarity, I began to see that my wrong perspective left no space for my children’s development to be messy and erratic and rarely linear, like mine.

High standards for our children can be a blessing that calls them into the fullness of their potential.  But needing them to meet those standards for our sense of well-being is a dangerous game. 

As I began to look beneath my constant barrage of corrections and frustration, what I saw in myself was fear:  lack of trust that my children’s stories were the Lord’s, fear that there would not be enough of me to go around, fear that their behavior and performance reflected my failure, fear that they were not going to live up to their full potential, and it would be my fault.  I think the struggle to extend grace seems to coincide with the place where our fear and shame rests — where we can’t let go.

I’m finding that at the core of most of the “needs” I have of my children, there is a lack of faith.

Though many parents share it, the need to control our children isn’t just a quirky part of motherhood to expect – at the heart, it’s a sickness of unbelief.  Our earthly expectations become our comfort.  When we try to stand on them, we aren’t believing God can walk our children through their own hardship and unknowns.

Our assumptions are not solid ground on which to stand, but there is a kind of expectation that is secure…

We can surely expect that God will never leave or forsake us (or our children). 

We should expect that God gives us (and our children) ultimate victory. 

We should hope with absolutely certainty that God is making all things new, in our lives and the lives of our children.

We should expect that any momentary affliction is preparing for us (and for our children) an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

We can expect that God has good plans for us, and for our children — that he works all things for our good.

Though everything else is uncertain, our expectations and our hope rest securely in Christ.   His promises are for our children, too.   God sees them directly— not just through our eyes, but through His own Adoring Father’s eyes.

In this light, we are free to guide them warmly through change and failure.  We are free to trust God’s handiwork on them, and believe He can handle their trials.  We are free to shed our expectations, and begin to explore and discover them.  We can stop striving, and we can look up into God’s heart, the One who knit them together and knows every hair on their heads, and apprehend His delight in them.  We can step into the beautiful adventure of mothering one or a few of God’s people.

I have a renewed sense, the way I did when each of my children were newborn strangers that I long to study them, see God’s creative originality on them.  I want to be introduced to the parts of them that scare me, to break them out of the comfortable box I put them in, and trek into the uncharted territory of their unique spirits and characters.

I’m still at the very beginning of this parenting journey — bigger failures, tougher decisions, higher stakes are ahead.  But as I stand today, I am trying to loosen my grip on my plan, and let the far more creative and ravishing story God is writing for my children begin to unfold.

Trust in God’s covering is fortifying me, allowing me to be a more stable mom —to become a rock for my children to bounce off of through all of their volatile stages.  I can be less emotional about the failures and surprises, and simply take the hand of my child and one step at a time, as God’s Word and Spirit lights our path.

If you need some ideas for breaking free from unfair expectations of your children, here are a fewThese are some habits that are helping me loosen my grip on control, helping me walk in freedom to allow my children to be the mysterious and unique and beautiful unknown miracles they were made to be.

Here’s your gift! Click to download your free printable.

Revelation 21: 5, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58, Philippians 1:20-21, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18



How to move your “heart mountains” when unbelief has you stuck


Friends, this motherhood thing…it stretches every part of you. Your very skin stretches over this tiny person growing from within. Your heart stretches to the new heights of love. Your strength stretches when you have to smile through deep pain or worry. Your mind stretches to hold all the things at once, because every mama knows that your people never really leave your mind, you just stretch to fit them all. You stretch with wider boundaries and new trust as your child grows.  And your faith…

Mamas, this thing requires the stretchiest kind of faith.

That’s the stretching I never knew to expect. It’s the kind that breaks chains and let’s me run free through these days that press in on me from every side. This stretching of my faith is what is making me nimble…my soul bending with the winds but never breaking, my spirit twisting with the million things but never left in a knot. I feel the heat turning ever hotter in motherhood, but my faith is stretching as armor over the whole of me.  On the good days, anyway…er, the good hours…er, minutes…

On the other days, those in-your-face hard days, I usually find that this one thing keeps me stuck. The thing that makes me believe it’s all on my shoulders. There is this thing that makes me feel like God chose wrong when He made me their mama.  This thing convinces me that if I don’t do it ALL right, my children are doomed.  This thing ties me up in knots about all the decisions – how far to let them explore, how many cookies, which babysitters, whether they need more time with me, need a bottle, need a diaper change, need a doctor, need a counselor, need a vacation, need a tutor, need a nap.

This thing: Unbelief.

As I reflect back on my years being a mama, there have been seasons when I feel like my boots are stuck in the mud. My steps are labored, and no matter how hard I work, at the end of the day, I’m still in the mud puddle. You know the days when you wake up determined to do it differently, but it just feels like the same old battles, the same old things that push your buttons, the same cycles of spewing ugly words or facial expressions at your children when you hit the same old wall you hit yesterday.


A couple years ago, I found myself in one of these stuck places.   I woke up in a cycle of criticizing and lecturing and nagging my eldest daughter.  It’s not that I was criticizing her character or person, but a growing number of my words were corrections…about chewing with her mouth closed and being nicer to her siblings and remembering her homework and wearing clothes that match and acting her age and cleaning up after herself and sitting up straight and holding still while I brush her hair and paying attention when I speak to her and using her table manners and setting a good example for her siblings and doing what she’s supposed to without being asked, and being the BIG KID that I expected her to be.

Meanwhile, I could have burst with pride over her.  I knew how amazing she was – what a blessing she was. I was just so dang stuck in the pattern.

My heart wrenched at the thought that I was overly critical of her – of that ugly spirit shaping our relationship. So every time the words came out, I would beat myself up. The thoughts would roll over and over in my head. I’m too hard on her. What’s wrong with me? And when did this small person stop being allowed to be a child? Where’s the grace for this one? And when did she gain a responsibility for helping me raise my other children and setting our family culture? The more siblings we give her, the faster I expect her to grow up.  She’s going to hate me.  And her story will be one of “I was never good enough for my mom.” And it’s all over.

Then I would remember that she was 6 years old, and Lord-willing, we had some time to work it out.

And then a week would go by without breaking the cycle, and the thoughts would storm, and perpetuate the cycle.

I’d love to tell you that I figured out a way to stop my buttons from being pushed. I’d love to tell you I have a system for changing the feelings that creep up on me, and make me feel the crazies about to spew out of me. I didn’t. But I did uncover a great mystery about where all of this criticism and anxiety was rooted.


That’s right…Unbelief.


Underneath my desperate need to control my daughter was the fear that I was going to fail as a mom by not holding her accountable.  Or a fear that she would be teased at school like I was.  Or that she wouldn’t turn out right. Or that if even my oldest wasn’t “under control,” then my house would spin out of control. And though I needed practical things like learning how to breathe in the moments, the real solution was to let my faith stretch to allow my home to be shared by an independent, unpredictable, mysterious human being – ever changing and never what I plan or expect.

Because it all comes down to this…

If God is who he says he is, I can handle some unpredictability and lack of control since all the days ordained for us were written in his book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139).

If God is who he says he is, we ought to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4), but bring everything to his feet.

If God is who he says he is, the pressure is off, because He is writing the stories of my children, and he chose me to be their mama.

If He is who he says he is, I didn’t do anything to earn my place in His family, and my children won’t have to either (Ephesians 1).

If God is who He says he is, he made you and me, and called us very good (Genesis 1). He planted us here on earth simply to show the world how awesome He is (Isaiah 61). And when Jesus went to the cross, He said “It is finished,” so all the work I think is so critical, just isn’t (John 19).

If I believe that God is who He says He is, then the earth will keep spinning when I stop scrambling and striving, and there IS time for the one thing that is needed, for sitting at the feet of Jesus. And it will not be taken away from me (Luke 10).


The road of letting my eldest daughter be her mysteriously unique self was the far more terrifying than trying to mold her into who I wanted her to be. It was a frightening step of faith – but even from the start, I knew it was also far more joy-filled. Rather than bringing a spirit of “here’s what I need you to be,” I can bring a spirit of “tell me about wonderful you!” I can bring a spirit of joyful exploration and discovery of God’s creativity on her. I can believe that God sees us, and has good plans for us, and will cover us in our mess.

And the strange, beautiful thing is: when I believe God’s goodness over us, the shame and fear dissipate, and the critical spirit goes right along with it.

As I allowed my faith to stretch, my spirit burned with the hope of no longer seeking to mold my daughter into my comfortable liking, and rather starting the scary, exciting journey of figuring out how to love her, with her unique spirit and character.  I didn’t have to be afraid of volatility or unpredictability in my children.  If I could, in faith, remain unshaken as they bounced and stumbled and slopped through these years, our home maintained peace. In faith, I could be, by God’s grace, a boundary line for them and for our home, rather than another pinball. They had a culture to join, rather than a mess to try to sort through, or a moving target to try to hit. I believe we hold this boundary line not by doing it all right, but simply by believing God is who he says he is. We find stability by falling into the arms of God, and letting him hold us.

We move mountains of anger by believing that our children’s behavior and performance does not determine our worth.  We can believe that we are offered grace, so that we have grace to offer to our children.

We move mountains of guilt and shame by believing that God knew we would fail, and Jesus finished the work on the cross.

We move mountains of fear by believing that God holds the future. He’s not blind to all of the things that threaten our children and families. He sees. He knows. He is not afraid.

We move mountains of too-much-ness by believing that God is bigger than our pile of laundry, our ‘to do’ list, our fatigue – by believing that he made us limited beings, on purpose.

Sister, when we feel stuck, let’s work the muscles of our spirits into that deep stretch of faith. We can sit in the discomfort of believing what we cannot see. We can develop an elasticity that allows us to move and flex with the wacky, unpredictability of these days with littles because God is stable, faithful, unchanging.  We can choose to believe God is who he says he is.


And the mountains of our hearts are thrown into the sea…

How to keep being mama when you are paralyzed by fear

FullSizeRender.jpg     IMG_8422.JPG

I saw her daddy’s bike pulling down the driveway and, from kitchen window, caught a glimpse of his tears. No one behind him. My heart sunk deep down, and my body and soul sprung into action with that thing that only a mama knows. My blood pumped hard and I was washed over with it. That gut-deep truth that I would do anything for this child. There’s a truth of a mama’s heart that comes to the light when your child needs you. Not a skinned-knee kind of need. But those moments when terror sets in and the weight of your desperation to see your child safe, it falls right down on your shoulders, and there is no rest until you know.

It had felt like any other morning. A little “big-kid time” – a little extra freedom – for our Girl with too much love, and a heart full of wonder.

A cheerful “goodbye,’ and a reminder of boundaries, as she ventured off for a little walk with the neighbor friend.

Like any other morning, with middle ones in the backyard, and baby nursing long.  As a few small waves of “it’s been a while” worry came, I let them wash right off of me, and I took my time getting up the street to take a peek.

The eerie emptiness of the street felt a bit like someone had poked a hole in my heart.  And my spirit leaked a little with the uncertainty.

But I returned home with a calm confidence that all that lay ahead was a quick reunion and a casual chat about some minor breach of boundaries. That’s when I sent her daddy out on his bike.

My pulse had quickened, but I assured siblings that daddy would be right back with their sister. When he returned alone, too many minutes later, the tone shifted and a battle began…

Suddenly all the things were possible. All the horrors.

The thought of a long search, and a fight to get her back – they pale in comparison to the need to hold her again. We would fight to the death if we had to. Suddenly I’m the shepherd with the lost sheep, and that thing about leaving the ninety-nine for the one takes over me fast. In that instant, her siblings’ comfort fades out of my vision. I grab a friend to stay as I fly out the door to find my precious lost one.

Few words exchanged, I take the car and her daddy takes off running through the woods. Both determined not to return without her.

I’m counting up the minutes, and I think it’s already been well over an hour since she left the house for her “little walk.” Lord only knows how far she could be if that dreaded thing happened, and someone had taken her away.

Most mamas reading this have felt the terror of losing sight of a child, be it for a moment, for minutes, hours or days… I can’t save my heart from knowing the depth of my love, and the terror of loss.

And I’m reminded of other times this mother’s heart of mine came into the light. When the depth of love for which the world has no words – it came right out of me and spilled all over the place.

I think of the newborn with the fever, with the long hospital stay and no answers. The nights down begging on my knees.

I think of the day in the ER when my head failed to convince my heart that a pinky finger is a little thing.  How, in my mama’s heart, the shattered dreams of a perfect daughter with her perfect hand holding junior prom corsage or engagement ring…felt like everything. And how the hopes and dreams fell in a heap along with my massive failure to protect my Girl with the pocket full of sunshine.

I think of nights watching a little one struggle to breathe, and numbers on monitors rising and falling, with finger hovering over the nurse call button.

I think of the scary sonogram and the solemn look on the doctor’s face when they thought something was wrong with my baby boy.

I think of all of my mama friends who didn’t get the good news that everything would be ok.

I think of the hundreds of “close calls,” and the images that flash of how life could have changed in an instant if I had been looking the other way.

That day their daddy came home on the bike alone…it did have a happy ending. Some 30 minutes later, there was a joyful (be it tearful) reunion. And, aside from some difficult lessons, and a visit with a kindly police officer, all was well and returned to normal minutes later.

And yet, my mama’s heart feels and knows as deeply and truly as ever, that it is not always so. It’s all too real that the story could have gone another way, and there is another mama out there who has lived the other scenario.

The moments I’ve lived the trauma – or my friends have – they sit down heavy on me. When you heard a crash and they were not fine. When they got sick or something went wrong, and you lived out your fear. Times like this, the burden of being a mother can feel so very heavy. We mamas can be faced not only with a painful memory, but also a new sense of reality. Our carnality, our children’s fragility – they are in-your-face real.

The things you feel for your child when the danger is real, or when you watch them really hurt…these are the raw things of being alive.

I don’t know about you, but I get to where I don’t think I can do it tomorrow. I get confused about my responsibility to protect my children, and my utter inability to succeed. I know that God is the only one who can truly protect them, but I wonder about the moments when He seemed to be asleep at the wheel for my children, or for the children of dear friends.

The fear can be paralyzing.  But somehow we have to go on.

I have five extensions of my heart running around raw and vulnerable to all the dangers of the world. Statistics are against me on avoiding the ER for the next 18 or so years. And yet, somehow I have to let them run and jump and climb and be alive, and in being alive, be at risk of injury and death. And to try to stop them from this living would be to steal life from them in advance. So, what to do about this mother’s heart of mine?

I think the kind of love that I have felt for my children in the most terrible moments is perhaps –in some strange way – a place to live from. To hover over the crib and feel the weighty rawness of how much I love my baby. To face the fear that tragedy could strike, but determine it’s worth staying in this moment, in it’s fullness.  To just receive today – this moment – as a gift.  To cast off the hustle of the morning and greet my children with the joyful side of the same intense love that I would feel if they didn’t get out of bed to greet me. To let it scare me how much I love them, and to open my hands to the Almighty with it.

I cannot pretend that I am not desperate for my children to be okay. But I can bring my desperation to the throne of grace, before a God who knows how it feels.

I cannot take away the dangers of the world. But I can choose to bring my needs before the Great Protector, and I can make a glorious trade.  I can hand over the images that haunt me and the fears that plague me, and receive the peace that passes understanding, in exchange .

I cannot protect my heart from the devastation that would come if my children were taken from me. And if I try, I might just miss the joy of being their mama. But I can open my hand that was so tightly clenched around the safety of my children, and I can choose to trust the only One with the power to grant me another day with them.

My mother’s heart has been beating inside of me since the day I learned I was pregnant with my first child, roughly 8 years ago. But when our kids hurt, when they are lost or in danger…that mother’s heart beats deep, like the drums of war.   I know actually and fully and in the flesh that I would die for them— that I would do anything for them to be okay.

But there really is only one thing to do.  So I’ll wear down my knees in praying to the only One who is able. To the One who loves them even more than my mother’s heart.

I’ll hand over my fear.  I’ll let them live lives of joy and adventure. I’ll receive His peace.  And I’ll be mama another day.