Invisible: Words of Apology to Older Moms

Ruth 1:1-18

The older my kids get, the more invisible I feel. With two high schoolers and a 5th grader, my days of diapers, naps and preschool are well behind me. Generally speaking, this season is welcome after years of little kid crazy. However, when surrounded by my younger counterparts, the fact that I’m further along in motherhood leaves a slight sting. You see, other moms simply don’t ask about my older children. In conversations about family life or activities, my 17 and 15 year old are glossed over and dismissed. Truth be told, many of them are so busy looking down at the little ones circling their skirts that they just can’t break away to look up and ahead.

The irony is that I am where they are going. While it seems far and unreachable now, they are right around the corner from being me. In the blink of an eye, their 8 year olds will be considering colleges and their preschoolers will be wrestling with relationships and heartbreak.

The Bible tells the beautiful story of Naomi and Ruth. After losing her husband and two sons, Naomi journeyed with her two young daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth, in an attempt to find a new life. But as she walked, flanked by women half her age, did she feel known? Did she feel seen? Or did she feel obsolete and irrelevant? Did she, perhaps, feel invisible?

Eventually, with Naomi’s prodding, Orpah would leave to pursue a life of her own. This was not the case with Ruth.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’”

Ruth 1: 16-17

As a younger woman, I always related much more to Ruth. Although certainly heartbroken and grieving, she was still young and had possibility and opportunity before her. Her life was largely unwritten and every experience offered fresh, new ink to add to her story. Lately, however, I am drawn to Naomi. There’s a good chance she was just about my age and wrestling with some of the same feelings I am.

Furthermore, after years of believing that Naomi was the lucky one for having a daughter-in-law so generous and loyal, my opinion has flipped. I now see that Ruth had the better end of the deal. On a pilgrimage to a new life, she had an unmatched opportunity to walk hand in hand with wisdom and experience. Naomi was an ocean of insight and a treasure chest of truth. She knew love and loss intimately and had decades of perspective. She had weathered the ups and downs of marriage and persevered through the ins and outs of child rearing. I imagine that over the miles, Ruth was an eager audience and I envision her listening intently, hanging on every word uttered by her mother-in-law.

I wish I had listened better. You see, now that I am a Naomi, I wish I had been a far better Ruth. I wish I had stopped when older moms came in the room and valued them for what they could offer. I wish I had recognized all the knowledge, discernment and understanding they held. But I missed it. Day after day, like many of the moms currently around me, I rarely bothered to look up at them. I didn’t ask and I didn’t listen.

So I’d like to say I’m sorry to the moms of older kids. To the women who didn’t sleep as they wore the fears and worries of their middle schoolers like a heavy woolen coat. To the ones who fought with unreserved ferocity to maintain their teenagers’ dignity and reputation. To the mothers who wept as their sons and daughters left for college. You had so much to teach me and I am certain that, had I paid attention years ago, I may have avoided some heartache.

But I want you to know that I see you now and I long for what you can give. I understand that because you had bigger kids, you had bigger other things too.

For one thing, your worry and fear were bigger. As my kids get older, I hold my breath over such larger problems. Fitting into the crowd. Not fitting into the crowd. Saying yes to the right things. Saying no to the wrong things. Letting them find their own path. Watching over that very path and hoping they don’t fall too hard. Being ready to catch them when they do. Holding them accountable. Not burdening them with unrealistic expectations. Giving them wings. Praying they use those wings wisely. As my children grow, so do the enemies. The pitfalls are deeper and the consequences more damaging. Wrong decisions aren’t fixed by time outs anymore. The stakes are higher and therefore, so is the potential for fear and worry.

Your loyalty was bigger. Being a mom of a teenager means carrying weapons I never thought I needed. It is being ready to defend and protect at a moment’s notice. After all, who better than us knows our children’s history? We know every weak point, every stress fracture, every vulnerability. When we see a threat, we rush in and refuse to leave. We fight the good fights and the ugly ones too. We remain steadfast in the darkness, holding a torch until the light of day no matter how long that takes.

Your love was bigger. As a young mom, I remember thinking that there was no possible way that you loved your pimply-faced, awkward, rebellious, back-talking teenager as much as I loved my adorable Facebook-worthy toddler. And I was right. You didn’t love them as much; you loved them more. Because every battle you fought for them, against them or with them deepened your love for them. Every heartbreak strengthened the tether between your hearts. Every success swelled your love and every disappointment cemented it. Each year that passed delivered thousands of new moments that you carefully collected and stockpiled into a virtual mountain of dedication and love. And you never stopped collecting. Not when they got on the middle school bus. Not when they drove away in your car. Not when they left for college. Not when they married. Not when they started a family of their own. You kept collecting and building.

One day I will know that kind of love. I’m getting there for sure but it takes a lifetime. A lifetime I haven’t lived yet. In the meantime, can I be your Ruth? Can I follow alongside and glean all you know? Because I want to know. I want to gather the wisdom you have and tuck it away for a time I will most certainly need it.

And I want to remind you that I see you and that you are not invisible. You are beautiful in your tireless commitment to your children. Everything about you is simply stunning. Your laugh lines point to years of joint delight. Your tear stains are testament to decades of shared grief. The softness in your voice when you talk about your children betrays a loyalty beyond circumstance. No, sweet mothers, you are not invisible at all. You are radiant and I only hope someday someone will say the same about me.

Like a Thief in the Day

It started with banana bread.

I woke up to a busy and margin-less day of errands and lists. I read my bible, joyfully gave my day over and hit the ground running. Spying some browning bananas in the refrigerator, I decided homemade banana bread was just what this day needed to get off to the right start. So I mixed and baked the recipe I’ve made a hundred times and exactly 55 minutes later I opened the oven to discover my lovely banana bread completely burned. And a tiny, nearly unnoticeable piece of my joy slipped away.

Shrugging it off, I proceeded with my morning and gave my sons a one-hour notice of our departure for haircuts and shoe shopping. Sixty minutes later, I find my second born sitting on the couch still in pajamas, arguing that he never heard my announcement. Frustrated, I snapped that we were leaving without him unless he was ready in 10 minutes. Another sliver of joy flew out the window without so much as a wave goodbye.

Walking to the car I ducked to avoid something and hit my head. Hard. Hard enough to give me an instant headache and fill my eyes with watery pain. Walking back into the house, a small bubble of joy left and floated silently into the blue.

I grabbed some Advil and my water bottle, but as I tipped the bottle back to take a drink, I realized too late that the lid wasn’t screwed on correctly. Water spilled everywhere, taking with it drops of my joy.

By noon, I was fighting tears and longing to crawl back into bed and start over. Somehow, over the course of just a few hours, small thieves had broken into my day and stolen my joy a piece at a time. And the irony was that it wasn’t anything big. There weren’t any major hits, trials or disappointments. Instead, I was robbed little by little without my even noticing. A vase here, a lamp there. Some silverware, a rug, an armchair. Until I’m standing lost and helpless in a ransacked house wondering what happened.

Joy is a tricky thing and can be so very difficult to grasp. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it slips through your fingers like sand. But quite honestly there are a lot of misconceptions about joy. We tend to equate joy with outward happiness. We wrongly tether it to a cheery disposition regardless of external circumstances. Truth be told, there are simply days this is impossible. There are seasons when the storms come fast and furious and despite our best efforts, we simply can’t rally.

If we shift our idea of joy, however, if we turn it inside out and ourselves with it, we get something quite different. In fact, scripture’s definition of joy is entirely unlike the counterfeit this world tries to sell us.

There are 63 verses in the New Testament that contain the word joy. All but 4 of these have the same Greek word for joy, chara. I absolutely love the translation for this little word. It means, quite literally, “calm delight or gladness.” Not over the moon exuberance. Not cartwheels and squealing. Not leaping and jumping in happiness. Calm delight. Tranquil gladness.

When I think about the things I delight in, the first to come to mind is my children. When thoughts of them flash through my day, there is an intangible feeling that quickly follows. It is not a loud or flamboyant happiness. There are no deafening shouts or cartwheels. Instead, it is deep and quiet. It rises above their behavior or performance and outflanks all of life’s circumstances. It is constant and tranquil. It is calm delight.

On the flipside, when I think of things that bring joy according to the world’s definition, which is “great pleasure or happiness”, entirely different things swirl in my thoughts. Vacations, experiences, stuff. All things temporal and fleeting. Quite honestly, this isn’t what I need. I don’t need more pleasure and happy. I need more calm delight. I need the consistent and serene gladness that comes despite torrents outside. I am desperate for the peaceful satisfaction that pushes and persists through even the most unsightly tapestries.

So where do we find this joy? Paul answers that question in Romans.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”

Romans 15:13

Joy comes from the Father. In His inherent goodness, the God who not only meets, but exceeds all our expectation and hope fills us with calm delight. Our belief in His goodness, in His love, in His faithfulness brings about a gladness that surpasses our daily trip ups.

It almost seems too simple. Such transcendent delight seems like it would require so much more effort. Fortunately, it doesn’t. The inexplicable reality is that joy beyond imagination and circumstance is hanging in the very air we breathe. But we have to seize it. Instead of surveying and lamenting all the things that appear taken from us, we have to choose joy. While the thieves loiter and linger waiting to steal our joy piece by piece, we must recognize that they are powerless. That the joy our Father promises comes from a well that never runs dry.

Life can be hard and the days longer than we wish. We are confronted regularly with disappointments and loss. But the God of hope has a trick up his sleeve. The joy He offers us goes beyond our mishaps, beyond our failures, beyond our pain. And graciously, beyond burned banana bread.


Lessons with Hezekiah

In 13 days I will have read the Bible cover to cover. I was supposed to be done on December 31, mind you, but some days I just wasn’t as disciplined as others. And some days, quite honestly, it was difficult to get my mind in the game. Trudging through Lamentations was straight up boring. Wading through Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was heavy and depressing. And Numbers. So many names and so many minutiae. It was slow going. Very slow going.

But most days, if I had ears to hear and eyes to see, I could easily find a nugget or two to take away and turn over for the day. The other day, the nugget was found in Isaiah 37.

To give a little background, Hezekiah was the thirteenth king of Judah and he did a great deal to restore Judah after a lengthy rule by a very evil king. He reintroduced religious reform into the land, restored the temple and destroyed false idols. Things were going pretty well until King Sennacherib of Assyria entered the scene. Assyria had successfully swept through neighboring lands and conquered every nation in their path. Judah was next on their list and Sennacherib sent Hezekiah a letter saying exactly that.

Hezekiah was understandably afraid and distraught. Facing certain annihilation, he did the only thing he could think of. With a threatening and blasphemous letter in hand…

“…Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.”

Isaiah 37:14

I love that phrase. “…spread it before the Lord.” After reading it, I sat on that phrase for a couple days, allowing it to soak in and marinate. It didn’t take long for something to occur to me.

I imagined Hezekiah. I imagined him on his knees spreading papers out on the floor of the Lord’s house. I visualized the posture and process that would require. Then I thought of what I would need to do to spread out or unroll my fears, my worries, my pain before the Lord. And I came to the conclusion that such petition necessitates three very distinct and very important things.

1. Get Low

When I picture myself spreading something out, whether it’s papers on a desk or a quilt on my bed, there’s one thing that’s consistent. My posture is never upright. In fact, it isn’t possible to lay something out and remain upright. It requires bending and lowering yourself to reach the farthest edges. In order to spread something out, you have to get low.

This is even more important when what we’re laying out is our needs, our petitions and our hearts before our Heavenly Father. The very act of bringing our fears and worries before God in prayer requires a humble heart. A heart that recognizes its own frailty and weakness. With heads bowed, prayer is the admission that what we want and need is out of our reach and beyond our own ability to attain. When we approach God with meekness and humility, we acknowledge that only He is capable of assuaging our fears and providing what we need most.

2. Get Slow

We live in a fast world. Just last week, the phone company in our area installed cable that would allow even faster Internet access. Cars are made faster every year. Ads boast about faster delivery, faster service, faster everything. In a culture that craves speed, slowing down is challenging.

When it comes to prayer, slow isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a necessity. Conversations with our Father should be long and detailed. They should be thorough with nothing left unsaid. Far too often, we treat our prayers like outgoing mail or an office memo. We jot down our requests and slip them through the mail slot as we’re walking by. But instead, our Father invites us to enter in and sit with Him. He implores us to be fully present, taking time and thought to spread out our needs and desires. And such thoughtful, intentional petition only happens when we slow down.

3. Get Real

I imagine that when Hezekiah spread out that letter before the Lord, he didn’t strategically cover some of the paper. He didn’t scatter rocks over particular words or phrases. He made sure every inch of it was exposed. Every page, every sentence, every word. He hid nothing.

I wish the same could always be said of us. What if, when we laid out our needs before God, we held nothing back? What if we stripped our requests of pride and selfish ambition? What if we owned our jealousy and confessed impure motives? What if we were honest and raw? Far too often, I approach God with one hand behind my back, concealing the ugliest parts of me, hoping He won’t see. For some reason, we buy into the lie that if God saw all of it, if we presented the bad with the good, our requests would fall on deaf ears. That somehow God will be less inclined to listen if our needs are wrapped in filth. In fact, it is just the opposite. God loves and God listens because of our filth, not despite it. Our inferiority allows God’s grace and mercy to shine even brighter. As Paul so eloquently put it in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “…for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Spreading out our fears and worries before the Lord requires us to disclose everything. It requires us to show it all, no matter how unsightly or broken. It requires us to be real before our Father.

Life this side of heaven is hard. Every day we break and bruise. And every day we need God. We need His help, His grace, His mercy. It’s all there, all available to us. All we need to do is ask.

Hezekiah, in the face of his greatest threat and in the moment of his greatest need, spread out his petition before the Lord. He carried his fears straight to the temple and unloaded every single one of them, humbly, slowly and thoughtfully, in the presence of his Father. It’s an incredible lesson for all of us. When we are in the presence of what most threatens or scares us, we need to remember to get low, get slow and get real as we appeal to the one who knows us, loves us and is waiting to help us.

A New Endeavor

I love Christmas. I love the music, the lights, the gifts. I love everything about it. But mostly I love the story. Quite honestly it has all the elements of a great story. A protagonist that’s impossible not to root for, an antagonist that you love to hate. Scandal, suspense, unlikely heroes and just enough mystery to keep you guessing.

The problem is that far too often the story gets lost in the lights. The gifts under the tree trump the greatest gift and the real message is left crumpled and forgotten amidst the wrapping paper.

As my children have gotten older, it has become more important to instill in them the truth and impact of Christmas. So last year, I looked for some tool, a book or website, that would help in my efforts. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. And then in quiet whispers and eventually loud shouts, God prompted me to create something. So with an obedient but trepidatious heart, I embarked on a writing journey and came up with a family advent devotional for the month of December.

After test marketing it last year, I am proud to present it to all of you. The devotional, “When Love Came to Earth”, is a deck of 25 table cards to be read and discussed as a family. It was written for families with kids ages 8 and up with special emphasis on middle and high schoolers. Each set is $18 with an extra $2 for shipping if you don’t live local. If you’re interested, feel free to comment on this post, message me on Facebook, or shoot me an email (

Christmas is almost upon us dear friends. Let’s get our hearts ready.


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I Need a “Life Party”

Well, it’s Election Day and I really need a door #3. While I’m unsettled by the lack of honesty, compassion and selflessness I’ve seen in the last several months, it’s not entirely about the candidates. My dilemma is actually much bigger than that. My problem lies in the hypocrisy and inconsistency both parties exhibit when it comes to the issue of life.

You see, I am for life. I am for life from conception all the way to the grave and every moment in between. The truth is, that even with all our knowledge and ability, life is still the one thing we cannot create. We can prolong life. We can improve life. We can clone life. We can take life. But we cannot create it. We cannot, where there is no life, call it into being. We cannot take something inanimate and breathe life into it, giving it growth and verve. From the beginning, this has been a job solely for the author of life. With that truth in mind, what right do any of us have to take it? It feels irresponsible, callous and careless to take something that we have no way of replacing. If I steal a car, I can replace that car. If I burn down a house, with time and effort, I can rebuild that house. But if I take a life, there is no repairing that. There is no way to correct that theft.

I am against abortion. At any stage. Of course there are exceptions and at this point in the game, no one argues that. However, I am sickened by the all the efforts of policy makers to justify snuffing out life before it ever has a chance to take hold. As a woman, I find it insulting that our choice has been reduced to this. I find it angering and sad that this is the choice we have rallied behind. Somehow, we have spent all our energy and money protecting a woman’s right to choose abortion while we have conveniently ignored all the other options women have. What if the money that’s been poured into the pro-choice movement was reallocated to support other choices? What if our money went to improved sex education and accessible birth control? What if we took our resources and devoted them to reducing all the crippling red tape in the foster and adoption system? What if we valued life and found ways to ease the weight of pregnancy rather than remove it?

I also can’t support the death penalty. I know the prison system is flawed and overwhelmed. I’ve read about heinous crimes and I wonder sometimes if those crimes don’t deserve death. But at the end of the day, if I value life, I have to value it without condition. I am not the judge and certainly don’t want the role of executioner. Life is life.

Furthermore, my conviction also causes me to call into question a variety of things that threaten life. For instance, how can I hold life above all else and support unchecked gun ownership? It seems awfully duplicitous to say one values life while lobbying for the very mechanism responsible for so much death. Regardless of the arguments on either side, there is no getting around the fact that guns were designed and created to threaten life. Whether in aggression or self-defense, their purpose is singular.

So I am stuck solidly and immovably between a rock and hard place. Sadly, there is no “Life Party”. The democrats shout for curbed gun rights out of one side of their mouth while spewing pro-choice rhetoric out of the other. Meanwhile, the republicans wave their flag supporting the unborn with one hand and use the other hand to wave their unrestricted guns.

So what now? I don’t know honestly. I am left sleepless trying to weigh my choices. It seems whatever I choose I am compromising my convictions and that’s not something I’m comfortable with. For me, at the end of the day, it comes down to Romans 14:12

“So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Ultimately, I have to do what my God has put on my heart to do. I have to be obedient to His Spirit in me. I am accountable to Him. While I love my country, I love my God more. I am a proud American, but I am an even prouder child of the Creator. For me, this is the greatest right and privilege I have. Elections will come and go. Presidential candidates and parties will blow through like chaff in the wind. But the spinner of stars and weaver of life is eternal.

Life is sacred. It is powerful but fragile. It is resilient but vulnerable. It is beyond my understanding and beyond my ability to create. But it is not beyond my ability to value and protect. I am for life.


“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

I just read an article that connects helicopter parenting to binge drinking. It was sad and tragic and an awful indicator of where the next generation could be headed. The article divided parents into 2 categories: Good Parents and Get-Real Parents. Good Parents teach abstinence and consequence while Get-Real Parents accept the inevitability of teenage drinking and opt to keep their kids safe instead of sober. Often times, the Get-Real Parents might host parties and collect keys in an attempt to control consumption and limit any resulting damage.

As I read the article, I was proud to fall into the Good Parent category, but it also brought up some anger in me. I have three kids and my two sons are a junior and freshman in high school. From the start, my husband and I have established high expectations for them in terms of life choices. Not academics, not vocation, not athletics. Life values. The stuff that counts. The stuff that can define who you are and what your path is.

Don’t drink before you’re 21. Period. And once you can drink, don’t drink to excess. It only brings regret. Don’t smoke. Don’t even try it. It will turn your lungs to black slime. Don’t do drugs. Any of them. Don’t smoke pot even if your best friend is. Furthermore, remove yourself from any situation where any of these activities are happening. Blame us, blame teachers and homework, blame your coach, blame the dog. Just get out. And don’t have sex before marriage. The idea of sexual compatibility is a lie the world has fed a hungry generation. Find your soulmate and be true to them. To only them.

There are obviously lots of other things we try and instill. Love. Honesty. Kindness. Wisdom. Forgiveness. Compassion. It’s a long list and nearly all of it can be found in the pages between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. But those aren’t as controversial. After all, doesn’t every parent want their kid to be loving and kind? Don’t we all want our kids to tell the truth?

But the other stuff. The drinking, drugs and sex. That’s a little more contentious and debated. And that’s where I take some heat. I don’t have conversations about it very much anymore, mostly because of the reaction it can illicit, but when I do, it’s usually a nearly scripted response.

“Every kid drinks.”

“They’re kids. They’ll try stuff.”

“They need to experience life.”

“It’s just a stage. Just be supportive.”

And I call bull. Not every kid drinks. Not every kid needs to try destructive or damaging experiences in order to feel joy. They do need to experience life but why does that have to include alcohol or drugs or sex? I will be supportive. I will be supportive of the goal to make wise choices.

Perhaps my favorite argument is the one I hear the most. “That’s just unrealistic.” And again, I call bull. It is absolutely realistic. I know. Because it was my reality. Call it a miracle, call it luck or call it what it actually was – awareness, perspective, determination. I was a good kid who didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have sex. I studied hard but also had a ton of friends and went to lots of parties. Somehow I realized early on that fun could be had all on its own without any help. And while I don’t have stories about wild nights or crazy weekends, I also don’t have regrets.

All that said, when I tell other parents even just a glimpse of my story, I get another classic response. “Well, you were the exception.” Exactly! I was the exception and I’m asking my children to be exceptions as well. What I find ironic is that every parent I know is asking their children to be the exception, but not in these areas.

“Study hard. Take honors and AP classes. Be an exceptional student.”

“Go to practice. Work your butt off. Be an exceptional athlete.”

“Show up on time. Respect your boss. Be an exceptional employee.”

“Be selfless. Be an exceptional community servant.”

“Be an exceptional friend.”

“Be an exceptional person.”

Why do we so badly want our children to be exceptions in every area but this one? Why do we encourage and expect them to rise above and stand apart from the crowd when it comes to academics, athletics and vocation but we give them a pass when it comes to life choices that are just as, if not more important? We expect them to handle academic and athletic pressures with adult maturity but we chalk up their poor choices to immaturity and let them slide. More to the point we give them permission to slide. We drill them on grades and performance but then assure them we will look the other way when they make decisions that could cause permanent and irreversible damage.

Let me add one more thing. My children know the bar is set high. They know what we expect and they know that poor choices will bring disappointment and most likely, punishment. However, they also know they will be loved. They are confident in their forgiveness. As many times as we tell them to make wise choices, we follow it up with hammered-in truth of forgiveness and grace. If they fall, if they fail, we will always catch them. We will love them through the consequences and we will never stop believing or wanting the best for them.

I want my children to be better than the world tells them they can be. I want them to rise above the mire our society wants to tether them to. I want them to resist the lies that seek to reduce and define them. I want them to be exceptional.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

Morning's Joy

When each of my children was born, God placed a word on my heart that over time I’ve come to associate with them and their journeys. Inevitably, as their mom, those words have also become part of my story.

For my first son, it was hope. He was unexpected and there was so much uncertainty surrounding his arrival. But our gracious God gently prodded me to put my hope in Him and trust in His goodness.

For my daughter, it was faithfulness. After years of unanswered prayer and heartbreak, her birth was a glorious reminder of God’s faithfulness.

For my second son, Nathan, the word was joy.

The second half of Psalm 30:5 says, “…Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I can’t think of another verse in all of scripture that more adequately embodies the journey of joy Nathan and I have been on.

For starters, there was Nathan’s birth. After a difficult time with pain meds during my first son’s birth, I elected to refuse an epidural and take my chances. It was brutal. The labor nearly broke me. After hours of backbreaking labor through the night, Nathan, weighing in at a hefty 9lbs 13oz, was born in the wee hours of the morning.  And as I held him to my chest there was a powerful acknowledgment that together, we had endured a tremendous struggle. I looked at him and whispered over and over, “That was so hard.” But soon, the difficulty of the previous hours melted beautifully into one of the purest joys life offers.

“…Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

 Fast-forward a few years. Nathan started having some struggles and there were no answers to be found. First we read books and tried simple solutions. When that didn’t work, we consulted pediatricians, then specialists. We moved on to counselors and psychologists. Everything came up empty. It was disheartening and frustrating. My heart broke a thousand times over as I watched my son wrestle with monsters no one could name. While I’ve seen time move like a freight train, during those years, fear and worry were the relentless second hands on a slowly moving clock.

But finally, a solution. After years of questions, hope was on the horizon. We embraced it like a warm blanket and things grew better. The cracks began to heal and there were promising glimpses of wholeness. I watched his shackles fall and realized that, yet again, we had sustained and survived a great struggle together. And as His world grew brighter, so did mine.

“…Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Then came middle school and it all fell apart. Nathan is a gentle giant and that makes for an easy target. While at home he can be strong-willed and contrary, at school, my 6-foot son has a hard time advocating for himself and fending off the attacks. Furthermore, Nathan doesn’t quite fit the mold of a middle school boy (which we love by the way!), and his quirks quickly drew fire. It started with veiled comments and grew to name-calling. Eventually it was straight up bullying and Nathan began slipping. As he succumbed to self-doubt and sadness, the nights grew long again. We pulled him out of school and began the excruciating work of healing his damaged heart.

That was two very long years ago. And after all of this, the sun is coming up. Just in the last few months we have seen our son resurface. He smiles more. He talks more. He laughs more. His eyes show signs of life and happiness that we have been desperate to see for years. We have survived yet another struggle and the joy is indescribable.

“…Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Every once and a while, Nathan’s birthday falls on Mother’s Day and I find it no coincidence that this is one of those years. After 14 years, through valleys, over mountains, in and out of days, our journeys have become inextricably entwined. And through it all, God has been so very faithful.

Looking back at our story, the truth of Psalm 30:15 is undeniable. There has been so much weeping and the nights have, at times, seemed unbearable and unending. But morning always came. Morning will always come. Every night is followed by day. Every sunset is followed by a sunrise. And with every sunrise comes joy.

Messy Love

I’ve often said that love is messy. Navigating the muddy waters of relationships rarely leaves us unmarked or unaffected. Having been married for nearly 2 decades and being the mother of 3 children, I can tell you that, for me, love has not always been a clean process.

But a few days ago, while sitting on a plane headed home from Merida, Mexico, the idea of messy love took on a whole new meaning. Last week, I spent my days and evenings ministering to a community of believers and it was anything but clean. It was messy. Not in terms of relationships, but actual physical mess. We hauled concrete and cinder blocks and found ourselves coated in cement by end of the day. We painted classrooms and went to bed still spattered in residual green and white paint. We sat in circles with local kids and made tie-dye shirts, resulting in hands that stayed colored for days. We played soccer on dirt fields and made cross necklaces on unswept floors. It was dusty, it was dirty, it was messy. But it was perfect.

There was something incredibly satisfying about laying in bed and seeing stains on my hands and paint under my fingernails. The mess was an indication that I had been fully present. It was a sign that I had engaged. It was a sign that I hadn’t skimped or held back. It was a sign that I had loved.

On our last night of Vacation Bible School, held at a small church in the poorest part of Merida, I struggled to hold in my emotions while I encountered a more familiar emotional mess. It was time to leave and the separation was anything but clean. Torn between missing my family and a fresh, pure connection with the people I had served, the lines blurred, tears welled and I found myself in murky territory.

Just about that time, I looked up and was struck speechless by the sky above the church. Amidst primitive concrete dwellings and makeshift homes, the sky radiated blood red. I immediately thought of the cross, of the sacrifice made for us, and I heard a quiet whisper that nearly brought me to my knees. “Love is messy. In fact, it is one big bloody mess.”

Who better than Christ knows exactly how messy, how complicated, how muddled and untidy love is? Who better than Christ understands the sacrifice? Christ came clean and perfect from heaven. He arrived on our dusty planet and after 33 years of wearing our dirt, he left caked in blood. To show love in its purest form, Christ became absolutely filthy.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a right spirit within me”

Psalm 51:10

I find it so ironic that when my hands are messy from ministering, my heart feels clean. That when I choose to enter into the often muddy waters of sacrificial love and service, my spirit comes alive and aligns gloriously with my God.

We were made to love and sometimes love demands that we get our hands dirty so our hearts can be clean. Sometimes, God wants to know just how willing we are to abandon our tidy lives and splash joyfully in the mud puddles. You see, God knows an important truth that I’m afraid we frequently forget. It’s fairly easy to clean our hands. The external dirt is temporary and quickly washed away. But the changes to our hearts stick. The shift that happens in our spirits when we love well and get dirty remains and draws us back.

All too often we spend way too much time trying to keep our hands and lives clean. We waste valuable energy maintaining a neat and tidy life while ignoring God’s beckoning to love amidst the clutter and chaos. If we look around us, we can find a mess anywhere. It’s certainly not unique to Mexico. There are messes in our homes and our neighborhoods. There are messes in our hallways and cars, next door and across the street. Loving our spouses is messy. Loving our children is messy. Loving our neighbor is messy.

Love is messy. As Christ knows all too well, love is, in fact, one big bloody mess.

Hope in a Bottle

We love science at our house. We tend to geek out about things like the stinging technique of the fire ant or the fact that elephants actually shed tears when they are sad. We love shows about black holes in the expanse of the universe and unimaginable mysteries of the deep. So it came as no surprise when the other day my seventh grader crushed a water bottle, put the cap back on, and gave it to my second-grader, challenging her to “uncrush” the bottle. As much as she tried, she could not restore the water bottle to its original shape.

My son then explained in detail the specifics about force. He told her that because there was nothing inside the bottle to equalize the pressure that was being exerted from the outside, it would stay crushed.

All of this science was on my brain when my Bible study brought me to 2 Corinthians 4:7.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”


While jars of clay is obviously a good picture for us to go off of, in the original Greek, the term used is earthen vessels. For some reason, this conjures up a little more meaning for me. When I looked up the Greek word for earthen, ŏstrakinŏs, I discovered that it means “earthenware; by implication, frail.”

There you have it. We are earthen vessels and we are frail. Truth be told, we are very frail. We crush and crack so easily don’t we? Most days, it takes far too little to compromise my strength and shatter my resolve. A difficult morning with my children starts a small crack that grows over the course of day, eventually becoming a gaping chasm. A disagreement with my husband creates a miniscule nick that deepens and leaves me feeling empty and injured. An unkind word or misplaced judgment. An unexpected expense or a last-minute addition to an already packed day.  All minor things, really, but enough to call into question my structural integrity. Things don’t go as expected or planned and I begin to crack. Sooner than later, I feel utterly crushed by the weight of life’s difficulties that inevitably pile up.

It’s not chance or bad luck that God created us to be frail. He meant for us, when left to our own limited strength, to collapse under the pressure. It is this truth that brings us full circle back to the water bottle experiment. Just like that plastic vessel, when we are empty, we are utterly unable to combat or overcome all the pressures that surround us. With nothing to help us withstand life’s stresses and demands, we simply can’t hold up. The forces without are exponentially stronger than the forces within.


Unless we aren’t empty. Unless we make sure what we’re filled with outweighs and counteracts what’s pushing in on us. The truth is, we were never meant to be empty. “We have this treasure…”

Eugene Peterson’s translation of Romans 15:13 offers a wonderful picture of exactly what that treasure is.

“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

The Message Bible

We are meant to be filled. But not filled with just anything. Filled with joy –the joy that comes from anticipating the fulfillment of Scripture’s promises. Filled with peace –the peace that abides when we take God at his word and trust that He is faithful and good. Filled with the Holy Spirit – God’s very Spirit breathed in us to comfort and equip. This joy, this peace, this gift of the Holy Spirit leads to a founded hope. As Christ believers, when we are filled, the result will be an overflowing source of hope. Hope that our circumstances will not define us. Hope that our trials and difficulties will not doom us. Hope that the mishaps on this earth will not hinder us. Hope that the God of the universe knows our name and calls us child. The best news in all of this is that, over and over, Scripture tells us that our hope is never in vain. Our hope is in a God who always delivers.

“…in  hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began…”

Titus 1:2 ESV

Life can be so hard, can’t it? We rush around just trying to keep our heads on straight and not lose our keys. The pressures are unceasing and most days we are holding it all together with filaments no stronger than dental floss. Our earthen vessels crack and ding and dent and some days it feels as if one more hit will burst us and everything we’ve been working so hard to harvest will be lost in one fell swoop.

Leading up to this post, I had a doozy of a morning. My oldest son, who has increasing struggles getting out of bed, missed the bus and needed to be driven to school. Meanwhile, my middle child announced at 9:30 last night that he had lost a flash drive that contained an elaborate project that is due today. In an effort to recover it, I planned on getting him to school early to look for it. So at 7:44am, I realized that I had precisely 16 minutes to get my highschooler to his destination, return home, pack a lunch and get the next one to middle school. It couldn’t be done. Unless the sun literally stopped rising and time came to a pause, it wasn’t humanly possible. And a crack began to form.

Returning home after the frenzy, I knew it was time for some patchwork. My jar of clay was in danger of being compromised and unless I acted with haste and intention, the inevitable demands of the day would surely cause collapse. So sitting in my favorite spot in my sunny kitchen, with my canine buddies lazing on the floor, I prayed for an outpouring of God’s spirit into my day. I prayed that, despite the forces without, He would fill me and shore me up within.

We were never created to be empty. We may be jars of clay, but we are His jars of clay and the full measure of His grace, joy and peace are readily available to fill us and encourage us when life presses in. Take heart, dear sisters and brothers, our earthen vessels hold a marvelous treasure that brings abundant hope for a glorious future.

Something from nothing

This last week has been a little rough in our house. With 3 kids, 3 different schools, sports practices, orientations, meetings, PTA responsibilities and an endless pile of papers to sign, I’m having a hard time staying grounded and calm. I have always been a high-capacity person, but this week is throwing me for a loop. I simply can’t keep up. I am stretched as thin as I can possibly be and the stress fractures are becoming painful.

In addition to the logistical challenges I’m contending with, there are two major changes in our house that are further compromising my ability to cope. First of all, my oldest son began high school this week and the transition is exponentially harder than I anticipated. Of course I knew it was coming and he has been ready for months. Still, my heart is wrenching as I watch him walk out the door each morning and realize that this is the final chapter of his childhood. It’s as if the door has been slowly opening over the last 14 years and he is finally crossing the threshold. And I want to go with him. The reality that I have to stay behind as he makes his own way seems so counter intuitive. In what other job, do you give every bit of your blood, sweat and tears only to relinquish everything you’ve worked for? Mothering is such bitter irony sometimes and in these last few days, that truth has stung and festered in my fragile heart.

Secondly, my 7th grade son is beginning a new school this year. He will attend a small hybrid school two days a week and work from home the other three. The anxiety I have over this new course is living right under my skin. There are so many unknowns and my controlling nature is reeling from the uncertainty. I am afraid that it will be more than I can handle. I am afraid that it will be more than he can handle. I am terrified that he won’t connect with the other students and will, again, be marginalized and left feeling alone and unimportant. I am fighting to stay positive and keep resentment at bay over the time I will inevitably have to surrender to his instruction.

Truthfully, I am not handling all this change with nearly as much grace as I’d like. All of the emotion, the apprehension, and the anxiety are so close to the surface that almost everything seems to set off a disproportionate reaction. I am fighting tears more hours of the day than not. I can’t find peace no matter how hard I try and joy has been elusive and unattainable. I’m simply finding it impossible to rest with all the chaos and adjustment around me.

In response to all this turmoil, God quietly gave me Romans 4:17.

“…in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

Can I just tell you how much I am in love with my God? I have in my corner a power that is able to “call into existence the things that do not exist”. Just as God called forth the sun and the moon, the sea and the land, he can bid far more personal things to come rushing into my life.  Things I am desperate for and things that are definitely nonexistent in my current condition. Where there is only fear, he can bid peace like rivers and it will flood into my anxious heart. Where there is only unrest, he can name rest and it will come forth and offer refuge. In the presence of great anxiety, he can simply call joy to come land and live in my parched spirit.

The Greek word for call is kaleo and it means to bid or call, properly aloud. This is exactly what I need. Isn’t this what we all need? We need Jesus to stand in the middle of our chaos, in the middle of our pain, in the middle of our burden and call aloud the things only he can produce.  And it is high time that we claim this promise. It is time for all of us to petition our God to call into existence what we simply cannot create on our own.

In Matthew 7, verses 7-11, Christ encourages us to pray and ask for what we need. He challenges us to ask, seek and knock with the promise that what we ask for we will receive, what we seek we will find and what we knock on will be opened. Furthermore, he challenges his audience with this statement: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

God wants to give us good things. And what could be better than peace? What’s more desirable than joy and rest?

Far too often, this world robs us of our peace. It steals our joy and leaves us flat-out exhausted from spinning in needless circles. Too many evenings find us emotionally spent and void of rest. Thankfully, there is one who can change that. There is one who can stand when we can’t, who can see when we are blind, who can speak when we have no words. This God of ours, with great love and compassion, can call into being all the things we are desperate for. What is nonexistent, but absolutely essential, he can bid forth with a simple whisper and meet us in our greatest need. All we need to do is ask. He is ready and waiting. He is eager to shower grace and call into existence the things that do not exist.