7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 7 – Legacy of Love

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 7 – Legacy of Love

Day 7 – Legacy of Love

If we’re going to pass anything along to our children, let’s give them a legacy of love. All of our previous prayers help build exactly that. Our actions and words are incredibly powerful. But our prayers will transform their lives.

Let’s create a home of love—love for Jesus, for each other and for others. I want my kids to always feel comfortable walking through these doors and sprawling on the sofa, even when they’re grown. While they’re little, I want our home to be a place of loving security and fun. As they get older, I want them to know that they will always belong here, and and that their hearts will always be safe here. I want them to feel validated, heard and understood. I desperately desire to keep open communication with them through thick and thin. I want them to know, that I am always, always on their team.

You are doing an incredible job! You are making a difference, even when you feel like what you’re doing is unimportant or overlooked. I see you, momma. We’re in this thing together. And remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so fill your own heart too.

Jesus, 

Help us to be mommas of love. Pierce the deepest parts of our hearts so that every area is transformed by the power of Your love. Show us how to be more like You, because You are the only perfect love. May we pass a legacy of love to our children, and may they always know my love for them…and above all, YOUR love for them! Thank you for the sweet little hearts in my care. In Your name, Amen!

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. Psalm 78:4

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5-7

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 6 – Be Present

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 6 – Be Present

 

 

Day 6 – Be Present

As mommas, we are constantly pulled in different directions, with a thousand things vying for our attention—daily routine, housework, errands, social media, relationships, work, the news. None of those things are bad, but they do use our time and energy. They push aside things that we should make room for. They distract us from the things we should remain focused on. Have you heard the expression, “The days are long, but the years are short?” That’s not to say that we absolutely-totally-and-completely love every moment of every day. (I mean, have you ever experienced a Level 10 toddler meltdown at Target? Yeah, not enjoyable.) But I do desire to be fully present in their childhood. I want to be able to absorb the moments throughout our days, even if they feel mundane or ordinary. We can be tired and worn out (and even frustrated) and still be present. We can carve out quality time to spend with our kids one-on-one. We can make room for unplanned adventures to the park. We can put our phones down while they’re talking to us, or better yet, even when they’re not…and just be with them. Those plump, food covered, little faces are worth it. 

Jesus,

I pray You would help me be more present with my kids. I ask that You would reveal ways that I can show them I genuinely care, and that I truly love spending time with them. And on the hard days, instead of feeling like a failure, I ask that You help us to pull together and work through those days together. May they always know that I’m available to them, whether they’re dealing with a big problem, or simply want to talk. Please give me the wisdom to cut back the things that are stealing my time and energy, and dive more into time with You and my kids’ childhoods. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 2 – A Love for Jesus

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 2 – A Love for Jesus

Our world holds a fluid definition of love. It’s constantly shifting, changed by circumstances, and dependent on a feeling. In a world that displays a thousands examples of what love isn’t, we fiercely desire for our children to know the One who is Love. We want them to love Jesus with every fiber of their being—to hold tightly to eternal things, loosely handle temporary things, and to have the discernment to know the difference. We want their love for Jesus to be their anchor so that when the waves come, they remain steady. Even greater than our own desire for our children to know Jesus, is Jesus’ desire for our kids to know Him! His eternal love for them far exceeds our love for them! Pretty incredible, isn’t it? I can’t imagine a love for my babies that is fiercer than my own. And yet, the love of God is deeper, stronger, fuller. It stretches before creation and will extend unchanged through eternity. He is madly in love with them. He died for them. He will pursue them.

Jesus,

Help me instill a love for You inside my children’s hearts. Help me to model a passion for You. And when I mess up, help me to be an example of the power of your forgiveness and grace. May my good days and my bad days reflect Your love for them. Show me ways to nurture and encourage their relationships with You, without trying to control or perfect it. May my words and actions help build a foundation that only You can build upon. Thank you for loving my children even more than I do. In Your name, Amen.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 1 – Sibling Bonds

7 Prayers of a Joyfully Exhausted Momma: Day 1 – Sibling Bonds

Day 1 – Sibling Bonds

The bond between siblings is a powerful one. Oh sure, there are wrestling matches on the sofa, and arguments over whose turn it is to use the coveted blue sippy cup…and attempts to duct tape your sister to the wall to see if it actually works (or so I’ve heard.)  But beneath the healthy quarrels and natural arguments, there’s an intertwining of heartstrings—a deepness that only siblings share. Some days that intertwining may seem tight. Some days it may seem loose. Other days it may seem completely undone. But despite whether or not our kids “get along” everyday, we want that bond and connection to put down deep roots. We want our kids to grow into adults that love, respect, encourage and protect one another. We want kids that are always on the same team—Team Family.

Dear Jesus,

You are a God who ties hearts together and strengthens relationships. I pray that my children’s love for one another would continue to mature as the years go on; that they would be able to rely on, confide in and encourage one another like only a sibling can. No matter how different their personalities are, Jesus, I pray that their love and bond always draws them closer to You and to each other. Give me wisdom as a momma on how to nurture these bonds and create a tight-knit home. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

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I saw you holding your little boy’s hand as you briskly walked into the store. How old is he? Maybe 4? You both looked like winter pros as you braved the cold weather and harsh wind bundled in thick jackets, scarves, gloves and boots.

My girls left the house with coats and boots and gloves too.

But my 1 year old refused to keep her boots on. And only 70% of their other winter apparel could be accounted for before we even got out of the car.

So my littlest one was just wrapped in a fluffy blanket like a pink burrito.

Motherhood is all about improvising and going with the flow, don’t you think? I do. So I counted the burrito wrapped baby as a total win. But just so you know, my mom-experience appreciated how put together you both were. Not one element of your assemble resembled a food item. Impressive.

You stopped at the end of our aisle and said something to your son. I was slowly browsing towards your direction in search of a cutting board and knives. (I love to cook and make amazing dinners every night. Just kidding, I hate cooking and they were for my chef of a husband.)

I noticed you take both of your son’s hands abruptly and bend down right in front of him, getting right on his level. You leaned in and literally couldn’t get any closer to his face. His eyes immediately honed into you and his attention was all yours. I couldn’t hear what you were saying, but I assumed by his short little nods and your very intentional tone that he was being reprimanded. So I looked away and tried to give you both privacy and space. Well, as much privacy and space as possible in a crowded store during the height of the Christmas season.

I scanned the shelf trying to decide which cutting board was the prettiest—because I’m sure esthetics is the most important feature of a cutting board and I wasn’t going to let my husband down. (You’re welcome, babe.) As I spotted the one, I took a couple steps forward and bent down to grab it. As I reached out, I could hear you. Very clearly. And what you were saying brought me to tears.

You were right in his face. You even gave your son’s hands a few shakes. “I am so incredibly proud of you. Do you know that? You are amazing and that was just awesome. Man, I’m proud of you!”

He was staring at you, shaking his head. Absorbing it all.

I was absorbing it all.

Right there in the middle of the retail chaos and the hustle and bustle, among all the speeding carts full of “stuff” that won’t last and “things” that just don’t matter—you were giving your son the most beautiful gifts. Things that will last. Things that do matter.

Affirmation. Appreciation. You were giving love.

And your son wasn’t the only one that walked away from that conversation with a fuller heart. I did too.

Oh, momma. In a world that can feel so cold, so harsh, your words warmed my very soul.

You truly are changing your part of the world.

Keep speaking words of life to him. Keep telling him how amazing he is. Keep telling him how proud you are of him. Keep taking the time to stop in the middle of life’s chaos to show him how appreciated and loved he is. You’re affecting him. And you’re affecting those of us lucky enough to be standing in your same aisle.

You’ve challenged me to stay focused and chase what matters. To stop in this moment and find what is right and beautiful and good—and openly acknowledge it. And I am forever grateful to you.

Merry Christmas, fellow momma. Stay warm. And stay you.

Adoption

Adoption

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“Every adoption starts with loss. There’s so much gain, so much good that happens through adoption…but every story always starts with loss.”

Her words pierced my heart and for the rest of the night, they echoed in my mind.

My dear friend works at an adoption agency. As someone who wants to adopt in the future, I try to absorb any information and insight she shares about the details and process of adopting.

Before I started learning more about the reality of adopting, I suppose the pretty, uncontaminated scenario I had laid out in my head went something like this:

My husband and I decide it’s time to expand our family through adoption. The birth-parents of the child are unable to take care of him/her, so there my husband and I are, waiting with arms wide open to welcome him/her into our family. The child feels loved, safe and taken care. The transition is beautiful and wonderful. And we all live happily ever after.

But I’ve learned that that is almost never the case.

Some of the children come from an environment that was destructive before they were even born. Some have never heard, “I love you.” Some have experienced neglect and pain that no child should even be aware of.

Far too many of these little ones are broken, hurt, scared. It is on the rarest of occasions that details and circumstances line up perfectly and an adoption is quickly tied up with a sweet, little bow. And oh, how wonderful those stories are. But really, even those stories begin with loss.

These precious children aren’t just looking for someone to tuck them into to bed every night or coach their little league team. They are desperate for someone to dive into the messiness & brokenness of their lives; to enter into their pain and carry the burden with them. Someone to walk alongside them in their journey of healing and restoration. They need someone to fiercely love them and not only allow them into their family, but be willing to have their own lives changed forever.

Before anything is ever gained, there is loss. Before any healing takes place, there is pain. Before restoration takes place, there is brokenness.

Doesn’t that paint such a vibrant picture of our own need for adoption by God?

Every single one of us is broken, desperate for a Savior who is willing to dive into our messiness and brokenness and love us fiercely. A Savior who willingly put on flesh and walked down dirt roads. A Savior who entered into our pain and died the most horrendous death for us, so that we may be healed, restored, adopted. How’s that for fierce love?

I think it would absurd for an prospective adoptive parent to require the child to resolve his/her own physical and emotional wounds before adoption can take place…or expect the children’s life to instantly be restored the moment the child walks into their new home. It’s a process. It takes time, patience, love.

The Lord wants us exactly where we’re at. No matter what our life looks like, he wants to adopt us the way we are.

“Every adoption starts with loss.”

Bring your loss to Jesus. It’s not too big. It’s not to vast. Bring your brokenness, pain and emptiness. Allow him to transform your loss into wholeness like only he can.

Because after all, “…there is so much gain, so much good that happens through adoption.”

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1-2

Grieving Good Friday

Cross

Good Friday.

The day Jesus died.

We know the story. And we know what happens 3 days later.

For years, I read through the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in a steady rhythm with the resurrection already in my mind. It eased the sting of the words. It made it a little happier to read. I resisted soaking in the visual of my Savior being mocked and tortured…for me. My stomach churned to settle into that place.

Oh yes, Sunday was coming. But Friday came first.

The explosion of Christ’s glory was coming. But his blood came first.

I wonder how “good” the day Jesus was crucified looked to his followers.

Their King, their Savior, was betrayed, captured, mocked, spit on, tortured, then crucified. That doesn’t bring the word “good” to mind.

It looked like it was all over. It looked like darkness had won.

The Messiah; the one they had hoped for, the one they believed in, the one they gave everything up for; was now hanging lifelessly on a cross.

The forehead that wrinkled in empathy for the hurting and the lost; the forehead that crinkled when he laughed and smiled, was now wrapped with a crown of thorns. Blood poured out, streaming down the length of his mangled body.

The strong arms that had embraced little children were now stretched out. The same rough, carpenter hands that touched blind eyes to give them sight and that washed the feet of his disciples, were now nailed to the cross.

The feet that had walked countless miles to bring hope to the hurting were also now nailed together.

The voice that commanded the winds and the waves, “Peace! Be still!”; that called into the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”, was now crying out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We have come to call today Good Friday. We call it good because that day changed everything.

On the day He died, we were brought to Life.

My heart and mind settle into that raw place of his crucifixion. My stomach still churns knowing He took the punishment I deserved. And my heart aches with raw gratitude knowing how desperately I need his salvation. It breaks me. It brings me to tears.

Chants of victory are coming…

…but groaning cries of bitter mourning came first.

So today, allow yourself to grieve and feel the weight of that day – the day that changed everything.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Facebook Makes Me Flawless

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“You’re life is so perfect.”

I met the comment with a curious half smile and confused twisted eyebrows. My life? Perfect?

“What in the world gave you that idea?”, I replied.

“I’m always looking at the pictures you post on Facebook and you’re always so happy. Your family and life is just…perfect.”

My heart sunk when I realized what had happened.

Facebook made me flawless.

At least appear to be.

I had unintentionally created an image of myself, my family and my life that does not exist. I didn’t mean to misrepresent myself, but I did. It’s so easy to display an edited, more viewer friendly version of yourself; skimming the top of your day without getting into the depths of the messy details.

So here’s the truth.

I only post pretty pictures of myself. If my muffin top is hanging over my pants in a photo, I either crop it or delete the photo altogether. If the angle or lighting is unflattering, not a problem…I’ll just use a filter. I’m even guilty of digitally correcting a blemish and lightening the bags under my eyes. Yup. I’ve done that.

I only post happy family photos. Facebook is a great way to stay connected to loved ones who live hundreds of miles away. But the pictures I share are usually the kinds you keep in your wallet. I’ve never posted one of my toddler peeing on the floor or having a mega meltdown because I won’t give her 7 cookies…or let her eat the dog’s food. I’ve never posted a picture of both my daughters scream crying for 10 long, looooong minutes while I also breakdown and cry like a baby thinking to myself, “How can I balance it all today?” Those are not happy wallet worthy photos, so they don’t make the cut.

I only post positive status updates. I’ll share a Bible verse that has encouraged me that week, but rarely will I mention that the reason the verse hit me so powerfully is because I’ve felt empty for weeks- emotionally depleted, physically worn. I question whether I’m qualified to make a difference. I battle self-doubt and insecurity in my appearance and in my journey as a mother, a wife, a woman. But none of that is consistently seen. You just get the pretty glimpse, not the ugly stare down.

Behind every pretty, happy photo that’s posted, there are a dozen other life-snapshots filled with toddler tantrums, tired makeup-less faces, arguments, self-doubt and muffin tops.

That is the real me. That is my real life. My messy, imperfect, love-filled life.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” — Steven Furtick

So let’s try to remember that the hearts on the other side of the computer screens have a lot going on. And heaven knows how many outtakes it took to get one good photo to share with the digital world. If we want to know the real person, let’s stop observing them through a glass screen and grab a cup of coffee with them instead. Face to face, heart to heart. Not to try to find their flaws, but to get involved in the realness. Because that’s what life is about, connecting and loving each other in our beautiful messes.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34&35

To Love the Unlovable

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I recently watched a very complicated situation unfold. I wasn’t directly involved- more of a bystander. But a friend I love dearly was in the heart of it, so I got an up close view of the whole thing.

A close relative of my friend was injured and needed to be cared for during their recovery process. In the best of circumstances, her relative could still easily be defined as “unlikable.” So throw in a traumatic experience, unstable emotions and a resistant attitude, and you’ve got someone who makes it miserable to be around (to put it nicely).

Throughout the recovery process, nothing seemed to go smoothly. There were physical setbacks, unexpected financial blows, constant opposition and emotional outbursts.

And that was just the surface of the situation. There were layers upon layers of emotional scars that ran deep, adding to the messiness of it all. The person who had inflicted those scars now lay in a hospital bed, unable to do basic things for themselves.

My friend, who could have been justifiably angry from a lifetime of pain, chose to bear the scars with mercy, and love someone who didn’t deserve it. Once broken and fragile, my friend now embodied strength and restoration. She had found healing, peace and redemption over the years. That’s what happens when Jesus gets involved in our messes. Sitting in that hospital room, she poured out grace and love without restraint.

Now before I go on, let me just say, having boundaries is a very good thing. I don’t think the “right thing” or “loving thing” means to keep going back to an unhealthy or dangerous situation or relationship. Sometimes, staying away is the harder thing to do. Sometimes, it’s best to get out of a relationship completely because it’s physically or emotionally dangerous. Other times, love can only be offered through limited interaction like short conversations or through prayers for the person. But other times, love physically comes face to face with the unlovable.

That is the love I saw. Given freely and unconditionally. I watched as the emotionally wounded chose to love the wounder over and over.

She made the decision to love.

It wasn’t the feel good kind of love that’s filled with hugs and rainbows and bunnies.

It was the raw, messy, pain filled, undeserving kind of love.

It was Jesus kind of love.

And it shook me.

But if I can be totally honest, I don’t know if I would have loved as well as she did. If put in that situation, I hope I would love well. I desperately hope I would. However, there were numerous times I watched her be horribly mistreated and my heart thought, “She should just walk away. It’s not her responsibility. She’s the one who has been hurt. Her relative is just finally reaping what they sowed for years. They don’t deserve such a love. It isn’t fair.”

But during one of those thoughts, the Lord very clearly interrupted, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The example of love I saw that left me in awe was human to human. Can you believe that there is a love even fiercer, stronger and eternal? I too, have been given a completely undeserved love by a holy God. I make mistake after mistake, but He continues to love me.

Is that fair? Not at all.

Do I deserve it? Absolutely not.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

He is a perfect God loving a very, VERY imperfect person. Yet, He calls me His daughter, His beloved. He has not only cared for me when I was most unlikable, He died for me when I was most unlovable. He took the punishment of death that I deserved. Death. That is what I deserved.

How’s that for love.

Raw, messy, never-ending, undeserved love.

Freely given…

…despite mistakes.

…despite failures.

…despite resistance.

…despite messing up again…and again…and again.

…despite never ever being able to come close to deserving it.

It’s easy for me to accept something good that I don’t deserve, but the moment I see someone else given the same good thing, I quickly point out the injustice.

Oh, the love of Jesus!

Yeah, it’s not fair or just or deserved. And thank goodness. My life depends on it…and so does yours.

A Love Note To Who I Used To Be

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To the girl I used to be,

I know you lay in bed at night and cry. You are surrounded by people, but feel so lonely. Your heart feels empty, yet it still aches. It’s constantly seeking love, but only finds counterfeit versions and temporary highs that make you feel loved in that short-lived moment.

But you are loved.

You long to be cherished, but you think the only way that will happen is if you keep pretending, keep acting like the girl you wish you could be. You don’t show them the real you, because you are terrified that it’s not enough, that you are not enough.

But you are enough.

The idea that someone would embrace your quirks, your imperfections, the real you, almost feels like a silly dream. But still, you dream. You work tirelessly to be beautiful, because you desperately desire for someone to think that you are beautiful.

But you are beautiful.

You will give in to fear and run away. You will not finish your college degree with everyone and I’m afraid that’s something you’ll regret for years. But it’s ok. Because of that, you will learn to work harder for what you want. You will learn to appreciate time, money and perseverance much more. You will have moments of feeling like you’re not as academically smart as everyone else, but you will soon realize the truth.

You are smart.

While many others take the direct route in life, you’ve always taken the scenic route. It may not be like you imagined, but please look around and enjoy the scenery. Don’t get caught up on little details.

You whisper to God through your tears, “Why are You holding on to me so tightly?”

But He will always hold you tightly.

Sweet girl, life is going to get hard. There will be a time where your world falls apart. But I promise, it will be ok. You will feel like a wanderer, like you have no home. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. One day you will look back and see that it was those first painful steps that set the direction in your wild adventure. With every step, even the ones you hesitate taking or the ones that make you stumble, your legs will grow stronger, your heart will become braver and your spirit will feel freer.

He will always hold you tightly.

You will marry your best friend. Don’t panic about not knowing how to cook, he loves cooking and you will not starve to death. You will find out that marriage is hard, but so worth it. Fight for it everyday. Focus on Jesus and your marriage will be clearer too. (And keep doing your impressions and telling your jokes. He secretly finds them hilarious.)

You will have babies. You will lose babies. You have never known heartache like you will during this time. But remember, He remains faithful. You will be able to more fiercely love others who are hurting because you too bear wounds. You will experience the heart of Jesus in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have. And it will change you. You will taste bitterness, but you will also taste the sweetest of blessings. Your babies will teach you about yourself, about God, and unconditional love.

He will always hold you tightly.

No matter what, love Jesus. He is your compass. You will see His fingerprints all over your life. So stay close to Him. And if you ever need a reminder, just listen. The constant rhythm of His heartbeat echoes His steadfast love for you.

You are loved. You are beautiful. You are enough. And He will always hold you tightly.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”  John 10:27-29

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8