It's Only A Stage

The summer sun is out to stay, until a little shower pops up to water our gardens. Kids are out of school and running between our houses barefoot in my neighborhood. I hear laughter and basketballs bouncing right up until the time the sun meets the horizon and passes her duty off to the moon. The neighbors across the street keep their floats on the porch for easy access because you can find them at the pool everyday. Summer is finally here.

Last year this time, we had just brought home our second child through adoption. I can still see his squishy newborn face and wrinkled old man skin. His big sister was only 16 months old and conveniently decided after months of therapy she was ready to walk when we brought him home. My husband had just taken a new job and was working nights in the NICU. So it was me all day and all night with two under two. And some days it was just too much.

I knew immediately that something was wrong with my little man. By the time he was two weeks old I was already syringe feeding him and counting wet diapers. He screamed ALL THE TIME. Not like colic, but like something was really wrong. The kind of thing only a mama’s heart knows.

I was in the trenches of spit up, screaming, bottles, diapers, toddler messes, and tantrums. The baby would only sleep for 30 minutes at a time so to say I was tired was an understatement. The toddler was like a tiny tornado whirling around my house at all times. My body was exhausted. My heart was weary. I barely had time to shower, much less spend time with Jesus. My time with Him was more of a desperate cry here and a feeble prayer there. I felt like there would be no end.

When I shared my desperation, it was always met with “It won’t always be this way. Savor every second.” So not only was I feeling utterly desperate, completely defeated, but then I was feeling guilty because I wasn’t enjoying this season of our lives. How could I? I was praying for him to grow bigger and wishing for the next month to pass.

The doctors finally realized it wasn’t colic. After six hospital stays and among many, a diagnosis of failure to thrive, everyone listened to me. A few months, more hospital stays, and several surgeries later my son got a GJ tube and is growing beautifully now with our newest diagnosis of cerebral palsy. We still have frequent hospital stays, lots of therapy, and a road of challenges to overcome, but we are better. I am no longer living in that desperation every moment of every day. It was only for a season.

Yesterday my husband carried our two year old out of Target kicking and screaming like a sack of potatoes under his arm. She had already sat in time-out twice (in Target). I’m sure like you, time-out can be found in any place we go these days. I chuckled to myself as I watched all of Target’s loyal customers quickly turn their heads to get a look at this unruly toddler. I pushed our buggy (that’s what we call carts in the south), with my son in the front like we had no idea who they were.

He took her to the car so she could be contained in a small area. Then it hit me as I put a box of diapers in our buggy, that in a few months we will probably be carrying him out of stores kicking and screaming because he couldn’t run around the store like a wild horse. And it terrified me.

My husband and I both agreed it wasn’t our best parenting day. So we got a babysitter, went to a wedding, and promised to try again tomorrow. And that’s what we did.

A friend at church reminded me this morning that it is just a stage. It won’t be like this forever. And she didn’t say it in a way that made me feel guilty. She knew.

Continue reading here.

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Photos by

Rachel Ackerman Photography

The Morning I Fell In Love

I fell in love in the fifth grade.

I met Him when I was five, but that fifth grade year, He really stole my heart. 

We met every morning at 5:30. And I forget how old you are in the fifth grade, but that's real early for a kid.

I didn't care. There was something about Him that left me wanting more. He was real. And for the first time in my little girl life, I knew it.

Our church started a read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year plan. So that January, I vowed that I would, indeed, read the Bible through in a year. Even if that meant getting up at 5:30. I was at church every chance the doors were open. I won every Bible drill given in that big room on the second floor with the tinkering pipes. And I always sat beside the girl who had no friends. I was a "good girl," that little fifth grader...

But what I didn't expect, was to fall in love. 

There's something about time with Him. I guess like any relationship, the more time you spend together, the faster you fall. And fall I did. 

Even though I was only reading the Bible out of commitment, in those cold, dark mornings, He met me there. Right in the covers, amidst my elementary understanding of Him.

I religiously read three to four chapters a day, a Psalm or Proverb, and wrote out my prayers to Him. They were mostly about missionaries. Because I knew, even then, God called me to be a missionary. Little did I know, what kind.

In the black and white of those pages each morning, I started getting a taste of Him. And it was sweet. I wanted more and knew Him to be more, even then. He went from being a God I was hearing about, to a God I could know. And although I didn't see it yet, we started

dancing together

back then. I cannot be more thankful. And that was the first year I read the Bible through.

After that year, I started praying that He would give me a desire for His Word. Because that's what I saw David pray over and over in the Psalms. And honestly, because some days I really had rather sleep later.

That's where it started. That recipe. My longing heart, His Word, a notebook, and the Spirit. It's all the ingredients to fall in love.

I got to college, my

parents divorced

after 25 years of being married, and my whole world fell apart. I was attending a Christian college, and couldn't eat my two biscuits with saw mill gravy slathered on top, without hearing Christian Studies majors arguing with one another. They liked to "talk" about the Bible all the time. Not so much Him, but the Bible. I needed HIM. I wanted to know Him. And I realized that just like I was there studying to be a teacher, I could study Him, too.

Those college days, I would drive home to my grandma's house and browse the bookcases that lined her back room. I would take as many as I could carry. She'd make me eggs, bacon, and homemade biscuits and would pour into me her wisdom along with a glass of orange juice (extra pulp). She would remind me that He is good, He is faithful, He does hear my prayers, and He is trustworthy. She'd wrap me up in her arms, give me a smack on the backside (because that's what southern grandmas do), and I would be on my way, driving back up the mountain to my school.

You could find me sitting in the middle of my room, with commentaries and every translation of the Bible surrounding me. And I studied Him. I studied how He dealt with His people. How He was kind, yet just. How He made no sense sometimes. But in those days of searching, He was being found by me. And He slowly started picking up the pieces of my broken life, and putting them back together.

Once we got married, my time with Him looked a little different. Because nothing is yours anymore when you become one with someone else. Not even your time. It took me a while, but I finally found a rhythm that worked. I was teaching and speaking a good bit during that time, and it kept me in His Word, digging. And then something incredible happened.

I don't know about you, but marriage

 has the tendency to surface the parts of my heart that have been hidden. During that time of healing, I didn't have the energy to study anymore. I knew God, but I really needed a Daddy. And one night, I realized it was Him. The Shepard I read about in the Psalms. The Father who hears and answers His children. Abba, who adopted me as His daughter. He became Dad, Papa. 

People email me all the time asking me how I spend time with Jesus. And it honestly baffles me. Because years ago, I would have given you a five step list of things I do during my "quiet time." But now, these days, it's more of a place to hide, a

time of retreat

from the battle I'm trying to fight during the day.

Sweet Micah has been sick for fourth months now. We've had five hospital stays, numerous doctors appointments and therapy sessions, and just recently a surgery. He still doesn't sleep. At all. Feeding pumps, tubes, power cords, and formula that must be ordered, consume my life right now. I also have an almost two year old, I

work full time

, and my husband works nights in the NICU.

Lately, my time with Him looks much different. It's a white couch, a water-stained journal, my Bible that has lost the front and back covers, a spit up covered shirt, very tired feet, and a weary heart. I all but throw myself on that couch. And I work hard to keep my eyes open the most of the time. 

Some days, all I can muster, is to sit there. And clear out space in my brain for Him. To think of His goodness, and kindness towards me. To know in the midst of the absolute chaos in my life right now, that He is good, and faithful, and worthy of my trust. And that's okay. Because He still meets me there in my chaos,

spit up covered shirt

, very tired feet, and weary heart. And rather than dancing together, He just holds me close. Like a daddy holds his baby girl.

Most days, I start by asking Him to help me clear my mind. I tell Him that He has all of me in those moments, and ask that He would stir my affections for Him and His Word. Then I adore Him. 

You can read about

adoration

on

Sara Hagerty's blog

. She loves Jesus, the way I want to love Him. So I copy her time with Him. I print this

31 Days of Adoration

, and spend time adoring Him along with a community of sisters. He uses this, speaking His Word back to Him, to shape my heart and remind me who He says I am to Him. While He washes away the lies I believed about myself that day through adoration, I continue adoring Him by reading a chapter or two of wherever I currently am in His Word.

Then, I write to Him. Like ugly things, things I would never want anyone else to know. Or dreams, the ones He has put in my heart. Or prayers for my family or wisdom in decisions I need to make. Whatever fills my heart, somehow finds it's way out on those lines.

And somehow, even in this short time, He pulls me away from the chaos, into the quiet desert to speak tenderly to me there. Although I might still feel weary, my heart isn't as heavy to carry, because He carries it for me. I let Him in.

This time invites me to allow Him to see the real me. The me that doesn't have it altogether. The me that is a complete mess. The me that feels as if I am going crazy. The me that so utterly and desperately needs Him to make it through each second. This is where He is found.

I am by no means saying this is how time with Jesus should be spent. I would love to sit with Him for hours. I would love to sit in a circle, surrounded by commentaries and different translations of His Word. I'm sure that some of you have this figured out much more than me. But in this season of my life, this is all I have to offer. And it isn't much. But He says that if I seek Him, He will be found. 

And somehow, He always is.

If you're in college, girl, get out those commentaries and become His student. You'll fall in love.

If you're in the middle of infertility treatments, mark up His Word. Circle every promise He has made. Write them on index cards all around your house. And preach them to yourself when you hear the enemy tell you He isn't good.

Sweet waiting mama, if your time with Him is spent pouring your heart out to Him in an empty nursery, He will be found there. And soon when you're rocking your sweet baby, there will be more of Him to find.

Tired mama, in the trenches of motherhood, put His Word next to the kitchen sink. And steal a few seconds breathing in it's sweetness between washing bottles and wiping bottoms.

No matter what your time with Him looks like, when we seek Him, He WILL be found.

And that is beautiful news for this tired mama's heart.

"

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me

with all your heart."

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV

A Word to All The Mamas

Our bags were thrown on the counter, still packed from our hospital stay.

Brandon was frantically searching for the "therapy" paci. It's supposed to strengthen his suck, they say. I was

holding

wrestling my very sick seven week old, begging for him to just drink an ounce. I held him the way one of the thousand therapists showed us at the hospital when he decided to stop eating. But even with professional techniques, his nails dug into my skin, his back so arched he was basically standing on my leg, and his little, tiny frame desperately begging to be nourished.

He was exhausted from being poked and prodded on in the hospital. After all, learning to eat has been a long journey for him. I was running on fumes. Not just from the hour of sleep I got the night before, but from the seven weeks of mothering a sick baby... and an 18 month old. My husband rubbed my back, trying to be strong for me, but after the week we just endured, I knew he was just as scared. Just when I thought there were no tears left to cry, I felt a single hot tear drip down my face. And it turned into a waterfall of the emotions I had been holding in over the last few days.

Just like my baby's little body, my heart felt malnourished.

Dry. Bone, slap, dry.

And then I heard her words, "You are leaving a legacy. These babies, they will be Kingdom Warriors. I know you're tired, but you're doing it, mama. This legacy, this story, is so much bigger than you. Bigger than you can ever imagine. Keep doing it! Keep doing it, mama!"

And then I prayed for grace and patience, put that bottle back in his mouth, and got another ounce in him.

Adoption is hard sometimes. The waiting. Paperwork, pre-placement visits, post-placement visits, more paperwork, the money...

Bonding with a child that doesn't look like you, or share your DNA. It's hard if I'm being honest. The questions. All the questions. Explaining your life story to everyone. All the time. The pharmacist was the most recent inquirer. When all you want to do, for heaven's sake, is get the medicine that might work, this time. "Yes, I understand he does not have my last name. But he is mine. I promise, he is mine. No, I don't have his Social Security number. Try this last name, and see if he comes up. I understand, but this is all I have. I am his mother, and this is all I have." Hard. And frustrating.

Being a mama is hard sometimes. Honestly, lately I've found myself jealous of other mamas and their healthy kids. The posts on Facebook of their 3 week old sleeping through the night drinking 10 ounces of milk, breastmilk, that is. (Not really, but really.) And I'm over here, up every thirty minutes, walking up and down the hallway upstairs. Bouncing, twisting, singing, crying. Praying maybe the next feeding will be better.

My dear husband walked in the door the other day, and said, "Have you seen yourself today? You look a little frazzled." I ran to the bathroom and literally busted my gut laughing so hard. It felt good to laugh.

And PS I can't believe I actually posted this. But it's real. This is real life, people.

In the middle of the night when I walk down the stairs to get a bottle from the fridge, I see that

white couch

. And my heart literally aches. Almost grieves. In between screams, I go and lay there for a few seconds. Not saying a word, just

breathing

. Knowing that He is always with me and I can find My Place in Him, but wishing for the minutes where I could sit and pour out my soul to Him, there, in our place.

The last few weeks, I have offered up the most pathetic prayers. And I'm okay with that.

Sometimes, the best we can do is turn our hearts toward His.

 I'm not even sure most of them contained words, mostly groans, but I know they were heard.

Even though he hadn't eaten much that day, I still went. A night with my friends. We ate sushi and drank a good glass of wine. And a few hours away did my heart such good. I was feeling strong enough to pick up the babies and keep doing this mother thing. Right as we were leaving, I ran into the mother of one of my sister's high school friends.

She pulled me aside and before she opened her mouth, I knew the Spirit was about to speak to me. She went on to tell me that she woke up in the middle of the night the previous week and started fervently praying for me. Tears started streaming down my face, because the time when she was awake praying for me, I specifically remembered being awake walking him, praying for him, begging for his healing.

Her normally sweet, soft voice, had a tone of Authority. Although there were hundreds in that room, it felt like it was just her and me. I could almost feel the Spirit's hands cup my face. She said, "Listen to me. I feel that God has a word for you. He wants you to know that you are leaving a legacy. You are building a legacy. Changing diapers, walking and bouncing and twisting a sick baby, you are raising Kingdom Warriors. And this Story, that you find yourself in, is so much bigger than you. You can't even imagine how big. What you're doing matters, mama. I know you're tired. I know you're heart is exhausted, but what you're doing matters. It matters for the Kingdom."

As I was wiping tears from my face, she hugged me, told me she was praying for me, and walked away. Just like that. An obedient sister. She had no clue the taste of her words, to my parched heart.

So after quite the scare with our little man, and our hospital stay, I am more than happy to scream to you that HE IS EATING!!!!! And not just a few times, but EVERY (almost) FEEDING. Now it takes some serious effort, a completely silent room, a swaddle, a kung fu hold, and an unbelievable amount of patience. We are starting all kinds of therapy, and are so thankful to finally get some help and relief. I have seen more smiles in the last few days, and heard the sweet coos of a happy baby. AND, wait for it, he's sleeping through the night! Yall. Say it with me, "sleep!" I've never been more thankful for sleep in all of my life!

Last night as I was praising God for an empty bottle, I realized I can't be the only one who has ever felt this way. Whether your an adoptive mama, a bio mama, a waiting mama, a sleeping-baby-through the night mama, a breastfeeding mama, a formula feeding mama, a mama to one, or a mama to fifteen, there comes a time in every mama's life when it's all too much.

You feel like you will never sleep again. Ever. You walk around smelling spit up all day. It's almost like your bladder gets the memo and grows a little larger. You learn to nibble throughout the day, because there's no way you're eating at mealtime. Your sweet husband who normally tells you how beautiful you look, will sometimes ask if you've looked at yourself that day. You'll find stinky milk cups under the seat in the car, and if you have to put that kid in time out one more time for that same thing...

You long for the days when you can sit with Him. And then you realize, when you can't seem to get to Him, He always finds a way to get to you. It might be through a text from a friend, the prettiest cloud, a little bird's song, or honestly, the fact that there were no clothes in the dryer and you could simply move the wet ones over. I love when that happens.

Then sometimes, an obedient sister, opens her mouth and speaks straight to your soul.

However He does it, He finds a way to pursue your bone dry heart.

And He says, "Listen to me. I am writing a story that is bigger than you. It is bigger than you can ever imagine. Those sweet babes who you love so much. Through them, you are leaving your legacy. Every diaper you change, every second of sleep lost, every bedtime prayer, every song about Me, every big prayer you pray for them, you are training Kingdom Warriors. What you're doing matters. I know you're tired. I know you're heart is exhausted. Let me be your rest. Find your strength in me.

It's okay if your prayers seem pathetic, I especially lean into those."

You're doing it, mama. You're doing it!

*Photo by Rachel Ackerman Photography*

What you're doing matters.

It matters for the Kingdom.