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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Mom-guilt and its second-guessing demons are from Satan

Before kids, I belonged to the confident, self-assured group of people that thought I wouldn’t let having children change who I was in any respect.

Then an 8-pound, 4-ounce bundle was placed in my arms. And my confidence was destroyed. Self-assuredness thrown out the window.

Nearly two years later, I’ll be the first to admit–I am not the same person I was before I became a parent.

The woman who could walk in the office of a CEO and boldly propose new ideas now stares inside the diaper bag, frozen in fear over whether she packed all the right things to cover any potential crisis that may arise during the hour-long trip to the grocery store. Do I have enough toys for distraction? Will she eat this snack? Do I need to bring a sweater? Should I grab some Tylenol? (You know, just in case she spikes a sudden fever.) Oh wait, Tylenol is “bad,” right? Do I have some more-natural Little Remedies?

Every time before leaving the house: Food? Check. Coat? Check. Hat? Check. Giant diaper bag? Check. And then ... is she too warm? Should I take off her coat? Is that too big of a snack before dinner???

Every time before leaving the house: Food? Check. Coat? Check. Hat? Check. Giant diaper bag? Check. And then … is she too warm? Should I take off her coat? Is that too big of a snack before dinner???

Every decision is questioned. Analyzed. Pitched to other moms on Facebook for their input. Hey, I’m all for research and preparedness and doing things as safe as possible; there’s nothing wrong with that. But then, once the decision is made, I wonder if it was the right one. I see another mom has made a different choice, and I start to measure mine against hers. Perhaps her decision was better? Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I ruining my children for life??

With the second-guessing comes the guilt. The feelings that I should’ve done better. That I did indeed make a bad choice. That my decision will have a detrimental and devastating impact on the future and well-being of the littles entrusted to my care. And this guilt can really mess with your mind.

This is especially true when you make a decision that varies from whatever’s considered the mainstream or “superior” standard: formula feeding vs. breastfeeding, back sleeping vs. tummy sleeping, organic foods vs. convenience and cost, staying at home vs. working, pro- vs. anti-vaccinations … and the list goes on. The guilt can grip your soul so tightly that you feel the need to justify and explain and even apologize for the decisions you’ve made–when you’re not crying about them. Even when health and finances and your personal household demand a decision that differs from the norm. Even when what seems “bad” to others is truly what’s best for you and your child.

Moms, I say this with all due respect: just who do we think are?

Do we actually think our actions will add one second of a day to our child’s lives? That if we had “just done this” we would’ve had the power to change an eternal outcome?

I'm so glad this little life does not depend solely on me.

I’m so glad this little life does not depend solely on me.

I’ll never forget Liv’s first serious sickness. I had to leave on a business trip right after she came down with congestion that led to a double ear infection. We had taken her to the doctor, and she had started a course of antibiotics. She was well cared for with my husband and other family members while I was away. But she wasn’t fully recovered by the time I got home, and because of a slight condition she was born with called laryngomalacia, her breathing–which could sound raspy when healthy–seemed particularly labored through the congestion.

I knew in the back of my mind that this was normal and that her pediatrician had told me she would sound worse when sick. I also knew she was getting better, and her fever had broke. That, yes, she was sleeping a lot, but she was happy, though not back to herself, when awake.

Yet the sounds of her heavy, squeaky, rattly breathing as she approached her 14th hour of sleep were too much for this momma’s heart to bear. My fears knocked me flat. And I crumpled into the floor of my closet and sobbed.

I shouldn’t have left. I should’ve been there for her. I have failed her. Another mom would’ve done it better.

The guilt was oppressive.

It stopped me in my tracks. It pushed aside my logic. It silenced conversation with my Heavenly Father. It was all focused on me.

See, I think, if we truly admit it, we moms start to believe the lie that the control abides in us. That this burden and challenge of raising children is ours alone to bear. That the weight of making the right decision is on our shoulders.

And we forget God.

We elevate our importance and ignore His power. We become blind to His leading and teaching. We think His grace for our finite, fallible human ways must not apply in this situation.

And instead we allow the great deceiver to flood our thoughts and take the reins of our fears. Oh, how he must love to replace our trust in Him and His divinity with terror and doubt.

I wrote in my last blog post about how Our Creator formed us to be fearfully and wonderfully made. But the psalm doesn’t end there. It goes on to say “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)

You see, the days of these little lives don’t rest solely on us; they’ve been planned out and purposed by Him. If we are putting God in the center of our decisions, we can move forward with confidence in them. Despite how you feel those decisions may look to anyone else outside your household. So fill that bottle with formula with your head held high, knowing you are nourishing your child. Head in for another day at the office, knowing it’s what God’s called you to do. Research and prepare and pray–and then leave the decision in His hands.

And on the days when you feel your choices truly weren’t the best, don’t give Satan a space to fill your heart with guilt and guessing. Instead, turn to the Almighty One who knows the beginning to the end. Ask Him for wisdom for the future–or forgiveness, if needed. Be consumed by His care. Thank Him that it’s not all up to us. And press on knowing that He’s gone before.

 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Boss daughter

Why leaving my career had the biggest payoff

I’m ending this year much differently than how I started it—and I realize that on paper, it doesn’t make much sense.

In fact, many could take a quick look at my past 12 months and conclude that 2014 was a professional failure.

I started the year at the peak of my career, after accepting the role of publisher of two trade magazines just mere weeks before. Admittedly, it was an uncommon move to make, coming from an editorial background with only four years on the brands and in B2B media period after my time in local news. And yes, it was a role full of challenges—but also excitement and aspirations. I could help drive change and see it to fruition, which is something I love to do. As a journalism student a decade ago, I honestly couldn’t have imagined I would be in this position.

But in August, I walked away from it all.

OK, you’re probably thinking, that sounds a little crazy. My aforementioned former-journalism-student-self would agree. For as long as I can remember, I was destined—and determined—to have a career in media. After all, I had started my first newspaper in the third grade (aptly named the “Old-Fashioned Press”), which I wrote, paginated (on a typewriter, with hand-drawn illustrations), and published myself—and circulated to the student body of my public elementary school. (Yeah, I can hear my husband snickering as he reads this … ) I fought hard for every internship and opportunity to gain more experience in the field, and I soaked it up. It was all I wanted to do.

What I didn’t realize then was that I was also destined to be something else: a mom.

It was no secret to our friends and family that David and I were never sure if we wanted to have children. But over time, God began to work in our hearts that in our case, our motivation behind not wanting to raise children was entirely selfish—we didn’t want kids to disrupt our comfortable lifestyle and routines. Plus, if you talked to parents our age, many sounded absolutely miserable. (So why would you knowingly subject yourself to a lifetime of misery??!!??) And we were scared … or at least, I was. I didn’t think I would be any good as a parent. I was good at my job, and I couldn’t imagine loving anything more. I know it sounds horrible to say that, both as a believer and now as a parent, but it’s true.

But God began to show me that my fears were because of a lack of trust in Him. I was so used to relying on my (God-given) talents and skills to do things in my own power; it freaked me out at the thought of turning control, and my life, totally over to Him to rely on for wisdom and guidance and strength like I never had before. Simultaneously, God was also working in David. We began to pray about it and felt peace that if a child was part of God’s plan for us, great … but if not, we were totally OK with that too.

Nine months later, our daughter Olivia was born.

And her birth—actually, the decision leading up to her birth to trust God wholly and fully—began to re-knit the very fabric that weaves the desires of my heart.

Still, I never gave a second thought that I would do anything other than work full-time, and when my 12 weeks of maternity leave was up, I happily returned and was offered the promotion to publisher. Olivia was in good care with my sister-in-law and mother, and I got to do what I loved. I thought it was the best of both worlds.

What I didn’t count on was that as the months progressed, I found that my loves—subtly at first, and then increasingly stronger—were shifting. Then we learned we would need to change our childcare arrangements … and as we sorted through the options, I didn’t know what to do. I longed to invest more time with Olivia, instead of in my career. Yet the fears of years past dug their claws deep into my mind. You won’t be any good at it. You will be bored. Stick with what you know. And the biggest, scariest one of all: You will fail.

As I wrestled with what to do, we sought counsel from our Pastor. He did not try to persuade us to make a decision either way, just lovingly probed our hearts with the truths of God’s Word. After patiently listening to our struggles with the extensive list of pros and cons for the various options for quite a while, he looked directly at me and carefully asked, “In which choice do you think you could love Christ more?”

And it all became crystal clear.

For me, I could learn to love Christ more if I trust Christ more. (Because so much of love is about trust, isn’t it?) Working full-time, albeit challenging, was the easy choice for me, because I knew I could do it (though foolishly) in my own strength. Caring for my daughter full-time—well, that was tough, because I could not do it without God’s help.

God was using the catalyst of parenthood in my life to teach me more about my walk with Him and making decisions that matter for eternity. Why wouldn’t I want to love and serve Christ more, after all He’d done for me through His death on the cross and the forgiveness of my sins so I could have a home in heaven? And if in order to love Christ more, I needed to trust Him more with His provision and plan for my life, then that was what I wanted to do.

So I traded spreadsheets for spit up, and stilettos for sweats. As for my fears, yes, I will (and do daily) fail. But God does not. When my weaknesses become ugly and apparent, He is teaching me that I can depend on Him to fill up my failures with His everlasting truths. And in turn, I can share those truths with Olivia. What a great reward!

Leaving behind my job—my first love—to pursue loving Christ more as a parent … as this year comes to an end, I can confidently say it’s the best career move I’ve ever made.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)