To my daughter, and the gift she is

5-year-old girl

Can’t believe we’ve had five years with this precious gift.


I’m shaking off the dust and blowing away the cobwebs from this blog for a momentous occasion: it’s my eldest daughter’s fifth birthday.

I’ll try not to go all cliche about where exactly time ran off to, but seriously, I’m astounded and smitten with disbelief that we’re at this day so soon.

Perhaps my bewilderment is drawn from the fact that when her father and I entered parenthood, we had not a single clue about what to expect. And yet, this girl has exceeded every expectation, many I didn’t even know I had. Many needs I didn’t know yearned to be met. Many flaws in my own heart I didn’t know ached to be examined.

This girl, born not breathing on her own until our medical team and the hand of God intervened five years ago on this day, has been a breath of fresh air in our lives ever since.

Last night after she was asleep, I stood at our kitchen sink, scrubbing the evening meal’s pots and pans, pondering over the person she’s become and praying for the person she’s becoming. As I did, the words of her first weekly Scripture passage she is memorizing in kindergarten kept drumming in my head, stirred up from our time spent reciting it earlier in the evening.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Since I don’t believe things happen by chance, I meditated on the gifts that God has given this girl, gifts that are still developing, and with prayer and direction from the Lord can be used to point others to Him.

Here’s my prayer for these specific gifts He is shaping in her.

For her drive and independence: I pray that no one or no thing will hold her back from doing what’s right, especially when it comes to aiding those that are marginalized, helpless, and suffering among us.

For her enviable intelligence: I pray that she will use her logic and reason to bring clarity to complicated situations and eliminate confusion about who God is and what His ultimate goals are for us.

For her passion for justice: I pray that she will never find complacency in witnessing evil around her and will use her voice to bring His light into the darkness of this world.

For her ability to organize: I pray that she will step forward as a leader in whatever capacity God calls her to.

For her caution and wisdom: I pray that she will learn to listen to the Spirit and decipher whether He is giving her pause or if it’s fear planted by the hands of the Wicked One designed to throw her off course.

For her love of music: I pray that her joyful noise will show others the depth of God’s delight in us and draw those who hear to worship and praise Him for His care and love for us. 

For her creativity: I pray that she will not see roadblocks in her ministry but opportunities to find new solutions to make His name known among the nations.

I am in awe of how much in this five-year span the Lord has used her to teach me, and I’m anxious to know the end of her story.

Of OUR story.

Of His story.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. We won’t fully comprehend the gift God gave us in you until we are with Him.

twirling 5-year-old girl

Oh, the prayers I have for you, my sweetheart.



“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” ‭‭(James‬ ‭1:17‬)

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When this year wasn’t what you hoped for

This wasn’t the New Year’s Eve I had planned.

When I thought about the start of another year, and the days leading up to it, a visit to our family from The Most Dreadful Stomach Flu Ever just wasn’t on my agenda.

We had things to do. Projects to accomplish. My husband had specifically taken vacation days during this time with the hopes to tackle them.

But at 6:15 a.m. the day after Christmas, my alarm clock jolting me awake was a sudden urge to run to the bathroom and stay there for quite some time. Oh, the sickness.

On top of the nausea and stomach cramps, a strange, pressing, hot pain started creeping into my chest, rising under my ribs, filling the space in a consuming way. The pain grew so bad that by the afternoon, I couldn’t take it any longer. I couldn’t escape it no matter how I tried. It got harder to breathe. Something seemed really wrong. I told David we need to go to the hospital. I felt like I was going out of my mind from the pain.

At the ER, the medical team found my heart was beating far too quickly, and I was dehydrated. After some IV fluids, along with nausea and pain meds, my heart rate started to come down and the worst was over.

I spent the next couple days recovering in bed, sapped of energy and my intestines still in torment, though the meds kept everything in check. By Friday though, the bug had spread to my youngest daughter and then David, who also got a fever and back pain to go with it. This was not your average stomach flu. This was the Grand-daddy of All Stomach Flus. (It also dropped in on many other Scally family members, making love and joy not the only things we shared on Christmas.)

I have to admit, besides feeling sick and in pain, I was frustrated as the days dragged on, and disappointed–and truthfully, a little bit angry–when we had to cancel our annual New Year’s Eve plans. This was not how this week was supposed to go.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, this wasn’t how this year was supposed to go. As was the case for many people I know (some with far more significant reasons), for us, 2016 left a lot to be desired. I was ready to ring in 2017, with its unmarred calendar and a starry-eyed optimism that this was going to be The Year that we take on our list of goals with gusto and get things done. This year couldn’t possibly be as lousy as the last.

Yet here we are, ringing it in with Gatorade and chicken soup, the four of us quarantined by ourselves within these four walls.

Wah. Wah. Wah.

Then, that still, small voice whispers powerfully in my head, “When are you going to realize that your plans may not be MY plans.”

sick babe

A closer look at my full hands reveals a full heart.


Sigh.

This seems to be the lesson of my life that I struggle so desperately to grasp.

I mean, let’s take a look at my list of what I hope to accomplish in 2017. It tends to be full of temporary things. Organize the office. Finish the basement. Clean out the garage. Decorate the great room. Pick up more work. Write more. Read more. Travel.

But what if His plan for this year has nothing to do with my well-meaning checklist? What if it is, in 2017, to simply grow closer to Him, however that may be achieved? To be a godlier wife. To be a more Christlike mom. A more humble servant and a more proficient sharer of the Gospel.

Why is it so easy to get so short-sighted?

(I’m blaming the nausea. Kidding! Sort of.)

A few days ago, a post on Facebook caught my eye, about how to remember the blessings of the new year by writing down something you enjoyed or were grateful for on a slip of paper and put it in a jar at the end of each day. And then next New Year’s Eve, open the jar and be overcome by the joys experienced.

It’s a great idea I realized I don’t need to wait till tomorrow to start. As I look back on 2016, though kind of blah at first glance, it’s actually filled with ways My Lord met us in the darkness, took care of our needs, and continued leading us by His light.

With nearly nine months of health challenges for myself, we have never worried about paying one single medical bill. And that’s saying something, considering we lost nearly all my income due to not being able to work during those struggles, and MRIs, CT scans, ER visits, blood tests, and specialists aren’t cheap.

Though currently dirty, unorganized, and unfinished, we live in our dream home.

Though we get on each other’s nerves at times, I am married to my dream man.

And though they have added more gray to my head than I would’ve ever imagined I would have at 33, I am privileged to parent the daughters of my dreams.

Still, there’s more:

We have been honored to find new ways to serve at our church.

We are surrounded by family and friends, who have held us together with prayers and sustained us with support.

And one of the most notable as 2016 closes out for sure: since August, for whatever reason, I have not woke with daily, debilitating headaches.

I take that “whatever” back. He is the reason.

Suddenly, 2016 is not seeming so bad. Instead, I am feeling so blessed.

Christmas tree

May your reflection on the beauty of another year find more blessings than you can count.


He has met our every need. And He knew exactly what we needed and when we needed it to draw us closer to Him. I can say this with confidence even if my health hadn’t improved or if my year had been marked by even harder, more painful circumstances, because I know from His Word (and He has proven it repeatedly) that He is for me.

Bring on 2017. Count down the clocks and drop that ball. As long as my main goal this year is to pursue Him, nothing can go wrong.

And that’s truly something to celebrate.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:10-11‬ ‭from The Message‬‬)

Recovery is not what this mom needs right now

Confession time: I have squandered the majority of this year.

Not in the mom-guilt, I-should’ve-done-more-with-my-kids sort of way (though there have been plenty of internal battles about that, I assure you). 

I look back at the last several months, filled with some of my most challenging times as a mother thus far, and realize now what I wasted was my perspective.

It’s taken a long time to write about what’s been going on lately, but not for lack of trying. I have started and stopped dozens of attempts in my head. Truth is, I couldn’t write. I didn’t have it in me, mentally or physically. Which only added to my personal frustrations. A writer who can’t write is like a caged animal, repressed and tortured.

It was back in December when the first signs surfaced that something was wrong. By January, things had gotten so bad that I picked up the phone to make an appointment with my doctor.

I wasn’t myself. I woke each day with pressure headaches, some so severe that I couldn’t leave my bed all day, and my migraine medicine wouldn’t touch them. I was shaky despite constantly eating. My arms ached as if I had moved heavy boxes for hours. I had no energy. At times, I was nauseous and dizzy. I struggled to think clearly, and I was irritationally irritable (and irritable is a kind way of putting it). 

Since I was only about four months postpartum, I thought it was most likely something askew with my hormones. My primary doctor initially agreed and thought I may start feeling better the further out I got from my pregnancy. Nevertheless, he ordered a full panel of blood tests, acknowledging that my symptoms were not normal. 

Those results were the start of my seemingly endless quest for answers. Soon, my calendar filled with appointments, tests, and specialist visits. By this point, it was April, and I was not feeling any better. In fact, I was worse. I’ve had migraines since I was 12, and these were not anything like my “normal” migraines–nothing seemed to help them, and they felt very different. My doctor sent me to the ER for one headache that lasted over two days, where I received the generic diagnosis of “complex migraine” and heavy painkillers to get through the worst of it. He also ordered an MRI. 

He called with results the day after I had it to tell me that it showed what was thought to be a cyst about the size of a penny, deep in the middle of my brain, and due to its size in that area, it could be the source of my headaches. After a disappointing visit to a neurologist who clearly didn’t know much about them, he referred me to one of the top neurosurgeons in our area.

It felt a bit ominous walking down a long, dark corridor in what must be one of the oldest sections of the hospital to the office of a man who cuts into people’s brains for a living. David and I listened as he explained that the MRI I had did not show enough views of the area, and he couldn’t say with certainty if the mass was solid or cystic. I tried my best to follow along as he shared how if additional imaging showed solid portions, I would need to have a lumbar puncture to see if it was secreting any hormonal markers to better tell what type of tumor it was and that radiation was usually the first course of treatment for tumors in this difficult-to-reach location. Surgery, he warned, would bring many risks due to its “delicate” location, as he put it–but he said sometimes surgery is necessary. 

My new MRI was set for 9:30 p.m. the Wednesday before the long Fourth of July weekend. I asked the tech to stream my favorite Pandora station, and I breathed in deeply as comforting words of Truth filled the tube as the machine began its work.

“Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side …”

The hours between the MRI and the call from my doctor seemed to infinitely suspend in time. I think waiting to hear important news you know is coming, especially related to health, is one of the hardest things for the human mind to process. You try not to think about it–yet then you only think about it more. I can honestly say I did not fear the outcome, but that did not stop the screams of “I JUST WANT TO KNOW!” pounding inside my head.

The radiologist and neurosurgeon agreed: the lesion inside my head was fluid-filled. 

Exhale.

However, the neurosurgeon went on to say, this could still be the source of my headaches, and there are times when even a cyst of this size and in this location can pose life-threatening symptoms, and sometimes surgery is still required. So he told me what to watch for, and he ordered a new MRI in six months to check for any changes. 

brain MRI cyst

The “friend” inside my head, as David calls it.


So now, I return to waiting. 

And it’s in this twisted journey of waiting wrapped in pain where I recently realized all that I’ve wasted over the past nine months.

Yes, I’ve not been my normal self. 

Yes, I’ve not been able to do as much as I would like. 

It dawned on me though that during this time, my singular focus has been on “when this is over, then I can …” and “when I feel better, then I will …” and nothing else. The light at the end of the tunnel. The sure diagnosis. The treatment that will eliminate the pain. The capability to pick life back up where I left it. 

But what if the “when this is over” never comes? 

Then what?

And how will I account for my time spent?

I have been waiting for my “life” to start again, but, I realized, I am living my life right now.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded a copy of a book written by my college friend, an award-winning journalist turned pastor, released earlier this year. “I Am Strong: Finding God’s Peace and Strength in Life’s Darkest Moments,” by John S. Dickerson, answers the questions of “why does God allow bad things to happen?” and “where is God during my pain?” by chronicling the journey of the apostle Paul and his “thorn in the flesh,” and through John’s own discovery of Truth as he deals with debilitating, stroke-like migraines.

Though Scripture never tells us what exactly the “thorn” was that afflicted Paul, a missionary dedicated to telling people about Christ despite many obstacles, we know it was awful enough that he begged God to take it away three separate times. And the answer God gave this man who poured his whole life into serving Him was “No.”

“No,” it is My will that you function with this pain.

“No,” it is My will that you serve Me with this pain.

“No,” it is My will that I have more good for you than you can imagine with this pain.

It was not with cruelty that God gave this answer; it was with a loving care that an all-knowing Power provides. It doesn’t make sense to us, but He sees how He could use His infinite strength to do more with our weakness than we could ever do without it, if we allow Him.

As I digested this Truth, I realized God’s will for my life doesn’t pick back up again with a yet-to-be-determined start date in the future that is free from pain. God’s will is to use my surrendered pain to complete His perfect work in me.

And when surrendered, I will accomplish more for eternal good through Him. 

Over the months of pain, especially on the days when I had no ability to get out of bed, I had been so consumed by the thoughts of how I wasn’t doing enough with my girls, how I had nothing left for my husband, how I couldn’t serve at my church the way I wanted to, and how I was prevented from fulfilling my personal hopes and dreams. And I was missing it. 

It wasn’t recovery I needed to be able to be fulfilled and joyful and satisfied again. 
It was a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. It was a surrendering of self to trust that God knows better than I do. That it is part of my journey, not something to get past.

It was the realization that, as John writes, my “greatest contribution in life may result from [my] greatest pain or weakness, surrendered.”

Mind. Blown.

I was telling a friend recently how I know through experience and God’s promises in His Word that He uses the challenges and trials in my life for His good. I have seen it, time and time again. And yet, for some reason, I still find myself kicking and screaming when pushed down a painful path. When I could be allowing myself to be picked up and carried by Him. 

This morning–a “good” day health-wise–my eldest daughter and I were dancing and running around to music, and my younger daughter was crawling around as fast as she could, desperately trying to keep up. I noticed her frantic attempts to join in on our fun, so I reached down and scooped her up. She squealed as I bounced her on my hip, a smile stretched across her face as we zoomed through the house. In my arms, she found abundant joy.

It wasn’t that all of a sudden she was physically able to fly past her own limits. It was that, in my arms, she could. 

In our Father’s arms, whatever our pain, we can too. His strength can lift us up. 

baby in Daddy's arms

Life is always better when held in a father’s arms. I am learning to let my Heavenly Father carry me.


I don’t know how many reminders it will take for me to keep my focus fixed on Him when the days here on Earth get tough, instead of when the painful part of this journey will end. Because I know I have hope and assurance that it WILL indeed end, dropping me off in the arms of my loving Savior. And it should be my goal to spend this ever-so-brief time in the dark pursuing Him in a way that when I see Him, and He pulls me tightly in to His secure embrace, He whispers gently in my ear, “Well done.”


“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10‬)

Stop, busy moms and dads: The best moments of your day are the ordinary ones

My niece turns 5 years old today.

If I think about it long enough, I will break down and sob … so I can only imagine how her parents feel.

She is not the first in our family to cross this threshold from the baby and toddler days into official childhood–I have three nephews who are older–but she is the oldest girl. As the mom of two younger daughters, I’ve been watching her, as she has always been a step ahead of my own.

My oldest is now 2.5, the age my niece was when she was born. And that was just yesterday.

Wasn’t it??

Because I certainly remember my sweet, curly-haired niece tenderly and cautiously getting her first peek at her “Baby Olivia” in the hospital, just like no time has passed at all.

niece meets daughter

My oldest daughter is now the same age as my niece was when she met her in the hospital.

And yet it has. My daughter now wears the hand-me-downs that my niece wore when that baby girl was cradled in my arms.

And I realize I will blink again, and my daughter will be celebrating the same milestone my niece is today.

Time, I beg you, please stop.

But since I know it won’t (sigh), I need to.

It is so easy in the never-ending list of things-that-must-get-done-right-this-second to say “not now,” “in a minute,” or “just after this” … or dream for and long for the things I want to do but can’t … and miss out on the best parts of this time with our littles. These ordinary moments that are shaping an extraordinary life that we get to watch, if we allow ourselves to do so, unfold.

 

baby smiles

Today, I am stopping to soak up this sweet baby’s smiles.

 
So today, I am pledging to not get frustrated when things don’t go according to “plan.” I am not going to focus on the “what ifs” and the “wish I coulds.” I will stop and savor moments like:

  • The smile that instantly brightens my 6-month-old’s face when I get her from the crib
  • The way my toddler throws her arms around my neck with a fierce grip as I guide her legs into her pants
  • Running the brush through my daughter’s long, “luscious” (as my husband likes to call them) waves to get her morning “tanglies” out
  • Her small voice calling out, “Mommy, help you please?” when she can’t quite do a task herself
  • Dancing in the great room
  • Baby giggles
  • Crawling under the tent we just made to eat a snack and read her Bible stories
  • The slow, rhythmic breaths of concentration as my toddler studies something new
  • The lullabies of a proud big sister softly sung to her little sis as she prepares for nap
  • The way my baby looks while she sleeps

Everyday moments that are wondrous and awe-inspiring when strung together.

snacks and tents

Today, I am stopping for a snack under the “big tent” we made.

This morning, my toddler paused at the top of the steps and said, “Mommy, can you hold my hand?”

I was already at the bottom. I turned and climbed again to the top and held my hand out. I felt it fill with hers, and we started down.

She took two steps and looked up at me. She spoke in a voice just above a whisper.

“Mommy, thank you for holding my hand.”

I swallowed the rock in my throat.

In that moment, nothing else I “had” to do mattered. In that moment, there was nothing better.

I hope I always stop and reach for her hand when extended. 

For I know I will miss it–oh, how I will miss it–when it’s gone.

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart …” (‭Psalms‬ ‭138‬:‭1‬)

From one mom to the presidential candidates: I wouldn’t let my kids act this way

I’m one of those weirdos who’s always been fairly interested in the political process. Probably has something to do with my love of U.S. history and the fact that I am a (recovering) journalist by trade.

So it should be no surprise to those who know me that this weirdo oddly looked forward to watching the Detroit GOP debate Thursday night. The kids were in bed. Sweats were on. I sat down in front of the TV, with a pile of laundry to fold and a slice of Achatz 4-berry pie topped with a scoop of ice cream (because everything is better with pie).

As I flipped on Fox News, I thought I was done parenting for the night.

But then, it started.

The name-calling. The shouting. The taunting. The interrupting. The dishonesty. The blame-shifting. The disrespect.

Not from my kids, though, or any others. From those vying to hold the highest office in the land. And I quickly felt my inner-momma coming out.

You know that feeling you get when your toddler melts down in public? As I felt my embarrassment and blood pressure rising while the behavior on stage fell to new lows, I wanted to throw up my hands and shout “That’s it! We’re done here!” and march all these candidates straight out to the car.

In this election cycle, we’ve seen some of the most childish, confounding, unacceptable–and in some cases, perhaps even criminal–behavior I have ever witnessed. From people (in both parties) who want to lead this nation. Heaven help us.

If my 2-year-old did any of the above, she knows exactly what would happen next.

So candidates, come here. Put your listening ears on. Look right into my eyes.

This mom has had it.

Since you’re acting like children, I’m going to treat you like one of mine. Apparently, you all need to be taught a lesson.

Speak sweetly. Seriously, guys, this is pretty basic. I am beyond appalled at the tone of the discourse I have heard. The insults. The sophomoric jabs. In our house, we have a favorite phrase that we are constantly repeating after our toddler whines, complains, demands, or shouts: “Excuse me, how would you say that sweetly?” If it’s not spoken sweetly, we don’t respond to it. And if it’s not something you can say sweetly (as in, “Little Marco,” “His ears are big,” “He sweats too much,” “His face is orange,” “His hands are small,”), don’t say it at all.

Wait your turn. If you hear that someone is speaking, don’t interrupt. If you are upset, don’t immediately react. We follow the Daniel Tiger adage around here: “If you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” (I was wondering Thursday if the Cruz family was also partial to the popular PBS program when the senator kept telling a certain billionaire to “just breathe” …)

Tell the truth. I realize this may be one of the hardest things to do if you’re running for political office. It seems like under-handed tactics and deceitful campaign ads are just part of the game. Or lying or cheating (or breaking the law) to benefit yourself. But we want to make an informed decision, so give us the facts. Like the kid with crumbs all over his face who claims he hasn’t eaten a cookie, we can see right through most of your poor cover-up attempts anyway.

Show respect. How can you say you’re running on behalf of all Americans if you can’t even treat your peers well? Or if you target and degrade certain groups of people? The office of the presidency, no matter who fills it, deserves honor and dignity. At various points during this campaign, I’ve felt like I could be watching a casting call for the latest reality show. It seems like the candidates have confused humility with performances that are humiliating.

Own your actions. If you’ve changed positions, tell us why. If you regret a decision or legislation you supported, explain what changed and how you would do it differently now. Don’t deflect (“but he’s much worse”) and point fingers (“well, he did it first”). Take responsibility, share what you’ve learned, and move on.

Life’s not fair, so stop pouting about it.  My daughter knows that she doesn’t get every toy in Target just because they’re there. That’s not how it works. Sometimes (but most definitely not in all circumstances), her right choices bring rewards. Other times there are disappointments–and we are teaching her that she has control of her reactions to those and even those trying times can bring blessings.

Follow Christ. Several of the candidates claim they are Christians, yet, sadly, many of their actions are antithetical to the truths taught about Him in God’s Word. The fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, etc.) are scarce. I pray all the candidates would open their Bibles and seek Him–our Creator, our Savior, and our Lord–first and foremost. Because without Christ, even our righteous actions are filth in God’s eyes and our good works are meaningless; but through Him, He provides redemption for all.

We’re often told that the president of the United States is the leader of the free world. So grow up, guys. Lead. Be an example.

There will be consequences if you don’t.

 

“Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” (Proverbs 13:18)

 

 

A prayer for my daughter on her big promotion

It’s been 730 days now that we’ve had the blessing of knowing your little face–your brow that’s crinkled in concentration from the very beginning, your wide eyes that have since shifted from deep blue to greenish hazel, your perfect button nose in the middle of those soft, cherubic cheeks, your bouncy waves ever-increasing in thickness, your sunshiney smile that could light all the darkness.

It’s been more than a million minutes that we’ve had the honor of seeing into your little soul–how you study and observe and analyze something until you feel confident enough that you won’t fail if you try, your methodical way you go about completing a task, how you find security and contentment in routine, the way you wear your emotions on your sleeve, just like your mom, and how there’s a constant song in your heart that dances freely off your lips, just like your dad. 

 

One of your favorite pastimes, cozying up to a good book.

 
Today marks two years we’ve had the privilege of being your parents. 

In the last year, you’ve gone from crawling babe to toddling beauty. You love animals and flowers, music and stories, walks and swims. You can count to 10 and sing your ABC’s, name colors and shapes, and put together a puzzle like it’s your job. You speak in two- to three-word sentences, but can sing nearly all the lyrics of many songs on your own, your small, sweet voice often drifting from the back of the van during a drive. You can’t start the morning off right until you’ve “read” your stack of books we keep at the foot of your bed. You enjoy watching Daniel Tiger, Mother Goose Club, Kipper the Dog, and Super Why. And at the end of the day, you love to “dance in the shower,” whisper “I lub you” and blow kisses, and find solace before slumber with your papi and Nu.

You’ve grown so much in the past 12 months–it’s clear you are a baby no more–but this next year brings your biggest milestone yet. In fact, in just a few days, you’ll relinquish your spot as only child and step up to the role of older sister.

It will be a challenge and will stretch you–and us–for sure. One that we can only tackle with the Lord’s help. And so I am praying for you, my dear daughter, as we prepare to welcome our next.

 

I’m praying you’re open to what’s ahead.

 
I’m praying you’ll look on your sister with love, and your smile will spark hers. That you’ll wrap her up in hugs and tenderly kiss away her tears. That you’ll share hours of endless giggles. That after you fight, you’ll forgive easily and move on effortlessly. 

I’m praying you’ll encourage her when she tries something new. That you’ll lead by example. That no one will dare mess with her when you’re by her side.

I’m praying we’ll face years to come of finding the two of you sneaking into each other’s rooms after dark, whispering secrets and swapping stories. Because no one else will quite understand. Because you share the same blood.

I’m praying she’ll desire Jesus because she sees you do. That you’ll grow in grace together. That you’ll openly share what God is teaching you and be honest about your failures and show compassion and understanding for hers. 

I’m praying that you’ll have a relationship that extends beyond these walls and your time spent with us. That she’ll be the one you call from college to tell about your adventures and stresses, first dates and heartbreaks. That you’ll choose to spend free time together, even if it means traveling hundreds of miles. That you’ll stand by each other on your wedding days. That you’ll hold each other’s babies with love bubbling forth like they are your own. That nothing in this world will make your dad and I prouder than the two of you.

Yes, this next year will be big. And it may seem scary and confusing and maybe overwhelming at times as you settle into this new space. But as the days go on and the decades pass, I pray you’ll look back at this year as one you’ll cherish the rest of your life. Because it’s the year you met your best friend. 

 

Such an exciting time to come with so much to celebrate!

 
” … Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

What to do when waiting robs your joy

It’s amazing how quickly you can turn to despair when you are physically spent.

After about a week’s reprieve from the nausea and vomiting that returned at the 32-week mark of pregnancy, I was completely caught off guard when it came roaring back yesterday. Add this on top of my already-depleted energy from 3- to 4-hour stretches of contractions less than 5 minutes apart for the past few days, and I rapidly spiraled downward.

I have just two weeks left at most in this pregnancy, and yet, it’s as if time was standing still. And it’s like the lack of physical strength in my body also drained any mental capacity I had to cast reason and perspective on my present circumstances.

My thoughts grew increasingly dark and hopeless as the hours dragged on, knowing that it’s not exactly going to get any easier dealing with a newborn, toddler, and c-section recovery once this uncomfortable gestational period was over. While I knew I had many things to be grateful for–an incredibly helpful husband, a generally easy-going toddler, a healthy baby growing inside me, and the end of pregnancy just around the corner–it was like I could only focus on what I couldn’t do. That I couldn’t get off the couch and play “get you” with my girl. That I couldn’t muster enough strength to make it to the grocery store. That I couldn’t enjoy our last days as a family of three the way I wanted. That I couldn’t make the clock go faster.

Behind the smile, I’ve been masking my despair.

As I laid there wishing away each overwhelming hour, desperately wanting to be done with this miserable stage of limbo, I knew I was being short-sighted … and yet, too exhausted and numb to change my thoughts. Even that seemed like too much.

But I also knew my despair, anxiety, and impatience was destroying any ability to see the joys of each day. I never have cared too much for the well-meaning phrases of “it’s just a season” and “this too shall pass,” because I know that when you’re focused on simply speeding to the end destination, you can miss many moments of wonderful along the journey.

So I started to pray for The Lord to renew my thoughts, instead of just replenish my strength, and I knew others were praying too. This morning, I woke in a haze after a night of intermittent sleep to find this Scripture someone had shared on Facebook as encouragement, and it was just what I needed.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭62‬:‭5-8‬)

As I meditated on His Truth, I prayed that God would help me wait quietly during this time of turbulence and calm my soul enough to see all that is praiseworthy. I got up, turned on the bathroom faucet, and immediately the lyrics of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” filled my mind: “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.” Yes, Lord. You promise that. And I can cling to it.

Pretty much all I want to do these days …

Instead of solely focusing on how tired I felt and how much I wanted to crawl back in bed and for the day to already be over, I decided to write down every time I encountered a blessing, starting with the fact that the sun was shining on this first day of September, the month we would welcome our new daughter into this world. I didn’t want the moments of wonderful to pass me by, unseen and uncherished. As my list quickly grew, I saw just how much I had to be thankful for.

  • A toddler who slept in
  • Coffee
  • Greetings of “mommy, up?” when I entered her room, her invitation to come snuggle in bed and read a book
  • Her sweet request to read “Sister,” and how she talked about the different ways she can help with baby after we read each page
  • Her polite, sing-songy “all done” when she finished with breakfast, followed by a request for a “cloth cloth” to wipe her crumbs
  • Daniel Tiger (!!!)
  • Her eagerness to help me make banana bread and the feeling of her small, soft hands wrapped in mine as we stir, stir, stir
  • The songs that bubble freely and tenderly from her tiny voice
  • Feeling baby girl stretch inside, despite the discomfort it brings
  • Her spontaneous chorus of “clean up, clean up” as she puts the Play-Doh back into the container
  • Her quiet, steady breathing as she concentrates on transferring popcorn from one cup to another
  • Witnessing her imagination at work as she mixes and bakes in her play kitchen 
  • Opportunities for me to learn patience and show grace when I instruct her after she throws her toys on the ground in frustration
  • The way she crosses her ankles while she eats peanut butter and jelly in her booster seat
  • When she goes potty without any protest before nap (over a month now without an accident, though I may’ve just jinxed that … )
  • Carrying her to the bed with her head cradled on my shoulder as I hum a verse of a lullaby and rub her back
  • The privilege to read her a story from God’s Word (today about the boy king Josiah)
  • Kissing her soft, smooth forehead and thanking The Lord she goes down for a nap easily 
  • A long shower while streaming my favorite Getty hymns station on Pandora and praising God for helping me get through another morning 

Clearly, my blessings were bountiful, and this day was only halfway done. I knew I would long for mornings of these magical moments in the years to come. How could I wish this away? 

She can’t wait to meet her baby sister.

Yes, this month may get harder. And I imagine it will, with sleepless nights, and surging hormones, and cries that won’t easily be comforted. But I’m praying that God will not help me survive it–that He’ll instead show me His goodness and sustain me with His grace. That He’ll quiet my heart enough to see His beauty and blessings. That I won’t be able to deny the waiting was all worthwhile.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭26‬)