In Every Season

Our sweet Nora Jane is going to be strong. She already is. When we chose her name, I’ll admit that I mainly chose it for how sweetly it rolled off my tongue. It sounded sweet, simple, and southern. As I researched what her name meant and its origin, I felt even more confident in my decision. Nora is short for Honora, meaning “honor”. It’s also short for Eleanora, meaning “light”. So, my sweet Nora means honor and light.

When Nora was dedicated at our church on Father’s Day this year, our pastor prayed this prayer over her:

“Heavenly Father, I pray for Nora Jane, Thank you for the life you’ve given her. For her health, her family, for how much they love her. Heavenly father, we recognize that as she is loved so much in this world, she is loved that much more by You. So we pray as she grows, that she would live well in that reality that she’s loved by her family and loved by You. Let her live a life understanding Your grace, living in the beauty of that. So, all of her attributes her character, her strength, grace with which she goes through the world–all of those, would not just become reflections of her, but reflections of You. So when the world looks at her they understand a little bit more about what it means to be loved, what it means to live in the reality that we are made in Your image for great things. Let her life exemplify that. Give her parents strength and wisdom, give her brother courage and give them a relationship that is strong in all the years. We pray this all on the day of her dedication.”  -Pastor John Parker

Such sweet words, spoken over my baby in love. These are words I cherish and mirror in my own prayers over her daily.

I have a confession. It’s so much easier this time around having a baby than it was when I had Blake. Easier in the sense that I’m not worried and anxious all the time about feeding and sleeping schedules or germs or if she’s being held too much. I don’t have as much mom guilt over choices I’m making for her because I know that no matter what, she’s fed, growing, and loved more than anyone could ever know. But the second part of my confession is harder to admit…

Being a mom of two is hard. My two year old is hard. He challenges me and gets under my skin. He makes me second guess myself and want to rip my hair out. He is a sourpatch kid from the moment he wakes up until the moment his head hits the pillow. I’m exhausted trying to handle the roller coaster of emotions that can unfold within a matter of three minutes while he plays with magnets or trucks or tries to scoop food on his spoon and something “goes wrong”. I constantly feel on edge, wondering if our neighbors are going to call DCF on us because if you walk past our house on any given night around dinner time or bath time or bed time or really any time, you’re likely to hear him screaming at the top of his lungs, acting as though I’m beating the stuffing out of him, when in reality, he’s just upset because his pajamas don’t have pockets, or the ice in his sippy cup melted, or the corner of his poptart crumbled.

Toddlers. Are. Exhausting.

They are challenging and unpredictable. They will humble you. They will refine you. They will make you want to walk out the door at times.

Or…maybe you’re a way better mom than me and you’ve never felt any of those feelings. But chances are…your toddler isn’t perfect and you have your moments too.

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In this busy and exhausting season of life, I feel pretty empty. I cry a lot and I feel big feelings. I know that it’s okay to feel the way that I feel and that just like every season of life, this too will pass. The important thing to remember is that while it’s okay to be sad, confused, tired, and empty…God does not want me to REMAIN that way.

In Hebrews chapter 4 verses 15-16, it says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The Psalms are full of examples where David is sad, lonely, feeling rejected and abandoned. Friends, it’s OKAY for us to hurt and to question and to feel like we are alone. That is our flesh. But God wants us to seek Him in our hurting and trust in His unfailing love for us.

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” -Psalm 13:5-6

One of my favorite songs in this season of life is a song by Hillary Scott, called ‘Thy Will’. She had just experienced a miscarriage and wrote this song during her season of sadness. I find myself using the lyrics to her song as a prayer throughout the day. “I know you see me. I know you hear me, Lord. Your plans are FOR me. Goodness you have in store.” The more I pray it, the more I believe it. The more I believe it, the more I feel it.

Every season of life has its own “hard”. But in every season, I will continue to look to the One who gives rest, hears me, sees me, loves me, and knows my innermost feelings better than anyone.

 

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about

It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store

 

The Heartbeat of My Life

My life is Yours

My hope is in You only

And my heart You hold

‘Cause You made this sinner holy

‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful

I fall onto my knees in awe

And the heartbeat of my life

is to worship in Your light

‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful

As I sat in church this morning, I found myself distracted. My husband and I currently sit in the very back because we have a two month old who isn’t old enough to go in the nursery yet. We sit in the back so that we can make a quick getaway in the chance that she needs to be nursed, starts crying, or needs a new diaper. Sitting in the back isn’t terrible. But if I’m being honest, I get so distracted. Why? Well, it’s right next to the door that everyone enters and exits. So, I find myself turning my head every few seconds as that door opens and closes. I find myself hypothesizing whether that person left because they were offended by the sermon or whether they had to pee. Maybe it was their kids’ number that just flashed on the monitor because they are pitching a fit and the nursery workers need help. I get distracted by all of the other babies sitting in the back with us. Their little grunts, snores, hiccups, sucking, and crying make me smile. It makes my mind think about my own children. So, I stare at my sweet little babe and my mind travels to the two-year old room where my son is. I wonder what he’s doing. Is he being a good boy? Is he listening and participating? When I pick him up will he tell me what he learned or will he be whiny and cranky and ready for a nap?

Do you ever get distracted in church? Chances are, you probably do. Maybe not as badly as I was this morning. But I’m sure you do.

I honestly can’t tell you what I learned from the sermon today and it’s not because our pastor isn’t engaging or because what he said this morning had no value. But I was distracted. Physically, I was there, but, I let myself miss out on an opportunity to learn because my mind was other places.

Until the music started.

I love to worship God in a variety of ways. In my last post, I talked about the beach and how easy it is for me to surrender to and worship God when I’m in front of the vastness of the ocean. Music is like that for me too. Whether it’s old hymns or contemporary praise and worship music, my heart just acts like a sponge and my heart sucks in the beauty, rhythm, poetic nature, and truth embedded in each song.

This morning, we came to the Lord’s Table for communion. I found myself confessing and apologizing to God for my distracted mind. I prayed that I wouldn’t miss anymore opportunities today to worship Him and learn from Him. That’s when I got weepy. Every verse to every song we sang at the end of the service hit me like ocean waves coming into the shore during a storm. The kind of waves that knock you over and make you gasp for breath as you emerge from the depths.

As we sang the final song, Your Glory/Nothing But the Blood by All Sons & Daughters, I just started to quietly cry. Every time we sang the words “And the heartbeat of my life, is to worship in Your light. ‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful” I felt a catch in my voice. Tears filled my eyes and they widened, trying not to let a single one fall out. After the service, we went to the orientation for our daughter’s infant dedication. Next Sunday, on Father’s Day, she will be dedicated to the Lord in front of friends, family, and our church family. I had walked into our orientation with the mindset that I didn’t need to be there. I’d done this whole thing two years prior when we dedicated Blake. I knew we’d play a game, talk about the order of the service, and our pastor would talk about the scriptures and questions he’ll ask us during the service. Got it. Check. Been there, done that.

But remember, I prayed during the Lord’s Supper that God would help me to not miss out on anymore opportunities to worship Him or learn from Him.

So, as our pastor shared an anecdote about his children breaking a window and then fessing up to their mom, taking full responsibility for their actions, his wife took that opportunity to be gracious and kind– and I teared up. I felt a prick on my heart as I considered the many times already in my son’s little life that I’ve responded with harshness and unkindness when he makes mistakes instead of taking the opportunity to show him love and God’s light. Our pastor talked about how we should be considering and praying about what things we want to put into our children’s “suitcase” that they will carry through life. Will it be filled with good things that we’ve taught them like patience, honesty, kindness towards others, and God’s promises? Or will it be filled with things like a quick temper, feelings of imperfection, and a struggle to be honest and kind when things don’t go their way? Then, one of our children’s ministry workers got up to share about the support and role of the children’s ministry at our church. She shared how the desire of this ministry is to teach our kids that God made them. God loves them. And Jesus wants to be their friend forever.

Again…I teared up.

What an incredible message of truth that they are engraining in my toddler and one day, my daughter.

It made me feel convicted at first because I’m not sure I always live out or teach those truths to Blake. But then it made me feel excited. I am his mom and although I’m not perfect, I get the opportunity every single day–not just on Sundays–to teach him that God made him, loves him, and wants to be his friend forever. “And the heartbeat of my life, is to worship in Your light”. Ya’ll I want that to be the heartbeat of my life. I want his little suitcase to be filled with that truth.

I confess that it is a struggle for me some days to stay in the light. I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect parent. I want my two year old son to look at me and see me as this awesome, amazing, shining light for Jesus. I want him to look at me and see how strong I am. I want him to look at me and think, “Wow, my mom is the best! She cares for others, she speaks only kindness, she never lies, she never loses her temper with me, and she even chooses apples over ice cream as her snack!” But I fall short daily–especially on that last one! But that is the beauty of the gospel, friends. I do not have to be perfect or have it altogether. Romans 3:10 “There is no one righteous, not even one;”  and 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” My job as Blake and Nora’s mom is to take my moments of imperfection and point them to Jesus and His perfection.

light

When we got in the car after church, I asked my husband to play the song again on his iPod because I needed to worship and meditate on the words of that song once more.

The heartbeat of my life is to worship in Your light.

‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful

‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful

We sing

Glory, glory

Halelujiah

Jesus, You are good

Is that the heartbeat of your life? Are you making your life one big act of worship to our Father? Are you walking in His light? Are you truly in awe of Him–so much so that it brings you to your knees in worship?

Friends, my encouragement and prayer for you as you go through this week is just that. That you would make your life’s heartbeat, the thing that propels you forward each day, an act of worship. That you would take your moments of falling short and feeling like you aren’t enough and that you would seek to find truth in scripture when you don’t know what else to do. It’s the prayer I’m praying for myself as well.

Another favorite hymn of mine says “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”

Go to Him…because I promise you, He is big enough.

 

 

Buckets

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I don’t know about you, but there is no place on earth that I see my Creator at better than when I am at the beach. Growing up in Florida, I’ve been to the beach more times than I can count. I love staring into the vastness of the ocean and feeling how big my God is and how small I am in comparison. I love feeling the sun as it kisses my skin and warms my soul. The tiny grains of sand remind me that God’s thoughts and cares for me outnumber them (Psalm 139:18). The coming in and going out of the tide is a reminder of His faithfulness and how He keeps His promises. The deepness of the ocean and the creatures big and small that call it home remind me of the complexity of how my Creator creates. I love everything about the beach.

My husband, however…well…he would say otherwise. The mention of taking a day trip to the beach to him can guarantee you a small speech on how hot it is, how the sand gets everywhere and into everything. “There’s nothing to do at the beach except sit and sweat and get sunburned.” And that was just the speech before we had kids. Now, the thought or mention of the beach brings up points about how much “stuff” we have to bring. It’s never just as simple as putting on your bathing suit, grabbing a few towels, hopping in the car and going. There’s the sunscreen, the tent, the snacks, the sippy cups, the toys, the umbrella, the rock n’ play for the baby, the snacks, the water table, the chairs, the cooler, the snacks, games, the swimmy diapers, and did I say snacks? Not to mention, playing Tetris as he tries to fit it all into one vehicle, just to unload it all, use half of it, and load it back up a few hours later when the kids are hot, cranky, and exhausted from having no naps.

Okay, I get it. When you put it that way it does sound like a lot of effort and not so fun. But even with all of that “stuff”…I still want to go. I know it’s a lot to ask. I know it’s a lot to do. But, it makes my heart so very happy. So, I bring you to Mother’s Day 2017. My husband asks me a few days before what I’d like to do for my big day. In hopes that I’ll say something simple like “Let’s go to brunch.” instead, I tell him that my sister and her family of five as well as my mom will be going to…THE BEACH…and I want us to go too. [See the reasons above why he wasn’t so thrilled by my answer.] But, he lovingly complied and the day came. We packed up all of our “stuff” along with our two year old and one month old and headed to the most wonderful place on earth.

As a new family of four, our parenting has started to look a bit different. We are now playing man-to-man coverage instead of double-teaming our two year old. We have each “claimed” a child as our responsibility. By default, since I am nursing, I get our daughter and he gets our son. Most of the time, I definitely have the better end of the deal. Our daughter eats exactly every three hours by her own accord, sleeps a huge chunk of the time, loves to snuggle, and practically never cries. It’s awesome. Our son is a completely different animal. He is wild and energetic. He needs an activity, toy, game, or stimulation of some sort for every minute that he’s awake. He does not know the meaning of the word “still” (or quiet for that matter). He is frequently testing his limits and throws tantrums over the littlest of things. But I love it. It reminds me that God made men and women differently. He made adults and toddlers differently too.

So, I find myself sitting on the beach with my family. I’m relaxing in my beach chair, feeling the warmth of the sun and digging my toes into the sand while my one month old sleeps peacefully in her rock n’ play under a tent in the shade. Life is good. Life is peaceful. I watch with my mom and sister as my brother in law and my husband play with the two 2 year olds, 4 year old, and 7 year old. My sister’s family brought their water table, so the 2 year olds found much joy in splashing and playing in the water under the comfort of the shade of our tent. Almost. As soon as our son realized that the water table was being filled by us carrying buckets of water from the ocean back to the table, it was game over. For the proceeding few hours, my husband would be in charge of walking back and forth between the water table and the ocean, crossing the lane of traffic because we parked on the beach, to continuously fill the bucket so the table could be filled again.

There was a problem though. The bucket my son chose to keep filling in the ocean had a hole in the bottom. No matter how fast his little feet tried to carry him, by the time he made the long journey back to the water table, the water was gone or almost gone. My husband tried to help him. He wanted so desperately for our son to choose another vessel or allow him to plug the hole. But in his two year old determination and defiance, he refused.

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Do you ever find yourself acting that way? We fill our buckets up in life with good, refreshing water. Maybe it’s meaningful time spent with people, refilling ourselves with God’s word, going to bible study or church. Maybe it’s just quiet, still, alone time where we allow ourselves to rest. But just as quickly as we fill ourselves up, we turn around and start pouring it back out on things we didn’t intend to or we refuse to ask for help when we struggle.

One of my favorite Hillsong United songs says “I know I’m filled to be emptied again. The seed I’ve received I will sow.” Being filled is temporary. We reach the point of filling, but then we pour out and quickly look to be refilled. The danger lies when we aren’t being filled by the right things or when our pouring out is on things that are unimportant and not eternal.

In my son’s case, he was filling his bucket with “good things”, but because of his broken vessel, his time, efforts and goodness were wasted on the journey back. He refused to allow his father to help him. I can so painfully relate to my son because I refuse to allow my Heavenly Father to help me when I could really benefit from His help.

I am a broken vessel.

I try to fill up on good things, but because I do not humble myself and ask God to fill the holes, my goodness is often wasted. I have missed opportunities to get my water from the bucket into the water table where it belongs. My Father is right beside me the whole time, just as my husband stayed by my son’s side. He yearns for me to stop and relinquish the control I think I have to say, “Okay, I need you! Please help me to get this water into the places you intended instead of me wasting it.”

As I’ve been on maternity leave these past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time scrolling endlessly on my devices. I’ve scrolled on Facebook. I’ve scrolled on Instagram. I’ve scrolled on Pinterest. I’ve chosen to “fill up” on things that have no eternal value. I blame it on nursing where I’m stuck in one place and it’s most convenient to hold my phone instead of my bible. I blame it on being stuck in the house because it’s too hard to go anywhere with a toddler and a newborn, when in reality, I could turn off the TV and take them outside or turn worship music on instead. We choose what we fill ourselves with AND where we pour ourselves out. If I’m only filling myself with social media posts and shows on Netflix, I’m not going to have a whole lot of love and truth or energy to fill my kids or husband up with good things. All I will have to offer will be my mediocre efforts.

As you take this journey with me, my hope and prayer is that together, we can learn how to be filled with the right things and in turn, take those right things and pour them out to where God is calling us to empty them so it’s not wasted.

How have you chosen to be emptied? What have you poured out? How is God filling you?

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