I Love How God Made You

I was standing in my black bathrobe with sopping wet, just-showered hair hanging down my back, waiting for my coffee to finish brewing, when my 4-year-old daughter said out of no where, “Mom! You’re the cutest one in our family!”

She was gazing at me starry-eyed. Like I was a Disney princess. (And not a Disney villain like Cruella DeVille, which is really who I am sure I looked like.)

“What did you say?” I asked, unsure my un-caffeinated brain heard her right.

“I said, ‘Mom, you’re the CUTEST one in our family!!'” She said with even more passion this time.

And I laughed!

I couldn’t help but think about how ugly I have felt lately. How I turned 30 this year, and am still trying to love my post-partum body (that got stretched pretty good by my 9 pound, 11 ounce baby boy born in December.) And I thought about how I always wear make-up. To cover the dark circles under my eyes, and the acne that’s been there since high-school. And how I often don’t feel very beautiful at all. I’ve even been tempted lately to stop at the local tanning joint, “Sun Your Buns,” to tan this skin, I don’t always feel pretty in.

But before I could think through any more of my many insecurities, she interrupted:

“I love how God made you,” she said.

I love how God made you. 

I looked at her. Her big, blue eyes looking deeply into my brown ones. Her blonde bedhead spilling into her beautiful face. Her gaze, not leaving me.

“I love how God made you.”

Her words echoed. In my thirsty heart.

And, I knew she meant it. With all of her little heart.

Her heart that is often bigger than I realize. 

I bent down, all undone. In my bathrobe and wet, tangled hair and held her little body against mine.

“Thank you,” I whispered, with our foreheads touching.

“But,” I assured her, “I think YOU are the cutest one in our family!” Then I tickled her and she giggled. And I said, “I love how God made you!” She smiled and wrapped her little body around mine. And we stayed like that for a moment. Wrapped in love.

Wrapped by full acceptance. Wrapped with our beautiful bodies God gave us, around each other.

Both feeling a little more loved. A little more beautiful. Than before.

Do you want to know something?

Selah’s words stayed with me.

I felt “cuter-than-usual” that day.

Because when a 4-year-old boldly declares (when you have no make-up on and look like a drowned rat) that, “You are the cutest one in ourfamily!!”– you just have to choose to believe her.

And it ministers to the deeper parts of you. The ones you try to shove down. And cover up.

And maybe we are all a little more insecure than we like to admit.

Maybe we all feel a little “ugly” sometimes.

And maybe, sometimes, we just need someone, anyone, (even if they’re 4 years old) to say:

“Hey.”

“You’re cute.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“I love how God made you.”

Because beauty comes from Him. You know?

Beauty isn’t something we achieve by working out, or wearing trendy clothes, or dabbing on more make-up.

Beauty is part of our make-up.

It’s a part of us. It’s instilled in us. By the fingerprints of God. When He made us. When He formed us in the womb. In the secret place.

Beauty…is what God makes.

And He made you. Remember?

 

God created you exactly how He wanted you to be. 

For His glory. And He delights in you.

And you are made in His image. To reflect Him, and His beauty. 

And maybe no one will tell you today, but, I think…

You’re pretty cute.

And,

I love how God made you.


Now, it’s your turn to spread the beauty. So, pass it on. Stop and tell someone how cute they are. And, “I love how God made you.” And see if, (even if they laugh), if their face does not brighten a bit. And they don’t become a little more beautiful as a result.

#Spreadthebeauty

At This Time Last Year…

At this time last year, I had no idea.

At this time last year, I was washing crib sheets in Dreft for a foster-baby we were making room for. For a foster-baby we were prepping our home for. Our daughter for. Our hearts for.

I was having my husband set up the crib. We were just about done turning the guest room into a nursery.

At this time last year, I was praying for a baby I never met. And I saw the words over the crib as I prayed for him or her, “Precious One.”

I didn’t know who the “Precious One” was, just that whoever would fill that crib–would be precious to us. And precious to God. And I wanted to speak that over this abandoned, neglected foster-baby.

Precious One. 

At this time last year, we were just days away from getting our Foster Parent certification. We only had one day of training left…

When my husband came home with a pregnancy test. And I rolled my eyes at him.

At this time last year, I had no idea. God was working a masterpiece in the darkness. In the shadows of the unknown.

Inside me. 

At this time last year, I didn’t know the “Precious One” would be my very own son. 

But he was.

And God knew all along.

He knew all along who this nursery was being prepared for.

We didn’t. We just prepared it–trusting God would fill it with whomever He wanted to fill it.

And He did. 

 

I had no idea a miracle was right around the corner.

But it was. 

I write this for the Barren.

Not to cause you pain–or heartache. Not to remind you of a longing not yet filled.

But to remind you of something—God knows what He’s doing.

You (and me) we don’t always know what we’re doing, but God always knows what He’s doing.

You might not know where you’re going–but God does. 

You might not understand the timing–but God does. 

You might not know what’s taking so long–but God does. 

Because He’s forming a masterpiece in the darkness. 

I don’t know His plan for you. If you will have a child through your womb, or through another way. Or, at all.

But just because you don’t know something is coming, doesn’t mean it’s not coming.

And just because you can’t see Him working, doesn’t mean He’s not working.

Faith is trusting Him even when you don’t know what He’s doing.

And I am convinced He is always doing more than we could imagine or understand. In the darkness of the unknown. 

So don’t lose heart. 

Because David wrote,

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Even the darkness is not dark to Him. 

And what does it say next?

It speaks of the womb. 

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

He works in secret. 

And His works are wonderful

My soul knows it very well. 

I am praying for you tonight. That you would not be overwhelmed by the darkness of the unknown. At this time last year, I had no idea. And at this time this year, maybe you have no idea. What He’s doing. But don’t be afraid of the dark. Because though it may look dark to you, and the night seems to cover you. Remember this,

The darkness is not dark to Him. 

It shines as bright as day. 

 

What Postpartum Feels Like

It’s April 1st, and my Christmas wreath is still hanging on our front door.

Let that be an indication of how things are “going” in our household.

My Facebook profile picture is still a maternity shot of me…and my baby boy who was born in December, is now 3 1/2 months old. So…

I’m a little (or a LOT) behind on laundry, vacuming, grocery shopping (since the ALDI incident), and pretty much every other area of life right now.

I haven’t been writing, because I feel empty inside. And have nothing to say.

I nurse my baby boy constantly, while my 4-year-old begs me to play Candy Land with her, and watch her magic tricks, and cries when I don’t look at her while she’s talking. (So, she cries a lot.) I fold laundry and cook dinner with one hand. Or not at all.

Sometimes, I forget to start dinner, and pull out the rock hard frozen chicken breast at 3:30 p.m. And it’s a frozen pizza for dinner, instead.

The Keurig light blinks, “Not Ready–Add Water…” And that’s pretty much how I feel right now. Like the canteen is dry, and blinking. And being constantly depleted.

And this is how postpartum feels, sometimes. And the jump from one to two kids is harder than I imagined it would be. It’s so good–it’s just that my weaknesses are showing through more than ever.

My Scripture reading is scant–unless an Instagram graphic counts. And I’m pretty sure just playing the “Bethel” station on my Spotify on my phone isn’t quite giving my soul the intimacy with God I need.

Our house is filled with chaos and noise–a beautiful sound in contrast with the years of quietness and crying out for children.

But now that they’re here, it’s strange how the barrenness can creep back into my soul.

And I’m reminded again–that it is God, and only God that truly satisfies the longing soul.

Sometimes my daughter leaves the caps off her markers. This week I picked up the orange marker to write down a phone number, but the cap had been off. It was bone dry. It made a mark, but just barely. I tried to press harder–and the color just barely came through.

I’ve felt a lot like that orange marker lately.

Like, the cap has been off for a while now.

I’m pressing hard–but just barely coming through.

And my soul is dry like that marker.

I’ve felt all kinds of different emotions lately. I know part of it is due to postpartum hormones, and nursing an infant, and clutter around my house, and driving my daughter to preschool while my son wails. And being so tired. All the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE being a mom. There are these beautiful moments that simply take my breath away.

But there are other moments, that simply take my sanity away.

Like when my baby is crying because he wants to be held or nursed, and I haven’t gotten to eat anything yet and it’s 10:30 a.m. And my stomach is growling. And my 4-year-old daughter is crying because I didn’t let her screw on the cap of the sippy cup, and my son poops through his outfit and needs a bath. And his poop leaked onto the shirt I’m wearing. And when I pass myself in the mirror, I look much like Miss Hanigan on Annie. (Not the new Cameron Diaz version, but the ugly one from the 80’s version.)

Sometimes, all three of us are crying at the same time.

 

Sometimes, it feels like we are at a nut house.

When my son fell asleep yesterday, I put a show on for my daughter and locked myself in my room–just so I could drink a hot cup of coffee and straighten my hair. Just to feel “normal.”

It didn’t really help. But my hair looked better than it has in a long time. 😉

And I finally realized something: my soul is parched.

I am in a season of drought. 

Even as I write this–I am in a season of drought.

But I found some hope yesterday, and I’m clinging to it, wrapping both my arms and legs around it, and not letting go.

During one of my nursing sessions on the couch–I made a very feeble attempt to read my Bible. I one-handedly flipped open my it open to Jeremiah 17.

I have always loved this Scripture–but God met me through it in a new way.

It says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” Jeremiah 17:5-6

As I read, I was realizing:

Yes. That is me. Trying to make my own flesh my strength. My heart departing from the Lord. A shrub in the desert. Dwelling in the parched places of the wilderness. 

I might have walked away depressed if I stopped there. But I kept reading. And found this,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in a year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

And here I find my hope.

Because even the man who trusts in the LORD—goes through times of drought.

And when he does, he does not grow anxious.

He does not fear–when heat comes. (Not if heat comes, but when it comes.)

So, right now, in my dry, chaotic state of mind, as I am parched and weary–I put my trust in the LORD.

Indeed, my trust is the LORD. It has to be. And not my weary self.

Even in a year of drought, I am not to grow anxious.

(I really hope it’s not a full year of drought.) But, however long this drought lasts, I don’t have to be anxious and fearful.

I can’t “feel” God close right now. But He is. My mind is dull, and distracted, and I can’t engage how I would like to.

And I’m thirsty inside.

But in my thirst–I still have hope.

Because He promises to quench me. In His time.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

In my unrighteousness, I thirst for His righteousness. And He will fill me. He promises this.

I hope you know, I’m not writing from the other side of this. I am in a dry place right now.

But, I have to share this, because I think someone reading this might be in a dry season, too. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe you are in a postpartum state. And maybe not. But either way, maybe you too, feel like a dried up marker.

Trying to make a mark, and pressing hard…but just barely coming through.

Who feels depleted. Who wakes up each day like the blinking Keurig. “Not ready. Add Water.”

Who wants to have it together–but doesn’t.

If you are, you’re not alone. Because I am in this place, too.

And then, there’s Jesus… I have to believe He will come for us. That He will meet us in our drought. Because…

He  calls out to the thirsty.

And thirst is good. Because it makes us realize how desperate we are–for Him.

I don’t know when the rains will come. But they will come.

He will come. He has to. 

And though I feel like it has been a long time, in this drought season. I see a cloud. It’s only as small as a man’s hand. But I see a cloud…and rain is coming.

Jesus is coming. For us.

For the dry markers. And empty Keurig’s. And the barren lands. The souls thirsting for water.

I’m not afraid to admit: I’m thirsty. I’m dry. And I need Him. 

Because He will send the rain. He promises this.

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9

and

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

So let it rain God. 

I am thirsty for You. 

And You alone. 

 


You may also enjoy listening to this song by Kari Jobe, “Let Your Glory Fall.”

I Was Dreading My 30th Birthday Until My Daughter Said This…

“I can’t turn 30!” I was folding laundry in the living room and my 4-year-old daughter was sliding over the arm of the leather chair on her belly. She looked up at me and smiled. “Selah, I can’t turn 30!” I said again, half serious, and half joking.

She just giggled. (She continued pretending to be mermaid slipping down the front of the couch like it’s a water slide.) Meanwhile I began to panic inside.

I will turn 30 in just a few days. 

30? Really? 

Usually, I look forward to my birthday, but for the first time…I feel like that’s “old.”

I’m not a kid any more. 

Pretty soon, my knees will creak when I bend. My hair will gray and whiten. My eyes will wrinkle when I smile. And who knows what illness may be waiting for me in the years to come?

“I can’t turn 30…” I muttered again, this time dropping my face into my hands.

“Yes, you can Mom!” Selah said, coming over to me, smiling wide.

“I can’t turn 30!” I said again.

“Yes, you can Mom!” She said.

Then she came over to me and put her hands on my shoulders and got right in my face, just like a football coach.

“Mom,” she said, very matter-of-factly, “You have to turn 30!”

“Why?” I asked her. Honestly, wanting to know. But I didn’t expect what she said next…

“Because,” she said, getting right in my face, “God’s still growing you!”

God’s still growing you. 

And that’s when something caught in my spirit.

God

          is still

                       growing you. 

I pulled her close to me, and wrapped my arms around her, this little blonde girl, whose only four years old, but sometimes seems so much older. Who sometimes seems more like a little prophetess or angel, more like a messenger from God to me. Reminding me of wisdom from another world. Her words rang in my head.

God’s still growing you.”

And suddenly I realized, in that moment. It’s okay that I’m turning 30. It’s okay that my body might change, or will change, in the coming years. It’s okay that I get older. It’s okay I look older. And even feel older.

It’s okay that wrinkles eventually appear from all the years of laughing.

Because you know what?

God’s still growing me. 

And my body, may change, it may get weak and frail, and one day wear out. But even then,

God’s still growing me. 

And every year is a gift, to be celebrated. To look back on all God has done, to look ahead at all He will do.

And God is always, always growing us. Growing us up in Him. Growing us in Christ.

Every year He moves us a little more out of the kingdom of this world, and a little more into the kingdom of God–the kingdom we were born for.

And every birthday I turn a year older.

But that just means I’m one year closer to seeing Jesus,

face to face. 

 

And that is a reason to celebrate.

I don’t know what 30 will hold, or 50, or 70…or beyond.

But I know Who holds me.

And as long as He has me on this earth,

He is growing me. 

He is constantly growing me. 

And the only reason I breathe in and out each day is because

He fills me with His breath. 

And outwardly I may be wasting away…but inwardly, He is renewing me day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

And,  “My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

So, here’s to 30, I will embrace you with both arms. I won’t fear what the future holds. I won’t mourn my body. I won’t dread becoming older. Instead, I will smile at the future, and laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:26)

Because God is still growing me. 

“And besides Mom,” Selah says, “You have to turn 30, because you have to eat cake and blow out your candles!”

Yes, dear girl. I do. 

The God of Empty Rooms

 

Our first apartment was the size of a postage stamp. And I didn’t think about it so much then. Empty rooms. Because we didn’t have any.

But when we bought our first house. There was this one room. It was painted a beautiful shade of pink and had the name “Hannah” on the wall. It was a nursery when the realtor had showed us the house.

And I hoped one day…it would be a nursery for us, too.

But after we moved in, it was just…empty.

And it stayed empty. For months, even years.

(Read my infertility story here.)

We wanted it to be filled. We prayed for a baby, we did.

Every time I would walk past that room, I would ache for a baby. Sometimes, I would keep the door shut, so I wouldn’t have to think about it. And other times, I would leave it wide open.

Sometimes I would throw junk in there when company was coming over. And other times, I would go in and clean it up. Really for no reason at all.

And then, sometimes, I would just go sit in there, by myself, and pray.

For a baby.

For God to fill this empty room.

To fill my empty womb. 

 

And, finally, one day, He did.

I say this with tears,

He did. 

(And the picture at the top of this post was taken in that empty room, after she came.)

But before she came, before she ever was breathed into my womb. God came.

He came into my emptiness.

He came like a flood. He came and saturated my barren soul with Himself.

And He showed me my womb was not empty. I was not empty. But full. Full of Him. Full of His Spirit. And therefore, I was alive.

I didn’t have a baby in my womb. But I had the Holy Spirit–who conquered Jesus’ tomb–living inside of me.

Dear Barren One,

You know that empty room in your house? The one you walk past and dream? The one you wish wasn’t an office, or a guest room, or a storage room full of junk, and so badly wish it was a nursery? You know that room?

God is there. 

Because He is the God of empty rooms. 

The God of empty wombs. 

And the God of empty tombs. 

Yes, He is God. The Giver of Life.

He is Jesus.

He defeated death. 

 

And is full of resurrection power. And life, life, life. 

So don’t stop asking. Don’t stop crying out.

Because He sees you. And He hears you. Cry.

To Him.

Go in your empty room, and worship Him there.

Because He is worthy.

And He fills.

He fills the empty space in that room.

He fills the empty place in your womb.

And your womb, dear one, may be empty, but don’t forget this one very important thing: the Spirit lives in you. The Spirit of God lives in you. He lives in you and makes you alive.

And of this you can be certain: He will fill your emptiness—with Himself.

Because He satisfies in the deepest places, and most empty spaces.

He comes. At your cry.

He comes rushing in, at the sound of your voice.

And even before.

“Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

Before you even ask Him, He hears you. Before the word is even on your tongue, He knows it completely. He hems you in, behind and before. And He knit you together in the secret place of your mother’s womb. (Psalm 39)

And He is God over your secret places. Your empty spaces.

And, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…” (Isaiah 59:1)

So I just want to pray:

God,

You see her who is reading this. You know her. You formed her for Yourself and Your glory. And You are relentlessly pursuing her even now. You want all of her heart. All of it. Even this. And I pray that You come fill her. With Your Spirit. Come and fill the empty. With Yourself. 

We declare that You are God of the empty tomb, Jesus. You defeated death and sin. You made us new within. And the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead–is living inside of her. (Romans 8:11)

So let her not walk in death, but in life. Glorious life. Come make her alive in You. By Your Spirit. 

It is her desire that You fill her empty womb. And that you fill her empty room. 

Thank You that you are there now. Even now you are working in those empty places, and making them full. 

Full of You, God. 

Fill her room (or rooms) with whom You desire. In the time that You desire. For Your will is perfect. Whether they come from her womb, or from somewhere else. Whether it’s a baby, or a toddler. Whether this child comes from her state foster system, or from an orphanage across the ocean. Wherever this child comes from, we know he or she comes from You. And maybe it’s not a child, maybe it’s a teenager, or adult. Maybe it’s a whole family, coming to stay for a while. I don’t know, but you know. Either way…

Come fill the empty space, with grace. 

Come fill the empty place, with Jesus. 

And I pray that when she sees that empty room, she will not feel sad anymore. But feel hopeful. Because You are there.

You make the empty full. And You are the God of her empty room. Her empty womb. And the empty tomb. And You will fill her with Yourself and Your everlasting life. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen. 

 

[P.S. I was just about to publish this post and this song just came on my Spotify. I didn’t even know this song–but I don’t think it’s coincidence. The first lyrics are, “Before I call, before I ever cry, You answer me from where the thunder hides…” (the Scripture I was just referencing from Isaiah 65:24!) I literally have chills. Oh girls, God is in this. I really believe He is pursuing you. Right now. You are on the brink of something beautiful opening up inside you. So, I want to dare you to do something. Play this song in your “empty room” wherever it may be. Worship Him in that space. (Then play more songs, if you want to.) Let yourself go, and worship Him. He is totally there with you. The song is called “Fierce” by Jesus Culture, and you can play the youtube link by clicking here. ]

The Sacred Art of Remembering

Can I be honest? I’ve had a hard time engaging with God lately. Maybe it’s because I’m 3 weeks post-partum and I’m a little thrown off my rocker. Or, maybe it’s because it’s the dead of winter.  Either way, I finally made some time–just to meet with Him.

My husband and daughter were out at a basketball game. And my newborn son had just fallen asleep.

I brewed some coffee, and opened my Bible and journal. I was trying. But…the words in my Bible just seemed to blur. And I stared instead at my blank journal.

And felt…just that.

Blank.

My mind was tired from the day, and I had nothing.

I looked down at my newborn son sleeping in my lap. I studied his face. When so subtly, I heard the Lord say…

“Remember when I healed his brain?”

My heart wrenched. (To read that story click here.)

Tears filled my eyes.

I remembered.

And my spirit, which has felt asleep the last few weeks…suddenly awakened.

I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

“Let’s play a game,” I felt God say, “It’s called…’Remember when I…”

My heart burned. And my hands trembled.

And I opened my journal, and began..

“Remember when I heard your cry to get pregnant?”

“Remember the day you found out you were pregnant in the upstairs bathroom, and fell on your knees by the sink?”

“Remember when I provided for you and your husband?”

“Remember when I showed you which house to rent?”

“Rembember when I provided the house you have now?”

“Remember when I…”

(I know these examples may seem flat as you read this…but to me, they are deeply meaningful experiences I had with God. And there are more. More than I could share. And some, too personal to share.)

But what I want to say is…I began to remember.

All of these specific moments where He came through. 

Where He showed Himself faithful.

Where He showed Himself kind.

Where He showed Himself.

Close. To me.

Presently involved in situations I didn’t know He cared about.

But He did.

And He does.

And He’s close. Closer than any of us dare to believe.

And as I wrote in my journal, as I took time to simply “remember,” a song called “Take A Moment” by Will Reagan came on. And no joke, the words were, “Take a moment to remember, who God is, and who I am…”

“Take a moment…to remember.”

I was pierced to the heart. God came through to me. Even in spite of my sleep deprivation. Even in spite of my many unspiritual thoughts lately. Even in spite of my lack of effort to draw near to Him.

He was simply inviting me…through some mysterious invitation from His Spirit, to “remember.”

Remember. 

We always want God to speak something new to us. We always want God to do something. To change something. And we should–after all, He is God. He invites His children to ask Him, to call upon Him day and night.

But there is something so sacred and so holy about just pausing to remember what He has already done. 

The more we remember, the more we can trust Him. The more we can rest in Him. The more we know how very near He is.

David wrote, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.” Psalm 77: 11-12

Maybe you too have had a hard time engaging with Him lately. Maybe you aren’t sure what to read, or write, or do. And it’s okay.

Because maybe you just need to look behind you for a moment. Take a breath and see how far He has taken you. Where the road has curved and bent. Where it was dark and scary. And where He brought you through the pass. Where He met you and showed you how to walk.

Maybe you just need to sit a rock, and remember. That time. And that time. And that time.

Because He is so faithful. And the things He does…are worth remembering. This is the sacred art of remembering.

And maybe He’s whispering to your spirit tonight. Maybe He’s inviting you to play a holy game called,

“Remember when I…”

Remember. 

Baby Boy Is Here

After a very long and intense 30-hour labor–our baby boy arrived on December 14th at 10:39 p.m.

We named him Jesse Michael. Jesse which means “gift.” And we are so in love.

I never knew a boy could be so beautiful, but he is.

Oh, it was the hardest day of my life. Laboring with him. Everyone told me their second labor was faster and easier…but mine was longer…and so much harder. But the Lord was with me, and my husband, Brandon. Who again proved himself to be like an angel without wings. Soothing me with his gentle voice, and persistent spirit, he did not leave my side.

By the end, I literally felt like I was at the end of myself. Like I had nothing left. I felt like he would never come. Like I could never cross that finish line. Like he was still a million miles away. So far out of reach.

But he was right there, the whole time. Just waiting for the right moment.

And I listened to that song, “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Gretzinger, and I wept in between contractions.

“Baby, you’re almost home now, 

Please don’t quit now,

Baby, you’re almost home now,

to me…”

And finally, he came. By some miracle, God opened the way. And delivered him. And me.

And when he finally came out, (facing up, so that our spines were against each other the whole time)…he was a whopping 9 lbs. 11 oz.! (Almost 3 pounds heavier than his big sister!)

And they threw him on my chest, and he wailed, and my husband and I, cried happy tears. And my fragile arms shook with this miracle, I couldn’t believe I was at last holding in my arms.

***

 

Sometimes, even when I am so beyond tired…I can’t close my eyes. I lay on the bed and just stare at him. The wonder of him.

The wonder that he is here.

How did he come to us?

How did God form this masterpiece?

This masterpiece we had no idea would be coming to us at this time last year.

But he came. 

Not because we did anything to deserve him. Not because we proved our faith to God.

But because of God.

God gives good and perfect gifts.

He came like a gift. Undeserved. Unearned.

But gladly received with great joy.

Received with open arms. And hot and happy tears. And hearts exploding with joy. Our arms and our hearts stretch to wrap around you.

Welcome to the world, Jesse. You are a perfect gift.

And we thank God for giving you to us.

For you are from Him.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17


For more on the story behind our second miracle, Jesse, read these posts:

God Did It Again: Our Second Miracle, On the Way

When God Surprises You Big Time

To the Angels Without Wings

When You Want To Give Your Child A Sibling, But You Can’t

Dear Baby Boy,

baby boy

Dear Baby Boy,

I should be sleeping now, but I can’t. It’s 5:04 a.m. and I’m wide awake–dreaming of you, here in the dark, as your Daddy sleeps next to me.

I look through our door and see your room. Your crib ready…for you.  And I miss you baby boy.

I don’t know how I can miss someone I’ve never met?

But my heart longs for you, as I lay here.

I want to see your face. I want to touch your skin.

I want to hold you in my arms, that ache for you now.

Warm tears sting my eyes as I imagine holding you. As I lay here in waiting and wonder…

How much longer, till you come?

I move from my bed to the living room couch. And it’s still dark out through the windows. And I wait for you, like a watchman waits for dawn. For those first pierces of light.

How can you be so close, and yet feel so far away?

How can you be right here, inside me–and still not close enough?

I am ready to hold you. And let you hold,

all of my heart. 

Baby Boy, what is your name?

You are like a secret wrapped within me. A mystery, yet to be unfolded. A sacred gift, still in paper.

No eye has ever truly seen you.

Except God.

God, who spoke your name while I was in the barren place.

God, who formed you inside me.

God, who breathed His life into your lungs.

God, who has done this wonder, in the secret  place.

I long to hear what He hears. When you cry.

I long to see what He sees.

To see this masterpiece He has made.

The masterpiece of you. 

Come soon, baby boy.

I’m saving you a spot, right here in my arms. Right here,

in my heart.

And I hear this song in my spirit, and I think of you,

“Baby, you’re almost home now. Please don’t quit now.

Baby, you’re almost home now, to me.”

It’s still dark out, and I wait to hold you on my chest. To feel your heart, beat against mine. To rub your smooth back with my hands, as you rest on me.

And I’ll take in, as my own oxygen, the rising and falling of your each and every breath.

Baby, you’re almost home now. Please don’t quit now.

Baby you’re almost home now, to me.

Come, be with us.

We are all waiting and longing for you.

Until you come…

I will wait here in the dark for you.

I will wait for the sun.

For my son. 

To rise. 

 

Love,

           Mom

 


“Like” Barren to Beautiful’s Facebook page to stay updated on new posts and encouragement during infertility, motherhood, and marriage. Or, Follow this Blog on the right side of this page by entering your email address in the box and get every  new post delivered to your inbox!

10 Things Every Christian Will Be Tempted To Forget After The Election

usa

We will all wake up on November 9th and realize: it’s done. We will have a new president. (No matter how loved or hated.)

People will go around at night and yank up either all the Trump or Hillary signs from the cold wet dirt.

And people will freak out on Facebook. Either way. There will be rants, and memes, and hoards of nasty comments.

There may even be rioting in some places.

So what will you do, dear Christian?

The world will respond how the world will respond. But what about you?

You may not think that your response matters. You may think that the election is over, so you can wait four more years to try again.

But what you do after the election, and every day in between now and the next election—matters. 

It matters so much.

What matters now, is not who you voted for–what matters now is how you will live. 

As Christians, here are some things we will be tempted to forget. In fact, I think Satan would love us all to forget these 10 things. But they are the truth, and we can stand on them in the days and years to come:

1. God is not surprised (at all) about who “won” this election.

No one gets elected into office without permission from God. He holds the final authority over the authorities of our land.

Romans 13:1 “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

2. God is not anxious, worried, or depressed about who won this election. 

He isn’t in heaven wringing his hands, and neither should we. He knew before the foundations of the earth, who would govern our country at this time in history. And He’s not afraid of it. Why? Because He is God. And His purpose will stand. 

“He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Isaiah 42:4

He will not fail nor be discouraged. God has a plan, and He will carry it out. 

3. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. 

It would have been nice if when Jesus came to earth, He set up a perfect, flawless government system to keep us all in perfect peace–but He didn’t. That’s not why He came. He didn’t come to be a political figure. The Jews would have loved to see a Messiah that looked like a king, and brought a kingdom, and enforced it here on the earth. But that is not at all what Jesus did. When Jesus was arrested and brought to Pilate, he answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36

He didn’t come up to set up a political power. But to unveil His Spiritual power. And to rescue us from our sin.

4. Our Savior is not (and never will be) from this world. 

No person in political power can save us. Even the best candidate will be sinful and flawed, and should not be seen as a “savior.” God’s Word specifically tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3)

Instead it says, to hope in God. 

“Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever.” (Psalm 146:5-6)

No prince or president can save us from the wrath to come, only Jesus can do that.

5. Jesus is our ONLY hope. 

I don’t care who you voted for. One day, you will sit before the judgement seat of God. And in that day, only one person can stand at your defense. Only one person can cleanse you of every sin. Only one person can cover your nakedness and shame, and clothe you with His righteousness. Only one person can stand before God the Father in your defense, and and shout at the top of His lungs, “She is covered by my blood!” “She is mine!”

And that person is: Jesus Christ. 

Hope in Him. Hope only in Him. In this life, and the life to come.

6. God has specifically purposed you to be alive at this EXACT time in History. 

There is a reason you were not born a hundred years earlier, or a hundred years later. God specifically put you here on the earth, at this time in history, for His divine purpose. 

His Word says,  “All the days ordained for me have been written in His book, before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

He chose you to be alive at this time in America, under this president, with these laws (or lack thereof), and these people. Why? Because He has a purpose for you right here, and right now. You can complain about our culture, or you can step into it. Because you are here for such a time as this.

7. Real “religious freedom” comes from God, not governments. 

Many Christians are terrified of losing our “religious freedom.” And I know it can be a scary thing, but when Jesus set up His Church on the earth, He said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

So whether we are meeting freely in the public square, or secretly in a dark corner of someone’s basement…God’s kingdom will prevail. Let’s not forget that when God’s people were prisoners in Egypt–He sent plagues and split the sea to rescue them. When Paul and Silas were bound in prison–He sent an earthquake to set them free. And how many times did He send angel armies to war on His behalf?

Has God ever been bound by the laws or threats of man?

Perilous times may come. But not our government, nor ISIS, nor even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church, His Bride.

8. Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans. The Holy Spirit is alive and active on the earth. 

The world cannot see Him or recieve Him, but “you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you.” (See John 14:16-18) Jesus promised He would not leave us as orphans, but that He would come to us through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here to guide us, comfort us, convict us, and fill us with supernatural power to bring glory to God.

9. Laws don’t change people’s hearts. Only Jesus does. 

I wish we had laws that kept everyone peaceful and kind. But we don’t. We can get really upset when laws change. But more laws and better laws don’t actually change people. That was what the Pharisees wanted. They kept dragging out these “sinners” in front of Jesus and wanted Jesus to tell them what the “law says.” (Like the woman caught in adultery.) They wanted Jesus to condemn these “law-breaking” sinners. But Jesus knew the law couldn’t save anyone. That’s why He always spoke to the heart of a person.

As Christians, we can wish the “laws” of our land took care of people’s morals or prevented sin. (And I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight for laws that will prevent evil or innocent lives. But we have to realize that there’s more to it than that. )

Personally, I wish we had more laws against abortion. But I can’t just hope the “law” takes care of it. If I really love babies, then I need to get involved in the lives of broken women. I can see women in difficult situations and have compassion on them. I can get involved with counseling at the Women’s Care center. I can become friends with teen girls. I can do foster care, and take in a baby whose mom decided not to abort, even when it got really hard. I can rejoice with pregnant teens, and throw them baby showers, and financially support them.

There are a thousand things we can do as Christians in between elections to make a real difference in the issues we claim to care about.

It’s easier when checking a box on a ballot takes care of it. But sometimes, most times, it doesn’t.

So, this is our moment to wake up. And step up. Which leads me to the last point..

10. Love is the most powerful weapon we have. 

The world sees Christ not in our angry political banter on Facebook. But in the loving, gentle, compassion of Christians who are willing to get low, to get dirty, to become completely humble, and listen to a world that is very much hurting.

This is so convicting for me. Because the call to love people and really see people the way Christ loves and sees people–is one of the most risky and wild businesses I could ever get involved in.

Because it means we get low with people caught in adultery, and draw in the dirt, like Jesus. And we share meals with thieves, and touch people who no one else will touch.

We aren’t called to hide from the darkness.

We are called to live in it, and be the light.

We are called to invade the darkness with light.

We are called to stand with Jesus. The One true King.

Who is coming back.

For, in just a little while, He will come. He will stand upon the earth, and all the armies of heaven will come riding in behind Him.

And when He comes, I pray He finds us bringing good news to the poor, and binding up the brokenhearted, and comforting those who mourn. I pray He finds us giving beauty, instead of ashes, to a burning world. For we are all in need of His rescue.

And He will come.

In this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world. So don’t grow weary, or lose heart.

The Spirit of the Lord is on you.

For such a  time as this.

How I Found Joy During Infertility

infertility

I had heard about “infertility” before I got married. But to be honest, I always kind of shrugged it off. I was sure there were people “out there” who couldn’t get pregnant–but I never imagined I would be one of them.

Why, you ask?

Because I come from a very long line of  “fertile” women. I felt sure, if anything…it would be too easy to get pregnant.

That’s why I was so adamant about taking my “pill” each night. And making sure there were no “accidents.”

But after a few years…something changed.

And I wanted to have a baby. 

I remember how excited we were, that first fragile month that I chucked the disc of pills into the garbage can, and for the first time ever, we tried. 

A few weeks later, I took a pregnancy test before work in the morning. I couldn’t wait to announce to my husband as we both got dressed for work, that we were going to have a baby!

I never expected the test to read: negative.

I never expected the next month, and the next month, and the next to be negative, too.

And I never expected those months to turn into years, years full of “negative.” But…they did.

I was completely unprepared for the emotional journey that was “infertility.”

It felt like riding a rollercoaster every month. There was the hope that, “This month could be different!” The anticipation that comes with trying, and wondering if life has formed in you? The waiting to know. And then the dissapointment when your period returns. Again.

To go through this cycle every month, never knowing when, or if, it will end can be tiring.

Infertility wears on you.

It wears on your soul.

Everyone knows that labor hurts. But no one actually tells you that infertility hurts, too.

On the inside.

In this secret place that no one else can see. Like a locked garden.

Like a mystery.

It’s not a labor of the body, it’s a labor of the soul.

You wait and wonder. You cry and pray. You long and hope. And you try…to hold it all together. You try to hold eachother together, as husband and wife.

But sometimes, you start to sort of unravel inside.

Because you desire to be a mom with all your heart. You feel ready. You wish it could just happen the normal way (as it seems to with everyone else.)

You want love-making and baby-making to go hand-in-hand. But then…sometimes it’s not so simple.

I remember it was especially hard those months when I thought I was pregnant, only to find out I wasn’t. Because some months I really did feel different. 

I was more moody, and hungry, and tired. (How many times did I Google “pregnancy symptoms”—in hopes that I was?) But, then, my period would come.

So, it was several years of this wear and tear on my soul, before I realized: I had a choice to make. 

I didn’t even know I had a choice. (Other than to feel bummed out…pretty much all the time.)

I did know that every single month when my period came back. And every single day, in between.

I had a choice between joy and despair. 

Now let me tell you, I did’t read a self-help book to come this. I didn’t even read infertility blogs (if they existed, I didn’t know about them!)

All I did was pray. And read Scripture. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit would speak to me. When I was quiet enough to hear Him.

There were a few key things the Holy Spirit showed me during that time–and these changed me. They changed the way I saw everything.

If you have read my story about my barreness, or my second miracle pregnancy, you know that I didn’t stay barren forever.

Maybe the miracles of my pregnancies drew you to this blog, but I want to tell you about an earlier miracle. Perhaps, the most amazing of all.

This miracle happened in my soul–before I ever got pregnant.

Before I have had a child.

See, when you are barren, you often don’t simply have a barren womb. You also have a barren soul.

And I was truly barren, not just in my womb, but in my soul. I saw my life as this dry, barren wasteland. I saw only what I was lacking. I was thirsty, and I didn’t know how to be quenched.

I was angry and sad. I knew God had the power to heal me–but He wasn’t healing me.

I got to a point where I could “accept” or, “tolerate” the fact that I couldn’t get pregnant. I was able to “grit and bear it.” (And, I actually thought that I was doing pretty well–but I wasn’t.)

Because God didn’t want me to simply “tolerate” the life He was giving me.

He wanted me to embrace it.

He wanted me to enjoy it.

To enjoy Him–in it.

(Because He never left. He was there all along, even in every moment of the infertility.)

For some reason I thought I couldn’t be happy or fulfilled until He gave me a baby.

But He wanted to show me that He was enough–before I ever got a baby. (And, even if He never gave me a baby.)

I was looking for a baby to satisfy what only God could. 

All that time, I was clenching my fists closed in anger at what God had allowed in my life, but He wanted me to open my hands.

He wanted me to surrender my plans to His. My desires to His. And He wanted me to embrace the life and calling He had for me–even if I didn’t understand it at the time.

When someone gives you a gift, you don’t “tolerate” it.

You thank them for it.

And I remember when I realized I needed to thank Him.  For inferitility. (I know how absolutely crazy this sounds.) But I realized that if God had chosen this for me, it must be good, and He must have a purpose in it–even if I couldn’t see it yet.

So, I literally thanked Him for everything I could think of that was “good” about not being pregnant. I thanked Him that I didn’t have to stop excercising, or go through morning sickness, or endure labor and delivery. I thanked Him that I didn’t have to put on baby wieght, or have a flabby stomach, or vericose veins. (Yes, I was vain. But honest, nonetheless.)

The more I thanked God for His plan, and His timing, the more good I saw in it. And the more I was able to truly surrender.

It’s not that I was “giving up.” It’s that I was “giving over.” I was giving it over to God. The only One who could do anything about it.

I literally did not know what God would do.

I didn’t know if I would ever have a baby.

But right there, right in that place, where my arms were empty, and my womb was barren–was the place He wanted me to lift my arms and worship Him.

To say and mean with all my heart, “Even if You don’t give me what I desperately want, You are still enough. You are still everything. And You still have all of my heart.”

And you know what?

Something changed.

Joy came RUSHING back into my life.

My eyes began to stop seeing all the “lack” in my life. And I started to see all the beauty in it.

I began to realize what God had already given me.

And I began to cherish my husband, and my friends. My students, and family. All the ones He had already placed before me, to love. 

I started to stand in the roles He had already placed me in. I embraced my role as a wife, and at my job, and other opportunities I had to serve people. And I started to enjoy them. 

I no longer saw myself as a victim of infertility. But instead, as a daughter of God who was chosen and set-apart for His unique purpose for me. Maybe God has some wild plan for us, I could never even imagine? Maybe He will send us oversees? Maybe there is some child waiting in an orphanage that is our baby to adopt? Maybe something is coming around the corner–we never expected?

I didn’t know what it was. But I clung to the Scripture, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

One day, as I was about to leave work, I felt God speak to me, in the form of a song. (I know, it sounds strange.) I didn’t hear the music, just the lyrics. But I remember writing them down on pink sticky notes that were on my desk. And this is what I heard,

“There’s Someone living inside you,

Though not a child tucked inside your womb,

But it’s my Holy Spirit, who conquered Jesus’ tomb.

He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive,

Hear Him roar?

And you’re alive, you’re alive,

More than ever before.”

My heart burned, and I went home and crashed down at my piano and stuck all the sticky notes to it. But as I began to play and sing, all I could hear, was Him singing them to me. And I say this with tears,

Something broke in me. 

In that moment, hot tears rolled down my cheeks, and I was undone.

He was living in me. 

I was no longer barren.

He was alive in me, so I was alive. 

Sure, nothing changed in my womb–but my spirit came to life that day. His Spirit came to life in me.

And the presence of God surrounded me there. And He showed me that He was living in me. 

Therefore, I was alive. 

That was the day, I literally crossed from “barren to beautiful.”

I no longer saw the barreness in my life, all I could see was His beauty. And the beauty He had filled my life with.

God came, and took away my barreness.

And I had joy again. I could breathe again. And laugh again.

But most of all, live again.

Yes, I was still infertile.

But I was His. And He would not let me go.

Yes, I was still not pregnant. 

But I was exactly where He wanted me to be. And He would fulfill His beautiful purpose for me.

Yes, I still wanted to have a baby. 

But I knew He would satisfy me. Whether or not, I had a baby. And if He wanted to give me a baby, He would do it, in His time, and in His way.

Dear Barren or Infertile One,

If God has led you here, He wants to take your barreness away.

I don’t know what He will do in your physical womb. But I know what He will do in your soul, if you ask Him. 

And I believe He is about to birth something in you, more beautiful than you could ever, possibly imagine.

Maybe it’s not that you need to “pull up your bootstraps” and have more faith that you will get pregnant. 

Dear One, He already sees you and knows you. He already hears your cries. He sees your faith, and He sees where you lack faith, too. But He will fulfill His purpose for you.

He will. 

And instead of pulling up your bootstraps of faith…maybe it’s time to take off your boots. Kick them off.

And run barefoot with Him for a while.

Surrender. 

Knowing, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

Because He has an adventure waiting for you on the other side of your fears. And it’s wild, and free, and full of Him.

Chase Him, and He will take you where you never dared to go. And show you things you didn’t dream possible.

And one day, you will be running with Him, and suddenly realize you have crossed, from barren to beautiful.

And you will never go back.