Just Keep Swimming

I was fully intending on wallowing in my own self-pity today, but God had other plans. Everyone was supposed to be out of the house and my plan consisted of 1. Staying in bed all day and 2. Not looking in the mirror. I had already purposed in my heart that I wasn’t going to read the Bible, open my devotional, pray or do anything spiritual or inspirational. What was the point after all?! (Now I know why my brother tells the kids not to be “drama like your mama”. I may lean a little bit on the side of being overly dramatic.)

But today I just didn’t want to deal with life. I didn’t want to be bothered with all the things I was responsible for. I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. I had done that plenty of times before, and today I was just tired. Today, I needed a break.

But plans change…as they always do. My two littlest ones ended up staying home because they’ve been a little congested for the past few days with a lingering cough. And part of me was fine with that because I didn’t want to fight to get them fed, dressed and out the door.

But that also meant having to keep them preoccupied while they were home. “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” “I need to go potty.” Sometimes motherhood is an endless list of things tiny humans need help doing. So any plans of staying in bed and wallowing in my own self-pity quickly became a pipe dream. Seems like everyone else can have a sick day, but mom.

Then the 4-yo came up to me and asked me to read her a book about Boys’ Day. It was one of those books where on one side there is a story about something and you flip it over and it has a story about something else. On Sunday, we read the Girls’ Day story, and so I knew it would be short and sweet. Even though Boys’ Day wasn’t until May, I figured, “what can the harm be.” Or so I thought…

God has a way of speaking into our lives even through seemingly insignificant and unspiritual things.

We read about Boys’ Day and how families in Japan and Hawaii hang up carp banners to celebrate the boys in their families. I already knew that, so no big deal. But then it went on to talk about the significance of the carp and the story behind what it symbolized; which I didn’t know and so I did a little research about it. Here’s what I discovered about carp and why they are used for Boys’ Day.

Supposedly there is a Chinese legend about a large school of carp who swim against the current to the end of a river. When they arrive, they notice that the water is flowing from a nearby waterfall. Upon seeing this, many of the carp see no way to continue and let the current drag them back down the river. However, some carp refuse to give up and try to swim up the waterfall, continuing to fight against the current and trying to reach the top of the waterfall to no avail. To make things even harder, demons saw the carp struggling and began to taunt them and make the feat even more challenging by making the waterfall higher. Little by little, year after year, the remaining carp gave up and were swept down the river until only one carp remained. After a hundred years of jumping, he was finally able to leap to the top of the waterfall where he transformed into a magnificent golden dragon because of his perseverance and determination.

The underlying message of this story reveals one of the most important values of the Japanese mentality: that it is through hard work and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles that we tap into our true potential. It’s fitting, then, that carps have become a symbol for the energy and resilience of young people. Like carps fighting against the current, young people often find themselves lost in a world shaped by others, pushing forward in situations that feel out of their control. Though they cannot control the current, a child’s instinct to keep trying anyway is the virtue that builds character and, eventually, achievement. The key is to just keep swimming.  

Though it swims in a current beyond its control, the carp is born with the ability to fight through streams and cascades. Choosing perseverance over resignation is a lesson we are forced to keep learning, even after we reach adulthood. This approach does not gloss over hardship, acknowledging instead how truly difficult it can be to pursue your dreams. It’s our resilience in the face of failure that builds character, rather than the achievement itself.


After reading this, it made me think of how this resembles so much of what I’m currently going through. I constantly feel like I’m swimming upstream, against the current. I want to quit and let the current drag me back down, but I just keep swimming (like Dory in Finding Nemo–I have kids so that’s immediately what came to mind when I read that!). And then Satan taunts me, whispers lies that I can’t do it, that the task before me is insurmountable, turn back and go to calmer, smoother waters. He even makes the struggle that much harder to overcome by placing obstacles in my way. But I just keep swimming.

Overcoming obstacles doesn’t happen overnight. You have to keep swimming, keep reaching, keep preserving until you are finally transformed into something completely different and far greater than what you started as.

James 1:2-4 says it even better:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

God never let’s go. No matter how far I may try to run from Him or shut Him out; He gently reminds me that even during this difficult season He’s got me and He’s not letting go. He’s not going anywhere. He will even use a kids’ book about something seemingly unrelated to what I am going through to show me that He loves me and to encourage me not to give up.

So I guess today I’m getting wet! I’m gonna get outta bed, brush my teeth, feed the kids, wipe a hiney and just keep swimming.

A Series of Unfortunate Events


I went to the campus clinic this morning and that’s the diagnosis the doctor gave me. I kind of laughed because I thought only “old people” get shingles and I can’t possible be THAT old. But when he said that one of the causes of shingles is stress, I kinda chuckled. If only he knew what kind of a year we’ve had.

I’ll spare you the gory details. Just google “eye shingles” and you’ll see how gross it looks. Thankfully, mine is not that bad. It’s all around my right eye and has begun to spread to my forehead. I’ve also heard that it can be quite painful, but mine is just uncomfortable and irritated.

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. It’s too unbelievable all the things we have been through this past year. I’m starting to wonder if perhaps our family is cursed? It’s one thing after another. I know most people want life to get better; I just want life not to get worse. Shelby keeps saying that things can’t get any worse. . . and then they do, so I’ve told him he needs to stop saying that already.

I feel like my life is that movie, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. I’ve actually never seen it, but if the title accurately portrays the movie, then it must be the story of my life.

Why does my life seem like a series of unfortunate events happening one after the other? What have I done to deserve this punishment? This fall from grace? This exile?

I know there are people who have it far worse than I do. They suffer things that no one this side of heaven should ever have to go through. But as I lay on the couch feeling sorry for myself, I’m desperately trying to cling to His promises but everything seems to be an uphill climb and I just need a break. It’s too steep. I’m too weary. Maybe tomorrow will be better, but today . . . I can’t.

And that doesn’t mean I lack faith. That I don’t believe in God. That I don’t appreciate His goodness and mercy. It means that I’m human. I’m fragile and weak. It means I need Jesus.

One of my grandma’s favorite passages of scripture was Psalm 23. Before dementia took over her mind, she had the whole chapter memorized. I was always amazed at her diligence to hide God’s Word in her heart. She was truly remarkable.

There are two verses in that psalm that I am reminded of. Verses 2-3 say, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

Did you ever wonder why the Lord would make the psalmist lie down or lead him beside still waters? Why did his soul need to be restored? Perhaps he was weary and tired; worn out and overwhelmed with life. His soul needed to be restored because it was broken. Things that are whole don’t need to be restored, only things that are broken need to be mended.

If the chapter before is any indication of what was happening in the psalmist life at the time, we can pretty much assume he was broken and possibly on the verge of calling it quits. Psalm 22:1 says, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from my words of groaning?”

This is why I love the psalms. They not only can capture my thoughts when I want to declare God’s wondrous deeds from the mountain tops, but they also reflect the deep valleys that my heart goes through when life is difficult. When you are lying on the couch feeling sorry for yourself because your eye is swollen and covered in sores and you look like Quasimodo.

So today, I’m praying that God will give me rest and peace and that He will restore my soul. I’ll get through it, possibly with the scars to prove it, but I’m not giving up. I’m just going to spend some time by the still waters so He can restore my soul.

God Still Uses Broken Things

Ever since I was a little girl, our family has always celebrated Girls’ Day or
Hinamatsuri. Girls’ Day is a Japanese tradition where girls receive dolls or special treats on March 3rd. But this year, instead of getting my girls just another doll that would quickly be tossed aside, I wanted to make something for them that would remind them that their beauty is not what’s on the outside but what is on the inside.

I found a cute heart-shaped mirror from Target around Valentine’s Day and was going to take another stab at using my Silhouette to cut out a scripture verse on vinyl. The verse was simple, “Be beautiful in your heart. 1 Peter 3:4.” After watching a YouTube tutorial, which was excellent for a beginner like me, and purchasing all the extra supplies I needed, I was ready to go. A sweet friend even came over to help me out!

After an hour of working on the mirror, we were finally done. It was adorable! Pink heart-shaped letters on a heart-shaped mirror. When we presented Ellie with the mirror, she was in heaven. I explained that it didn’t matter what she looked like on that outside (which she’s adorable), but what mattered to God is that she is beautiful on the inside.

She was giddy with excitement and I wanted to capture the moment with a cute picture of Ellie, our friend Courtney, and the mirror. Ellie had gone inside the house to put up her mirror…and then it happened!

Ellie, Courtney and the mirror (pre-fall)

I called Ellie to come back and take another picture because I couldn’t really see the mirror in the photo I had just taken. And then standing at the door was Ellie holding the mirror in her two hands with tears streaming down her face. It literally happened within seconds. As she skipped back into the house to put up her mirror, she accidentally hit it against the wall. When she checked to see if it was alright, there was a huge crack right down the middle of it.

My heart almost broke. She was distraught and felt so terrible for breaking the mirror that Courtney had just spent the past hour helping me to make. We hugged and I told her it was okay. It was just a mirror, a material possession and just like the verse said, what was on the inside mattered more than the outside.

A little while later, I asked her what she was going to do with her mirror. She asked if we could make her another one, and I said I wasn’t sure because I bought the mirror as a seasonal item. Then she said, “Well, I’ll still use it.”

And for some reason, her words made me think of how God still uses broken things, too. When I saw the broken heart hanging on her wall, it made me think that this is exactly what God does with those of us who have endured many things that have broken our hearts. He doesn’t toss us aside or try to replace us with something new and unbroken. Instead, He hangs us up on His wall and puts us on display. He still uses us, with cracks, missing pieces, worn edges and all.

There is also a Japanese practice known as Kintsugi which translates to “golden repair”. It is a centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery by using a precious metal – liquid gold, liquid silver or lacquer dusted with powdered gold – to bring together the pieces of the broken pottery. This repair method emphasizes fractures and breaks instead of trying to hide or disguise them. It often makes the piece even more beautiful than the original version and it teaches us that just because an object breaks doesn’t mean it is no longer useful. It’s brokenness can actually make it even more valuable and precious.

There is also a verse in the Bible that says that “[God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). Even though the Lord may restore us and heal our wounds, we may still have scars that remind us of a time of hurt and brokenness. Yet God can also use the scars as a beautiful reminder of how He can turn a horrible situation, full of heartache and sorrow, and make it into something of far greater value and worth.

No matter what hurt or scar you may carry with you, know that God can restore it and pour His refined gold into those deep wounds. If you place your life, no matter how broken, battered and bruised it may be, into God’s hands, He can make you even more useful and valuable than you were before.

“Let’s Go Fly a Kite” Craft

This past weekend Ellie’s AHG Troop had their annual mother-daughter dinner and, like always, it did not disappoint. They decided to go with a Mary Poppins theme and it was the cutest. Everything was decorated from either scenes from the original Mary Poppins movie or the newest Mary Poppins Returns movie. We even had a surprise visit from Mary Poppins herself. I cannot say enough about what a fantastic job they did!!!

I was in charge of the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” craft that each of the girls had a chance to make. I found this cute idea on Pintrest from One Creative Mommy and used that as inspiration for our Mary Poppins craft.

Here are the materials and steps to making these cute mini kites!


  • Coordinating kite-shaped paper (I used my Silhouette to cut them out)
  • Paper straws (2 per kite)
  • Yarn for the kite string (at least 25-30″ long)
  • Baker’s twine for the tail of kite (at least 20″ long)
  • Decorative ribbon
  • Glue Stick
  • All purpose glue
  • Scissors


Step 1: Choose two kite-shaped papers and glue them together with a glue stick.

Step 2: Tie one end of the yarn about 2/3 of the way down on a full-length straw.

Step 3: Tie the other end of the yarn to the middle of one of the small straws. This will be the kite handle. Roll up excess yarn onto kite handle.

Step 4: Place glue on the full-length straw and place length-wise in the middle on the bottom-side the kite paper. Place glue on two of the small straws and place on either side of the full-length straw to make a “cross”.

Step 5: Thread the baker’s twine through the full-length straw, make a knot at the top and add a bead of glue at the top of the straw to keep the string from falling out.

Step 6: Tie a few decorative ribbons to the tail

And there you have it, a cute little mini kite. Now let’s go fly a kite!!!

Lessons I Learned From Almost Being Crucified on Social Media

Originally the title for this post was going to be “How to Respond to Social Media Trolls”, but it didn’t seem fair to the Trolls. Those cute little fuzzy creatures always get a bad rap when it comes to social media.

All joking aside, now that I’ve been blogging, I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of social media interactions that I’m just not used to. Some of them are quite flattering. Others have been uplifting and encouraging. Some people send private messages of how they have gone through similar situations, and it helps this journey not feel so unbearably lonely.

But then there’s a side to social media that is just downright nasty. I’ve seen it before, especially when it comes to political, religious or social justice issues. I’ve seen the back and forth bickering. Two people who’ve never even met each other thinking that they are going to change each other’s minds once they hit “Reply”. I don’t know, maybe it happens. Maybe someone concedes and actually changes their stance because of a social media battle…I just haven’t seen it. Mostly, I don’t participate in it.

I’m not a confrontational person. I don’t typically like to argue or debate. There’s a reason I chose flowers and butterflies for my design and not guns and grenades. So it was somewhat shocking when not too long ago I found myself, or at least my blogger alias, being crucified for a comment I had made on social media. I wasn’t even trying to make a political statement or contribute to any debate. I was just expressing my appreciation and personal opinion about someone who has meant a great deal to our family.

Granted I should have known better than to comment on a polarizing figure’s post. I should have known the firestorm that was going to ensue. I should have known that vultures were ready to devour me as soon as they smelt blood. All of this now in hindsight. Hard lesson, but you live and learn.

So here are some things I learned from my brush with social media death:

Not every comment deserves a response. I went back and forth on whether or not I should reply to the shots people were taking at me. Part of me felt like someone needed to put these people in their place. But when I thought about it more, I felt like a lot of these social media warriors have an agenda and nothing that I say or do is going to change their minds and neither were they going to change mine. In fact, they just made me that much more firmly planted in my stance. 2 Timothy 2:23-24 says, “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.” Also, my momma always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I kept my mouth shut.

Every person needs prayer. While not every comment deserves a response, every person needs prayer, especially those who mistreat you on social media. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was persecuted on social media, not with my handful of followers any way, but I still need to pray for these people. We all need prayer to be more gracious and respectful to other people. We can disagree, but we need to do it without tearing down another person.

Be gracious. I’ll be honest. When I read those comments, I cried. How could someone who didn’t even know me speak so harshly towards me? All it took was one word and a question mark and I felt crushed. Sometimes we forget that the person sitting on the other side of the screen is a real person with real feelings. Titus 3:1-2 reminds us to “be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” I wonder if those people had taken the time to get to know me and why I responded the way I did, perhaps their response would have been more gentle, more kind, more humane. And I can’t help but think that because of the way they responded, they too must carry around some hurt or wound that caused them to respond the way that they did. I’ve heard it said that hurt people, hurt people.

You can’t overcome evil with evil. Even though I wanted to hurt them the same way they had hurt me, I knew that it wouldn’t solve anything. I’d be no better. Not only that, but we are commanded not to repay evil for evil. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” As much as my flesh wanted to do a “I know you are but what am I” comeback, I knew that it wasn’t right. I need to overcome evil with good.

Restore gently. There are times however, when truth needs to be spoken and a wrong needs to be made right. We are told in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Here’s the sad part. Even if these people were correct in what they were questioning me on, I was so turned off by their tone and lack of gentleness that I didn’t want to hear it. I was not even open to what to they had to say…and that’s awful. Because what if I truly was wrong and what they had to say was the correction that I needed. They missed out on a perfect opportunity to help me because I couldn’t see past their hurtful comments. On the other hand, I have seen instances where two people disagree with each other and are respectful and kind. Those are the types of conversations that need to happen more often. I think that kind of dialogue can bring about real change.

Don’t make private things public. One of the things I think we struggle with because of the ease and accessibility of social media is that we tend to make private matters public. But if you look at the biblical model set out in Matthew 18:15 it says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (emphasis mine). I could be wrong, maybe people send private messages or go out to coffee and point out each other’s faults and then just continue to air out their grievances in public because that person still refuses to listen. It’s possible, but not probable. If you truly care about whatever cause you are championing or about helping to correct a fellow brother or sister in Christ, sometimes it’s best to do it privately. Who knows? You’re biggest adversary might be won over because you didn’t shame or humiliate him in public, but you restored him gently in private.

I have seen too many people whose lives have been destroyed by social media. They had someone comment or post something about them that wasn’t true or was only partially true, and other people jumped on the bandwagon and ruthlessly annihilated that person. Their jobs were lost, ministries damaged, and families torn apart. I haven’t even gone through a fraction of what they have, but I can tell you that social media crucifixion hurts. I don’t want to be part of that, I want to be better. Hopefully these lessons will serve as a reminder on how I need to respond in the future.

I Promised Myself I Would Grieve Later

This Sunday would have been my grandma’s 97th birthday and it’ll also be our first birthday without her since she passed away last year. I haven’t really grieved her passing, but this month has been hard. At first, I was just grateful that I got to see her one last time before she passed. I was glad that I got to hold her hand one last time; tell her I loved her one last time; give her a hug and a kiss on the check one last time; read the Bible to her one last time. I rejoiced in those final moments that we spent together rather than grieved them. I promised myself I would grieve later.

When I returned from my visit to see her, we had to deal with Shelby suddenly being let go from his job and the uncertainties that accompanied that. My time was mostly consumed with trying to figure out what we were going to do and the adjustments we’d need to make. There was no time to grieve the loss of my grandmother, I was too preoccupied grieving the loss of our current lifestyle and the emotional stress it placed on our family, especially Shelby. I promised myself I would grieve later.

Our whole family flew down for her funeral, and I wanted to honor her by giving her eulogy. You can’t eulogize someone if you’re sobbing buckets of tears, so I had to hold back my emotions for a more “convenient time”. I knew that it was more important for people to hear my words than see my tears. I wanted them to know about the woman she was and the many ways that she touched people’s lives. Surely, they wouldn’t understand a single word I said if I couldn’t hold back my tears. I promised myself I would grieve later.

A few weeks after we returned home from the funeral, Shelby ended up in the hospital after I found him passed out on the kitchen floor in a pool of his own blood. After spending a week in the hospital having gone through various tests, procedures and a surgery to remove a birth defect, he spent the next few weeks recovering at home. I promised myself I would grieve later.

I hate to break a promise and later is now. I find myself sobbing at the strangest things. While changing the kid’s calendar from January to February, I was overcome with grief when I put up “24”. The combination of “February” and “24” flooded my mind with days spent with her. Days that have come to an end and are now only memories. While at Costco, I saw a shelf of cranberry pills. Pills that she frequently took. My mind flashbacked to the many doctor’s visits I’d have to take her to and the time we’d spend talking about life while we waited. Then last Sunday an ambulance drove in front of us on the ride home from church and it reminded me of how she’d pray for the person who was either sick or hurt every time she heard the sirens on emergency vehicles.

I just miss her. I miss how I can’t talk to her, can’t hear her voice, can’t hold her hand, can’t tell her I love her, can’t make another memory with her. I know she lived a long life. I know she’s in a far better place where she has been made whole. I know the wonders she read about in her worn Bible are now realities. I understand these things in my head, but it feels like a piece of my heart is now missing.

And I think it’s perfectly fine to just sit here and cry. To let the tears fall. To let grief wash over me like a flood. I think the tears are a reminder of love. It’s like the saying, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I’d rather have loved my grandma and grieve losing her, than never to have loved her at all. If loving someone means you feel pain and sorrow when you lose them, then I think it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade a single tear for all the memories I had with her. I’ll cherish them forever, even through my tears.

DIY Valentine’s Clipboard

We FINALLY finished our mother daughter Valentine’s crafting project after running into several obstacles along the way. Despite the roadblocks, the best part was getting to spend some time with Ellie doing something that she really enjoys.

We ended up making some clipboards for her American Heritage Girls (AHG) pen pal, teachers (for teacher appreciation week), and mother daughter ones for a couple friends.

I’ve been reading through Sally & Clay Clarkson’s book The Lifegiving Parent and one of the things they talk about is how lifegiving parents open their homes to Christ to let the love of God in. One of the ways of letting God’s love in is through windows.

The more windows you have in your home–family devotions and prayers, short and long Bible readings, Scripture verses on the walls, Bibles in easy reach, talking about God at meals, sharing testimonies of His grace and help–the more the light of God can shine in. Lifegiving parents open the windows of their homes to let the light of God in.

Sally & Clay Clarkson, The Lifegiving Parent

My hope is that through these clipboards, the light of God will shine into the lives of all those who receive it.

After printing out the scripture verse cards (click here to download a free printable), we got to work on the clipboards.

DIY Valentine’s Clipboard Supplies

Originally we started to paint the wood squares with the glitter paint, but the brushes I got were the cheap ones so the bristles came off as we painted with them. Plus, it was hard to get an even coat and we’d have to paint a layer, let it dry, paint a layer, let it dry…you get the picture. It was very tedious. So then we switched to “Plan B”. Spray Paint.

I found some glitter spray paint at Home Depot and thought that would do the trick, but the nozzle kept getting clogged. We soaked the tips and did every trick to get it to work to no avail. I thought maybe I just bought faulty ones (wishful thinking) and so when I saw glitter spray paint on sale at Walmart, 2 for $5, I figured I couldn’t pass up such a great deal. Common sense obviously was not in my favor that day because those didn’t work either. So after 4 cans of inoperable glitter spray paint, I found a metallic rose colored one that sprayed on smooth and easy.

After the paint dried, we glued on small decorative clothespins that I found on sale at Hobby Lobby for only $1. We also glued regular clothespins on the back so that it could stand.

I originally used Elmer’s Max Glue, but it didn’t hold. Every time I’d open the clip, it would fall off. I read somewhere that the E6000 glue had a firmer hold…it did, so I used that instead. There are different colored glue as well. We got the white one, but I think the clear one would have worked even better.

I definitely learned a lesson on perseverance and also have a new found appreciation for crafty people and those on Etsy. I think I’ll leave the crafting to them and just support them in my online purchasing.

Sidenote: Ellie asked if I was done printing out the names for the scripture cards and when I told I was finished, she left the room and came back a little while later with one she had made for me. She said I should have one, too. Heart melting. I’m more proud of this than anything else. She may not know it, but she’s already letting the light of God shine through her.

“Is There Any Way Dad Can Unfire Himself?”

Over the past year our kids have asked some pretty hard questions:

  • How come dad was in the hospital?
  • Why did great grandma have to die?
  • When are we going to go back to our old church?
  • Is there any way dad can unfire himself?

Some of those questions I don’t even have the answers to myself much less trying to explain things to a child. 

We try to be as transparent with our kids as we can while at the same time being mindful that they are just kids. I feel that as parents it’s our responsibility to guard our kid’s hearts from things as much as we can. But some things are beyond our control. Life still happens. Pain and suffering still happen. As much as I’d like to shelter my kids from every heartache and hardship, I know it’s much better for me to instead equip my kids with the tools they will need to endure trials.

My kids have seen me cry…a lot. They know the difference between sad and happy tears. I’m not bawling in front of them all the time, but they see how even mommies cry when they are hurt. They’ve seen me break down in tears because of God’s overwhelming goodness and grace

I try to be honest without being bitter. It’s not easy. We talk about sin and how it hurts people and those around them. We talk about the brevity of life and how the only assurance we can have is in Christ.

I don’t know how much their little minds actually absorb because sometimes I’m still mid-sentence philosophizing about life and they run off and play. But I think they grasp so much more than I give them credit for.

As a mom who used to work for a church ministry and whose husband is currently in seminary, my fear is often that the hurts and heartaches we experience while ministering to others in the name of Christ will negatively affect how our children will view God or the church.

Recently, ministry has not been too kind to us. People have hurt us. We have seen people get hurt. We have faced rejection and felt abandoned by people who were our “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ.

A few weeks ago I found out that a former seminary neighbor’s husband, a pastor, had taken his own life. He leaves behind a widow and two small children. It was a harsh reminder that those of us in ministry are not immune from the fallenness of this world. After what happened to Shelby a couple of months ago, the thought of losing someone is very real to me.

And yet, I’m also reminded that while I can’t shield my family from all that life can try to throw at us, I can do my best to continually point us back to the cross. I don’t have all the answers, but God does. I don’t know what the future holds, but God knows.

When our world started to crash down around us, a sweet friend grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “Trust God…people, not so much. Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

People will fail us. They’ll let us down. Even those with the best of intentions will fall short. But God; He always holds up His end of the bargain. He’s the only one who is completely worthy of my trust. I can’t even trust my own fallible self that’s been tainted with sin’s ruthless grasp. But I can trust in the One who at the very mention of His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

The Lifegiving Parent

I don’t find it coincidental that one of the books I am currently reading is entitled The Lifegiving Parent by Clay & Sally Clarkson, especially in light of everything that has been going on in the news recently. The book is rich with so many truths that I’ve pretty much highlighted every single page and I often find myself having to lay the book down so I can reflect on what I’ve just read. Most of the time it’s because I am convicted about something I know in my head and then reading it just solidifies that it needs to be rooted deeply in my heart.

In the foreword…yes, I said the foreword. The part that most people skip over but shouldn’t because there’s a lot of good stuff written in there. Anyway…in the foreword, Sally writes this beautiful paragraph on what she believes a lifegiving mother is, and I can’t help but feel that what she says is how we should view children. ALL children.

“As I’ve partnered with Clay in that bigger picture, it has been my privilege to do my best to be a godly mother to our children—to nurture their faith through my love, grace, discipleship, encouragement, instruction, and inspiration. I have found purpose and meaning in trying to be the kind of mother I believe was in God’s heart at creation—a lifegiving mother, one who brings the life of God to my children. I won’t pretend it was always a wonderful journey with no difficulties, but the blessings far outweigh the burdens as I see now the influences of my life on each of my children. They are, as God promised, the blessings.” (emphasis mine)

Sally Clarkson, The Lifegiving Parent

A lot of times, I have not thought of my role as a lifegiving mother as a privilege. I seem to be perpetually stuck in the “my life was so much easier before kids” mentality. How I talk about or even treat my kids often falls more into the category of them being “burdens” rather than “blessings”. I complain about not getting enough sleep; I get annoyed when they don’t listen; I am frustrated when they need me for everything.

I’m not saying those things aren’t true. Truthfully, my kids still wake me up in the middle of the night, they don’t always listen, and they still need me for practically everything. After all, they are still kids!

I don’t need to pretend that parenting is all roses and butterfly kisses, but I also can’t help but wonder how my negative attitude about my kids might affect someone’s choice to be a lifegiving parent or not. How have I contributed to this epidemic where a child’s life is seen as a choice and not a blessing? How has my complaining spirit influenced the value that society places on the life of a child?

I’ll be the first to admit that parenting is not easy. No matter how many parenting books you’ve read or the unlimited amount of patience you thought you had, being a parent is tough. However, at the end of the day, when you tuck them in bed for what seems like the millionth time, it’s worth it. 

Every dirty diaper. Every sleepless night. Every scraped knee. Every lost toy. Every question that begins with “why”. Every tickle fight. Every snuggle. Every squishy hug. Every sticky kiss. Every “I love you”. It’s worth it because the blessings far outweigh the burdens.

Perhaps if we as parents stop focusing on how our kids can be such burdens and instead highlight all the countless ways they are blessings, we can be the encouragement someone needs to choose life for their child and be a lifegiving parent.

Mommy & Me Date

Yesterday, I went out on a mommy & me date with my five-year-old son, Ben. I always look forward to these special one-on-one times with my kids, and my dates with Ben are some of my favorite. But in all honesty, Ben can often be my most challenging child. I don’t know if it’s because he’s a middle child, a boy, or because he feels outnumbered with two sisters, but many days I am at my wits end on what to do with this child.

He has big emotions and he’ll let me know exactly how he feels. There are days when I lock myself in the bathroom so I can say a quick prayer because he’s pushed all of my buttons and I’m too exhausted to go another round with him. And then there are tender moments that we share where he’ll climb on my lap after a nap and just want to snuggle. He’s even named himself my “snuggle buddy”.

During one of his snugglier moments, he asked when we were going to go on our next date. We were actually supposed to have gone on one when his big sister went to a daddy daughter dinner, but with all the craziness of life, I forgot. So we started to make plans on when we would go out on our date.

But before we went out, I told him that he needed to ask me first. I wanted to teach Ben that one of the most important things he needed to do was to be brave and take the initiative. Then came the saddest words that just broke my heart. He slowly looked up at me and very quietly said, “I can’t. I know if I ask you, you’ll just say ‘no’ because I’ve been bad.”

I felt like the worst mom. Here I was thinking that I was teaching my son how not to be like one of those guys who never has the guts to ask a girl out, when I was really the one who made him feel like he could never measure up.

I wonder how many times I unknowingly say or do things to my kids that crush their spirit and make them feel like they aren’t good enough. It is so easy to let my words tear them down rather than build them up. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

I want my words to bring life to my children. I don’t want the power of my words to cause my 5-year-old son to think that he’s not good enough to ask even his own mom out on a mommy & me date.

Thankfully, God’s mercies are new every morning and kids are quick to forgive. Our mommy & me date ended up being a great way to restore both of our hearts. He was the prefect little gentleman. He opened my door, paid for our meal, shared his ice cream and even fell asleep on the way home.

Watching him sleep peacefully reminded me that while the days are indeed long, the years are so very short. He will only be this little for a short while and then he’ll be too big to snuggle on my lap; it won’t be cool to be seen with me out in public; he won’t need me to help him see over the counter as they are making him vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

But while he’s still my little snuggle buddy, I pray that I can raise him up to be the man that God wants him to be. That my words would edify him and build him up instead of tear him down. The world does enough of that to our sons already; I don’t need to add to it. I hope that he’ll feel secure in who he is and who God has created him to be. And when that day comes for him to go on his first date, he’ll not question if he’s good enough, because by then he’ll have placed his confidence in the One who is more than enough.