Loved

In the days that my belly was taut and swollen and I still ate everything in sight there were few things I loved like sitting in the rocking chair in Avery’s nursery and having my quiet time with the Lord. Soaking in God’s presence, I would scan the room and think about how carefully I had chosen each dainty pink and white item that graced the walls. Sometimes I would open up the dresser drawers and run my fingers over her tiny clothes, smiling in unbridled joy and anticipation. And I would weep. How could I not? How could I do anything else? How could I sit amongst this place that I had so lovingly prepared for the daughter whose face I’d never seen even as she danced within my womb and not think about my heavenly Father lovingly preparing a place for me? How could I not think about the scripture that says he dances over me with singing and not be moved? What kind of love was this? What kind of God is he?
Pregnant pic

Not long ago my younger sister had a precious baby girl and posted an update on social media that was so familiar to my Mom heart. “Watching my squishy one sleep. Must not wake her. Must let her sleep. But I want to hold her.” Yes. How familiar were those longings to hold your little one dear, to gaze upon them lovingly even as they slept. The inability to take your eyes off of them. How easy it is, even now to be overcome by their beauty. How can something as simple as breathing be so beautiful? And yet, this is how the God of the universe feels about me? The very thought leaves me utterly undone.

Julie and Avery Pic
When Avery was six months old she had NO FEAR. One of her favorite pastimes was attempting to jump from the couch to the coffee table on her stomach. Without hesitation, she would thrust herself into the air and cackle with delight as she soared. What she was too small to know or understand was that I was holding her tiny foot and cushioning her fall. How many times have I jumped with no understanding of who was catching me as I fell?
I will never forget the moment of realization and little baby hatred in her eyes the day that Avery looked down and saw my hand attached to her foot, cramping her mid-air style. She didn’t want my protection. She attempted to shake my hand off. And when it didn’t work she cried in frustration. How many times have I cried in protest and frustration upon finding the hand of God holding my foot, protecting me?
At three years old, Avery is right about everything. She ends most sentences with, “right?” If you contradict her even in the gentlest of ways, she’ll tell you why you’re wrong and then wrap up with, “Okay, mom?” How many times have I tried to convince God of why I am right and he is wrong and then wrapped up with, “okay God?”

Avery and Ryan
I haven’t loved Avery anymore or less at any given stage.She’s my daughter. I enjoy her endlessly at all of these stages. I still love to watch her sleep. I cherish the moments when she wants to snuggle up next to me and be close. I laugh when she tries to convince me that weeds from the yard are alive. How could I be mad? She’s three. In fact, I’m so proud of her growth. I was looking at her the other day in total wonder. Her legs alone were longer than her entire body was when she was so born. “Avery, how did you get so tall and smart?” I asked her. “I just growed.” She said. It’s true. And I’m excited about the growth that I know is to come. Just like my Heavenly Father is excited about mine. Just like he loves and enjoys me at all of my various stages.
So often we are hard on ourselves and one another for not being where we think we should be or where someone else might be. What if instead we chose to celebrate the growth that has already occurred? What if we simply enjoyed all of the nuances of today? Our Heavenly Father is loving us, enjoying us just as we are. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could do the same?

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Keep Fighting

As so many of you have reached out to me, begun to share your stories and your hearts I have been overwhelmed with love for you. As you’ve shared your pain and your freedom, your overcoming, and your growing, I’ve felt that surely my heart would burst with love. I have been rendered awestruck by your bravery and tenacity. And I can’t help but wonder, if I feel this way about you, how must God feel? I know that for so many of you, the battle has been long. You’ve been fighting for health or victory in one area or another for what feels like forever. Some of you feel like, “What’s the point in even continuing to fight?” Many of you look around and you wonder, “What am I doing wrong?” You realize that for others the battle wrapped up years ago, but here you are, still in the heat of battle. You feel like such a disappointment, such a pathetic beaten down excuse for a soldier. Can I remind you today that there is no shame in the victory that is long, drawn-out, painful and hard-fought? It’s a victory just the same. If today you got out of bed in spite of the pain, invested in another when you felt you had nothing left to give or smiled when you thought you had no smiles left- you’re still in the fight. We all want that quick and easy win. But we learn so much about the weapons and strategies of war, we become such fierce and mighty soldiers when we battle for victory over time and space. I honor your courage today. I have a friend with a four your old son. When he isn’t listening to her instructions well or she wants to be certain that he has understood her she says, “Brendon, look at my eyes.” I have often wondered what it is he sees in his Mother’s eyes that communicate so effectively without a spoken word. I think he must see primarily love; this person is for me, I can trust what they say. They won’t hurt me. I think he must also see fierce intentionality. I am called to parent you, to raise you up to be the man God called you to be. I intend to do that job well. Does he also see the same woman who kisses his boo boos and sings him to sleep, the gentle voice he heard in the womb? Today, I want you to look up into your Heavenly Father’s eyes. I think primarily, you may see love- God the Father, who sent his son to die on the cross as your ransom. He is for you. You can trust what he says. You may also see fierce intentionality, the eyes of the one who is raising you up to be all that he created and called you to be. Maybe you’ll also see the one who has lovingly picked you up and dusted you off each time you fall. With eyes locked on his I want you to hear me. You are not failing God. You are not failing your family. You are not a failure. You are not a disappointment, a hassle, a freak or the worst thing that ever happened to the ones you love. You are a treasure. You are brave. You are strong. You are an over comer. I know it’s taking longer than you thought it would. I know it’s harder than you thought it would be. Don’t quit. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Even if your outer self is wasting away!!!! Or your outer life, if everything is falling apart- Don’t lose heart! God is doing something. Our inner selves are being renewed day by day. You all are so brave. So strong. And your story isn’t over yet. This isn’t how your story ends. This is just an amazing testimony in the making. Keep fighting, brave ones!