Motherhood & Spiritual Disciplines

Motherhood & Spiritual DisciplinesThis is how most mornings look around here. Some time between 6:30am and 7am I’m joined by at least one or two kids (this morning all four jumped in bed). I read my Bible between snuggles, baby dolls, blankets, often Legos, breakfast requests (Can I have my Valentine candy? No.), and voices that are not quite morning tones, but still I read and try to journal notes if someone hasn’t already stolen my pen.

There have been seasons I have allowed myself to get really frustrated that this “quiet time” (a phrase that can be so unhelpful) was regularly interrupted by my early morning risers and I struggled to find other times in the day to soak in the Word. I longed for the days when getting up early meant 6am and I could spend a solid 30 minutes to an hour to read and study the Word and pray in silence as it’s “suppose to be.”

Let’s take a detour here. Quiet time? It’s a phrase widely used across AmericanChristendom, coined to describe a spiritual discipline of beginning the day reading the Scriptures and in prayer. It comes with the connotation that this is the ultimate ideal. Before you attend to anything else in your day, you should be in the Word and praying. This is what godly people do if they really love the Lord. You’re giving the Lord your first fruits, filling up for the day, you’ll fail if you don’t, etc. It’s no wonder so many mothers are discouraged, disheartened, and believe they’re failing at the Christian life.

When you’re waking every few hours to nurse, rock a baby back to sleep, clean up accidents or vomit, awakened to a child standing over your bed asking for water/milk/food/a cuddle, it’s no wonder when the morning light starts to peek through they’re not ready for a morning coffee in their favorite arm chair next to a basket with their Bible, prayer journal, personal journal,  and devotional or Bible study. They’re exhausted. Nevermind that the day before they probably spent 16 hours on their feet serving their family in some capacity or another.  The thing they want and need the most–more Jesus–feels so far off in the constant demand of children and running a house. From my experience, it’s not a lack of desire that keeps women from the Word, but exhaustion and a framework of spiritual disciplines that are unhelpful.

The idea of a quiet time is good in and of itself, but the emphasis we place on it, particularly that is must happen first thing in the morning and how often the weight of sanctification is placed on that thirty minutes to an hour of time can be harmful. Strive for time spent in the Word, pray often. Yes, Jesus often went off by himself in the morning to pray and commune with the Lord, but neither of these things must happen in your first hour or two. They should permeate all of our day in different ways.

Detour ended. You may continue.

Motherhood & Spiritual Disciplines

Two things have helped me to just do it anyway, even if the circumstances aren’t my ideal.

First, a pastor’s wife I knew once told me a story about a young mom who prior to having children had long, in-depth, meditative quiet times between 1-2 hours a day and after having kids she tried to keep this discipline. She ended up putting her children in high chairs at the table, giving them snacks and toys, while she tried to have her old quiet time. They would cry and try to get out, clamoring and just being little kids. It left her exasperated. She couldn’t meet the Lord in the Word the same way as she had before, though she tried hard to force it.

I remember the pastor’s wife saying your quiet time is going to change when you have kids. It’s going to look different and that’s okay. Too often we put too much stock in what we think, or have been led to believe, a “quiet time” is suppose to look like and rather than just read the Word we get caught up in all the steps we think we’re suppose to do. Just open up your Bible and read.

Second, I’ve learned the hard way it does me no good to get ridiculously frustrated over things that are really not that important or I can’t control. Spills, messes, poop catastrophes, the crumbs after every single meal, children having needs, interruptions in my plans–and I use to let that stuff rile me up daily, to the point I felt offended that my children were, well, being children. But what good did that do me? It didn’t serve me or them. It did more to break our relationship and cause a greater divide, than endear my heart to them. Essentially, it raised a mom versus the children mentality, setting me up to fight my children rather than to love and serve them well. (And, yes, I still get frustrated and have an occasional bout of “Why me?!” along with “I’m quitting!,” but not nearly with the same regularity. Thank you, Jesus!)

My kids are early risers? So what. I’m not pulling out the Greek as much as I use to? That’s fine. Sometimes I have to reread a passage, because the noise is too loud for me to even know what I read. Other times the baby is bouncing on my lap grabbing the pages of my Bible. I may read a passage and have no idea what it means or how it connects to the bigger picture. If I’m doing a study, I may not get to all the questions I want to or even understand the question if little ones are hanging over me. Sometimes I feel I’ve lost some of my critical thinking brain cells in mothering. That’s okay.

These things will pass, but don’t wait until they’re gone to develop a spiritual discipline of reading the Word. It’s going to be imperfect and that’s okay. You may not feel warm fuzzies and the fire on the mountain. You’re reading the Word. You’re making a habit. Even if you feel you’re getting nothing out of it, do it. It’s not pointless. You’re laying the brickwork in your own heart that this is where you come to feast. These Words, these pages are the brook, the well to quench your thirst. No broken cisterns here, this is the green pasture of rest. These are the words of life and they are the light of men.

Don’t wait for your ideal circumstance to read the Word regularly. Do it anyways.

There’s so much more to say, but if you’re a mom you probably have a little one calling for you right now. Mine are about ready for lunch. So, meet back here in a day or two? We’ll talk about some practical resources and how to incorporate the Word and prayer into the rhythm of our days.

Don’t lose heart. He is faithful to keep you.

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Advent’s Longing Cry

SONY DSCAt the heart of sojourning is this,

Will we live for the promise even if we can’t see it?

The sojourner says, “Yes.”

Amidst the unknown and chaos, the sojourner travels on, practicing faithful endurance with each dusty step. There is a promise, but we can’t see it. Not until heaven rains down Glory and Jesus comes to call us home. But even in this, even in the spectacular unknown, in the walking on water, like the sustaining air we breathe but cannot see, we trust the Holy Invisible, for it is–He is–the only one who settles our rattled souls and stills the storm of our heart. In Him we move and live and have our being.

We who have been overwhelmed with the grief and joy of Calvary, we stand secure in the empty tomb. Our debt is paid, our ransom bought. We are free, free! dear ones. No longer are we children of the slave woman, but children of the free (Galations 4:31). We have been captivated by the Truth and He has set us free (John 8:32).

So we say “yes” to the promise we cannot see. We say “yes” to the homeland we’ve yet to  touch. We say “yes” to the one born to set us free as we fall to our knees, chains crashing down, our hearts reverberate His praise,

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Oh, but the journey is long and tedious. We crave the completion of home. We grow weary in doing good, fighting against the flesh, and the devil’s relentless attacks.

There are times we lament, “Why, Lord! Why?” We shake our finger at the Holy God and with Jeremiah cry,

“Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:18).

Against our accusations all He asks is our return, our repentance. Always the Shepherd, our Emmanuel, “…for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jeremiah 15:20b-21).

We cannot see the end from the beginning, but our hearts cry for the end. We deeply desire the culmination of our faith, to be in the presence of the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. In the world’s injustice, in our sanctified struggle, in poverty, in homesickness, in anxiety and in peace, though we ache in our wanderings we are not without hope. We are not alone.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:20-23

And yet, we remember him “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Our longing is not in vain.

In all this, He truly is our Emmanuel. Though we mourn in our exile, he will come and we will rejoice.


The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:26

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Advent…He is coming

This is my favorite time of year. The sparkling lights, cookies baking, friends gathered. The wonder and holiness of God becoming feeble babe. It’s a miracle. A beautiful, desperate miracle.

In my mid-twenties, I began to discover the liturgical church year and was pulled into the beauty of the advent season. There was something that kindled my sojourning heart. The light making the darkness flee. The simplicity and ancient tradition in advent liturgy. Walking in the shadows of saints of old, advent created in me a deeper thirst to know Jesus and see his return I didn’t have before.

Advent is

What is Advent really about?

Advent is so much more than a colorful, chocolate countdown to Christmas. It’s a holy mourning, a cry for mercy and for justice. It is a season of repentance and a call to be the hands and feet of Christ. It is remembering the prophets precious promises fulfilled. It is a desperate and yet, ever hopeful longing for Christ to return to take his people home, right every wrong, heal every wound, wipe every tear, and reveal his glory and majesty to all of creation. All will know and all will see and every knee with bow. It will be the ultimate jubilee.  

This advent perspective of Christ’s second coming was so different from how I had heard people talk about Jesus’ return. With their eschatological verbiage they’d dive into the rapture, point out the signs of the times, and analyze  whether you’re you post-trib, pre-trib, or amillennial. Discussions were more focused on how and when Jesus was going to come rather than He is coming. There was a fervor for the facts, but lacked a passion for the person.  I didn’t see a reason to long for Jesus’ return if it was one big guessing game ending in havoc and chaos.

And then I found advent, I met Christ in a way I hadn’t before. He was nearer. He was compassionate and humble. His presence closer, His companionship real. Sorrow had an answer. He was eager (and is!) to meet the needs of his people. He is patient that more would be lead in kindness to repentance.  Longing for the second advent gives me a purpose and hope I didn’t have before. There was a promise made long ago and He is that promise.

“God has given no pledge which He will not redeem, and encouraged no hope which He will not fulfill.”

Charles Spurgeon

 

Jesus is ready. Home is on the horizon. He is coming, for now we wait.

 

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! 

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

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Lingering Grief of the Named Unspoken

The Named Unspoken: The Lingering Grief of MiscarriageThere are some hurts that never go away.

It’s been nearly eight years since we lost our first baby. It hurts to even say that. Seven years ago, I should’ve been holding a baby in my arms, due a week before Mother’s Day. But my arms were empty.

Miscarriage is a painful and twisted story that never really leaves. Sometimes it hurts so bad I clench my teeth in screams, there have been days where death seemed a better welcome. I know some would say that’s ridiculous and that these children of mine weren’t really babies. They hadn’t breathed yet, right? Were they viable outside the womb?

Or they tell me at least it wasn’t worse than so-and-so, that somehow losing a child at 10 weeks is easier than losing a child at 20 weeks, full-term, etc. It doesn’t feel easier. It feels lonely and painful.

Miscarried babies are easily dismissed in our culture, even among Christians. They’re the not real babies, the practice pregnancies, the ones we don’t talk about because we’re not sure how to make sense of a baby that dies in the womb. It makes the journey even more isolating and heartbreaking.

I’m jealous of those people who’ve gotten to hold their babies as they passed or at least gotten to see their little faces. I didn’t get that. I got “That’s just how things go” along with “Better luck next time” and “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Lonely and painful.

The Named Unsoken: The Lingering Grief of MiscarriageI’m pregnant with my seventh child. With every prenatal appointment, the nurse goes through the list. Blood pressure. Good. Any new meds? No. Same address? Yes. Seventh pregnancy. Yes. The number seems unreal. I have to recount myself, is that right?

I’ve prayed that if I lose this baby, Lord please let it be far enough along I can see their face. Each prenatal appointment is a prayer of “Oh God, please let there be a heartbeat. Please don’t let this baby be dead.” When those ocean tones come through, especially after a lengthy time finding the heartbeat, the praise is “The baby’s not dead!” Morbid, maybe. Reality, yes.

It’s a tormenting, twisted reality. I miss babies I’ve never met. And I feel guilty for missing them. If I had our first and fourth babies I wouldn’t have Joey or Olivia, same with our sixth baby and this current pregnancy. I feel guilt for loving the ones who are here and loving the ones who are not, that by somehow loving one I’m denying or ungrateful for the other. I fear when Joey and Olivia understand the overlap in pregnancies and if they see me cry or sad over these children they’ll think they aren’t wanted or loved. I feel torn between loving the living and the dead.

I’ve struggled to see God answer other’s prayers and see miraclesof what science says should not be. Was sustaining the life inside me so hard? I believe He could do it, why did He choose not to? It would’ve been simple for him. A word, a breath and it would’ve been a different story. Why does this have to be my story three times over?

There’s a story behind each baby and each miscarriage, of the way God carried me even when it was dark and He seemed more than absent. One day I’ll tell those. But for right now, I want to do something I’ve never done. I want to introduce you to our children in heaven by name.

We’ve held their names close for so long. It’s felt too vulnerable to share them at large. Their names are the one thing that marks their existence in a world where they left no evidence. But I love them just the same and I know one day I’ll meet them in glory without a tear on my face. That day…I can hardly imagine the joy of meeting them and seeing the beginning from the end. So be it.

The Named Unspoken: The Lingering Grief of Miscarriage

Addison Justice ∫ September 2007

The Lord is righteous in all his ways  and kind in all his works. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.Psalm 145: 17, 19

Jordan Ebenezer ∫ December 2011

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;  the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16-17

Riley Glory ∫ July 2014

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. Psalm 3:3,5

* * * * * *

I’m going to be bold here for just a minute. I know miscarriage, stillbirths, and infant loss are more common than most imagine. I know this is a painful time of year to remember babies we didn’t get to hold, children we had to bury.

If you’re willing, and I know it’s hard, will you share the names of those you’re longing for? They may not have been long for this world, but they are still our beloved children and, even in this, you are not alone.

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Why Go to IF: Gathering?

IF Gathering header

When I’ve talked to women about IF and encouraged them to come, many shrug their shoulders and say, “Why? What’s it for? What’s the purpose?”

Why should you even come? Is it just another women’s event? Another feel good opportunity, but life doesn’t really change? A chance for Christian authors and speakers to build their brand and add to their sales?

Honestly, any of these are possible. It’s a matter of our own hearts.

But, why? Why do I say you should come to IF: Gathering? Is it because I’m on our local planning team and want to see it succeed? It’d be nice to have big numbers and max out our seating, but no, I don’t want you to come just to fill a chair. {Success in the Kingdom of God is only measured by faithfulness, never numbers.}

Why should you come to IF: Gathering?

It’s an opportunity.

A chance to stop and pause in our busy lives and intentionally seek the face of God together as His daughters. To let down our false walls of age, music preferences, and denominational differences to seek the One who made us with his own hands, the One who saved us from the pit of despair and calls us to be one.

It’s an opportunity to breathe and reflect, to worship the Lord unrushed.

Sure, we’ll hear from popular speaks, but honestly, what I’m most excited about is the chance to sit around the table with you—sisters in my own community and share what God is doing in our lives and to seek how He wants us to live and work together to build His kingdom. 

I know it can be weird, perhaps even off-putting to hear someone say, “God is moving! Won’t you join us?” There is nothing inherently special about IF: Gathering. You can not come and still seek His face and see God moving. He moves everyday.

But this? This is an opportunity for you, for us to move together. To let Him transform our lives, not just in our homes or our churches, but to grasp hands across our cities and say, “Let’s do this together.” We are not individual units, but one whole.

Maybe you’re nervous, scared, think you’re too messed up. Come. We’re nervous too…all carrying a bit of our own baggage.

You haven’t been to church in years, don’t even know if you like God anymore. Come. There’s no gimmicks, no member rolls. Come and listen.

Your heart is broken and weeping loss. Come. So many of us have been there too. We’ll hold your hand and weep with you.

You’re busy, life is hectic, you barely stop these days. Come. Rest, breathe, be poured into by the Bearer of Burdens.

The harvest is ready, the broken and lost are many, God is ready and we are the hands and feet of Christ. 

We won’t do this thing perfectly, I assure you. But with God among us we will be blessed.

10885533_10152436878141568_8791353344812636549_nIf you’re local we’d love to have you join us at our local IF: Gathering. You can find more information here and join our Facebook group to stay in touch.

You can find a IF: Gathering in your area here.

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