The Last Diaper

Tonight, I put the last diaper we own on M. He's actually been potty-trained for a few weeks now, but we've been slowly working our way through his last pack, coining them his "night-time diapers" so as not to confuse him. For days I've glanced at that pack and thought, "man, when is that thing ever going to run out?" Tonight, I guess.

I'm feeling oddly emotional about this. Some would say, "it's just a diaper", but I think the sadness is coming from a deeper place.

I never really thought I'd have a break from diapering between my children. And now I'm done. With no idea of when I will begin again.

The pile of wipe-packs will no longer deplete (thanks, Honest Co, for sending ridiculously unnecessary amounts of wipes) and my cubby specifically for diapers can now be used for other things. And I don't think this is something that I want.

**SIDE NOTE: I am over the moon about my potty-trained boy. He has been an absolute champion at this potty business and I am so freaking proud of him. Like, nearly everyone we come into contact with hears the good news. My sorrow does not leave me wishing we hadn't potty-trained him. So just so we are clear, the potty is awesome.**

It was this time last year I became pregnant with our little one lost. I never thought I would want to be pregnant around the same time because it would be too difficult. But these days I find myself wishing more than anything that I were. My heart believes, some might say foolishly, in God's goodness and provision. I know He will give us another baby. There is so much gladness in that "knowing" and also a bit of fear. Not fear of Him not coming through...

... but fear of my own doubt.

You see, I'm not afraid of losing another one (as it is somewhat likely due to a blood clotting condition I have called Factor V Leiden). I'm not afraid of the high-risk pregnancy that will inevitably ensue as soon as I see those two lines. I'm not even afraid of needing to stick a needle in my belly every day to try to lower the risk of loss.

What I'm afraid of is the part of me that doesn't believe to the point of peace that God's way is best.

There is absolutely nothing that can change about our circumstances just because my attitude wills it to. The dream of kids close in age, while I'm still obnoxiously young (that dream died a long time ago) and able to keep up is getting further and further away, and I'm here trying to understand and grasp God's dream in place of my own. You see, when I close my eyes, the walls of my imagination are still papered in those images I've carried since childhood. 4 babies. All close. Me being perfectly capable of handling it all. But as I close my eyes I see something that is not possible for me, and what I really want to see is the beautiful reality that God is unfolding for us.

But right now we are just at the bold edges of the tapestry. We haven't unrolled it to the point where things get intricate and beautiful and wild.

But I feel we are on the brink.

We are praying big prayers this year. We are believing God to do some incredible things with our lives, simply because we have asked Him to and we are willing to say "yes". If it doesn't play out as adventurous and fabulous in someone else's eyes, we don't care; for our hearts will know the wild adventure that we have gone on with our God.

So tonight, as I say a final farewell to diapers, I'm clinging to hope and praying for a heart that fully believes His way is better. More beautiful. More glorifying.

Because I would rather die than take any other way.

"For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans  for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:11-13|AMP

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laura b

When Mom Wants To Create

I've struggled with a lot of aspects of mothering M in his second year of life. There are so many changes in him that it's nearly like learning to mother all over again with each new day. My biggest struggle, however, has not been found in M but in myself.

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I'm a Creative. My mind is always going, about a plethora of things, but there's always something in there longing to be created. Whether it be words written, yarn knitted or fabric sewn, there is forever a list of to-do's going in the "create" side of my brain. And this has been one of the hardest aspects of mothering I've faced yet.

How do I do the thing my heart is yearning to do when it seems to fall quite low on the list of importance. Let me clarify here: it is not low on my list or T's list. It's low on the generalized Mothering To-Do List. That list, from what I've gathered, goes as follows:

  1. Kids
  2. Chores
  3. Food (i.e. making, buying, growing, etc)
  4. Husband
  5. Home-Care (i.e. fixing, painting, beautify-ing, etc.)
  6. Self-Care
  7. Personal Enjoyment (i.e. feeding that creativity monster wreaking havoc on my heart daily.)

Once again let me clarify, this is not my personal list. This is not my wonderful, supportive husband's list. This is the list as I see the world around me. As I feel the looks, hear the comments, read the assumptions and receive the expectations. I have to believe I'm not alone in this.

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I love being a mother. I love being a wife. I will do both of those things better when I can let what the Lord pours into me pour out through the various avenues He has gifted in me. 

The reality is, I have an enemy who wants nothing more than for me to feel shame at even the thought of taking time away from others to feed my creative soul. When I think of stealing an hour to write, I no more than finish that thought and in comes the cloud of shame.

"Who am I to think I deserve an hour to do that when T will be left with the baby?"

"If ever there were a person who should not get time to herself it's me. There are far too many people around me with far too many needs for me to take time away from them just to feed my soul."

The word shame means: a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.

Isn't that what this comes down to? Unworthiness? As mom, the needs of those in my care are to be met first and foremost. But the trouble here is that I'm not just "mom". Before that I am daughter. 

I am the daughter of the Most High King. I cannot be mom without first living in my role as daughter. While I may feel unworthiness in the eyes of others around me, that's not my Truth. My Truth is that He loves me. He loves me because I love Him. In seeking Him early and diligently I will surely find Him (adapted from Proverbs 8:17). His love gives me worth. His love and favor make those hours alone to be Laura worth fighting for. Because when He sees me He doesn't just see the mom part of me, but all of me, and He never intended for certain parts of me to go into hiding because He has placed others into my care for a season. In drawing near to Him, He draws near to me, supplying me with what I need to be Laura completely: wife, mom, daughter, creative.

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I will never convince other's enough to stop the glares or comments or sighs so that I can freely spend time letting my heart soar. The enemy will always use them to try to get me to believe that this time isn't valuable. Thankfully, my freedom isn't found in anything that is eye-level. I still feel awkward trying to figure out where and how this time fits into life. The biggest area of strain will be in being ok with letting people down. I just might need to write Galatians 1:10 on every visible piece of skin so that no matter where I turn I will be reminded of it's truth.

I am not trying to please man.

I am trying to please my King.

If you struggle with this too, know that you are not alone. Also know that it is so important to value these parts of you. God values them so incredibly much because He Himself placed them there. With each woman who "takes a break" from her interests during her peak mothering years, the Lord is saddened at yet another source of His beauty being stifled. That's what I believe anyways.

Just because we are "mom" doesn't mean our time to pour out our souls isn't important. It is. We need hobbies. We need ways to express all that happens in our beautiful hearts. We need to still run wildly through the fields with our hair blowing crazily every-which way, our hands stretched wide and our eyes gazing towards heaven. Just because we are grown doesn't mean we can't still run wild and free with our King. So if that's through knitting, then be sure to pick up your needles regularly. If it's through quiet coffee time with your weathered Bible, then be sure to plan one night a week alone to hunker down at your favorite spot. And if you're like me, and you just want to write, then join me in sacrificing sleep and waking before the sun. Seek Him early and diligently. Don't let being mom force you into a hiatus you never intended or wanted to take.

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I'm fighting for the wild-haired girl in me who's desperate to run hard towards her King, and you should fight for yours too.

 

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Mama First

photo (5) Can I be a little honest about something? Since Holy Yoga retreat ended at the very beginning of May, my fellow yogi's have been on the fast track to building successful ministries/blogs/businesses/followings... Or at least it has seemed that way... and this leaves me feeling a bit like the kid on the first day of school who realizes she got all of her school supplies wrong and will consequently be light-years behind everyone else for the remainder of all time.

Have I ever told you I can be a bit dramatic?

Ok, really though, not only is it ok and great and totally wonderful that favor is being granted and Truth is being told through these women and men already, it's something that I am so SO for. My real heart, the one that has been redeemed and washed clean by the blood of Jesus, is jumping up and down and cheering each and every individual on because this is what we are here for--This is what He has called us to! My flesh heart, the one that likes to always make everyone else's business in the whole wide world all about "me", says that if I don't get my act together I'm going to be left in the dust.

This week I began a weekly teaching gig on Wednesday mornings; a class that has been on-going for some time, and I am yet another instructor to take it over. It's a good, solid, desired class and I am so honored to be the one to instruct these hearts through the summer months. My "usual" class prep routine ("usual" meaning I've done it a whopping three times) consists of:

1. Pray about my nerves. 2. Pray about the topic to be meditated. 3. Pray about my nerves. 4. Pray about the flow. 5. Pray that the flow is long enough and actually does flow. 6. Go through the flow so that I'm sure it makes sense. 7. Pray for the class. 8. Pray for my nerves. 9. Pray for my nerves some more. 10.Execute class nervously and be amazed at God's provision and the silliness of all the nerves.

I thought I'd have all kinds of time to complete the above routine Tuesday. It turned out that M, and allergies, and laziness and life knew differently. My sweet boy, and myself as well, were pretty down and out with sniffles, sneezes and those dang itchy eyes. Naps were few and disrupted, and alone time was non-existent.

I talked to T late that night (after I thought I had a minute to prep and before M decided he needed to sleep with Mama) and I was explaining to him that I had, "basically nothing ready for my class tomorrow. M just isn't feeling good and has needed to snuggle and be with me a lot today so I'm totally not prepared."

Then T said it. And ever since it's like the scabs have fallen from my eyes.

"Well, you're a mom first, so that's ok."

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Guys. All the other lovely, wonderful, beautiful daughters and sons (who are also moms and dads and laborers) out there making and taking the time to jump on their ministries/businesses/blogs/media blah are so awesome. God has provided them the time and space to do so and that's such a beautiful thing. And He's providing me that too. He provided me materials for that class on that morning, in 20 minutes prior to the class. I've never felt more at home teaching, but that's because it was me, a servant of my King, coming before Him with zero to offer. Just a willing heart and the belief of this Truth:

I'm a daughter of the King. I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a minister for His Kingdom.

And what's neat is that first and last one really encompass the two in the middle. My family is my ministry, and when I nurture it, when I don't try to "keep up with the Joneses", He is actually given more of a chance to radiate His awesomeness.

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So my ministry will be what He makes it.

My son will receive all the snuggles and boog-wipes he needs.

And my heart will rest in peace.

"It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for." - Eph. 1:11msg

He has many purposes for me, and in this, "I am a mom first."

Man, what an incredible thing.

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If you're a mama, and you feel the tug that you should be devoting more time to building your social media presence, but doing so will take away from those little ones entrusted to you, then I encourage you to stop in your tracks and evaluate if it's worth it. There will be plenty of time to create a killer etsy shop, or blog your heart out when they are in High School and would prefer you to have your own hobbies. Make them your ministry now. God will bless you, them and your ministry for doing so.

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Imperfect Obedience

I had a rather random thought earlier about child leashes. You know, the ones that are masked as little critter backpacks but in all actuality are a leash for parents to keep track of their wandering, and likely disobedient, rascals. I truly don't like those things. In my inexperienced parenting mind I think to myself, "Come on, parents. Just teach that kid some obedience and make the effort to keep them with you." Notice how I said my "inexperienced parenting mind". Because I only have one and he is only 15 months... so I still have a lot of realities ahead of me in the world of wrangling little ones.

Recently, M has brought us down some uncharted territory with his behavior and it has forced me to face some parenting and teaching milestones I thought were still a little ways out. How often do I need to go back to the tv, or the computer or the stereo and teach and train him not to touch it? Seemingly often, I guess. For a little person who is constantly wrapped in a diaper, he sure reacts as if he's being tackled by a mugger when I attempt to change the poop nestled in his pants. I find myself exhausted at the end of the day, feeling drained of all patience and wondering if any of these moments are even making a dent. He is a strong-willed little boy.

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God, in His beautiful and albeit comical, timing and sovereignty is showing me just how much M and I have in common in this phase of life. M's outward behaviors are, I'm realizing, the physical manifestations of my spirit, heart and mind. The problem is that obedience is such a legalistic concept to me. I obey because I'm supposed to... because if I don't there is someone (the law, my family, the church, my employer) I am letting down. I do this to the extreme in that I struggle to throw a recyclable item in the trash because I know that, even in that plastic yogurt cup, I am letting the image I have made for myself down... even though no one even knows it happened.

In a mom's facebook group I am a part of, a mom recently asked what it means for you to have your child's heart. This, apparently, comes from a verse in Malachi, basically meaning that your child trusts your guidance so wholeheartedly that even in the moments they don't want to obey or don't understand why they must, they do it because they trust that you know what is best for them. The example given was that when you tell them to obey you and sit down when you ask, they are not still standing up on the inside.

My legalistic view of obedience does not allow me to fully give my heart to God. My obedience is not because I trust Him, in my vulnerability and questioning, to know what is best for me. It is because I have a fear of letting Him down. This creates a relationship that lacks intimacy. And produces minuscule rebellion.

On the other side of the coin lies perfection. The paths this life has taken me down have built up quite a strong demand for perfection. That has not, however, produced in me a person who is excellent at everything she does, but a person who tends to quit a lot of things because, "If I can't do it perfectly I just won't do it." As I walk down this path of learning to be obedient to Christ, I struggle with the journey. I struggle with all of the imperfection that paves the way.

Is it easier for me to just stay in this place? Where I don't live freely, but at least I live in these chains perfectly? The thought of facing, moment after moment, the crossroad of obedience or chains, is exhausting. Thinking of the moments where I will not be strong enough to obey is enough to make me want to run, arms flailing, as far away as I can.

As I examine these realities of my heart I see clearly just how much I am like my son. And just how much more patient my Father is than I. I am the child with the little critter backpack attached to the leash of mercy. His mercy. It keeps me in His reach, so each time I go back to that imperfect place, He trains me. Whether it's by the sting of consequences or the gentle love of His Word, He has mercifully kept me in His reach. When I face my lack of self-discipline, and every fiber in my being wants to just rebel in the simplest of ways (laziness, selfishness, biting words, too much chocolate) He comes back once again to guide me to His perfection.

The height of this lesson for me is found in the imperfection. Before Christ came and rose from the grave, perfect obedience was what was required of those who desired to spend eternity with the King. Your salvation depended on perfect obedience. Then our Savior came, the one true spotless lamb, and knowingly walked up that hill so that you and I would not need to be perfect. So that our obedience could be because He had our hearts. On that day, the requirement for me to be perfect, hung next to Him, never to come down. I am free to say "no" to selfishness, disobedience and sin with my physical body, and also with my heart, knowing that He is more than enough and incomparably better than any and everything I've ever run to before.

He loves me, so He puts the little critter backpack on me and covers me with grace as we face the world, day after day. Beautifully imperfect with no requirement to change that, but to accept His mercy and praise His holy name for being the perfection that I cannot be.

Here are things we will never perfectly be, but can always strive for. They are also things He always is, and will never not be.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Cor 13:4-8)

We will have moments when we don't want to persevere. We will have moments when we might delight in evil. In our sin we may choose to protect ourselves over another. We will never do these things perfectly. We will fail and fail again and fail again... The beauty in this is found in verse 10.

"But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

When He returns, our imperfection will disappear for all eternity. When He comes into our sin today, His perfection covers over our imperfection in the form of forgiveness and grace. He will come one day, and we will be those things without putting forth even the slightest effort, because we will be truly and fully made new. Today, I am on my knees in humility, so thankful that He chooses to come to me every day, providing me the grace to be imperfectly obedient.

There is absolutely no such thing as a "Perfect Christian". Unfortunately many people have tried to show themselves as such and it has created a facade that does nothing but fade with each passing day. In this moment I am thankful that He has never expected me to obey Him perfectly, but wants to walk with me, guiding me through the training moments, until the day He returns and wipes away all imperfection.

Man, how He truly and deeply and perfectly loves us. And how graciously He remembers the beautiful moments with His child, and mercifully forgets the sin-filled ones.

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Exciting News! *It's not a baby... duh*

After months and months of active and passive prayer, sought out counsel and some heels stuck in the ground, I've decided to dive into a new adventure. On February 27th I will begin 10 week training to become a Holy Yoga Instructor.

What is Holy Yoga? Well, it's awesome, that's what. It's a ministry of people, all kinds of people, who love our Savior. It's also people of all fitness backgrounds and levels who come together to enjoy and further their yoga practice. But instead of me trying to explain in my own fumbled words I'll just direct you to them.

Why Holy? I've felt for some time His gentle nudge... His patient desire to use me. I would say about 90% of the time I desperately try to ignore Him. And out of that 90% I usually actually obey about 45%. But I do know that He desires to use my voice, as He desires to use yours. I guess I just finally decided to relinquish control and let Him have me. The "holy" part of this ministry, if I can be so bold, is the aspect I feel I have the most control of. Now, God knows I absolutely do not have control of it, but He, in his mercy, will show me that slowly as I travel forward in obedience. In my head and in my struggles God and fitness have always been two separate entities. It has always been a mystery to me why God would care about my physical fitness, because in my mind, it was always with the end goal of looking thin, toned and smokin'. So obviously He wouldn't be for something like that... boasting in my body? In my hotness? Not a chance. But apparently He cares a great deal about my physical fitness, but not with the end goal of making me smokin' but making me alive, well, and able to actively grow with my husband and children as we live each day. Which leads me to the "yoga" part...

Why yoga? I've practiced yoga "lightly" for several years. It has always been my favored form of exercise because it allows me to challenge myself but also feel able. Because my natural stamina does not represent that of a cross country runner, and I'm far too nerdy and insecure to hang out in the weights area of the gym, I find that I feel at home on a mat in a room of people who are (usually) all in varying places in their practice. It has a very welcoming feel to me and I like that. I would like to feel welcome when I am standing face to face with my head full of lies, and that's usually what happens whenever I approach fitness of any kind. Yoga has always allowed me to dig deep and find that confidence I usually can't find. The other thing I find enticing about yoga is that, like our faith, you never really reach a place where you have "arrived". There is always something you can grow in, a new posture you can excel in, another variation you can try. Both of these things, my walk with Jesus and my yoga practice, give me something to work towards always. And both are gracious enough to allow small, reachable goals in the process.

Why now? Well, why not? I mean here's the deal. T gets home from the far-away land mid May. My course is 10 weeks long. This is quite literally my last goal to achieve before he is home and my heart can fully smile and we can be whole again. If I waited I would be juggling curriculum hours and payment plans and going to classes while my husband tries to go to school full time and work part time and blech... just not ideal. So the timing couldn't be more perfect... but His timing usually is so I'm not surprised.

 

So I have two things for you... yes, you.

 

One) Be praying for me in this, if you would be so kind. I'm going up against some nasty, deeeeeeep rooted lies going into this and I'm praying and believing Him to be more than enough to deliver me from them through this. If you know my heart you know that my insecurity is enough to paralyze me at times, so going forward in a ministry that is about spirituality as well as physicality is slightly terrifying. But my God is faithful... this I know full well. My desire is to be obedient in this task so that others around me may see the freedom He came to give them, through the physical practice of yoga and the spiritual act of worship. My life is His, always and forever, and I long more than anything to be a vessel of hope... to show that there is so much more than what you see around you. And in whatever way He desires to use me in this specific ministry, I choose to move forward in faith and obedience.

Two) In an effort to help support myself through the financial aspect of the course I will be putting some of my lovely little "crafts" out there for the world to enjoy as well. I will be putting other things out over time, as I haven't been able to get all of the ideas in my head manifested in real life. But I do have two things currently and if you know of anyone or you yourself would be interested in them then please consider helping me out in this journey by supporting our family (and my increasing addiction to crafting).

Without further ado, let me introduce you (or your little ones, rather) to the "Drool-y"

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Ok, I realize the name might need some work but the item itself is pretty awesome. Made of cotton t-shirt material, it is essentially a baby cowl to help soak up that never-ending faucet that is your child's mouth. Yes, my child's mouth too. You may be thinking, "Man, that's cute and all but who would ever actually put that on their kid?" Well, you're "looking" at her. M wears his all the time (when he is in someone's supervision, of course. Don't leave it on during naptime) and it has been a shirt saver and a mommy-sanity saver... and a baby skin saver too. M is old enough now that bibs are no match for him. Those suckers are down for the count a mere 15 seconds after they've entered the ring. So all I'm left with is a kid with a sopping wet shirt... or changing his shirt about 5 times a day, which I'm not into.

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I got the idea from a little mustard-yellow cowl I made him while visiting family in Canada. But I'll get to that in a minute. The nice part about these versus the little mustard cowl is that, because it is made of cotton, it can easily be thrown in the wash with other laundry. With a knit or crochet cowl, if you're like me, you would want to consider hand washing that. I've got a few different patterns I'm going to come up with in the days to come but this is the pilot option and we love it.

I'm also offering what I've coined "Cowly's". No craziness here, it's a baby cowl. 

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What is great about these, despite what others (ahem... our husbands) might think, is that they truly are a chilly-baby necessity. In the winter months, when these poor little big bellied, barely walking people try to go outside, they must first be wrapped and zipped and stuffed and covered. The more mobile they become the harder it is to keep these garments on them and them toasty. M's jacket, when zipped up all the way, stabs him in the neck/chin, especially when he's sitting down or in his car seat. His hat's flaps either don't come down far enough or drive him nuts and he's done with that mess before we even step outside.

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So not only is mama a fan of the cowly but baby is too. It took him two or three wears to really adjust but now it's no big deal for him. He really loves it. And this one also serves to help with the drool factor, too.

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Bonus: by next winter they should work great as headbands! *thumbs up*

What I'm asking:

Droolys-

  • 4-8 Months: $12
  • 9-12 Months: $13
  • 13-18 Months: $14

(Also planning on having options if you want more than one.)

Cowlys-

  • 9-12 Months:$15
  • 13-18 Months: $17

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My other little buddy that I would love to make available to you is the "Lovie".

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M is quite infatuated with his blankies (and by that I mean he is obsessed with them.) It's a fight between his blankies and his robe for his true devotion. At the end of the day these always win out. I made his first one when he was 8 months, and it didn't take long to realize he needed another one. I'm not about to spend precious hours searching for a blankie because he needs it to go to sleep.

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There are SO many options for this it's ridiculous. Between the minky fabric to the pattern piece on the front it's endless. I wanted to put the feelers out and go from there. These are about 15 inches in diameter, so they are a good size for little hands to carry around the house, and not too big to worry (as much) about them suffocating themselves in a fit of rage. (Is my kid the only one who has to bite a mouth full of his fist or his blanket when he's angry? Yes? Alrighty then...)

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One thing I will recommend with these though, is to consider getting two. It's nice if they can be similar in color, so if you have to swap one out for the wash, little buggy doesn't throw a fit when you throw him or her the color they don't like as much. I'm a little crazy and I tried to "ask" M when he was 7 months old, what color he preferred. I personally leaned more towards green, but in a show of paci's (blue or green) blue won out. So I stuck with the same minky blue and chose different patterns for the middle... keeping variety and security in the same blankets.

For the Lovies:

  • Standard 15" cotton and minky mix- $18
  • Anything larger, like the crib comforter I made M, would really depend on the size and fabric but they are definitely doable and so cute. (M's is a minky hedgehog print on one side and a flannel birch forest print on the other. SO cute. I'll post pictures soon.)
  • If you want to get two then they would be $32.

Please, please, PLEASE give me feedback. Let me know if you are even remotely interested in any of these. I can post some pictures of color options but really the sky is the limit for all of these things, so you can let me know what colors you would enjoy seeing. M is often drug through the fabric store so it is a frequented destination for us.

I realize for some of my very crafty and talented friends these items are not anything super challenging. So to that I just ask you to remember that this is solely as a way to help support my journey into the Holy Yoga ministry. I know and believe that God will provide, and I also know that He has provided me with these talents and there is no reason for me not to put them out there for others to enjoy too.

 

So again, PLEASE let me know if you're interested. I need feedback to know if I should keep going down this road. And we're at the halfway point with winter, so take the opportunity to save your little ones neck during the last half.

 

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Merry Christmas From The Ferguson's

Well this year is the first year of our 4 together that I have not been able to get out a Christmas card and letter. It's safe to say I'm more bummed about this than anyone else. Whether or not people enjoy receiving them, I sure do enjoy sending them. The best part is the Christmas letter; it's such a blessing sitting down and recapping the year we have had. I think I should try this exercise more often... Not just at the regularly scheduled card-sending season. So without further a do....

 

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So, family and friends (and readers, too), it's been quite an unexpected year. We entered into 2013 on the joyous wave of parenthood and a clean-eating health kick, ready to take on our world guns a blazin'. The health kick lasted all of a few hours (we ordered Papa John's by 4pm) and the realities of Parenthood came gradually and thoroughly. We learned that it is the following: challenging, heart-warming, tiring, so very fulfilling and one of the most wonderful parts of joining our lives together as one.

This little buggy...

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...became this little buggy. (Who moves so fast you can barely snap a clear picture of him.)

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We learned how invaluable loving friends are who will babysit for you so you can go on a date... to a movie where you can just sit in the dark and hold hands and not think or chase or clean up or wipe off.

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We saw animals at the zoo...

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We packed up our home,

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and he packed up his gear.

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We said, "See you soon" and gave our kisses and hugs. (And I wouldn't let go.)

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We drove out of Fort Hood one last time,

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and he said, "hello" to his rather scenic temporary home.

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We've been missing one another a lot,

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so we've been counting down the days till he's out a lot more frequently...

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M was the star of the show this Halloween and loved every minute of it.

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T has had the opportunity to make the most of his time over there and enjoy some leisurely activities, (very competitively too, which is not surprising)

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as well as taking some college courses... and doing whatever else he can to make the passing time a little less painstaking.

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I've been doing some running,

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a fair amount of lettering,

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and a lot of learning.

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M has been learning something new every day, which recently consists of hours upon hours of walking and falling and walking and falling and crying. Lily, to be honest, is just lucky to still be with us...

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We really miss our man so very much. Malachi has his meltdowns and I have mine... but that's to be expected and is completely normal, right?

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We truly are so thankful, even in our weakest moments, for the grace that He shows us constantly. It is truly endless. When we are desperate for the normalcy and emotional security of being together He is there to provide the comfort in the tears and the strength to wipe them away. He has saved us every day thus far and will continue to save us from ourselves, our circumstances and our sins. To Christ be the glory, forever and ever.

We couldn't have been more blessed by the people in our lives this year. Time and time again they were a testament to His love and provision. We are thankful for you. It feels a little silly to wish away this season but in our heart of hearts we can't wait for it to pass... Half of 2014 will be spent together, so we can't wait to get the ball rolling and get on into the New Year. New year, new possibilities, new plans we don't know anything about. How exciting! 

We are praying for your celebration today. May it be filled with peace. Life is real and hard and unexpected and all of those things don't stop just for presents and family gatherings. So for your hearts as well as our own we are praying for peace. His peace. It transcends all understanding.

 

From Egypt and Minnesota, we wish you a very blessed Christmas, and hope you will join us in giddily welcoming the New Year.

 

Thomas, Laura, Malachi, Theodore and Lily

 

 

The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been awhile since we've been together, and there are many reasons why... but to sum it all up I will just say that life has happened, as it always does. Sickness has happened. Fellowship has happened. Weariness has happened. It's all been here these days, but I'm still here and my mind still keeps ticking with the lessons and ponderings of this place. Christmas is in a week. One week. I don't recall a Christmas before where I have felt as weary and burdened and tired as I do at this moment. Much of this could be due to some circumstantial elements. I'm just ending a wonderful long weekend with my best friend whom I have not seen in three years. So being filled up and encouraged and embraced by my Lord through fellowship with her was an incredible blessing that I did not want to end. This leads me into the other element I'm up against that I just don't really want to think about. He's not here. Oh how I want him to be. Any other year, if you presented me with Christmas money or asked for my gift list, I would have a few things in mind that I'd want for myself. But this year, truly, all I want more than anything is to hold his hand while we watch our sweet boy open his presents... to sing Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra while decorating our little tree... to watch him taste test his favorite Christmas cookies. But, alas, I know this is not a possibility. So the second thing on my Christmas list would be peace. Peace when I want to be sad that I can't cup his face in my hands and tell him I love him, or that I can't get frustrated at him for eating all of the cookies before Christmas has even come. Peace when I want to be angry watching all those around me hustle and bustle over gifts and money and things. Peace when I want to bury myself in a mountain of blankets and sleep my way through the next two weeks. Oh Lord, if I can't have my first wish then please give me my second. I'm learning to say "no". And also to make time for the things I need to say "yes" to, such as time for my soul to meet with my Savior. This morning, as I sat here with tears, wishing so bad for so many things, I turned to see a verse taped to my side table.

"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." -Matthew 21:22

Despite my circumstances, despite those around me, I choose to believe that my God is big enough to supply me with the peace I need to say "No" when I need to, to accept the times when I must say "yes" and to remember that He is beside me to carry the weight of the world for me.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and 'you will find rest for your souls.' For my yoke is easy and My burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-29

The world around us is a very heavy load to carry most days, but I believe it is even more so in December. There is so much expected of us: Elf's, presents, sales, perfect Pinterest parties, baked goods, Christmas cards... the list is truly a long one. And every year there are those who take the time to call us to action, to encourage us to embrace the real meaning of Christmas. I am thankful for those people. Because we need them, year after year, to elbow their way through newspaper ads and tv commercials, Christmas music and viral videos of virtual Christmas cards, to remind us what we are here for, why we come together to celebrate the last month of the year. A year of successes and failures, triumphs and tribulations has come to an end and we cannot go back and redo any of it. But what we can come back to is the Savior Jesus, who knowingly accepted His position as Savior of the world, and came down to become a lowly and fleshly human so that we could be saved from year after year of mistakes. He accepted, lived with, and loved the fleshly and sinful humans that were with him while He was here so much that He sacrificed Himself for them. He also accepted and loved the fleshly humans that were to come, for thousands and thousands of years, and sacrificed Himself for them too. Take a second to ponder how many sins, how many mistakes, that one sacrifice paid for...

Sacrifice: an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

Holy Spirit, when we shop, bake, cook and wrap, gently remind us of the reality of this sacrifice. That He was born knowing He would be given up for the sake of something worthy in Your sight. The Son of the creator of the universe, the Prince, given up for me? How can I even begin to fathom this truth. Gently walk us through this reality, and be patient in the moments when we don't quite grasp it's magnitude. Give us eyes to see a little less value in the twinkle lights and the indulgent desserts and a little more value in the people around us whom You love just as much. You died for them just as you did for us. In remembering You let us remember to show a little kindness, because really, that is a gift that is carried with the soul much longer than anything that could be wrapped in pretty paper. May we be pleasing in Your sight this Christmas, and may You show Yourself clearly, Father, through the thick haze of the world around us. We do not deserve the peace You are able to provide, and are so grateful that You offer it to anyone who asks. Thank You, Emmanuel, for Your goodness.

I pray that whether you are joyfully anticipating the week to come or are wishing you could become a big brown bear, get your fill of cookies and sleep the days away (just as I do) that He could and would become your focus. There's hope for this, we still have a week left.

Nativity

Multi-tasking Mom

I'd like to say that I am a multi-tasker. I've been known to have several plates up in the air, being sure they don't come to a complete stop and come crashing down. But I think it's safe to say that's a woman thing. We are able to keep one foot in this door and another in that one... and an arm here, another there, and our head some place else all together. Recently I attended an all day motherhood conference at my home church. It was unbelievably refreshing to let my always-going-never-stopping perfectionist mom heart take a day and just soak it in. Being a mom, and just a person in general, is a lot like being a sponge. As the day passes we squeeze a little more out, and if you're anything like me, the end of the day hits and your wrung dry. So it was nice to let my little sponge heart and head sit in a big bath of wisdom and love and peace.

Something seemed to have soaked right to the core because after a week and a bit I can't seem to get the image out of my mind.

Enter the Multi-tasking Mom.

We were introduced to three types of moms. With each we were given a visual and while many of us laughed I have a sneaking suspicion that most women in that room felt a lot like I did. Convicted. The beauty of conviction is that it is not condemnation. It is the ability to see where you're heading off track and adjust where needed. We all have a path we want to take in our lives, and in order to stay on it we need these moments of conviction. They are good and wonderful and hard and necessary.

The third "mom" we met was what I called the "Modern Mom".  Along with the title was this photo:

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Immediately my heart twinged and my brain went into overdrive. How many blogging, crafting, baking, trendy moms do I spend hours (collectively) admiring and secretly setting up as my standard and goal in life? The statement that was made about this photo was the fact that, to this mom, her baby is just another thing in one of her many arms. Another ball to be juggled.

Another plate to be dropped.

My heart broke at the thought then, and even as I type this now it breaks again. When I look at my gifts and talents I can see a life like this, filled with many different outlets to showcase all that is me. But that's not the path I want. I don't want to set M on the floor with a pile of toys so I can be sure to get my funny and witty blog posted (you know you think they're funny and witty). I don't want to leave him to always play on his own so I can get another craft finished or a cake baked. I want moments like this:

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Instead of doing something that fills me up, doing what will fill him. And ultimately that fills me more than any awesomely baked good (that will add to me all of the wrong things... i.e. inches and pounds. No thanks) or creatively crafted bib (which I did yesterday and felt less than accomplished by the end of it.) Taking twenty minutes to take him outside and teach him about leaves, bugs, water... even now these are the crucial moments. Five years from now when he's off to school and I'm weeping over having nothing to do, I will quickly remember this photo of this mom and how now my baby is big enough to stand beside me and learn from me and I can take all of those arms and wrap them around him tight.

I have to clarify something though. While I believe there are a lot of moms and dads who leave their little ones to fend for themselves far too often, so they can go and do what makes them feel good, I am also aware of many who are able to keep their personal plates spinning and still give their children their whole heart. I know this because I've seen them both. This statement and conviction is simply me realizing my strengths and weaknesses.

Yesterday I spent whatever nap hours I had trying to make some pocket bibs for M. I'm really cheap, and every time I pass these bibs in Target I can't bring myself to spend the kind of money they are asking. So I set out to resolve the problem myself. While I enjoyed being able to sew and create, I carried a fairly heavy heart all day. I couldn't shake feeling like the project had become a greater priority than my boy. He still got all of my attention when he was awake, but I felt rushed. I counted down the minutes to naps so I could get back to the project and just get it done. All of this left me feeling sad. This is not what I want motherhood to be like. As I laid my head on the pillow last night I felt disappointed. I wondered how moms and dads are able to work from home and still give their child their all. It's going to take me some time to get the hang of this. I guess that's why they say the first one gets jipped. They're the trial and error child. I know I can't sit around and do nothing while he's awake, and I realize he needs to learn to be on his own (we have recently initiated playpen time, and it's going wonderfully. He's getting better and better and playing on his own in a safe environment). But one thing I do know: I do not want M and any of our future children to be another plate. Even the prettiest of china pales in comparison to my family.

 

So if you don't see me posting it's probably because I'm still trying to figure this all out, all the while making and cherishing memories with my sweet boy. He's almost one. I can't believe it. Today, if weather permits, take a cue from M and go learn about the leaves or the bugs or the water. It's a pretty fun lesson to learn and relearn.

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My Big Question

My great, big, scary body-image question. No, more like a self-image question, because truly, my insecurities and short-comings and false notions revolve around more than just my physical form. But before I ask you the question, and in turn truly ask myself the question for the very first time, let me backup.

As stated in my previous post, I am a believer in the Author's sincere interest in my life; the tiny and the mighty, and everything that fits right in between. He romances, that is for sure. He also asks. He asks for my service, for my love, for my devotion, for my time. Recently He began asking me something I wasn't quite ready to hear. As a self-proclaimed victim of "seriously low self-esteem", I've created a life for myself that , in one way or another, revolves around how poorly I feel about myself. The trouble with this is that I have spent about 65% of my life feeling this way, so naturally, it has become somewhat of a character trait. My story is no different than anyone else, and honestly, that's not what I want to spend time sharing anyways. I will forewarn you in saying that this may or may not take two posts, and it may or may not be very esthetically pleasing to the English majors eye, but just stick with me.

Last week, a blogger that I follow began a series called 31 Days to Reclaiming Body Image (or something to that affect) and my immediate thought was, "yes, another thin, athletic, talented woman giving me advice on how to reclaim body image." And immediately I reminded myself that yes, it is possible for someone who has "all that I think will make me content" to have her own body issues too. So I swallowed my chill pill and kept on. With that topic lingering in the back of my mind one morning I felt challenged with a question.

 

What if you never change?

 

What if, for the rest of your days, you stay the very size you are right now?

 

Your waist doesn't get smaller, and definitely not firmer. Your boobs don't magically shrink and start defying gravity. Your skin keeps on keeping on in the pimple department.

 

What if?

 

While hating every fiber of this question, I also felt intrigued. It was almost as if a tiny shard of these lie-ridden glasses I've been wearing came loose and fell off. A little light of hope? A little glimpse of what might actually be my reality? So I kept mulling over this question, all the while poking and prodding each area of disdain... but with each day the pokes became a bit lighter, less hate-driven. Then I sat to do my BSF study. And I heard what was quite possibly written just. for. me.  We are studying Matthew 4 this week. To save you my interpretation I will simply share the words directly.

"Self-control and trust in God must replace a determination to control their own situation and others. And a truly contented spirit has no room for an attitude of self-pity and complaint." Ouch.  Remember back when you were in High School and instead of just feeling bad about yourself you also made sure everyone else knew how bad you felt about yourself? No? Well I do, because I did it often. See, that's the twisted thing about the deception of low self-esteem. It tells you that you really just feel oh so badly about yourself when in reality it's a serious pride issue.  It's a way of making everything about you and not needing to feel guilty or prideful about it. I mean, how could you? You're the sad chubby girl with no boys that like you. Or so you say. As an adult this habit changes slightly, but at the core it is the same. Instead of friends at school hearing your woes, it's your husband, or your family, or your boyfriend. In an effort to trudge through this life, I've resolved to control the one thing I know how; my dislike of myself. Truly trust God? Have self-control? What are these things they speak of? Do I long for a truly contented spirit more than I enjoy my attitude of self-pity and complaint? This is just one of many pieces that the big question brings about, and yet another reason why I didn't want to answer it when asked.

"Will you put aside your self-centered life of urgent but empty pursuits and ambitions? Will you trust the One who offers God's acceptance and transformation to real security and peace? Your Savior and King is here for you." The society we live in offers a lot of quick fixes for a lot of things. Just watch an infomercial. Major results in minor [time, commitment, money, effort]. This has always been my beef with diet fads, which is why my story does not include many of those. I have, however, bought into exercise tapes (Hip Hop Abs, anyone? Insanity?), the fitness magazines, and endless pins on Pinterest. The basic idea in our culture is that everyone has a "better" that they could be. Or for me, "should" be. I should be:

  • shorter
  • thinner
  • faster
  • stronger
  • dress "hipper"
  • be "more frugal"
  • crunchier (or more "natural" for those who don't get what that means... mom...)

I could keep going. And let me clarify one thing. No one, and I mean no one has told me that I need to be these things. These are things that have been fed to me by the thief of joy and author of deception. He has no greater love than seeing me live a life controlled by pity and pride. Two key words stuck out to me in the above quote: acceptance transformation

In a life filled with Pinterest and Facebook and mommy-wars and living "naturally", what woman (or man) in their right mind isn't desperately searching for acceptance? In a world of crazy, fat-melting Amazonian fruits and fitness magazines and Crossfit, what person doesn't long to see their physical body transform? But the truth I am beginning to see is that the acceptance and transformation will never be found in these places. It is found in the quiet places. Places of solitude, places of love. Family, laughter, joy, this is where we can truly feel accepted because we can truly just be. And the more I take the time to place myself there, in those moments that truly matter, the more I will see my soul, mind and heart transform. This weekend was my High School reunion, and it was absolutely no coincidence (maybe more like a harsh joke) that I would be pondering this question while returning to the place that birthed so many of these insecurities. I'm not a makeover story, the girl who walks in the room and blows everyone away with her crazy weight-loss and gorgeous hair and clothes and blah blah blah. I'm just an older, more mature version of the same girl who shied away from cool kids and ate lunch by her locker. As Saturday progressed and my womanly nerves began to get a little wracked, I truly asked myself that question, "Is it okay if you don't change?" (I decided that while I might be willing to discuss my options on being okay with the state of my physical form, I do know that there are parts of my mental, emotional and spiritual form that I do not want to see stay the same. But that is a topic for another post.) As I made my way to the neighborhood Target I passed something that made me smile and remind God that I had, in fact, not forgotten our previous discussion.

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I mean, what? This handmade sign, in a random person's front yard. Not a question. Not a call to confidence. Just the words that have been on my mind some five days or so. "Laura, your self-esteem is not found in anyone you will see while looking straight ahead but only when you look up." Needless to say, I made some giant leaps in acceptance that afternoon and resolved to enjoy myself no matter what. And I did. And the question still lingered.

So I will ask you the same question. If nothing changed, would you and could you be okay with that? If the answer is no, what are the things you do not want to carry into your life fifteen years down the road? Will these things hinder the way you love yourself, your family and your life? Will this drive a wedge between you and your Maker, the One who crafted you with such great care?

There are always ways to better ourselves, but I'm challenged to take a step back and see where I'm allowing my focus to lie. I always tell myself (and I know you do this too, so don't deny it), "Once I [do, make, lose, accomplish]_______, then I will finally be able to be content and put this whole big mess behind me." Another question to ask myself is, "If _____ changes, will I truly be content? Or is that an excuse to continue to look inward instead of out?"

I don't know about you but I've missed a whole lot of lives around me simply because I've been too busy feeling sorry for little old me. Some 17 years have passed and I can honestly say I do not want to spend another 17 replaying the same scenes.

So to that I guess I would like to ask you "My Big Question". Would you, could you, be content? (Cue the green eggs and ham.)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1)... not even a hot bod with killer hair and glowing skin. Not even an awesome "body after baby". Not one single bit of it. So to this I aim to remember that my body is a temple of the Holy of Holies. My husband and son deserve my very best. My future children deserve a healthy oven from which to be baked. So I must do what I can to take care of what has been given to me. But to these aims, not the aims of the society of which I live.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money (or beauty or societal acceptance) and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." " (2). Guys, this is really what He wants... for me, for us... to truly know that He will never leave us, even when we wish so badly we could leave ourselves. This is what life is about. Contentment in Him, because He is here for us.

Next time you look in the mirror, really look at yourself and ask. It might be interesting to see what you find.

To read more about the 31 Days of Reclaiming Body Image you can visit www.thelittleway.net

Verse references: 1. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 2. Hebrews 13:5

Childbirth

I've been thinking a lot about childbirth lately (no, not because I will be experiencing it any time soon. Although I do have the fever pretty bad). You see, I've returned to my home town just in time for the recent births of several babies. Friends, friends of friends, co-workers... Seriously, babies everywhere. It's just the most wonderful thing. My heart just smiles seeing these families become parents for the first time... remembering our not too distant past filled with sleepless nights, crying for what felt like hours and a belly button scab that I just couldn't wait to be rid of. All of those beautifully exhausting things, that truly slip by in a moment. Now he's almost a year old and so much of that is of the past, never to come again (for him anyways). How many more times will I experience them? How many more times will I anxiously (and angrily and painfully) anticipate the birth of the baby I've been making for 9 months? Only He knows and I will boldly and loudly exclaim that if it's even once more we are blessed beyond what we deserve. We are already blessed beyond what we deserve simply because we have M.What's been on my mind has been the process of childbirth. You see, due to my proctocolectomy (surgery to remove my entire colon and do some pretty cool stuff with my small intestine to get me up and running again) I am unable to have a vaginal birth. I must always deliver via c-section. For some moms this would be devastating. For me, I was just thankful to even be able to carry a child. We were given hopeful odds for conception, so we went into it thinking it wouldn't be a problem. Motherhood reality check number one. It doesn't happen very easily for everyone. Nearly two years (and many tears) later we found out we were expecting. This news, coming amidst news of loss and heartache for others around us, was the second motherhood reality check I had received and for me the chapter had only just begun. How different motherhood is for everyone. How fascinating to know that it happens to people in so many different ways. Whether by surprise, after many heartaches, accompanied by lots of doctors and injections or by someone who is not able to care for the child themselves, the process of becoming a mother is wonderfully unique. My third reality check was two days after M was born, when I realized I was unable to breast feed. Years ago I had a breast reduction under the impression from my surgeon that I should "have no problems breast feeding when the time comes." He had "never had a patient who was unable to successfully nurse their child." Suffice it to say I went into this whole nursing thing with my head in the clouds and my heart left unguarded. Little did I know, there is a very small percentage of women who are able to nurse after a reduction. (For more accurate information on this go to www.bfar.org.) To say that my heart was broken would be quite the understatement. By His grace I was able to watch my heart change by the hour as I went from heartbroken to thankful for whatever He provided that would allow our son to grow healthy and strong. After months of playing around we landed on goats milk formula as the best possible alternative for him. That is a different story for another time. The fact that I couldn't nurse was hard but I got over it relatively quickly... Until recently. Something about seeing so many friends with new babies... Hearing the stories of their milk coming down, or how well their child is eating... A little voice in by head asks the question, "Am I less of a mother? I don't know what it feels like to have my milk come down, so am I not the real thing?" In hearing these recent stories of childbirth, so fresh in their minds, I've soaked in the uniqueness of each one. It's truly amazing how no birth is the same. I love each story just as I love the families who brought these little people into the world. The thing is, you don't often hear many stories of people just walking into the hospital for their appointment to get numbed up and cut open to birth their child. Usually there are contractions, timing, walking, bathing, squatting, and a whole slew of other things involved... Even if the end result is still a c-section. I love our memory of waking up to the alarm, getting everything in the car, kissing the pups goodbye and praying the entire 4 minute drive to the hospital. I love the memory of walking up to the desk with a giddy smile across my face and saying, "I'm Laura Ferguson and I'm here to have my baby." There was no rush. There was no contracting or Lamaze breathing or yelling at my husband. It was scary and exciting and nerve wracking and possibly one of the best moments we will ever have shared together. But I didn't feel any pain. I don't know what it feels like to be in labor. Am I less of a mom because I don't know what that feels like? Am I not "in it" as much as the others because I haven't felt that horrible pain (so I hear)? Reality check number four. The thing with this reality check is that it didn't hit until 10 months after he was born. It took that long for the lie to grow and fester to the point where I could acknowledge it. All of our birth stories are different. And all of our birth stories are valuable. As I've fought this ugly slimy lie these past few days I've tried to focus on the women in God's word who were mothers. Certainly He would've included some truth to comfort me in this battle over my mind. I found that none of these women's birth stories were recorded. None. The fact that the child was born, that was it. No hint to their pain, their delivery method, whether they labored for five hours or sixteen. Just the beautiful miracle of the person. The little, wonderful, life changing person. There is also no mention of nursing. Obviously one would assume that they all did this, but what about women who just couldn't? I mean there had to be some around back then too, right? But again, no mention of that, just of the strong men their babies became. The recording of the amazing futures these men held, to me, is a nod to the provision they were given by their mothers. They were obviously cared for. They were nurtured, fed, clothed, changed, kissed, disciplined, taught and let go. These women were moms. They did what they needed to do. The only thing that was recorded was the reoccurring theme of barrenness. This is a very real and very prominent thing in the lives of so many women. So many that each of us interact with regularly, whether we know it or not. Children are truly a gift from God. To some, it may seem more evident. As I've read about them, their struggles and blessings, and I've thought about the mothers around me, I've been encouraged to know that mothers are kinda like snowflakes. There are no two that are alike. Similarly with the way we become mothers. Sure there are only a handful of means but each heart, each family, has been perfectly crafted for that child. There is a reason why God not only wants but needs for you to be the mother to that child. Whether you carried the child or not, labored or didn't, nourished by the breast or by a next best thing, you are just what that child needs. There is no one who could do a better job than you. So, after all of these words and all of these thoughts, I'm prepared to put these slimy lies behind me and know in full confidence that even though I can't say I know how it feels to be in labor, I know that I am just the mom for M. The one who was created so that he might be created to live a life to bring Him glory. In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah (who was barren and was blessed by the birth of Samuel) says to Eli regarding Samuel, "As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to The Lord. I prayed for this child and The Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to The Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to The Lord." That is motherhood. Giving them to The Lord, for their whole lives.

Be still my heart. Thank you for letting me process these things with you. Be encouraged, mama. You are everything they need for this day.

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