Mother’s Day is right around the corner and while many will be enjoying breakfast in bed and crayon family portraits, many others will be slowly dying inside. For years, that was me. I dreaded Mother’s Day. My arms were empty. The most natural thing in the world, that thing I had desired most of my life…motherhood, was remaining just out of my grasp. It felt like all I ever did anymore was wait. I was angry, hurt and devastated, and those feelings were only magnified every time Mother’s Day rolled around.
I still remember the crushing defeat I felt the day we found out that not only was my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome to blame, but that my husband also had contributing factors that were keeping us from conceiving that child we so desperately wanted. I didn’t know if the tears would ever stop. My world came crashing down. It was a defining moment for me. The road would be long. The dream might never become reality. This was 1996. We had been married for 3 years.
The details of our journey from that time on will be saved for another post. Today, my heart is heavy for you who are living this right now. You, who want nothing more than to hold your very own baby in your arms. You, the women who have to face, yet another childless Mother’s Day. It’s hard, extremely hard. And even as I write this I know my words will not change your situation, but I hope they will be like a salve on your open wound.
As I think back on all those Mother’s Days that I would have rather skipped altogether, those Sundays where my smile did not reach my eyes, and my heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest, I wonder…how did I make it through? What words did someone say to bring me comfort? The more I look back and reflect on this, the more I see one constant that helped me through. I did not need someone to say something. No one’s words could change my situation. I needed someone to listen. I needed to know that someone cared about the stabbing pain in my heart as I watched another childless Mother’s Day pass me by. The difference was made by the ones who took the time to notice, stopped to ask and stayed to listen. When you are in that place where the sight of a pregnant woman feels like salt on an open wound, it is hard to breath, let alone smile and make small talk at church. But when someone makes time for you, lets you sit and grieve through the feelings swirling around in your soul, while they listen and “be Jesus with skin on” for you, that makes room for God’s grace to wash over you and bring peace to your weary soul and your tired body. He sees you and knows about the ache that never goes away. I wish I could tell you that the ache goes away. Mine didn’t. But when I took it to God, he met me every single time. And when I was around someone who knew…really knew…how I was aching inside, somehow the ache was a little easier to bear.
Everyone has a different story but mine did not include a moment where I “arrived.” I did not all of a sudden learn what God wanted me to learn and then magically conceive. I wrestled with God all the time. I doubted. I trusted. I cried. I rejoiced. And a thousand other emotions, all while waiting on Him. It was a perfect mess, but God wove it into something beautiful.
And on July 22, 2000, when we received the phone call that would change our lives forever, the one where my husband and I, along with his parents, experienced a moment we will never forget, the one where my hand flew up to my mouth as I tried to contain the sobs of joy that wracked my body, the one where I stood there holding the phone in disbelief, while my husband, who was sitting next to me, flung his arms around my waist, laid the side of his head on my belly and cried, yes…the one where the nurse told us that after our second round of in-vitro we were finally pregnant, God graciously took my ache away.
My friend, I don’t know how your story will end but that’s the thing. It isn’t the end. In fact, as I look back it feels like that was just the tip of all that God had, and continues to have, in store for me. And today, as you navigate the unknown, and the waiting seems to be swallowing you up, know that God is weaving your story. Mother’s Day is hard and it hurts. There is no way around it. But that doesn’t mean you have to do “the hard” alone. Take the ache to God and watch how He cares for you. Watch how He will intimately meet your needs. And watch as his plan for you unfolds…trust in spite of the pain…It is worth it.
And if this story isn’t one that resonates with you. If infertility was never your battle. This Sunday, while smiles and greetings are being exchanged, look for the one whose smile doesn’t reach her eyes and ask her how she is. It is also worth it.
Something odd is happening between us and our kids. We all seem to like each other…and I have teenagers. It is a weird phenomenon, I know. I keep wondering, “How did we get so lucky?” Why is it that in a day and age when it is so common to hear about parents and teens battling it out, do we seem to be escaping that fate? Now, don’t get me wrong. We have our moments for sure. Days when instructions were not followed, rules were not obeyed, responsibilities were shirked, and consequences for each were plentiful. But when it is all said and done, at the end of the day, when we say good night, we are all friends. How does this happen? What are we doing right? Well, luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.
As I thought about writing this post, I decided to ask my kids what they thought. They had a couple of answers that included things like, “we do things together that are fun,” or “dad made time to wrestle with us when we were kids,” but in the end they weren’t really able to articulate reasons why our relationship with them is so healthy or why we actually enjoy each other’s company. And although I don’t have all the answers, I do have a guess. Maybe the reason that they can’t articulate why we like each other is because they have never known anything different.
A good relationship with your teenagers doesn’t start when they are teenagers. It is something that grows out of a foundation that has been poured for years. So, while this is not a comprehensive list, here are some ways that we have invested in our family from day one:
- They know we love each other. My husband and I have been married for almost 23 years and our choice continues to be “until death do we part.” We make sure that we love and serve each other in front of our children all the time. They have also seen us argue, but in the end, apologize, forgive and make up. They have seen us hurt, they have seen us laugh, they have seen us love. But what has always been our desire is for our kids to see the real us, and know that through it all our commitment did not waiver. In the end we would always chose each other. In that they were secure.
- They are listened to. When that toddler walks up to you for the millionth time and says, “Mommy, look!” and you actually look, instead of rolling your eyes, something happens in their heart. They begin to feel validated. This is where it starts. If you want your teen to talk to you, you must be willing to listen to it ALL. I don’t always listen, but when I do, I recognize the door that is being opened and I don’t take that for granted. When they know they are being listened to, they will talk. They will know that what they have to say is important to you. You will earn their trust.
- They are given attention. We date each other all the time. But we also date them. We take time with each of our kids one on one, on a regular basis. We take time to do what they like to do. There is something very special about individual attention from a parent. Our kids still talk about some of the things they got to do with just one of us. Carving out this kind of time speaks volumes to a kid. They begin to feel respected at a very early age. They learn that they matter. They are important.
- They know we are human. We talk about our dreams. We talk about our fears. We always have. They have seen our silly side, but have also seen our tempers. Authenticity has always been something we strive for, not only in our relationship, but in the one with our kids as well. They know when we have had a bad day. They even know when I start talking about hormones, it is time to leave mom alone! When we share our struggles, they in turn, will share theirs. They feel understood.
- Their feelings are respected. We all know what it feels like to open ourselves up and become vulnerable in front of another person. It is so easy for us to dismiss our kid’s feelings and think they aren’t old enough to feel rejection. But that simply is not true. In fact, you can sometimes visibly see it on their face when you have dismissed them too quickly and crushed a part of their spirit. I know from experience. But by God’s grace, that experience has taught me the importance of cherishing my child’s heart. A cherished heart is a whole heart.
- They know we are not afraid to discipline. In today’s world this is a touchy subject, but I’m going to address it anyway. We spanked our kids. (gasp!) Guess what? It works. It is tiring, exhausting, and sometimes you feel like the discipline will never end. But guess what else? It does! I don’t remember the last time I spanked anyone, but I firmly believe we are much better off because of it. They probably don’t even know it, but a child who is held accountable for their actions appreciates it. They know that their choices matter and that they must make the right ones. A child who has boundaries, grows into a teenager that thrives within those boundaries whether they realize it or not. Mutual respect is the fruit of discipline.
- They know family comes first. We work with a missionary aviation organization and my husband’s hours are anything but normal. There is always some trip around the corner or late nights because there is a flight schedule to keep. But as soon as he steps foot in our house we all know who is most important to him. Sometimes we have to say no to other things just because we need some time as a family. We have taught our kids the importance of priorities and made it very clear that our bonded, tight-knit family is at the top of that list.
- They have forgiven us. We don’t always get it right. I wish we did. But when tempers flare and patience is low, angry words get said and feelings get hurt. As soon as we recognize that we could have handled it differently we have had to humble ourselves and ask for their forgiveness. They readily give it. Giving our kids the chance to forgive us teaches them that everyone makes mistakes, but taking responsibility for them is where the real character is formed.
- They have been forgiven. As our kids grow, explore, and test the waters of life it seems that “I’m sorry” becomes a part of their daily vocabulary. They are going to blow it. That’s just what kids do. But sometimes they make choices that just twist my gut and bring me to my knees. I know that I need the strength to forgive even before they ask it. When they see unconditional love and forgiveness freely offered, their guilt melts away and restoration begins. They learn what it means to be forgiven, what it means to be free from guilt.
- They know that it all comes back to God. We love God. This fact permeates everything our family is about. Our kids are now 10, 13, & 15 and we still pray together as a family every night before they go to bed. We don’t have it all together. We don’t have all the answers but we want our kids to know that at the end of the day, we know who does. We are here to bring glory to God. The more we teach this to our kids and live it out, the more we learn.
Parenting is hard. It is not for the faint-hearted. But as we are faithful in the little he gives us much. I am seeing the fruit of that, and what I see brings tears to my eyes and a gratefulness to my heart that is hard to put into words. God redeems it all. Don’t give up. In the hands of God, our mistakes become works of art, our successes are celebrated masterpieces.
I had my 15 year old son read over this before I posted in here for you. He told me that he remembers when he was younger not really knowing the meaning of “I forgive you,” but he just knew that it was something good. My heart smiles when I hear how he “gets it.” He recently had his first semi-formal event and as I stood there looking at this man in front of me, I couldn’t have been more proud. How did we get here so quickly? I could not end this post without adding a picture of this guy…What a heart-breaker, right?!!
Sometimes tears just come out of nowhere. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? One minute you think you are just fine and the next minute, here come the water works. I feel especially bad when my poor husband is sitting there trying to figure out what just happened. All he heard was, “I’m trying to talk to you but I don’t feel like you are listening,” …and that’s about when the tears began to fall. He sorta looked like a deer caught in the headlights, but I knew exactly what was wrong…my anxiety was back.
It was no one’s fault and it was everyone’s fault all at the same time. I just sat there and let myself cry. I don’t really understand why crying my eyes out makes me feel so much better, but it really does.
We saw the movie “Inside Out” not too long ago. My favorite quote from that movie (which my family can attest to) is…while in a fit of despair, the character, Sadness says, “Crying helps me stop and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” I laughed so hard! That hit a little too close to home for me. Isn’t that exactly what happens? The tears begin to fall for one reason, and then all of a sudden there are a thousand reasons why it seems perfectly legitimate to be crying. We just sit there and let the world pile on our shoulders, while logic takes a backseat.
After this particular lapse in reasoning was over, I was able to identify four specific triggers of my anxiety:
1. What am I focusing on?
Things have become a little busy and chaotic and I have let my time with Jesus become less important. I know he’s still there but I have not kept him close. That is why a simple text from a friend unravelled me. I knew instantly that the Lord was wanting to use me in her life, but instead of going to Him with it I dwelled on it for days. Instead of just trusting that God would speak through me when the time came, I doubted. My constant need for control and acceptance led to anxiety paralysis. But I am on the other side of that conversation now and there was nothing but respect, forgiveness, and love between us. Had my focus been on how God would come through instead of my own abilities, I would have saved myself a lot of grief.
2. What time of the month is it?
I’m just tellin’ it like it is. Hormones have plagued me my entire adult life. But THIS IS NO EXCUSE! I have been under the care of a wonderful doctor for the last 5 or 6 years. I now at least know when PMS will hit. This is a huge advantage (for years I was unable to predict my cycle and would never know if what I was feeling was a hormone surge or I was just plain crazy). BUT, even knowing when PMS is coming is not an excuse to justify my actions. I still have a choice as to how I am going to behave in spite of what is going on in my body. I don’t always make the right choice, but I when I do, the peace far outweighs the times that I react instead.
3. Circumstances matter.
Let’s see…current circumstances: At the time of the tear incident, my husband was about to leave town for two weeks. This meant that I am now going to be the sole driver of the household for 2 weeks. Between homeschool co-ops, music lessons, church activities, grocery shopping, and yoga classes, it feels like I am in the car more than I am home. I find this exhausting (hence, the yoga classes). Also, we are just entering April, which is crunch time for end-of-the-year school projects and papers due. Circumstances are constantly changing, but God is constant and unchanging. Rest from my circumstances is found in Him.
4. Anxiety thrives on procrastination
I can look around my house right now and probably see 10 different piles of “projects” that I have intended to work on for way to long. I sometimes feel like the queen of procrastination. Every time I lay eyes on one of these said piles, I get this knot in my stomach that only grows with time. I was recently told about something called the Passion Planner. It is AMAZING! It is helping me break these projects down into bite sized chunks and feel more accomplished. I HIGHLY recommend it!! I am not delivered from procrastination, but learning to use my time wisely has transformed my attitude. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, I rejoice in the small victories.
What triggers your anxiety? Have you learned ways to combat those triggers? What is God teaching you about yourself through your discoveries? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!
Easter Sunday, the most attended church service of the year. Voices all over the world will be heard reciting The Lord’s Prayer. After all, this is how the Lord said we should pray, and so we pray exactly as He did. But are we missing something? Is it enough just to say the words, or did Jesus intend something so much greater?
I’ve been involved in a small group for the last few weeks where we have been taking a closer look at The Lord’s Prayer, line by line, praying through corresponding verses each week. It has truly been a beautiful thing to open up this power-packed prayer like a brand new gift. At first glance it seems that this prayer is full of commands towards God…Thy kingdom come…thy will be done…give me this…forgive me…don’t lead me into temptation…deliver me.
It seems pretty demanding…on the surface.
But what if Jesus gives us these words, not so we can dictate to God, but so that we can be reminded of his goodness. After all isn’t that what prayer is all about? Reminding us that God’s hand is in it all. That we are invited to be a part of what he is ALREADY doing.
Prayer takes us straight to the heart of God. It is what connects us to His plan already in progress. It takes our out-of-control life and brings it increasingly under the control of our Father, our Father in Heaven.
So, as we pray this prayer this week as a reminder, not as a list of demands, may it go something like this:
Our Father who art in heaven…
God, you care about everyone equally. I am no better and no worse than anyone around me. I am your child and that is where my identity lies. You are OUR Father who is in heaven, because of this you have an entirely different perspective than I do. Thank you for recognizing that I need to be reminded of this often. The distractions of this world do a pretty good job of taking my eyes off of you. I can never have enough reminders of who you are and my place in your family.
Hallowed be thy name…
You are separate from anything on this earth, yet you have made a way for me to talk to you. You have the most holy name of all, yet you call me “mine.” Your name is just as precious as you are, and should be treated as such. May I remember to always recognize you as holy, treat you as holy, and reflect your holiness.
Thy kingdom come…
It is so easy to be the king of my own domain, but you remind me that you are to be my king, you are the ruler of my domain…not me…not ever. Your ultimate kingdom is just around the corner. As you rule my heart, may it be a reminder that you will one day rule a new heaven and a new earth.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
Your will is happening. There is nowhere that I can go to escape your will for me. I can either chose to surrender to your will and glorify you in what you have for me, or I can fight it, live a life of turmoil and find that peace will continually be just out of my reach. I am reminded that the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ is only found in the center of your will. Closely hold me there and keep me from selfishly sabotaging myself.
Give us this day our daily bread…
Not only are my needs met, but you quench my desire to worry about tomorrow. Today, right now, you have provided what I need…I am satisfied. My provider. Jehovah-Jireh. Whether it is through the toil of my own hands to put food on the table, or a spiritual gift you have lavished upon me, I have absolutely no need to worry. Today you remind me that I am cared for, I am loved, I am yours.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…
I am forgiven. THANK YOU, JESUS! You have washed away my guilt and shame. To continue in my guilt is basically saying that I don’t think your sacrifice was good enough for me, that the price you paid was not high enough. But that is a lie straight from my enemy! You have strategically given me a daily reminder of your selfless sacrifice and your never-ending forgiveness. A strategy to not only defeat my enemy but to follow your example and practice forgiveness.
And do not lead us into temptation…
You lead me. Temptation is placed in front of me by my enemy. You never lead me towards it, but are instead continually leading me away from it…toward yourself. Toward holiness, righteousness and truth. Temptation is filled with lies that my enemy uses to play to my evil desires and draw me away from you. But as I draw closer to you, in my weakness, your strength shines through it. The only direction you lead me towards is victory over my enemy. You gently remind me that if I only follow you, my struggles will become dim in comparison to your life-giving light.
But deliver us from evil…
I am at war, but you have already won! When it feels like the world simply cannot get any worse…it does. My heart is heavy as I live in this evil place. But this is not my home. This is not the end. You have given me the tools, the armor; all I need to do is put it on. You remind me that all I need to do is stand my ground…you have already won. I have been delivered. I stand here armed with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. My feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. The shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit…required protection as I stand to face my enemy and say, “YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE! GOD HAS ALREADY WON!”
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. AMEN!
Part One can be read here. I don’t yet know how many “parts” this series will be, and I may even post other things in between, but I want to share with you how falling in love with Jesus is about remembering the “firsts” of your relationship with him. This post includes “first” number two, and I hope to share with you other “firsts” I have experienced with God in the weeks to come.
The First Time I Saw God Run
It was the spring of 1986. Back when “Spring Break” used to be called “Easter Vacation.” I sat in the Main Chapel of Mt. Gilled Bible Camp and listened as our speaker challenged us with truths from God’s Word. I honestly don’t remember what the teaching was about, but I do remember the conviction that was weighing heavy on my heart. My 14th birthday was just around the corner, but already I had done plenty of living for myself. Fashion and boys concerned me a lot more than the condition of my heart. Church was something I did because it was fun to see my friends. And loving God was a task on my to do list.
But in that chapel service, God showed me something that changed my thinking forever.
Anyone who has grown up in church knows that feeling. You know…the one you get when the words that are being spoken aren’t necessarily being heard, they are, in fact, piercing your heart. Your pulse begins to race, your palms get sweaty, and you know that some part of your life is about to do a 180 and you can’t decide if it’s going to feel good or not. Yep, that is what I was feeling as the musician began to play a song called, “When God Ran.”
As soon as I heard the words, tears began to pour down my face…
Almighty God, The Great I Am,
Immovable Rock, Omnipotent, Powerful,
Victorious Warrior, Commanding King of Kings,
Mighty Conqueror and the only time,
The only time I ever saw him run,
He ran to me,
He took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face,
Wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice He said
“Son, do you know I still love You?”
He caught me By surprise, When God ran…
The thing is, I come from a good Christian family. I was only 13 years old. How could I already be feeling the suffocating weight of sin in my life? Because I believe that we are each born with a God-sized hole in our heart. And as I headed into my teen years I did what ever I could to fill it up with approval from others, but anytime we try to fill that hole with anything other than God it eats us up inside. But as the words of the song came to life and penetrated my soul, it was like being delivered from chronic pain. The tears started to fall, accompanied by feelings of remorse, and guilt, not for anything I had done but for Who I had left out. But then “as He ran to me, held my head to His chest…“, I had the most beautiful picture in my head of God running toward me, forgiving me. He wasn’t standing there with his arms folded waiting for me to run. He ran to me…and then ever so gently he, “…Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes,” and I remember feeling His peace wash over me as I raised my arms to Him with the most grateful heart, and my tears of guilt were turned into tears of joy.
Yes, I definitely remember the first time I saw God run…and my life has never been the same.
Sticky notes anywhere we will notice them, planners with color coded blocks of time, reminder apps on our phone. Everyone has a system. A way to keep track of it all. Sometimes I even try to keep track of it all in my head. But, wow! That never seems to work out well! I usually end up doing things like getting halfway home from running errands only to be reminded by a text that I forgot to pick up my son from youth group. Yeah, that one was especially embarrassing, and is in my very recent past. It seems that as my kids hit the teen years, we are finding a whole new level of busy that I didn’t even know existed. I don’t know if I am going to survive being taxi-mom. However, I do know one thing that will help me get through it all. It is actually quite simple, really. I just don’t do it enough.
A few weeks ago I spontaneously found myself without kids for FOUR HOURS. This was not on the plan, but it sort of just fell in my lap…thanks to a very dear friend. I started to prioritize the endless list in my head as I headed home in my empty car. But as I drove down the road on this beautiful, sunny, Florida day another thought started to form in my mind. What if the list waited, I turned the opposite direction, and took some time to put my toes in the sand? It is the end of February for crying out loud. I live in Florida and I had not yet been to the beach at all in 2016. It was time. And as I turned my car toward the ocean, a calm came over me and a smile crept up on my face. I was about to learn what was missing from my list.
The sand was warm, the sun shone on my face, and the sound of the waves brought peace to my soul. I walked along slowly taking it all in. I had my phone with me and began to take pictures, capturing this moment of clarity. I began to see everything in clear focus. Life is busy, yes, but while life is happening, this peaceful place is here all the time waiting to be enjoyed.
I saw a man-o-war glistening in the wet sand,
I saw pretty pink chairs just begging to have their picture taken,
I saw birds in flight, but it seemed effortless for them.
All they had to do was hold out their wings, the wind did the rest. As I breathed it all in, I realized that my focus had become so narrow. I wanted to be like those birds. Floating on the wind in, what seemed, an effortless flight. It is about that moment that I realized what had been missing from my list.
PERSPECTIVE. The one thing that keeps it all from swallowing me up.
When I broaden my perspective things that I thought were important begin to fall away and sometimes even get erased from the list. Sorting piles, never-ending organizing, cleaning that really only stays that way for about five minutes. Are those things really so important? What kinds of things am I going to be proud of at the end of the day? That I cleaned the pantry or that I was clear-headed enough to see a look on my kid’s face and know that they needed to talk. And better yet, be patient, put it all aside, and actually have that talk.
When I watched those birds, who where solely dependent on the wind for their flight, I was reminded that the Lord should be that wind for me. I often try to fly by my own power, but quickly find out it simply doesn’t work like that. I’m often running on empty and have nothing left to give when it is needed the most. But when I stretch out my arms and let His infinite, life-giving breeze carry me, I see it all from above, through His eyes, His perspective. It is there that I am reminded to let go, breathe, and let Him carry me to the places He has carved out, just for me. It is there that I find my eternal perspective.