The deep satisfaction of giving it all away


Everyone is buckled into the minivan, and for a moment, I just breathe.

I linger in the garage doorway and search the crevices of my mind for forgotten tasks and items.  I can’t remember the last morning we didn’t forget something, but my overloaded brain doesn’t seem capable of doing anything other than recovering from the chaos of the last 40 minutes.  
I’m pretty sure one or two of the kids never actually ate any of their breakfast, and I know for certain that I didn’t brush the baby’s teeth.  I hope, but probably won’t ask, whether or not everyone is wearing socks under their shoes.  

I shove one last sippy cup into my giant tote, along with a pair of sneakers for the littlest, whose bare little toes I recall kissing as I buckled him into his carseat.  I’m quite certain today will be the day the straps finally break on this bag, hanging over my right shoulder – the one that’s been serving quadruple duty as purse, diaper bag, pantry, and fix-all treasure chest.  

I grab my coffee in my other hand, and my sunglasses between my lips, and open the door to the garage, where my little ones have been waiting for approximately seventeen seconds.  

Before I even have the door fully opened, I hear a chorus of “Mommy!” and the names of those who need to be tattled on.  I decipher a request for music and a few desperate pleas for food and water, though the only thing we’ve done since breakfast is get into the car.  

How can there be this many problems by 8am?  How can I be tired already?  

I’m just now glancing in the mirror for the first time of the morning, and I’m thankful to find a hairband around my wrist to throw my mess of hair into a high bun.  

Friends, this motherhood thing is no joke.  Full and abundant, relentless and exhausting. It’s no wonder so many mamas can’t seem to stop the complaining from spilling out of their mouths, whenever they happen upon a listening ear.  

A handful of years ago, I found myself stumbling into stay-at-home motherhood, and subsequently, into playgroups and mommy meet-ups.  I found myself frustrated and confused that we all seemed to sit around talking about how little sleep we got or how long our husband’s work hours were, or how strong-willed our child was, as if it might make us feel better if we won the medal for “Hardest life.”  I was frustrated with other moms, and I was frustrated with myself, for going right along with the negativity.  I knew we should be more grateful, but it was also nice to connect with others who “get it.”

I absolutely adored my children, and often times the negative words leaking from my mouth didn’t even feel true.  I was just grasping at an opportunity to be seen in what I was working so hard to do, but for which the world seemed to have no words or appreciation.  

In that season, part of me still believed that the menial tasks of motherhood were beneath me.  I thought I should be doing something bigger or more impressive.  Or at least doing this “small” job more perfectly.  Yet, another part of me felt like being a stay-at-home mom was the most difficult thing I had ever done.

Though I knew that I knew that I knew that my children were an absolute gift, on many days, I found myself falling into a puddle of self-pity.  

I felt sorry for myself for not being understood.  I felt sorry for myself that I had nothing to show for the soul-crushing day I had just survived.  I felt sorry for myself that I was giving and giving, even when I was tired, or sick, or sad, or lonely.  I felt sorry for myself for the emptiness I felt, even when my home was full of adorable little faces.

More than anything, I felt deeply ashamed of my ingratitude.  Right alongside friends longing for a family or struggling to get pregnant, or wishing to be home with their children more, I often looked at my children and felt unworthy to be their mama, wondering why the mere look of them wasn’t filling my life with total joy and satisfaction.

At some point, I determined I must be missing something.  This simply could not be it.  This could not be God’s heart and desire for me.  

I didn’t want to be like the grandmas in the grocery store who tell me to soak it up because this is the best time of my life.  I didn’t want to tell every new mom for the rest of my life that it’s going to go way too fast.  I didn’t want to just survive this, and then regret all that I missed by not figuring out how to love it while it was happening.  I didn’t want to fill up photo albums to create memories of things that I didn’t actually enjoy very much.  

I wanted to live these moments.  I wanted to soak them up in a way that changed me. 

I began to wonder what would happen if I just stopped giving everything to my family begrudgingly, and started giving as if this was all I was ever meant to do.  I had always loved long snuggles and bedtime stories, but what if I gave the same energy to laundry and diapers, and arguments and bad attitudes? 

What if I poured my energy into, not just the fun moments of parenting, but all of these in-between mundane moments, as if these days were the only ones I’d bring before the throne of Christ, at the end of my life?

I began to have eyes to see all of the ways that I had been grasping to keep my life in tact…I rolled my eyes at the messes, because I was trying to preserve my dignity.  When a child was disrespectful, I crossed my arms repulsed, because I was trying to preserve my pride.  After a certain amount of work, I began to function out of this thinking that I really deserved a break, because I was trying to preserve my comfort.  I sputtered awkward answers at a cocktail party about what I did other than “stay at home” because I was trying to preserve my relevance in the world.  I was bitter about being late because I was trying to preserve my image as a dependable, punctual, responsible adult.  

I began to wonder what it would feel like to treat my children like the vulnerable Least of These Jesus talked about, and to give it all away with reckless abandon.  What if I simply threw my life into this thing the Lord has given me to do —  not neglecting self-care, but abandoning myself to be poured out — and let the Lord give me his abundance, right in the middle of the mess?  

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  Matthew 16: 25

As I threw off my fears of keeping it all together, and let motherhood get a bit messier, giving when I had nothing left, because I chose to believe God gave me each of these little things to do, I began to find the life I had been so afraid to lose.  I found purpose inside of my own four walls, and deep joy in the middle of chaos.  I found myself delighting in my children, not just in the peaceful and sweet spaces, but in the disheveled and unpredictable ones, too.  I began to find abundance in the emptiest moments, energy in the midst of sleep deprivation, fun in the middle of work, and worship in the middle of mundane.  And I found deep satisfaction in the in-between, invisible, far from Instagram-worthy moments that only God could see.  

I began to discover the heart of God to fill us up as we are poured out, and to let us share in lavish resurrection living as we share in the death of Christ by abandoning our preferences, pride, comfort and convenience.  

No matter what your day-to-day looks like, sister, whether you are a stay-at-home mama, or you are juggling work and home, whether you have tiny ones or teenagers, be encouraged that God’s heart is to strengthen you out of his glorious riches, with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (Eph 3: 16). 

As we pour our lives out in places where we can’t receive back… As we offer forgiveness seventy times seven times… As we let our lives be poured out like a drink offering… As we choose to release our pride, our comfort, our lives to whatever little tasks are put before us… we see the abundant grace of God multiply in our hearts and homes.

Are you a weary and burdened mama?


His tiny hand of butter and silk stroked my face, from the tip of my brow, to the crest of my lip, sometimes with a brief pause to pinch my nose.

It was one of those sleepless nights full of unexplained cries and sleepy snuggles, and so – ready or not – my Littlest and I greeted the morning together.

My eyelids fluttered and lingered shut for too long a moment for his liking.  But he didn’t cry.  He rustled me patiently and gently, letting me know he was content just to be close, but would prefer my wakeful attention.  The charm of the thing was almost more than a heart can hold.

The tender affection of a little one, so precious and pure – it humbles the heart.

This first moment of the morning ushered in the equally obvious and revolutionary realization that being a mama is absolutely and completely a gift.

Worth it.  Blessed.  Abundant.  A joy.

So why didn’t I seem so grateful for the opportunity to shepherd and care for my children, less than an hour later?

Another snow day, another breakfast mess, another runny nose, another fresh cover of toys on freshly mopped floor, another fight over morning chores, another pile of laundry.  A new round of bickering, tattling, back-talking, noise.  Another attempt at morning devotions ending in lecture about respect and inappropriate times for silliness.

And all before 8am.  Same old story.

There is this ever-common experience that mamas seem to share…that we unreservedly know that our children are a gift, and we manifestly struggle to walk in that truth through the mess of the day.

Continue reading “Are you a weary and burdened mama?”

When knowing you should be grateful just doesn’t cut it

Our “Gratitude Turkey” 🙂

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16: 34

One day a year the whole country slows and asks us to name a few things for which we’re grateful.  This morning after greeted me with the happy lingering aromas of turkey and gravy and pumpkin pie, and a lingering smile from the family and festivities.

In my home, thankful lips seemed to open easy this week – for siblings and bunk beds, for friends and legs that run, for mountains and woodsy trails, for chocolate and Legos and sparkles and a million species of animals.

Elsewhere, hearts heave with loved ones lost, with illness and addiction and broken relationships and shattered dreams.  In those places or at those times, the call to gratitude can feel a bit cruel.

When we’re honest, gratitude doesn’t always come easy.  Even in the most beautiful and seemingly blessed lives, hearts can sit heavy with unnamed pains and haunting fears.  Churning anxieties or a cloak of shame can shade the best of intentions to live a grateful life.

For us mamas, another little old lady in the grocery store check-out says to “Cherish every minute,” and we’re left in a puddle of guilt about how we must not be woman enough.  To cherish the tantrums and the sleeplessness and the defiance… to cherish the ache for the baby you lost, or the positive pregnancy test that never came…  to cherish every minute as you pry your hands open and let your children go into the big scary world…. to cherish every minute as you juggle endless appointments, or as you throb with after school tears from the child who can’t manage to make a friend… to cherish every minute as you grieve over unreached milestones, or as you long to draw close to the child who won’t talk to you… to cherish every moment if you haven’t slept a full night or used the bathroom by yourself in a decade.

Motherhood is a the most tremendous joy and privilege of my life.  But can we just be honest that sometimes cherishing every minute is really, really hard?

Whether you are walking through the darkest of times, or your life looks pristinely perfect on the outside, sometimes knowing we should be grateful just doesn’t quite cut it.

Like the child who mutters “Thank you” when served that food they dislike, the words sometimes hurt coming out, and leave a bit of an aftertaste of unspoken caveats and exceptions.

Maybe we can manage to muster up a list of blessings, but our hearts remain stone cold to peace, to joy, to the promise of God’s goodness.  Maybe we writhe in guilt because we know we have everything we’ve dreamed of, but our hearts can’t seem to sort through the whining or the fatigue to soak it all in.

Early on in my parenting journey, I think I functioned out of a mentality that if my grateful moments simply outnumbered the annoyed or frustrated or discouraged moments, that I would get by ok.  But as the years went by, the demands increased, and the challenges grew a little beyond throwing a plate off the highchair, this mentality fell short.  I found that most of my time was influenced by irritation or just plain exhaustion.

I began to find that gratitude couldn’t just flow out of the easy moments, when my children were looking cute and adoring me.  It had to flow out of a deeper and more powerful choice.

It’s more like that mama in the waiting room at the orthopedist’s office last week, as my eldest and I sat in the hum of activity, with a spattering of comforting words over little ones in all stages of X-rays and braces and casts and healing journeys, with the ring of busy phones and the buzz of cast saw reverberating in the stale medical air.

Amidst the bustle, I heard another sound.  Simple and pure and imperfect in that real life beautiful kind of way.  A mama with tired eyes and unhappy toddler in arms, awaiting an elder child in the X-ray room, joyfully singing “Skip to my Lou” as if it was the thing she was put on earth to do.  She bounced and sang, snuggled and sang, walked and twirled and sang.

And it fell on my ears like the melody of praise.

I have to think it fell on God’s the same, as she poured herself out in service to her little one, comforting and reassuring with happy tune and tight embrace.

The beauty of the sound wasn’t in it’s perfect pitch or impeccable tone.  The beauty wasn’t that the act was dramatic or difficult.  The beauty was in the simple surrender; a smile for a moment that invited a frown, a melody for a moment that invited scorn, joy for a moment that invited only weariness.  When many moms might tire of the fight, this mama chose to be poured out.  She chose to give herself away, in the midst of an unpleasant moment, to this tiny person before her.

I think our gratitude looks a bit like this.  It looks like telling our own souls to get up and sing, when they feel like crawling into a hole.   When the curves of our mouths are heavy low, we lift them up like weights on a bench, like Moses’ arms over battle, claiming a victory that we can’t yet feel or quite believe.  When our lips are inclined towards complaining or self-pity, we can choose to lift them up in praise.

Gratitude doesn’t have to be easy to be good.  It doesn’t have to be constant to be worth it.  Every time we make a choice to offer up a sacrifice of praise with our hands at the kitchen sink, we invite the power of God.  Every time we offer up a sacrifice of praise with our lips in a tender word to our children, we invite peace and joy into our homes.  Every time we offer up a sacrifice of praise with our eyes in a lifted gaze, we invite renewed strength to our weary bones.  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16: 34)

So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands were heavy, then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Our supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other.  Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. Exodus 17: 11-12

Version 2


What I Never Knew about the Father Heart of God

christian mom blog
To my eyes, nothing but a masterpiece of love

No matter what the day holds, there is something I know to expect as my children climb into bed at night.

There is something about seeing my children rest their heads down on their pillows at the end of the day…  Something about the curves of their faces, and the bend of their eyelashes, the rise and fall of their chests… Something about the way middle daughter pulls a blanket up to her chin… Something about the way my eldest easily pours out all the words for which the day ran out of space… Something about the way my son sighs deep and smiles soft and nestles close, body and soul… There’s something about the way my toddler wiggles in her bed until I tuck her in just so…

No matter what chaos precedes, there is something in this moment, each and every day, that summons a thousand kisses and a tender tuck of the curl behind the ear.  Something inspires me to cup the face and whisper the word of blessing and affection.  Something calls for my fingers to outline the angelic faces and scratch the satiny backs.  Something invites me to forget the offenses of the day, the heaviness of my eyelids, the weariness of my soul…  and to remember only the ferocity of my love, the integrity of my acceptance, the vastness of my gratitude.


And it all spills right out of me.


The impassioned tenderness I would feel for my children is a thing I simply did not grasp before becoming a mother.  I never knew how my heart would enlarge with every miracle of life.


And looking back, I see that before I climbed into the heart of a parent, I had not well-imagined the father heart of God towards his children.


There are dimensions of God’s love for us that cannot be contained in our limited understanding…but, nevertheless, as I feel the kind of love for my children that seems unable to be squeeze into the limits of my heart, the picture I have of God’s love gains new color and contrast, new depth and beauty.


Far more often than I’d like to admit, I see an image of my heart towards God reflected in a toddler who refuses to receive help, or a little one who cannot seem to submit to my authority.  I see how easily I trust my own judgment over God’s, despite knowing better.   I assume God is against me when I don’t get my way.  As I have the parental wisdom that my child should not run in the street, no matter how their little bodies long for the freedom, my God has a higher perspective of the things that will hurt my heart, no matter how I might long and ache and moan.


As I sometimes need to press my little one into her carseat for the buckles she resists, sometimes, the gentle hand of my Father God restrains me, and says “Not yet” or “Not in this way.” And,  I squirm with all of my irritation and assumptions about how He must not be that good.  As parents, we lovingly set boundaries for our children – to keep them safe or guide their hearts.  As my children push and resist and defy, my heart cries out with “Hey, I’m on your team!  I am FOR you!  Trust me!”


In the same way, I feel God’s call for me to trust the depth of his love, the purity of his will.


The first time a child of mine fell asleep in my arms was the last moment I considered feeling guilty or ashamed for falling asleep during a prayer.  As I felt the joy and adoration of my child’s body melting into mine, I saw afresh that God’s heart towards me is exceedingly tender.


The first time I watched my child fail on the journey to learning something new – like the thousand falls on the way to learning to walk – that was the last day I perceived impatience from God towards my weakness.


The first time I saw my child run his heart out and lose, or the first time he proudly offered me a mishmash work of art as a gift specially designed for me… these were the last times I felt from my God that I hadn’t been good enough to please him.  Jesus covered our sin, and God’s heart towards us is pure delight.


I still forget sometimes, but there’s a new truth in me…


As I watch my children stumble into new broken revelation about who God is, and why he made them, I am assured of God’s pleasure as I seek him with my limited understanding, with my confused and often incorrect theology.  In the same way that I love to hear the name of Jesus come out of my daughter’s tiny mouth, even if to say “Jesus is so cute!” or “Jesus is in my sippy cup!,” I see that God simply loves to hear me call on his name.  He delights as I lean my breath of a life and my ephemeral body of dust into his mighty eternal chest.


As I watch my children face life’s brokenness – the kind that is not at all good – I feel God’s heartbreak over the way our sin and the brokenness of the world has brought us pain and suffering that he did not design.  I feel His eagerness to hold me, to bring comfort and healing and redemption, when I face hardship.


Being a mama is changing my view of the father heart of my God.


As I imagine God’s heart towards me now, I imagine the tenderness of His hand as he leads me through life’s broken places.  As I beg my own children to trust me, I am endeared to God’s caring, and my own lack of understanding and perspective.  I know the reality of his higher and broader and deeper understanding.  I feel his unwavering longing for my good.  I sense the weight of the eternal perspective he has on my heart and life.  I feel his wisdom in allowing me life’s trials for the sake of my freedom, for the sake of winning my heart.


My eyes are becoming clearer to see that yes, love is the force that drives me to tell my child not to run in the street, or to allow their little failures for the sake of their growth and refinement…and likewise, love is the force that drives my God.



As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I see him holding out gifts for me to take and open and enjoy, and I hear my childish whines about how I don’t like the color of the wrapping paper.


As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I think of the magic and fun of genetics — how the features of a face, the color of eyes, the shape of cheekbones are passed between generations.  I think of how my husband and I study the faces of our children saying “He has your mouth” or “She has my eyes.” And I feel God studying me, his image bearer, proudly proclaiming: “She looks like me!”


My husband and I go on a date and end up looking at pictures of our kids.  We can’t stop thinking about them when we’re away.  It’s a little embarrassing, but we are fiercely grateful and mildly obsessed with these amazing little people.  How much more does God’s love for us never end, and our name never leave his mind?  As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I think of a father who is beautifully preoccupied with me.


As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I hear his words of blessing infusing me with courage.  When I embark on a new challenge or adventure, I feel him speaking confidence to proceed, and gently warning me not to wander too far.   I can almost hear His voice echoing in my own encouragements and cautions, as I send my sweet ones out on their bikes.  Only His voice is pure love, free from anxiety and fear.  His voice makes me long to rest in his covering.


Though God is the picture of a perfect parent, and I most certainly am not, I find that I can relate to God’s heart in this holy time of parenting young children.


The father heart of God is a beauty to behold.  I invite you to let the tenderness you feel towards your children endear you to the heart of God.  Let your imagination rest on His pure delight in you.  Imagine His eyes exploring the curves of your face, and wondering at the beauty of your soul.  Imagine His warm giggles when you lift your broken works of art to Him.  Imagine his bent knee to lift you from your failures and skinned knees.  Imagine his tears over your heartbreaks, and imagine him gently catching those from your cheek in a bottle.  Imagine his pride when you are his hands and feet on earth.  Just like you pull out a photo of your child to show to a friend, God loves to show the world His glory and goodness in your very face and life.  Soak in his tenderness, and let it change you.  Let it put a bounce in your step, like that of a child who knows he’s loved.


My beautiful friend, today, let your imagination wander to a Father God who is kind of obsessed with you.

How to proclaim to the world that children are a gift


I’ve always struggled a bit with taking up my space. I’ve never wanted to inconvenience or overwhelm, or bring too much need or heaviness.  I’ve measured my feelings and passions, and most definitely my requests for help.  I now know confidently that God has a sweet obsession with winning my heart and a significant sense of humor…

He gave me five children in seven and a half years. I got a crash course in taking up a lot of space.

Children take up their space unapologetically, with wild freedom.  Though their parents are presumed to be responsible for ensuring that they don’t interfere with anyone else’s space, the reality is that as your family grows, the space you take up in surface area and sound waves and need grows exponentially.

If you have ever walked into a restaurant, a grocery store, a library, or an airplane with children, you know the reactions can be mixed. I’ve seen everything from a joyful exclamation of blessing to an eye roll to an audible scoff. I’ve had strangers question if I know how to prevent pregnancy, or murmur things like “Some people just need to know when to quit.” Our family is undeniably avoided on airplanes and in a variety of other places. And I get it.

We are a lot.   For me too!  But no one needs a reminder that children are a blessing more than a mom!

These experiences with mixed reactions and projections of too-much-ness have highlighted my insecurities, but they have done something much more profound as well.  They have sparked a flame in me, and given me a deep passion to proclaim loudly and proudly that children are a gift. As mothers, we know it, but sometimes we don’t live it that way.  Messages of annoyance or inconvenience can oppress us, if we let them.


In these years with tiny kids, I’ll be honest, most of the time my brain feels like it might actually explode. Life is so sweet and full, but also completely overwhelming. I cry out to the Lord to grant me wisdom, peace, joy, the ability to slow down and soak in the moment, grace for my children, self control to use calm and kind words. I am metaphorically on my knees every second of the day with my utter depravity. I cannot pull together so much as an hour of righteous living, maybe not even a minute. I am stripped down with sleep deprivation and endless chores and prolific whining…and questions.

Oh the questions.

But at the end of the day, I want more! More of my children, more laughter, more of their magically unique personalities and amazing little faces…faces of light and life and freedom. I want to know them more, enjoy them more, drink them in more. I want more of the toddlers running shamelessly after bath time, resisting those confining pajamas. I want more sweet little hands cupping my face and telling me I’m the best mommy. I want more of watching the beautiful mystery of identity and spirit unfolding in my older children. I want more silliness and animal noises and living room dance parties.


Light and darkness are at war over these best of years.


The little old women keep telling me to love every minute, and my friends with a youngest child barely over five-years-old keep telling me to hang on for dear life a few more years. “Long days, short years,” they say. I think the truth and the secret to joy rests in some sloppy mess of both.


We do need to soak these years in. We need to deeply and truly celebrate all the firsts of things and the dependence and the spongy learning and the snuggles and the silliness. We need to slow down and taste it and chew on it and let it change us.


But we also need permission to say that this thing is really stinking hard. I want to tell those little old ladies that they don’t actually remember very well what it felt like not to get a good night’s sleep for a decade. And I want to remind those who look judgmentally at me with my occasionally out-of-control children, that they too were once a child and that my children deserve their respect. And for the love, I want to scream from the rooftops that sometimes moms have to take their kids to the grocery store. We weren’t trying to slow you down or ruin your day or run over your toes with the shopping cart. We just ran out of milk and peanut butter and we can’t go on without those, and this is just when the grocery store had to happen. So be nice. Please.


I have found that I need to be prepared to respond well to the comments and reactions that oppress my spirit.  I need to be prepared to take up my space in a joy-filled, life-giving way.

The most common thing that is said to me throughout my days is “Wow, you have your hands full!” Though seemingly harmless, the constant flow of this message leads me to feel sorry for myself, or to feel defeated under the seeming “too much” of my life. If it constantly looks like I need help, then I must not be ok, right? A sweet friend encouraged me to find a thing to say back that helps to combat the influence this comment was having. So now, every time (usually at least three times a day, depending on how many errands I run or places I go), I say in response “In the best way!” or “Yes, sir, I am blessed!” or “My cup runneth over!”

Cheesy as it may sound, having a positive response transforms these moments of defeat into moments of victory. And it proclaims over my children – to their listening ears – that they are a blessing and a joy.


During pregnancy, it was the continuous flow of “You’re about to pop!” or “Wow, you’ve really gotten big!” These threaten to steal my joy, make me feel frumpy and insecure, and to be honest, make me want to say all kinds of cruel things. I needed an armament for this one too. I came up with a few phrases like “Must be a healthy boy in there!” or “Can’t wait to meet him!” so that these comments didn’t pour self-consciousness all over my blessing.


Last week, a man saw me out and about with my little flock and said to me in real life ”Wow, you must be a glutton for punishment.” Without thinking, I responded: “Maybe…but I get it all back in joy!”
Infinitely more important than the puzzled looks I sometimes get, my children hear me declare that they are a blessing.  And when I am prepared with these joyful “comebacks”, the words that threaten to make me feel overwhelmed, insecure or less-than Do. Not. Stick. Hallelujah!


Today, let’s celebrate our children out loud for the world to see. Let’s celebrate their slow wonder and their unreserved delight. Let’s celebrate their bubbling joy and their shameless freedom. Let’s celebrate their unquenchable curiosity and their endless teachability. Let’s celebrate their enthusiasm and their presence.  Let’s celebrate their incredible courage, resilience, and flexibility. Let’s celebrate the clarity of their love, and the purity of their faith. Let’s celebrate their fearlessness and their reckless abandon. Let’s celebrate their comfort and familiarity with their need, and their absolute dependence.  Let’s celebrate that Jesus said children are worth celebrating.


I want to challenge myself and other mamas to go convince the world that children are worth our celebration and our blessing. They are worth listening to. They are worth our lingering looks of acceptance.  They are worth our smiles. They are worth our patience as they try to figure out how to do things they’ve never done before. I want to embrace them together. If those inconvenienced deliver scoffs and scolds and sharp glances, I want to let them roll off and I want to lean into the beautiful mess of it.


And maybe, as the world sees moms delight in our children, it will be softened towards them.  Maybe we can deliver a powerful blessing over this next generation.
What do you say, Mama?  I say let’s give it a shot.


The thing our kids do better than their mamas

You can’t hurry a toddler with eyes full of wonder. You can’t motivate her to rush into the carseat when an anthill has caught her eye. You can’t convince her that clouds taking new shape in the breeze aren’t the most important thing happening right now. Little ones dwell in the places I rarely remember to visit. They dwell in the colors of the butterfly and the feeling of blades of grass under toes. They revel in the magic of sand running between fingers and snowflakes landing on eyelashes.  From a daddy’s tickles to a sibling’s knock-knock jokes, young children can delight in a silly moment and want to recreate and relive it as many times as they can (perhaps until an adult tires of it, and asks them to play a new game). Living in a house full of small people who know how to embrace and enjoy the moments of their days, I realize that I am the only one who doesn’t get it.  So, these days, I am a student of my children, in the school of “Stop and smell the roses.” I long for more of their joy, their calm, their freedom, their humility. They rarely feel that life is too heavy to giggle. They don’t feel too important to slow down. They never feel too busy or stressed to play. In their view, life is play. When something beautiful or interesting or unexpected crosses their path, they are not inclined to view it as trivial or ill-timed. They receive it as gift.

And, marvel of marvels, Jesus instructed us to be like them. What hidden treasures might be found in encountering God’s world through their lens.

Mamas, do most of your arguments with your children begin with being in a hurry? I know mine do.  Children move slowly… they have a natural drive to take in, experience and learn about the world around them. It can be maddening when the rest of the world is moving so quickly. When there is a clock ticking, a place to be, a thing to be done, I can look at my children and think that their slow pace simply reflects a lack of responsibility. But it strikes me, that as children of God, we are given the opportunity to live with the same freedom. If it’s all up to me, and the weight of the world is on my shoulders, than there is simply no time to spare. But if God is on the throne, and I’m just a child in His world, destined to live in this fleshy body and with a limited number of hours in a day, then I am actually and truly free to slow the heck down. It has always amazed me that Jesus never seemed to rush. He was highly demanded of – perhaps more than anyone else who has walked the planet. Crowds by the thousands were desperate for his teaching and his healing touch. They chased him across bodies of water, and interrupted his quiet moments.  He knows how we feel, mamas!  And yet, he never seemed to hurry. Perhaps there is a childlike faith that allows us to believe in our depths that God only intends for us to be in the singular moment that we are in right now. When we feel we need to be in more than one place at a time, we are believing a lie. God can be all the places – we are only meant to be in the one.  Children seem to get it, but as we grow and gain responsibility and start believing that we are desperately needed to keep the world spinning, we forget how to live with this kind of presence.

I am watching my children, and trying to do everything in my power to NOT RUSH. I am vowing to never try to squeeze in a grocery store run on our way to another appointment. I will always build in time for someone to need to poop. I will expect the unexpected and stop viewing it as an inconvenience. I’m learning that life is sweeter when I spend more time observing and learning from my children, and less time trying to make them like me. If we play by their rules a little more, maybe I will spend a bit less time making the perfect birthday cake, and a lot more time enjoying the rolly polly on the sidewalk.  Friend, I’m finding this sweetness in building in “kid time.” Let the 8 yard walk to the car take 18 minutes so they (and you) can smell every flower and throw 47 helicopter maple seeds and pick up a caterpillar or two. Of course, many many mornings in my home still begin with my barking orders to put on shoes, or buckle up seat belts. Many times, we simply run out of time, and I grow quickly impatient. But, I am trying to shift my view and change my goals – delight versus efficiency.

I want to stop and smell the roses with my children, even if it means it’s going to take a little longer to get to where we’re going.  After at least a million failed attempts, I now know fully and officially that I cannot muster up patience, especially when every moment that I try has been preceded by all of the things that make me want to pull my hair out one strand at a time. No, I can’t muster up patience. But I can choose to stop and delight. I can choose a gratitude that slooows the mind and body. I can soak the laughter, and the long silly stories from the lips of my children. I can ask them why they think that beetle is so amazing, or to teach me how to turn a cardboard box into an amazing day of adventure. I can laugh as they eat an ice cream cone upside down, praising Jesus for washing machines.

Waiting in wonder…


Waiting is hard. And I think it’s getting harder these days. I remember being a little nine-year-old girl, bursting with curiosity, and going to a shelf that held our well-loved encyclopedia set. I remember singing my ABC’s to find the book with the right portion of the alphabet, and flipping through the pages to find the tiny paragraph and blurry picture representing the subject about which I wanted to learn. I remember that little teaser of information making way for my imagination, and I remember looking forward to going to the library to find a whole book about the subject of interest. I remember feeling fueled and driven, even empowered, by the waiting…and the wonder.

These days look different. Wonder only sits for a moment, while we wait for Google hits to load, and are flooded with endless information…more than we can process. And so, we take in a few dozen bits of information, and we move on to the next thing. The world seems to spin a little faster these days. I find that this pace makes it difficult to sit, to silence my head and my heart, and to wait to hear that “still small voice” of the Spirit of God. I find it hard to sit in wonder and mystery, when facing something that is truly unknown. This process of waiting feels poignant as I reflect on my recent season of waiting to meet our son, Simon, who arrived on July 9th.  Waiting in the unknown of the day and time labor would begin. Waiting in the mystery of how the birth would go…the pain, the length, how I would cope, whether my body would recover well. Waiting to see what state my other children would be in when I left for the hospital, and when I returned. Waiting to see if my son would be healthy.  Waiting to see what he would look like. Waiting to see how my other children would handle the transition. Waiting in a body that seemed to be screaming for the wait to end. The physical and mental discomfort of those days and weeks felt embarrassingly difficult.

Times of waiting like this, when I have no control, and zero knowing, I find myself frustrated that I can’t search Google for an answer.  As the world seems to spin faster, I find these seasons of waiting to be increasingly trying. But I am also struck by the unique opportunity to sit in the unknown mysteries with a God who promises that His presence alone is enough. The days and weeks approaching my due date held countless contractions and “false alarms.” Early labor stretched over the better part of a month. And so, each day felt strangely shadowed by feeling like a “ticking time bomb.” My patience and my body grew weary, and the last days dragged on. I knew that what I was waiting for was a gift, and tried desperately to sit in the sweetness of waiting to “open” it. And yet, despite my best efforts, most days I just felt weary and frustrated – physically uncomfortable, and emotionally and spiritually emptied out. I would try to sit in God’s presence early each morning, begging for a “fresh word” to help me through the day, and each morning it seemed that my hand remained tightly clenched around a demand that God bring this baby as soon as possible.  Each day felt like another failure – another short-tempered moment with my children. Another day my weary body failed to get the house clean. Another day thinking of almost nothing except whether I might be going into labor. On the morning of July 9th – the day we met Simon – I sat my aching body and soul down with my bible and journal, and I heard the Lord whisper tenderly to my impatient heart…

“Dear One, it’s a great gift that you await. And I’ll give it to you at the perfect time. Think of your children as they await Christmas morning. Don’t miss the sweetness of this longing.”

I sat in the thought for a few moments and was flooded with images of the desperation and longing in the eyes of my children on the days and weeks before Christmas. When they desire from the depths of them for that day to come, and can’t quite understand the waiting.  As their mama, I know that the waiting and the anticipation is what will make the day so sweet. I know that Christmas morning comes in it’s fullness when it has been infused with the preparing and the counting down, the meditating and the leaning in, the wrapping and dwelling in the goodness that’s to come. And I long for them to trust me in the process. As I think of the way they struggle to rest and trust in the waiting, I see the truth of my own heart. And I see that my Father already knows what’s inside of this mysterious gift that I’m waiting to unwrap. On that morning, I finally released my grip and submitted to a Loving Father who already knew my son, and knew what day his birthday was going to be, and who knows all the birthdays of his life. God already knows the hairs on my son’s head and the gifts and desires set in his little spirit. God already knows Simon’s story, and has already planned how it will be woven into the great Story of redemption. As I rested into God’s presence, the waiting transformed from frustration to an opening of my hands to receive a gift that I could not yet unwrap. A great joy and deep peace settled in.  And, wouldn’t you know, in God’s tender kindness, labor started a few short hours later.

I gain insight about my own impatience by watching my children. I see myself in their demands that everything happen right now. I may not be as quick to say it out loud, but my heart can be just as demanding.  There is a longing set deep in all of our hearts. We were meant for a fullness, a satisfaction, a “home” where all is made right, and all is completed and has been made new by our Loving Father. But this side of heaven, we wait.  We long.  Our souls cry out. Let’s be honest, my children’s souls usually cry out for…well, sugar.  Most of their longing is zeroed in on the next treat.  If I tell them they will have a lollipop after lunch, they whine that it’s not RIGHT NOW.  Long drives are filled with endless “Are we there yet’s?”. On the days approaching Christmas, they are fully convinced that it would be better to get their presents today. They long for things and struggle to submit to the process of waiting. I may long for different things, but my struggle and my unwillingness to submit are the same.  Life holds much longing. We long for things to be set right. We long to know who we are and the purpose for things. We long to fully know the truth. We long for no more pain and sadness. We long for the fullness of God’s presence.

Waiting requires much from us. Doing it well is not a passive exercise. It requires a choice of submission. It requires a relinquishing of understanding and control. It requires a quieting trust. The joy that grows and swells in anxious anticipation can be lost if we fight the process. The child who sneaks through the house to find hidden presents steals from their own delight and wonder when they awake Christmas morning. And the mama who demands of God that her baby comes today misses the sweetness of longing for him, and the experience of allowing her heart to grow in preparation. As we lean into a Father with all understanding, and rest in His knowing all things, we get to receive more of the waiting with joy….like holding a beautifully wrapped gift.

Now that this tangible wait is over and my little Simon has arrived (praise God!), I am noticing that actually much of parenting requires me to wait in unknowns. It requires of my spirit a submission to mystery.  Because despite what I would like to think, there is a lot that I just don’t know.  We don’t know what kind of adults our children will be.  We don’t know which of our habits or words as parents will wound them. At Simon’s first doctor’s appointments, as they ask questions, I feel like saying “You know we just met, right?”  I don’t really know that much about him.   We are learning about our children every day – a great exploration of uncharted territory.  No one on earth knows them better than us, and yet, in the first years of their lives, they are entirely new people to us, who we do not know or understand. No one except the Lord our God has any idea what my children will be like next year, or twenty years after that. No one except the Lord knows what circumstances they will face, and what effect each of my parenting decisions will have on their hearts. I am trailblazing at every moment, in every new developmental stage, as my children change and grow and surprise even themselves. In order to find rest for our souls, amidst all of the unknowns, we have to submit to the process, and to the only One who knows. There is a God who is writing the stories of my children, and yours, and He is weaving the threads of their lives. Today, as I am inclined to look critically on a daughter’s refusal to wear the cute clothes I bought her because she prefers to wear only “interesting” clothes, like tie-dye T-shirts, I feel a truth settle in my spirit that God looks on her and sees a beautiful confidence and creativity that needs my permission to fly. He sees an artist daughter, made in His image, who reflects His own heart for creating beauty. And I get excited that I get a front row seat as she steps into her callings.  As I breathe through another moment of son’s defiance, trying not to lose my patience to an unrelenting steel will, I realize this too is a process of waiting, and trusting and believing in who God is making this child.  With this lens, I see a powerful leader who will fight with fierce passion for what he believes is right.  I can get lost in a journey of fear that we won’t get the behavior “under control.” Or I can be led by God on a road of faithful exploration, believing and discovering God’s good plans for my children, and shepherding them in those good plans. Fear abounds and I lose my cool in moments when I fight for control, and I feel my children are “winning.” But in the moments when I choose to trust that God is writing my their stories, fear falls away, and my heart swells with love and compassion and grace, and patience.   In these moments of submission, I see myself in their tantrums, and I am not a failing authority, but a partner, with equal need for a Savior, who can offer them the grace of the gospel that is offered to me.  I no longer need to carry the burden of getting my children under control. I walk with the freedom that they, like me, will always need Jesus. And so we can practice together the daily redemptive process of seeing our sin, receiving God’s forgiveness, and resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  And life as their mama becomes an adventure of discovering hidden treasure in my children, that the world has never known!

Through each of the long days of these “little years,” I can lean into a God who already knows who my children will be, and how each of the pieces fits. It all feels like mystery to me, who can’t control a single moment of their lives. But my children’s futures are not an uncertain mystery to God. I don’t need to fear that I won’t “raise them right,” and therefore the people they become will be a disappointment. I don’t need to fight to control them and make them who I think they should be. Though I must continue to set boundaries and discipline my children, I can do it with freedom and peace…and wonder.

My children are a gift. And in many ways, they are not yet unwrapped. There is much becoming to look forward to.  And if it’s not up to me to mold the gift inside the box, I can look ahead at the coming seasons and let the waiting and the unknowns excite me, rather than terrify me. As I play my part as mama, I can let God be Creator, Refiner, Redeemer…I can joyfully, hopefully, expectantly unwrap the gift of who my children are becoming, in quiet trust that the mystery revealed will be beautiful.

Oh, the wonder!