When You’re Weary with the Work of Raising Up Children


Maybe you’re a mom like me. A mom with littles round knees and ankles, just trying to stay afloat. Everyday the struggle is real. The struggle between loving your kids so much it literally hurts and the millions of ways they hurt your heart and you hurt theirs.

How? You wonder. How in the midst of housework and chores, a fulltime job and supper plans? In frustrations, and messes, and tempers lost? In siblings arguing, teenagers rebelling, marriage and finances straining, straining can you do what you need to do persistently enough, consistently enough, to make these precious ones turn out good and righteous and holy enough?

How can you teach them to love the Lord when you’re so unbelievably flawed? When you get it wrong more than you get it right?

Maybe you homeschool. Maybe you teach. Maybe you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle, babysitter, daycare worker, youth pastor, foster parent, neighbor, or friend.

No matter who you are or what you do chances are good you have a child or children in your life that you love to pieces, that mean(s) the world to you. And if you have a child to love, and if you yourself love the Lord, chances are also good that all you really, really want in life, at the end of the day is to know that child loves the Lord too. I mean really loves the Lord, in a lifelong relationship kind of way.

And if you’re like me, it probably feels like you never do enough, like you are never enough. That you never seem to say the right things or do the right things to make this deepest desire of your heart come true. Many days (most days) are spent just wondering what those right things are. Just praying that all these mistakes you’ve made will somehow not matter, not mess everything up. Just praying that someday you’ll get your act together enough to mold those little hearts into what they need to be.

It’s exhausting isn’t it? But guess what?

It isn’t true. It isn’t real. This is not what’s needed.

This worry. This doubt. This striving to rescue and save your children, it’s not who you’re designed to be, it’s not what you’re designed to do.

IMG_1216Last Sunday morning in the middle of weekend chores, in the middle of hammers and sawdust, and working side by side with her dad, Aletheia asked Chris if he’d help her pray to accept Jesus as her Savior.

For several weeks now, she’s been asking questions. Deep questions. Important questions. Questions about sin, and Jesus, and the state of her heart. We’ve taken the time to talk with her. We’ve prayed and prayed and prayed.

And then one morning, everything changes. Forever changes.

Something in my girl took root. It’s given her wings, and light, and life everlasting! As her mom, it’s a shiningly beautiful thing to see…

But it’s not because of me. It’s not because of things I’ve done right or things I’ve done wrong. It’s not because of VBS or stories or songs, homeschool, Sunday school or countless words spoken, countless prayers prayed.

It’s because of Jesus and His Holy Spirit working in my daughter’s heart to rescue her unto Him, to redeem her heart and make it new.

That’s it. And while He uses all these good and wonderful things in good and wonderful ways, the state of her heart depends on His work and His work only.

This is what’s up to me, to remember that my little ones matter to Him. To remember He loves them deeper and better and more completely than I ever could.

SwingWhat is needed at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the day is nothing more than a constant offering of grace. Of giving them Jesus and His good news like I give them food. Like I give them clothes and shoes and a house to live in. Even more. Because this is what feeds, and sustains, and nourishes all that lasts forever.

What is needed is to tell them, show them, again and again, how good God is, how great is His love.

What is needed is to take my successes and turn their eyes to His glory, His grace. To take my failures and turn their eyes to His work, His cross.

Both of us growing, both of us existing on who He is and what He’s done. Because I need this. Oh, how I need it? Again and again, as much as they do.

 When this is my focus everything becomes an opportunity to fill up on God. And when we fill our minds and hearts on God, everything fills. Our house fills, our days fill. Church, school, and life fills. And, no, nothing is ever perfect and nothing ever will be, but again this goodness rings true:

 When we’re exhausted, He can’t be.

When we run on empty, He overflows.

When we’re inefficient, He is sufficient.

And He always and only gives love, gives grace.

And this offering grace, this giving them Jesus, is something we can all do. At home, at school, at church. When we laugh, when we cry, when we pray. When we sing, and dance, and fight, and learn. When we fail and when we fly.

Again and again we can do this.

We can feed them Jesus. We can feast on grace.

 And find everything that ever mattered, is everlastingly full.

~For more please check out Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson which greatly inspired this post.

When You Need to Know that Friendships Last

Pooh PlaqueIt all started with my Aunt Michelle, this brilliant string of unexpected visits.

Then came our friends from Virginia, the Blum Family. Our visit with the Blums was short but oh, so sweet. For not quite 24 hours we talked, and laughed, and enjoyed a Michigan summer afternoon at a nearby park. We feasted on Oberon brats and strawberry cake with frozen custard. Vanilla coke ran cold and plentiful as we picked up where we left off in that sacred way only old friends do.

These visits would have been enough to make my summer but, wait, there’s more!

Just days before the Blums arrived I received the following text from one of our North Carolina friends:

Rachel Text

Am I okay with that??? Oh my goodness, YES!!! The fact that this brave woman would willingly tack on an extra seven hours driving time with four children in the car (which let’s face it means an extra ten hours at least!) to come and see me makes me feel so, so loved. I haven’t seen this sister-of-the-heart friend in almost four years and to have her here with me, to see our kiddos playing together, to actually feel our words and hugs and laughter exchanged in the flesh fills me with so much joy.

And really, these visits from family and friends aren’t just bright spots in my summer line-up; they are encouragement for my soul.

Throughout my life the end of close relationships has left me wondering, time and again, do friendships ever last? Is there such a thing as a forever friend?

I remember the silver necklace I exchanged with my best friend at the end of sixth grade. A tiny heart with a jagged cut down the middle. She kept one half and I kept the other. One side reading, “Friends,” the other side, “Forever.”

IMG_2036Two months later my family packed a moving van to the brim and rolled away to another state. What turned out to be forever was 800 miles between us. It was the first real lost I ever felt.

Since then friends have walked in and out of my life. They moved, I moved. Hearts, beliefs, and loyalties changed. Some relationships fell to pieces in a burst of hurt and misunderstanding, and some simply faded in natural ways. Always there was this question that lingered in their wake: How could these friendships that I thought would last forever suddenly be gone?

But there’s also this lingering proof, this evidence that friendship can last. There’s these friends that brave miles, and hours, and long distance phone calls, texts, and messages. They use Skype and FaceTime and yearly visits to prove there is such a thing as forever friends.

And I am thankful. I’m thankful to have these friends in my life, and I’m thankful for the chance to be that sort of friend in return.

A few days ago I came across a tiny silver necklace of two birds sitting side by side on the limb of a tree. It made me think of the relationship I share with a friend here in town that has become so dear to me. My husband and I are facing the possibility of a move and our friendship may be forced into the long distance category.

But this friend, she’s of the forever variety. I know this in my heart. No matter what happens to the amount of miles between us, the two of us will remain as close as the birds on that silvery branch.

I bought that necklace and gave it to her over lunch and tears and fears of the future. I guess it was my way of showing her what our recent visits from family and friends have shown me this summer.

“There’s one thing we don’t have to fear,” I told her, “this friendship we share…no matter what…”

Because the message that lies between the hearts of two friends never really changes. Birds of a feather really do flock together…

 Forever and for always.

What I Can’t Help but Say this 4th of July

IMG_4076Today my girls and I talked about the Fourth of July. As they colored pictures of the American flag I played a music video about the flag and its colors. 

As we watched the video I saw pictures of soldiers and footage of men coming home from war. I saw endless rows of Arlington gravestones. I saw veterans saluting the flag with unbridled respect and pride.

And all I wanted to do was cry. Chill bumps rose on my arms and inside my chest my heart just swelled.

I always get this way around the fourth. When I listen to the patriotic songs. When I watch the Patriot or read a WWII novel. I get this way when I see veterans honored and the flag waving so beautiful in a patch of golden light.

Part of me feels silly but shouldn’t it be this way? Inside every American chest shouldn’t a tender heart beat proud and strong for the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Because here’s the thing: If we aren’t moved with love and pride for our country we won’t be moved to protect and defend her. 

There is a lot happening in our nation today that saddens me and breaks my heart but there is also so much for which I am grateful, for which I am proud. And I’ll be damned if I’m not willingly to protect what makes our nation great, what makes me love this land.

This Fourth of July, it’s easy to be discouraged, it’s tempting to lose hope. And while I don’t have the answers about our country and her future, I do know the first step in fighting for, protecting, and preserving the country we love is falling in love with our country all over again. 

Get personal.

Get emotional.

Be moved.

Then make a move for the country you love.

Watch a movie.

Listen to a song.

Read a book about our history.

Talk to a veteran.

Visit a war memorial cemetery.

Hit your knees and pray.

And take that pride that burns in your belly and do something. Stand up for what you believe in. Be the difference. Make the change.

The Fourth of July comes once a year but the American spirit, in its essence, cannot expire. 

Be moved. Then move. 

Because that flag… 

 Oh, that flag.