Go free dear human heart…

Happy St. Patty’s Day to you! Maybe you celebrate it? It’s my birthday so I’ve always been fond of it – though I’m not wearing green today. I’m actually wearing red. For my birthday I’m sharing from a place of struggle over how to let my heart find space to grow and go free. Maybe there is a piece of this struggle we share and if so I hope you are blessed. This post is part of the audio series I aim to send out by email each month. If you would like to hear the audio version of this post or read a bit of what prompted me to write this, you can subscribe at the bottom of this post. Thank you so much for being here today. The time you spend here means so much to me.

IMG_8942

Like a young river finding a way to forge its own path, is the human heart finding a way to go free. She must go free.

Without her freedom, the heart walks alone.

To walk alone through a valley without one friend who knows just where you are – perhaps these are some of the hardest valleys we walk. The pain that has never been spoken. The hopes you’ve never shared. The struggle that has never been revealed to a single soul. And hurts can pile up and scars don’t just go away and learning how to trust can be the scariest thing in the world. The human heart can feel the most lonely ache in the world when it cannot find a way to let its nature go free.

I was twenty-one years and I was in this valley. But all the while I never knew that you who laid beside me in bed every night were walking the very same valley. We never had to walk it alone. But we did for too long.

I think part of the reason we finally took the risk of letting our our hearts find some freedom in front of each other was because we could feel something unspoken.

Somewhere in the darkness, I think my spirit was saying it to you begging you to know. And somewhere in your silence I think I could feel it coming from you too. This plea that was not yet spoken with your words, but somewhere in your eyes, somewhere inside your touch it was there. It was there because I could feel you say it, because it was true.

I could feel your heart speaking to mine, begging me to know that if there was something crazy in my heart, you had a crazy-something too.
That if that something was too dark of a struggle, yours was that dark a struggle too.
That if I ever felt alone, I didn’t have to wonder if you had a secret yourself.
Because your eyes told me…  that you were human just like me.

The human heart is wild like that.

And for every bit of my heart that I’m afraid to let you see, you love me there and you ask me to show you more. And even when I don’t understand how you still love me, I know I can trust you. You have helped me find a boldness to tell you the things in my heart that can hurt you. Because you have convinced me that you are as human as I am and you have taught me that you love me so deeply that you value being closer to me even if it means you feel all the hurt I can bring.

You help me get a start at going free.

Now I know I can be bold with you. And if a husband is told to love his wife like Christ loves the church you have done that and in doing so you have taught me more about the way Jesus loves me than I have ever known. I’ve been told of Love, but Love can never be explained well enough with words. And after all of the love you’ve shown me, after all the ways you’ve treasured me in my humanity, it lets me feel this whisper.

The Spirit of God uses you, speaks to me through your Love.

And while I’ve always claimed to know that I could come to Jesus in the middle of my mess, I never had come to Him in my mess the same way that I’ve learned I can come to you, my husband.

Jesus uses your Love to tell me about His own. And though I can’t hear His heart, I can feel it through you…

He uses your humanity to speak to my heart… begging me to know when I am tempted, that he has been tempted like this too.
That when I long for my heart to be known, He knows the longing too.
That if I ever cry out for love from the darkest of places, He knows this cry even deeper.
He uses your Love to tell me… He was human too.

As hard as it is for us to admit to each other that we are human, Jesus, you said it first. You let yourself be the human that none of us wanted to admit to and claimed the wild human heart.

You identified with us.

You say it with words in our Bible that you have been tempted in every way and understand all of our weakness. Heb. 4:15-16.

You ask us to come bold into your own presence. And even if I come bold to you with my struggle right after the struggle has taken place, I am still putting limits on how bold I can be with you.

Maybe all you ask of me is that I dare to be as bold with you as I am with my own husband. Because maybe a mind fixed on you isn’t a mind that is strong enough to say no, maybe it is a mind that exposes each wild feeling to you as it comes and finds your grace abundant. Because maybe any crazy idea brought into your presence can’t help but be shaped by You and Your love.

I wanted to have a heart with straight edges.. like a river so young and straight. But instead my heart ebbs and flows like a river that is growing. It is stubborn and beautiful finding paths I never knew it could where it’s edges are wild and glorious.
It does not have the straight edges I wanted to give you. And I wanted to hide this river’s edge from you.
But you seek out my edges, you feel every bend and you delight to send more wind to the flow of these crazy waters. I don’t understand it, but I’ll let the river flow if your heart can delight in the free ebb of my own.

Maybe I can trust that you, Jesus, delight in the wildest parts of my heart.

My humanity is my deepest insecurity. But my humanity is the very place where Your Love finds me out.

I am human too… Thank you for saying it with your life Jesus. And give us grace to say it with you in the safe place where this crazy heart can go free.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When it’s Hard to be a Woman

IMG_8672

Whether you’re 24 year-old me, or my four year-old little girl, some things about being a woman hold true for the littlest girl in ribbons and I would guess also for the one with the whitest crown of curls.

Every woman has felt the pain of days that make it deeply challenging to be a woman. It’s a pain that can easily bring the deepest wounds a woman’s soul will know. But even as every girl’s womanhood can be so deeply wounded, it is also true that a woman is most deeply moved and emboldened in her person, when she is offered the freedom to embrace the womanhood she was made with…

When I was eighteen and you and I had just met, I would stay put in church every week until you came to talk to me. I always knew if I stayed around long enough you would make your way to me with a kind smile and gentle conversation. You could always make me laugh but more than that, you were a gentleman. And it made me feel like a woman.

Then one Sunday as church ended, I got up and left. I was afraid you didn’t want me to wait, so I didn’t. But that same Sunday night, I was headed for the door again and you didn’t want me to leave without letting me know. I was almost to the door when you called my name. I turned around and there you stood with the courage to be nervous in front of me. You weren’t ashamed to let me know that you had missed talking to me that morning. And more than that, you weren’t ashamed to give me a sheepish grin and say those words that made me float, “I made you something.” You said it like a shy schoolboy who was so in love and gave me your handmade card, the one you had cut out and drawn on yourself and I felt like a woman in the very best way.

And the first time we went to lunch, you didn’t have to hear a word of how I felt about you before you gave a nervous speech letting me know with an open heart that I was the girl you hoped to grow old with. You risked a rejection that could wound you so deeply. And you meant it, I could see it in your eyes. And even though I’ve always been shy, though I was struggling with who I was as a woman, I knew I could trust you to treasure my womanhood, whatever that meant. And close to seven years later, though it’s never been perfect, though I’ve seen how very human you can be, and you have felt the pain of wounds that I have given you, it has been a constant truth to me that you are a man who embraces me as I am and fights to free the woman in me.

You embrace my womanhood. You speak love into my wounds. And sometimes perhaps I’ve expected you to heal the wounds of my womanhood as well. Sometimes I forget that no man can heal those kinds of wounds.

I still bear those wounds and I’m still seeking healing. And while you’ll never be able to heal my wounds I know you’re always there to help point me to the Healer.

There are still times when it’s hard to be a woman and these are the wounds that still sit on my soul. Every woman bears wounds of her own and sometimes a lifetime can feel like too short a time to heal. There are still moments that pick at old wounds. And those old wounds can hurt just as much as ever. And even while trying to bind up old wounds, there are still wounds coming in this wounded world. But the wounds to a woman, while they may leave her feeling powerless for a moment, they can become her greatest asset. Because every ugly wound can make her beauty that much stronger.

Here are moments that wound a woman.

It’s hard to be a woman when there is no one asking you to dance. This does not make a woman weak. It makes her a woman and it’s the strength of who she is.

Women are born with souls that long to be pursued because this nature plays an essential part in our world. And women don’t simply want to be danced with. They long to be ‘asked’ to dance by a gentleman. And asked by him again. And no matter how much a girl might think or say that she doesn’t want a request to dance, she does. Yet sometimes her request fades away. And sometimes the request never comes.

This can leave a woman feeling that her beauty is not worth being pursued. And while every woman can know truthfully that her beauty has the deepest worth, even with that knowledge she can still be deeply wounded.

If all was perfect perhaps there’d be a gentleman to pursue every girl but even still, maybe sometimes the reason a girl isn’t getting her request is because men are wounded just as easily as women and those wounds can leave us both struggling to be what we were made for…

It’s hard to be a woman when you must wrestle through the question of whether it’s the time and place for you to do your own asking. This rubs rough against the grain of who a woman is because the mystery of her womanhood is made to be pursued. Sometimes a woman must step outside of her nature, yet when a woman is doing the pursuing, she doesn’t feel much like a woman. She opens up so much potential for old wounds to grow deeper.

If she questioned before whether her beauty was worth being pursued (as her nature has intended) now she’s opened to the struggle of feeling that it’s not worth receiving even if she offers it herself.

She boldly dared to defy her own nature and open up the mystery of her womanhood for another. Whether it was treasured or not, she took a bold risk and gave away a piece of her own mystery for the sake of love…

It is also hard to be a woman when any little piece of your womanhood feels taken from you instead of offered by you. When a woman is danced with without being asked… When she is flattered by a man who doesn’t recognize the mystery of the woman inside her…  When she is treated like her womanhood has an owner… When her affection or commitment is assumed instead of pursued… these are moments that want to trample the worth of her soul. A woman is fully a woman when she is strongly pursued while also given the space to offer her own womanhood.

A woman needs this space dearly. For it is a pain that echoes far into her life when a woman struggles for the space to let her nature be free.

These wounds can leave you in a battle with yourself… trying to remember that your wounds do not define you. It is one battle to know it in theory, but it is another battle completely to learn to part ways in daily life with how you’ve let your wounds define you before. It can leave a woman saying no for a bit, simply because she’s still battling to find her own yes. For she does have a need to heal.

And what does a woman seeking healing do with her wounds?

She stays in the battle. And when she looks at the womanhood she wants to embrace and knows that she can’t do it, she looks to One inside her healing her soul and trusts that He can. No matter how many times she falls, she keeps stepping forward in the nature she was given.

And she loves the one who wounded her. She recognizes that every person who has wounded her has first been wounded themselves. She never excuses the wrong that was done, but she always forgives. She does what she must to protect her womanhood from the offense, while she loves the offender where they are.

And inside of the cross, every soul is worth loving no matter how wounded. No matter how often we’ve allowed our wounds to drive us, no matter how many wounds we have caused, no matter the wounds we bear on our soul or how much of our lifetime it can take for us to heal, nothing makes it impossible for us to still give love and still receive it.  

A woman in healing acknowledges her wounds and invites Jesus in. She can learn to boast in these wounds because there is a Savior whose love penetrates the hollow places these wounds have made inside her. These wounds are where Jesus breaks into her beauty and uses it to invite others into His love too.

When it’s hard for a woman to be a woman… this makes her deeply needy so she can be deeply aware of how she is pursued by the only One who fully knows her.

This is the strength of who she is… Yet she gets to be more.

The nature of Jesus is one of pursuit, but the funny thing about pursuit is that it takes two and in the kingdom of God we all get to play a part in both sides of this story. The more deeply needy and inviting we are, the more we will notice Jesus pursuing us. And the more we see Jesus pursuing us, the more His love will drive us to pursue the needy people around us.

So in Him we find that we are both the one pursued and the one pursuing. And this is the best adventure we could live.

So in the end… when it’s hard to be a woman, life gets fuller still.   

IMG_8462 IMG_8644

IMG_8510

IMG_8673

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

The Soul’s Reflection

Welcome to this space you. I’m happy you showed up here. The words below are words I’ve been holding onto for over a month. I wrote them before Christmas and I’ve struggled to embrace them, but I hope they will be a blessing. This post is part of the audio series I aim to send out by email each month. If you would like to hear the audio version of this post or read a bit of what prompted me to write this, you can subscribe at the bottom of this post. I thank you for being here. So many of you have encouraged me to keep sharing and I’m so grateful. It’s a joy to share with you today…

IMG_8564 

While I have sat in the corner of life where you stare at your soul’s reflection, maybe you have sat there too.

The reflection my eyes can see isn’t pretty.

What I know with my eyes, and what I know in my heart don’t always match up.  

With my heart, I know I have come to the table where the bread of life is given. This is where the ugly mess inside us dies. When I sat at this table with Jesus, it was true of me too.  

But sometimes I look in the mirror, and that ugly mess still mars my reflection.

Here on this earth, isn’t it true? “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12  

That ugly mess still comes out of me sometimes. That ugly mess still sits in the reflection of my soul. But still, it is true that that ugly mess is dead.

There is only One who knows us as we truly are. Only One who can see what we look like without that deadness on our soul.  

We see in a mirror dimly, maybe you feel this too…

Jesus is yours and you come here to the table having so much you want to share, but you see this, your soul’s reflection.

The moment brings its gift… Yes the mirror says there is an ugly soul inside you, but the One who loves you keeps offering the bread of life. Take this gift in faith and believe the One who knows you better than you know yourself.   

What you can see is a poor reflection. So, keep giving Jesus the deadness inside you and don’t believe what you see in the mirror.

Trust the only one who can see you as you truly are…

We gather around together here. Sometimes your drink might tumble. Sometimes I might spill the gravy. But as sure as the table gets messy, it is sure that we need each other.   

We come here together sharing in the same body. This is where we all became one.

When you look around the table, we don’t look like much. But we can’t trust our eyes.

May we come to the table looking around with faith instead of our eyes – faith to see ourselves as a needed and lovely part of what is happening here. Faith to look across the table and see each other as the same. So much darkness can exist in a world that is so broken, but just as Jesus is our Lord, love is who we are.

We all came to the table with faith that He could make us new. We will trust it for ourselves and we will trust it for each other.

The prayer for myself is what I pray for you.

Even as we see the poor reflection of our own souls, may we trust You more than the mirror. Give us grace to keep offering ourselves to each other when it just feels like a mess. Give us grace to welcome the person across the table as you welcome us. May we believe You when you tell us that every spiritual blessing is ours to claim, that we are all equipped and gifted to play our part in this sweet Gospel story we sing with You. When we sing the song with the voice you gave us, in the part you gave us to sing, and all we can hear is a mess, we will keep giving the deadness to you and we will keep singing because we trust you more than we trust ourselves. You are in us, shining through us and You make the Beautiful Song.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Why tiny things might hurt so deeply

IMG_8151

Your life used to have that old form. It was nice. You had learned to wear it, to dress your day in the shape it took. It almost felt like a part of you. But then, it was different.

Life took on a different form. Change can happen in a moment and there may have been one instant when it all shifted. But the heart inside you cannot make a shift in a single instant.

Even if on the outside life appeared to keep going on as always, it still happened. And something started happening inside you the day the shift came.

That shape of your life that felt like a part of you, it said goodbye. But it couldn’t wait for you finish saying goodbye back. Because how do you even say goodbye to something that feels like part of you?

And even as you tried to keep your head up and move forward, even if you weren’t going to let it get to you when that part of your life said goodbye… it was after that, that all those old pieces of your life that had said goodbye to you before, came back to enter your memory and remind you of what you’ve lost, to remind you of who you’re not, and the way your life does not look today.  

And while I’m talking to myself, maybe you can relate somehow. Because the Word says there are no struggles except what is common to our experience as people.   

And maybe you’ve had a baby or moved to a new city. Maybe you’ve had to part ways with a person whether you both stayed on this earth or not. Maybe you’ve lost a responsibility or gained one you weren’t ready for. Whatever shape your life has taken, you’ve said hello and goodbye to so very many seasons. It’s a whole lot to be grateful for and it’s also a whole lot for a soul to bear.

And as much as it may seem sometimes to be a much smaller load than what someone else has to carry, life is still a lot to bear for every life that lives here.

Sometimes it can feel ridiculous to give myself permission to call something a real struggle. Tears want to come, but the moment doesn’t feel grief-worthy. Silly me. I’ll just keep stepping forward.  

But then it happens again.    

And this year, while we were learning the hellos and goodbyes of calling a new town home, we had our first surprise pregnancy. And we were so excited to say hello to our little boy, that “goodbye” didn’t seem to have a place. Then, I passed my due date, the induction was scheduled, and the night before he was born we got in the car with the girls to go to dinner as a family. And when we pulled out of the driveway, my eyes got really wet. Because while I was so excited to say hello to my baby boy, it suddenly felt like this season of life was saying goodbye to me and somehow tears were the only response I could give to that.

I thought on it for a few moments that night, but it felt a little silly. And we went on to enjoy the evening, to look to the joy of the next day when we got to experience all the wonder of meeting our precious little boy. Then a few days after Gideon’s birth, tears fell when I looked at Liesel and all of a sudden she didn’t look like a baby anymore. I took some time that day to hold her tight and to journal through the moment, then… we stepped into the next day… and the next week, because that’s what you do.

Then, for the past couple weeks or so, life has felt so wonky. Feelings I’ve known before keep coming back. People I’ve parted ways with, moments of life that brought tears, pieces of life that I’ve struggled to recognize as something separate from what I’m defined by… one by one they keep resurfacing. As if something has triggered the remembrance of how all those broken pieces of my life felt.

Because, I don’t know, but it feels like my soul is trying to grieve something. Like a whisper inside me wants me to know that even while I take joy in getting to know my baby, it’s okay to also feel sad about the season of life that has gone. I don’t completely understand why it’s something that I feel a need to grieve, but somehow I have a need to give myself permission to acknowledge that life no longer looks the same way it did that evening when we rolled out onto the road with four occupied seats in the car. It’s okay for both Liesel and I to grieve that our relationship does not have just the same shape as it did before. Grieving the change does not lessen the joy that we have in getting to call Gideon a part of our family.

It does not make us any less grateful for what we have when we acknowledge the grief that we feel.

Because grief and gratefulness do their best work when they join hand in hand.

And our one biggest reason to be grateful took place in death. The cross brought grief and gratitude. How could it bring one without the other?

So we feel grief and we give thanks.

We feel broken grief just as Jesus body was broken and this becomes a gift. With this grief, we get to press our hurting pieces into His death that brought life.  

This grief, perhaps it allows us to not simply say words of thanks, but to feel something inside us, a glympse of what Jesus felt, and to remember with the heart inside us, the life that His death has brought us. Maybe when grief and gratefulness join hands in our lives, we get to press into something that is big enough to bear it all.   

That life of yesterday that felt like a part of you, it said goodbye. But it couldn’t wait for you finish saying goodbye back. That season where you were a mother of two, it said goodbye and now you remember it all again…

The season when you called Garland home, it said goodbye. The season when that soul you loved was a part of your life, it said goodbye. That season when you were a little girl sitting in front of your dollhouse and life didn’t feel this complicated, it said goodbye. They all felt like part of who you were. And when they said goodbye, shy, awkward and incomplete felt like part of who you were.

It all felt like a war: Feel the grief and hear how incomplete you are, or just try to be grateful enough that you can’t hear the rest of it. It felt like grief versus gratefulness, as if this was your war, as if they were opposites.      

But maybe the grief that invites you to feel as the flow of life carries you forward, maybe the grief of insecurity that keeps showing up to remind you what you are not, maybe this is an invitation.    

An invitation to know that this war that you feel between grief and gratefulness: this is not the war. The war is against that devil who wants you to think that these two pieces of the cross are separate.    

Our call is not to deny the grief, the dark pieces inside us that can feel so incomplete. No, our call is to deny ourselves, but to take up the cross.

The cross of Jesus is the place of grief, where everything that ever said goodbye to us belongs. It’s the place that can bear everything that ever felt like a part of who we are.

I wanted to be enough to hold all the seasons of life without breaking. I wanted to be enough for the ones who parted ways with me. I wanted to be enough to never feel like my personality was shy or incomplete. But that is not what I was made for. Because I was made to know the beautiful glory that happens when all these broken pieces that feel like a part of who I am say goodbye to me and attach themselves to the beautiful cross.   

And when I grieve and feel that grief in the presence of Jesus, I acknowledge that I was not enough to hold it all without breaking. When I grieve, I deny that I was ever enough. I cannot move from one life season to another without things cracking inside me. I cannot live this life without feeling incomplete inside. But when God uses that grief to move me… to help me to keep carrying these broken pieces of myself to Jesus and press them into His beautiful cross, everything incomplete in me dies with Him there. And inside His cross, He gives life to me. He takes these broken pieces of me that were pressed with grief into the death of His cross and in His death He presses these pieces all the way through to the life of His cross that shines on the other side. He makes me a part of His own sweet cross of life and here He makes these pieces of me into a new person that is whole. The broken person of me is remade, renamed and found whole inside of this lovely cross.

He never looks to my grief and says it’s too small and unimportant for His cross to carry. He invites it with His Word. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Cor. 4:11) And if today wants to bring me grief for all these little things that I cannot carry, these are just more broken pieces of me that will keep being remade inside of that beautiful cross.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When God Paints Portraits with His People

Maybe God can paint portraits not just with a sunset, but with my personality too, when I let Him live through it.

IMG_7855 (1)

There are those moments. Playing my part, I do it ever so carefully, and, if I really try, I can do it without my mistakes being noticed. Because, well, messing up feels uncomfortable, exposed, like I just showed people that I might not really know exactly what I’m doing.

It feels like the evenings I spent in my little corner at the keyboard. Playing along with the guitars, when our small group of friends sang worship together. I watch my fingers hit the keys and I think on the little insecurities of the moment. I think of the people who do this on a grander scale. In the church auditorium on Sundays when sometimes the distinct way a note is played can be used to stir my soul to my own need. In my own small way, I want to offer my playing to be used that way too. So I try to offer that, and it all comes out messy.

When I sat on that bench, there were really two options. One option was blending in to play the basic chords with no mistakes and very little notice, and the other was to venture with my fingertips up the keyboard and risk wrong notes. The first option is the safest. But the second option opens to the possibility of bringing unique beauty to the hearers through my fingers. One option closes off an opportunity and the other opens to it.

As I played keyboard those Wednesday nights, I hit the notes wrong and I could feel a truth small and simple, a message delivered through my insecurity.

Life can feel just like this.

Sometimes it’s the tiniest pieces of life that feel like the biggest risk, like being willing to play my little part in what’s happening around me, or offering the words of encouragement that my heart wants to give. The words start coming out and suddenly it feels that I’ve ventured up the keyboard away from where I blend in. It’s the whisper to my heart with the remembering of that corner I sat in, inviting me to trust what is true – that He can use me as me.

If I’m honest with myself, I struggle to trust God with my personality more than I like to think. Offering my thought or the words on my heart, it can feel like playing all the wrong notes for everyone to hear.

Maybe God can paint portraits, though, not just with a sunset, but with my personality too – when I let Him live through it. Maybe the awkward things that can come when I open my mouth, maybe they are music to somebody. Maybe they want to be brushstrokes in the beauty God is painting today. I know something happens when people open to the possibility. The room of people seem as if they were blessed in some small, mysterious way, as if maybe the spirit inside one can commune with the spirit inside the rest of us and offer an unspoken joy to us all. Maybe there are secret passageways through personality where a part of us runs through and blesses the other.

I see God shine through a friend’s personality when she says the thing that only she would say, in the way that only she would say it, and it stirs my soul to the sacred healing of something I cannot explain. She said the quirky thing and the words didn’t have to be spiritual, to be used to bless my spirit.

It’s where the mystery whispers hints into our lives and we find it true – Christ in you.

Today for the uncomfortable mystery in the moments we face, may we hear the quiet invitation. Perhaps at times, God calls us to simply trust what He can do with the personality He made in us. And maybe the most beautiful portraits are made by the Artist who made you and me.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

New Baby Journal

File_000 (49)

To spend an evening surrounded by the people you’ve given your heart to, to let the evening glow and listen to the giggles and the singing and snuggle up with your baby in your arms, this is beautiful. And no pain from giving birth or long night with a baby could make these moments any less worth it. Those moments of pain have a beauty of their own.

When my oldest little girl was a baby, that was when shy feelings started becoming something beautiful instead of something ugly I had to run away from. God knew I needed my girlie in my arms. I had always been painfully aware of the “shy girl” inside me, but when I became a mommy, in those first few weeks and months the “shy girl” was all I could see of myself. And it was the ugly wonderful truth of the cross that spoke into my heart through the people God brought me. The truth that was powerful enough to make my ugly postpartum feelings – along with the shy feelings that had been such a large part of my life – so beautiful.

The postpartum, new baby life is what God used to show me my shy feelings as a gift instead of a curse. They were what led me to start writing here. And I’m blessed to experience postpartum life for the third time this October. (Pictures and info about my little Gideon below)

One of the most raw times in life for those small feelings to come are those postpartum days after birth when you are adjusting to the sudden hormonal changes accompanied with the major life changes that come from it all.

The arrival of baby is met after months of anticipation, some of the greatest feelings of anticipation a lifetime can know. All the hoping and waiting is met on a date that is often unknown until it happens and when it does happen the way it all goes is out of your control. There are bound to be numerous unforseen things about the way that day unfolds. And while you always know that the day your babies are born will be in the happiest of your life, nothing can so prepare you for birth, that the joy of the moment does not overwhelm your soul.

All at once, birth can carry with it the weight of joy, the weight of love and the weight of knowing that a life is in your hands. A soul that will last forever is wrapped in skin and placed in your arms for you to give life and nourishment to, for you to train and raise, for you to speak love into as this soul enters a world that is so broken.

And the weeks following can bring you more awareness of your own inability than you have ever known before. While you want to love this child perfectly, and value their needs more than your own, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you just want to sleep through the night without waking up for your baby. Sometimes you wish you could take a shower without having to worry about whose going to keep the baby safe from big sister. The dependence you are met with can wear on you and you might even wish you were free to jump up and go somewhere without having to feed and change the baby before you leave and be prepared and ready to feed and change the baby again when you get where you’re going. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you remember how long it can take to feed a newborn baby or how hard and long a newborn can cry and make you want to cry until you feed them.

And sometimes you can feel like the worst mother in the world for even having the wishful thoughts in your head. So inadequate, so insufficient to be all that this baby needs. And, of course, you aren’t sufficient. You were never made to do it on your own. But accepting that can be so hard, so much harder than you think it will be.

And then, that’s just a small piece of the story.

This month I won’t be blogging, but my aim is to journal a little every day, and share those words, with a purpose.

My purpose is to share the small feelings of postpartum life and pray that they lead closer to Jesus.

Because I’ve known a postpartum life that felt so alone and thought I was the only one who felt this.

Because Jesus is able to shine through the dark feelings inside me.

Because I like the idea of having a place online to show up daily and remember that all the feelings inside me can lead me closer to Him.

If you’d like to join me, for the next month or so I’ll be sharing my new baby journal on Instagram under the handle @maggiejanaye and the hashtag #newbabyjournal.

May our small feelings lead us closer to Jesus. For all of us in the messy sweetness of life keep our eyes on You. You give the beautiful imperfections and offer them all as a way to see Your grace. The moments we most want to treasure never look picture perfect, but Your grace is too great for perfect picture frames. Be the Shepherd that guides us on down the broken road to the always unexpected show of how Your grace does its work in our stories. Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Each of my babies have given me some of the greatest gifts of my life, not only in their own lives but in the gifts God offered to my heart with them in my arms. Such a treasure. Thank you for sharing in the joy with me here. I look forward to sharing more in November.

Here is our little Gideon Harley and my first journal entry after his birth.

File_000 (1)

File_000 (3)

File_000

File_000 (4)

File_000 (6)

File_000 (8)

File_000 (7)

File_000 (5)

“Gideon Harley was born on Tuesday just before 8 pm. I just can’t get over his sweet little face. Having my two little girls, I’ve been a little unsure during pregnancy of what it would be like to mother a son but getting to hold my own little man melts my heart. I’ve only mothered a boy for a few days but it feels beautiful. He has my heart.

He’s been my littlest baby – 7 pounds, 1 ounce at birth and the birth experience I’ve had with him has been so unique to my others. My longest labor. My first c section. The first time Daddy got to hold the baby first. The first time the family got to see baby before I did.

A few minutes after they told Luiz he had to step out of the labor room, the baby and I both went into stress and the c section had to be decided on without Luiz there. They couldn’t get me numb so they chose to put me under and in what seemed like seconds (an hour later) I woke up in a room alone and looked down to see that Baby wasn’t in me anymore. Luiz, Mom and Dad came in to see me and eventually my little guy came. The moment I met him didn’t have the grand newness of birth and I hurt to have not been there in those first few moments but I’m learning to treasure the moment we met as it was. I was told to stay flat on my back and he was laid in the crook of my arm. It’s hard to see a persons face from that angle, especially when you’ve been waiting to see it for months. But we got acquainted in our own little way and it was arranged by the one who knows and cherishes my desires and lays the very best plans still. The moment we met was special as it was.

The past few days I have known a deeper respect for c section mommy’s. When all you want to do is get up and cuddle your baby, it hurts to not be able to get out of bed by yourself. It hurts because you know the mommy you want to be and how can you be that when you can’t even go to the bathroom without help? When your baby is dependent on you, you became nearly as dependent as he is. You get to remember a bit more of what it is to be like a child and maybe while that dependent soil can feel ugly, maybe underneath, it has the nutrients that faith needs to grow.”

Those are some of my first thoughts after having Gideon. Thank you for being a kind listening ear as I step through them without having it all figured out.

This month, as part of my monthly audio series, I’ve sent an email letter on things I want to remember about seasons of waiting. (As September was one of the longest months of my life waiting for baby Gideon’s birth.) Also in that email, I sent the audio file for this month celebrating the ways God has used this waiting season, in its imperfections, to point me to the patience of His Love. If you haven’t received the email and would like to, you can sign up below.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

3 Encouragements for Giving Wholehearted When Your Heart Wants to Melt

5 Day Guide to Offer your Gift without Losing your Heart

Hello dear Reader, The following post is something that’s been deep on my heart to share. It’s for all of us who want to be a blessing, but sometimes feel like our hearts are so messy in the middle of it. And in a way, this post is an invitation to join me in five days of sitting with this topic. However you choose to use the words below, I pray they are a blessing to your life of offering.

If you’ve ever just wished that you could offer yourself wholeheartedly but your heart just felt like melting, then I feel like we have so much in common and I’m so glad.

There was a day this month, more like a string of days, when my heart longed to be useful, to feel useful, but mostly all I felt was overwhelmed, falling short, limited, broken.

And in that place, my daughter asked me to read her a story from her children’s Bible. It was the story of the small boy with a small lunch, and for those few moments while I read it, it felt like I was that boy. It felt like Jesus saw all these pieces of my heart and still waited with a loving smile for what I had to give. And the tears came.

The beloved Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally L-J
The beloved Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally L-J

So I wrote about it and we made a video. I hope you enjoy it.

In case you’re hard of hearing the transcript for the video is provided at the bottom of this post. Below the video I’ll talk a bit more about those three things I’m still learning from that little boy and you’ll also be invited to five days of letting your heart sit with truth and encouragement as you offer what God has given you.

How do I give wholeheartedly when my heart just wants to melt? Sometimes I think I can never give wholeheartedly as long as my heart feels this way. I forget that the “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” (Ps. 34:18)

When we want to give ourselves wholeheartedly but our hearts feel all the things, here is what we can do:

1. Acknowledge the reasons our hearts feel like melting.

We are never more wholehearted than when our hearts are resting in Jesus acknowledging to Him every part of what lies inside. There is no safer place to pour out the depth of our hearts than in His own loving arms. He is the only one who can make good out of every part of what we feel inside us.

When we tell Him what our hearts are feeling, when we tell Him the things in life that overwhelm us, we acknowledge our own weakness and that weakness becomes a tool in His hands. The Bible never tells us to make our hearts invicible, it simply tells us to keep our hearts and to let Him use our weakness. (Pr. 4:23, 2 Cor. 12:9)

2. Give from our melting hearts.

We may not feel it, but we are so wholehearted coming from this place. We don’t have to have hearts that feel strong before He can use us. Because the strength of our heart does not lie in us. It lies in Him. When we don’t feel strong, we are invited to trust Him for the strength and keep on resting in the promise that He is using us.

Even when our hearts feel like they’re melting, by faith His strength holds them together and close to His own heart. Our own usefulness does not depend on our strength.

3. See Jesus meet us in the giving.  

Even as we may question ourselves, when we put our eyes on His faithfulness, our trust is not in ourselves, or in any outcome we can see, but in the simple promise that He is moving in our lives. We may not see exactly how He moves, but as we look to Him, He always meets us in the giving.

We look for Jesus in the giving and we become that little boy giving the little offering from our sack. Though our offering is so small, Jesus gives His big smile because while we don’t know just what He will do with it, though we may never even see how He does use it, He assures us with His smile… Yes, you are so useful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If these thoughts speak to you, then I’d like to invite you to a personal, five day Bible study. I’ll share some of my own struggles in this and we’ll look at what Scripture says both about giving our offering and about how to keep heart in the ministry of life on this earth as one of His children. As children of God, there are areas where we can start to lose heart in the giving. We’ll look at five ways we can strive to keep heart even as we let our weak hearts rest in the strength of Jesus.

File_000 (37)

Each of the five days I’ll send you a (free) PDF that includes a short intro video, devotional thoughts, Scripture study and journaling prompts / meditation for your own heart in the offering. You can sign up below if you’d like to be a part. I would LOVE for you to join me.

And whether we are offering ourselves today as parents, friends, creatives, teachers, whether we offer ourselves behind a desk or on a stage, may we all claim it together by the strength of His love, “Having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Cor. 4:1)

bible-study-header

Video Transcript

There is a crowd surrounding us, a swelling up of people who must surely know they’re purpose in this place. And in the midst of people, we strain to hear the One who leads. We are finding our way in the ocean of possibilities, hoping to stay afloat, our minds drifting and remembering again and again who we are here for in all the mess.

Just one in the world who can be so uncertain, we need one hope to cling to for the noise that swirls around us.

And the leading one holds a dear child close, lifts him up as treasured. What sweet joy to be that one, to be so treasured by him. Yet, the heart of the idea is slapped by a whispering accuser. Perhaps the voice is true. Perhaps my heart does want the praise of all these people. How can I deny that such broken feelings rise inside me?

But when I look up at him, he still gives his gaze my way. Still the smile rests on his face, as he seems to know what’s in my heart. Those eyes don’t look to accuse me, nor do they give one reason to stay away. I look down on what I have to give. Maybe he knows what I hold inside.

Still, I wonder. Still the courage is not inside me, but you, my friend, come close with kindness. You point me on to trust those eyes. A smidge of courage rises in me. And it is not my own. For it was sent through you.

I take a step, clutching the bag in my hand. Ducking through the field of people. For all the assurance my kind-eyed leader seems to give, there are so many calling for his attention.

Seeing a man who knows him stand quiet to the side, I make my way there. As I stand there in the presence of this man, he looks down waiting to see why I have come. My hands tremble to reach for the contents of my bag, for I know they are so small.

With such doubts inside me, I remember your encouragement friend and I look again to the One I’m doing this for. I lift my package and pull it open, to show these two small fish and pieces of bread to the man before me.

The expression on his face seems to be one that has questions too. Yet, he gives a kind smile and takes up my offering. Stepping away from me, he goes on to carry it for me. Beyond the broad shoulders of this man, there is the one who I hope can use my offering. One more time, he gives me the happiest smile I’ve seen from him.

I don’t know what he will do with my offering, but what I do know, is that smile he just gave me makes every part of this story worth it.

For all the broken feelings inside me, for all the ways my offering may be flawed, for every part of my steps to get here that were so imperfect, he treasures me and he treasures my offering.

While we paused in the questions, he already knew how he planned to use our offering. And he waited, without an ounce of judgment on us.

He waits in love for each offering from us. For we are all the little boy with our bits of bread and fish.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Why the Heart of America Still Stands Strong

File_000 (33)

The following post is something I wrote a couple months ago and never shared. But in light of the events of this past weekend, I pulled it back out. I think it’s a good time to share it. What took place in Charlottesville is heartbreaking and it’s a good time to remember the goodness of what it is to be American. It’s a good time to feel the heart of this country with the heart inside our own skin, and sit in the quiet of how God is using the past weekend in our own lives. For this is where battles are won. May we face the small feelings it meets us with and bring them to the one who is Light.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I sat on the wooden staircase, veiled and dressed in white, waiting for my dad to say it was time. In just a few minutes, I would live the freedom that did not exist for the nation just five decades earlier. Fifty years earlier, we could have been arrested for a day like this. But this is America, where our legacy has always been in striving to put away our prejudice and call all people equal.

Luiz and I were made for each other. We just happened to have different skin colors.

Taking my dad’s arm, we walked to the chapel doors. And when those doors opened to begin a new chapter of life, they opened to a freedom that had been fought for by generation upon generation of Americans who held tight in their hearts to the belief that people of every color, creed and nation were created in the image of God, just the same as they.

This belief in equality gave the strongest fight, not on a battlefield or in a war of words, but inside of individual hearts. It fought strongest in the hearts of people who admitted the prejudice inside their own mind, and determined to war against it.

Because of God’s grace, lived out in those people, I got to live my wedding day so freely. I walked the aisle of that chapel to take the hands of the one I loved. On that stage, I looked into his eyes and spoke my vows. There was one simple line that I was so proud and grateful to offer in front of so many witnesses. “Your people will be my people.”

The life my husband and I know today would look so different if America had not chosen this. My children’s lives would look so different. I am grateful to over two hundred years worth of a nations people who have lovingly sought to stand on the ground of equality.  

As an American, the grace that can work through my one heart is the same as it was in all of those who made the freedom of my wedding day possible.

As an American, and even as my husband’s wife, prejudice tries to live in my heart too. It finds the most success when I say it’s not there. As much as Luiz and I are proud to belong to each other, and as much as we are proud to call each other’s people our own, we very much need each other’s help and accountability to see every kind of people with the same love.

Prejudice tries to creep in any way it can and it happens with more than just race. It wants us to suspect things about a person simply because of the family they came from, a group they belong to, or a word they said. It wants us to look at any part of them other than the heart inside them that was made just like our own.

But we have a God who is bigger with a love that is stronger than any prejudice we have ever known. He is able to give us the grace to take up the fight inside us, where the battle is really won. A legacy has been created in America because this is just what He has done in so many hearts already.

My husband was not born here but he is so proud to call himself an American. It is not a perfect country, nor does it’s legacy perfectly exist in every part of it’s soil. But the blemishes will never change the legacy that has been made here, the legacy that gave freedom to the open doors on my wedding day. To be American is to be part of all of this.

To be American is to stand in the beautiful victory already won by the years of battles in so many hearts. To be American is to continue to take up the battle to let God’s love pour through our own hearts to all the wonderfully made people in the world who are just like us.   

File_000 (32)

File_001 (4)

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

This is why I still feel like a child

File_000 (28)

Is there ever a child who does not hear it with the growing of her body? The voice that says her heart is out of place. For do we ever lose the heart we were born with, the one that wants to hold and be held, the one that yearns to love and be loved, the one who gives herself to the world without a thought for how it all comes out.

For all of us living this life, perhaps the child we used to be still lives inside us enabling us to feel this life.

My own life took me from being a high school student one year, to being an adult, a wife and a mother the next. I don’t regret it and I wouldn’t change it, but my soul still feels the sharp turn life took and stands in great need of moments when I can curl up into my child self and say it honestly that I just don’t know exactly what I’m doing and this new road I’m on is still so unfamiliar and just a little daunting sometimes. There is something beautifully comforting in those moments felt in the presence of Jesus.

There was a moment I spent today sitting at the coffee shop when a lady came up to ask for the chair next to me and I began a delighted “How do you do? What’s your name?” conversation only to realize her intention was to take that chair to another table to sit with someone else. And suddenly the child inside me is more alive than it was before, and my heart turns to find comfort in Jesus in a way it hasn’t yet that morning.  

Perhaps the secret of growing up is not in being more adult-like but in staying awake to the child inside you that enables you to feel the whole process. Because there is something about feeling this life before Jesus that can bring his presence into a place.

A child’s heart is beautiful.

File_000 (25)

My Amayah, she gives herself honest and beautiful. She is cautious with her stare that observes and does not try to impress. She will not fake a smile or a kind word. No, she will watch until she’s ready, but when that smile does break through, when those words of love come out her mouth they are pure gold, for there is no question that they were meant from the bottom of the little heart inside her.

My Liesel, she meets the world so open-hearted. When she gives her love, she gives it so freely. She hurts deeply for the moment Mommy is not there to hug her just when she needs it. She has no ounce of hesitation to run into our arms when the broken world has hurt her. Embarrassment plays no part in the times she cries out in need of comfort. And the open desire she comes with makes her little life so beautiful.

And my Gideon, he is still in my womb being nourished inside me, and no doubt he has no shame in the constant dependence he lives with. And yet his little life is being used in the world even as an unborn child, because God is always using the child’s heart no matter how small it is.

The world will make us think we must lose our child’s heart that hurts and cries and feels the imperfections of this world so deeply. But, the opposite is true. For the greatest secret of this life we’re given is to never lose our one child’s heart. Never is the tender pain inside us not worth it, for this is where we love, this is where we are loved.

One child’s heart is what we have with which to know and give love. One child’s heart is all we have to know the sweetness of the relationships we find here on this earth. One child’s heart is the gift we are given to receive the love and grace of Jesus that fills every hurt and flaw inside us. May we not despise the child inside us, for this heart we are given is beautiful and every hurting moment is a gift, an empty vessel we are given with which to receive more of Jesus and bring more of him into the hurting world.  

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Remarkable Faith (A Book Review)

Where I am a sheep and my Shepherd seems to call me down a path…

I follow Him, looking desperately for assurance of the sight of His feet ahead of me. I catch an occasional glimpse of His sandals lifting from the dirt, sometimes I can even hear His staff as it falls to the ground. I ache to see His leading with crystal clarity.

Sometimes I wonder if I really did see Him there ahead of me. Sometimes I even pause in following Him because I’m afraid to trust that it really was Him, afraid I’m getting it all wrong…

File_000 (24)

He is faithful to give me assurance on the path – a loving pat, a quiet whistle – but sometimes in the fog of everything surrounding me, I’m afraid to trust that it really was Him.

The doubts that want to rise in me call out their questions. What if this is the wrong way? What if you’re way off the path? What if what you’re following isn’t Him, but something that will only lead you into trouble? What if you misheard Him? What if when you get where He seems to be calling you, He won’t be there to meet you?

These questions had been calling out to me for weeks when I began to read the pages of Shauna’s book.

I wasn’t met with someone who told me I was ridiculous for feeling these questions. Shauna didn’t even tell me that I should go on as if I had never heard them.

She simply showed me broken people in the Bible who heard these questions too, broken people who encountered Jesus face to face. And when they met Jesus with their questions, He wasn’t disappointed. Rather, He marveled at their faith.

He didn’t tell them what failures they were for pausing at the sound of the question. He didn’t tell them to ignore the questions and get with it in following Him with haste. Jesus found value in them. Found value in the fact that they felt the questions and yet, continued on in their broken state…

File_000 (23)

Jesus valued that they longed for Him so earnestly, valued that they were well aware how broken and sinful they were. He honored their doubts, almost as if those doubts played a major part in their faith.

Shauna’s words bring tears of healing to my heart. For I had felt guilty for listening to these questions. For my guilt, she simply shows truth through moments from Jesus’ life.

“Remarkable faith is the braided strands of doubt, hope and wonder.” – Shauna

Her book fills me up with Jesus’ love as she looks so closely at His words and actions towards the doubts of the people He met. With eight stories from the Bible, she draws me into His grace. And with words of hope she points me on down the path. The questions of doubt will come. Sometimes I’ll wonder about the path. But He is still the One I continue on for, the One who loves me in my questions and values my weak faith. He is my hope. He is why I have faith.

“Refuse to be ashamed if you come to Jesus with questions and doubts, wondering if he can and if he will. It is not always for us to know the how, the why, or the when of his work. The fact that we seek him, with questions swirling about our hearts, is evidence of the seeds of faith planted and waking up in the fertile soil of trials and trouble.” – Shauna

Shauna Letellier’s book has been such a blessing to me and I’ve so enjoyed the gift of being acquainted with such a kind writer.

I pray you’ll be met with the blessing of her words yourself. Perhaps you have a friend who would be blessed by them as well.

You can find her book through the link below and you can read more of her words by clicking here.  

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.