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New Article: 5 Words That Could Mean Life or Death to Your Marriage

Last week was an exciting week being able to share an article I wrote that was inspired by a photo I saw. It was a blessing to hear from readers on Start Marriage Right and KirkCameron.com

If you haven’t read it yet I hope you will be encouraged as well.

A few weeks ago, my friend Charity wrote on Facebook that a photo of her friend’s grandparents had made The Huffington Post. I clicked on the link and saw the breathtaking image of this husband and wife. I was instantly caught up in the beauty and tragedy of it.

I imagined what was going through the wife’s mind as she held the fragile hand of her dying husband. I imagined the memories they shared together—the joys and challenges. I imagined the birth of their first child and raising a family in their home. I pictured his strength and her beauty at a young age…

Continue Reading…

One Fact in Motherhood: Some Days Everything Falls Apart

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my baby boy (2 mos)

{written last night}

Today was a circus.

The 5 year old, almost 3 year old, 1 year old, and baby were all cranky from the moment their toes hit the floor. Okay so not the baby’s toes exactly. But anyway, constant noise, screams, and whines echoed through the walls all day long. The 5 year old lied three times and threw some verbal punches at his sister. Careless words I’d never heard before. Pinching, hitting, crying, and the like. No one napped on schedule like they usually do.

We converted the almost 3 year old’s crib into her big girl bed and what was supposed to be a joyous occasion was quite interesting. Jeremiah had spent most of the day getting a new mattress and box spring up north and putting it all together when he got home. Our precious little girl seemed thankful and excited for a short time but ended up throwing fits and calling Daddy and Mommy names.

While all that was happening, the 5 year old was out playing wonderfully with the 1 year old and then he decides to push her in the one spot of the yard with mud. Her face and arms are caked with mud. More discipline came after that and then I scrubbed her off in the tub. Meanwhile, the 2 month old baby is fussy and needing all my attention and dinner needs to be served next, but the chicken chili is too hot and the older kids are complaining they don’t like it. (They liked it a few months ago.)

My head is spinning and I feel like I’m going to pass out from being up 3 times the night before. It’s all I can do to focus on the next task.

And then Daddy and Mommy have about had it with all the noise and fuss and start getting on each other and World War III (like the Sara Groves song) is about to erupt in the kitchen. Oh wait, it sort of already did amongst the dishes and debris. All little eyes are staring us down.

So Mommy runs upstairs to escape the chaos and have a good cry because let’s be honest, if that didn’t happen, all you know what would have broke out because when Mama’s not happy, nobody is. I didn’t want to hear the word “mommy” one more time.

Yes, this is reality some days. Thank goodness days like today aren’t this bad. I wish it was prettier. I wish I could say I got through the day because I thought about how I would miss this when they’re teenagers or that I got through the day because of the blessings and joys of being a mom regardless of the challenges. Or that it goes by so fast and I need to enjoy it.

But it wasn’t like that today.

Nope.

It was survival mode from the minute my feet hit the floor. I barely had time for a shower. No time for makeup. My husband and I have barely looked each other in the eyes today and it was his day off.

And right now, I’m so glad they’re all in bed and I can breathe and hear my fingers hit the keyboard as I write this.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, Jeremiah,” I said to my husband a few minutes ago.

He gets it because he’s right with me through it all. The emotions, physical exhaustion, the spiritual battles, the sleep deprivation, the demands… There is so much that goes into loving and raising our children that we had no clue about before kids.

And I think to myself, is this what we signed up for? Holy cow. Four kids all still so young. God, you really think I can handle this?

After bellies are full, thing simmer down, and I’m able to think I ask my husband for forgiveness and we reconcile. I ask my older kids for forgiveness and we hug and talk about the conflict.

And that’s when the only thing that comes to mind is grace and God’s goodness. That’s all I’m left with at the end of the day. When all the happenings in my home are squeezing the life out of me and it’s all I can do to hold back tears from being so overwhelmed, God’s still voice says:

Anyone in these circumstances would struggle, Samantha.

It’s not going to be easy.

This is your sanctification.

But, I’ve got you.

Motherhood is your mission.

There is purpose in this.

I’m with you.

I’ll help you hold on.

Everyone’s going to survive.

I will use this for good.

I love you.

Even in times of brokenness, chaos, feelings of failure, shame and absolute exhaustion, His arms are open wide to carry the burden for me.

And I am so thankful for that tonight.

He is who I will cling to when my head hits the pillow. It is He who I will ask to help me better love my children the next day. It is He who I will trust to bring new mercies and change me in the beautiful, messy, joyful, necessary, difficult, rewarding, purposeful work of motherhood.

New Article: 8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters- KirkCameron.com

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kirkcameron.com

Lately, I’ve been inspired by the importance of the daddy-daughter relationship and I wrote about it recently on KirkCameron.com. After all, I’m a Daddy’s girl myself!

This was my first article geared primarily for dads and I’ve been so humbled by the response it’s getting and have really appreciated hearing from readers. It makes me realize this is truly a need in our culture today. Feel free to share your thoughts over there and thanks for reading!

8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters

A couple months ago, my kids were playing upstairs when my two-year-old daughter Rebekah starts screaming at the top of her lungs. I ran upstairs to find that she’d cut her eyebrow from jumping off the bed onto her brother’s train table.

Since it looked bad, I called my neighbor for help so I could take Rebekah to the Urgent Care clinic. After waiting and being seen, the doctor explained that she’d need three stitches. The nurses and I held Rebekah down while the doctor threaded her skin. Her eyes filled with tears as she shouted, “D-a-d-d-y … D-a-d-d-y!”

Read the rest over on KirkCameron.com

How Our Life Together Began at the River {An Engagement Story}

We’d been walking for a few miles. The humidity was thick and my jeans stuck to my sweaty legs. It was our fourth day in Israel and Jordan and my boyfriend Jeremiah and I were with our seminary professor and classmates, visiting and learning about all the sites Jesus once walked. We were so excited to see the Jordan River for the first time. Both having grown up in the church, we had learned about it all our lives, and now we finally got to experience it.

We arrived at the bank of the Jordan and it was more narrow than I thought. I sat my backpack down on a rock so I could take pictures with friends. After a few minutes, I went back over to my bag to get my hairbrush out which was so random because I normally wouldn’t stop and brush my hair in a moment like this. When I reached for the front pocket, I stumbled upon a small black leather box with white stitching on it.

What is that? I wondered. Then something clicked and I was sure I knew. My heart raced. Was this really it?

Jeremiah rushed over and took the box as if I wasn’t supposed to see it in my bag. He looked really nervous and excited.

He smiled, opened the ring box, and got down on one knee. I started giggling.

“Samantha, just as John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and it represented the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, I want this to represent our new life together in marriage. Will you marry me?

I laughed some more and started crying.

Jordan River 2“Yes! Yes!”

He slid the ring on my finger and it fit perfectly. We hugged and kissed and I couldn’t stop smiling.

Our professor captured the proposal along with some of our friends. I finally took the time to really look at the ring and I couldn’t believe it. It was beautiful, classy, big, round, and flawless. During our 7 months of dating I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at rings. Jeremiah and I had shopped a few times for fun but I figured if he knew me well enough, he would know what I liked. And did he ever! I couldn’t stop looking at it. Its brilliant sparkle reminded me that life was certainly about to change. I would get to spend the rest of my life with the one I loved. The one God had given to me.

I was on cloud nine on the trail back to our bus. I couldn’t believe how he got me and surprised me out of nowhere. He had asked my dad for permission to marry me a few weeks before the trip when we were visiting my parents in Texas. I thought for sure he would have popped the question after Israel. But he carried the ring on the plane, through customs, security, several hotels, and excursions for four days. Needless to say he was happy to have the surprise off his chest. I thought more about how it couldn’t have been more perfect to be engaged right where we were.

Our next stop happened to be the Dead Sea, often called the Salt Sea, which borders Jordan to the East. A classmate offered to hold my ring while Jeremiah and I went for a dip with everyone. We floated on top of the water and it refreshed our souls from the intense middle eastern heat. Jeremiah held me in his arms and it was as if the world had stopped. The embrace of my future husband was all I need. I was going to be his and he would be mine. I had given my word to him, my promise. Our wedding day and new life together was on the horizon.Jordan River 1

Looking back on that significant day eight years ago {June 4, 2005} brings me nothing but great joy. There are those moments in life that God gives and you feel nothing but his sweet presence, where his love for you is absolutely overwhelming. It’s almost as if he gives you a little taste of the perfection that will be awaiting in heaven.

Jeremiah and I knew from the beginning that our relationship wasn’t just about us, but what God was doing and he has always confirmed that in our hearts. I have believed that all these years. In December we will celebrate our eight year wedding anniversary.

Before marriage, we had no idea the trials that would come our way. We didn’t quite grasp the hard work that’s required to be one as a couple and how we would have to fight daily against our selfish, sinful natures. We wouldn’t learn all of this through a book or classroom but by sitting in the school of experience.

We also had no idea how God would fashion and shape us more like him and give us the sweetest, most precious gifts we have ever tasted within the sacred covenant of marriage: unity, servanthood, companionship, fulfillment, purpose, passion, sexual intimacy, friendship, forgiveness, satisfaction, mission, the blessing of children, and unconditional love just to name a few. We had no idea how God would show us the true meaning of sacrificial, * till death we do part * love and commitment. And we are praying by God’s grace that he will give us many more years to have together.

There’s no doubt that the love I have towards my husband is deeper and wider than when I said “yes!” It is a different kind of love yet it is still the same. We are still the same people we were then yet we’ve changed and grown in so many different ways. Today on our engagement anniversary my heart is grateful for God’s faithfulness.

Through the calm and the storms in our lives, He has always been faithful just as he was that day on the river.

A Letter to My Son, On Manhood, Mission, & Meaning in Life

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This letter was inspired by the sadness in my heart from the recent headlines regarding young men in our city and culture as a whole.

Dear John Samuel,

I consider my role as your Momma and the time I have on this earth to raise you a serious responsibility and privilege to which I will be held accountable to God.

Every day I get to spend with you reading books, playing in the yard, cuddling on the couch, nourishing your belly, going on adventures, meeting people, having conversations with you about Jesus, writing letters and numbers, playing soccer, answering your questions, listening to your fears and concerns, disciplining you and more is a gift to invest in your precious life.

When I look at you I don’t always see the handsome 4-year-old, brown eyed boy that you are, but I see the man you will be one day.

That vision puts a healthy fear inside my heart to love and nurture you well.

As your Momma, right alongside Daddy, I promise to teach you as best I know how what it means to honor and cherish the women in your life. To treat them with love, gentleness and respect. To practice self-control, integrity, and perseverance. To be a man of character, commitment, and discernment.

I will help you understand what it means to stand up when everyone else around you cowards. To be a servant leader whose life is marked by humility, honesty and love- not pride, position, and power. To be a man who is stable, responsible and teachable. To follow and obey God’s commands to value and treasure all human life because He is our Creator and the ultimate authority.

As you grow older, you’ll realize how difficult it is to do the right thing. This world and your flesh will tempt you to neglect God’s goodness and follow your own passions and lusts. Don’t give in to these lies. The wide road will trip you up and lead to danger, destruction or even death. Follow the narrow road where you’ll find joy, wholeness, meaning, peace and abundant life in Christ.

As your Momma, I know I’ll fail you at times and let you down because I’m not perfect. I struggle at times to do what is right. You already know that. But God is perfect and will never fail you. He is the one who will help you become a man who influences others and brings peace, joy, and life to everyone around him. Not chaos, sadness, and harm.

In God’s strength, I will do my best to help you understand the purpose God has for you here on earth. I’ll do my best to teach you that meaning in life is found in Christ. When you know Him personally, you will see that He heals brokenness, redeems the ugliest situations, raises the dead to life and transforms the hardest hearts.

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3 arrows representing her 3 boys. Painting by my dear friend, Laura Short

I also believe that our home is the training ground for the mission you’ll be on one day. I believe that the discipline, love, security, and boundaries that happen in our home will greatly impact the man you’ll become. God has given you and your sisters (and brother on the way) as arrows for your Daddy and I to aim and shoot in the right direction.

One day, we’ll have to release you into battle where you’ll make your own decisions and choices. You’ll have the choice to put all that you learned about God’s word, life, and love into practice. And all Mommy and Daddy will be able to do is pray for you.

Until then, my precious child, allow the Lord to direct your steps. Follow His path and pursue holiness and righteousness. This world needs your voice. Your heart. Your life. Your leadership. Your God.

I love you and I’m cheering you on, son.

All of my love,

Momma

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court. – Psalm 127:3-5

New Article: I Love You, But How Do I Like You?

0035This week, I’m over at Start Marriage Right sharing some practical thoughts on loving your spouse for the long haul.

After my husband asked me out on our first date, we were inseparable. We couldn’t get enough of each other’s company. Our dating days were filled with joy, delight, anticipation, passion, and little conflict. But after we got married, into the newlywed years and beyond we started to grow familiar with each other… 

Read the rest on Start Marriage Right

Contributing to the Book, Take the Date Night Challenge by Greg & Erin Smalley

888243oLast week Focus on the Family contacted me and asked permission to publish part of my article, Missional Marriage: 10 Practical Ways to Serve Other People, in their upcoming book Take the Date Night Challenge by Greg and Erin Smalley.

The book is based off the Focus on the Family event, “The Date Night Challenge.”

First, I’m super excited and grateful for this opportunity because I love contributing to good books. Second, I’m a huge fan of the Smalley’s and we have a lot of books on our shelf written by Gary Smalley. And third, this book is going to be a great read that will apply directly to our marriages. I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have really needed some ideas to freshen up our date nights. And we’ve actually been a little slack lately on making sure we’re going on date nights consistently.

I look forward to reading the different ideas and tools so that our date nights can be more creative and fun. It will release in a few months and I’ll most likely do a review and giveaway so stay tuned!

Conflict Resolution: The Need for Face Time

0019I’m not writing anywhere specific today but someone I know who is really awesome and amazing is! My husband! Today Jeremiah is writing his first article for  StartMarriageRight.com, helping us discern how much we should share digitally verse face to face communication in our relationships.

He gives practical wisdom on what to do when you sense a conflict arising over any form of digital communication- email, texting, social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and how you can handle it biblically.

I think he did a great job and I really enjoyed editing the article. We would love to hear your thoughts or any wisdom you’ve gained over the years on this topic:

“We’ve all been there. We’ve either witnessed it or have personally shared the anxiety of working through conflict using digital communication. With life running at the pace of email, texting, Facebook and Twitter, solving conflict on these mediums has become almost as natural as breathing. But is this always the best way to go?”

Read the rest on Start Marriage Right

A Surprise Baby!

IMG_4679In late November I started to feel dizzy and nauseous and a little off. I thought I had some kind of stomach bug but I didn’t think anything of it until it didn’t go away. Then Jeremiah and I figured I should take a pregnancy test to rule that option out. We made a trip to Target in the evening, I grabbed the test and took it after the kids were down.

Jeremiah sat in the living room and as I anxiously awaited the results. My heart raced but I really didn’t think I was pregnant. Then to my shock and surprise, I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. Not one but two pink lines were popping up.

Are you kidding me? How can this be?

I grew angry and unsure of everything. I had a four month old, had barely gotten my pregnancy weight off, was exclusively breast feeding, and on birth control. With all my other three children, I never got pregnant while nursing.

“It says we’re pregnant Jeremiah! What in the world?” I cried in disbelief.

He was in shock and having difficulty processing it too. I was already quite overwhelmed being a mom to three children under 4 and was really looking forward to taking a break from carrying and delivering a baby. We knew we wanted to complete our family with four children but we wanted to wait a while, like 2 or 3 years.

That night I went to bed shocked, woke up shocked, and felt down the whole week. I didn’t tell any family or friends. I needed time to process and pray and work this one out with God.

Weeks passed and I slowly told our family and close friends. I knew I had the choice to accept this surprise or be bitter and angry. I faced the choice to worry about what people thought and the comments people would make (especially in general public) about being pregnant while holding another baby on my hip.

Ultimately, I’d arrived at a crossroads in my life where I had to surrender my desire to control and give all that I was, and my very body carrying this new life, into the very arms of Christ. This was His doing. Would I trust him?

Thoughts wrestled through my mind for several weeks. I went in for my first doctor appointment and my doctor couldn’t believe it when he saw my name on the schedule but that he was so happy for me. The ultrasound and heartbeat were perfect and I was already 6 weeks along. My due date was looking like July 25 putting this baby and my daughter Hannah 13 months apart!

“This is a miracle, Samantha. You may not see it right now, but God has plans in the future for this baby,” my doctor said confidently.

I held back my tears and smiled.

“Thank you. You’re right.”

My heart was at peace and I was thankful the baby was healthy. A few days after my doctor appointment I finally arrived at a place where I embraced this baby as God’s perfect will- His perfect miracle. This baby was a gift. It wasn’t about me. And that’s what ultimately helped change my perspective.

Initially, I realized more of the shock came from “Oh no, how in the world am I going to handle four children under four?” than it really was about the blessing of this baby. The majority of my fears have to do with motherhood. I’m nowhere near the perfect Mom and if I’ve learned anything with the three children God has already given me it’s that I really don’t have it together. I need the Lord’s grace every single day.

Motherhood has tested me and refined me like nothing else has. It’s also been the greatest joy of my life. I struggle daily to be everything I’m called to be but I do know that God has given me the privilege and responsibility to love and nurture my children and teach them to know and love God.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127:3-5

This mission and calling keeps me going every day. And I’m just praying for the strength and endurance I’m going to desperately need when this sweet baby arrives.

Well on Friday, we had the 16 week ultrasound and everything looked great. We were thinking all along we would make it a surprise delivery since we’ve never done that so during the ultrasound, we didn’t find out but I did ask the tech to write it down and put in an envelope in case we wanted to know later. They don’t keep the gender on file.

IMG_4684I wasn’t planning on keeping the envelope in my purse for very long long because of the obvious temptation to read it. I was thinking about handing it off to a friend. Then I realized during those few hours after the appointment that I really wanted to know. I was getting too stressed about not knowing if it was a boy or girl. So Jeremiah and I opened it together Friday evening. And we loved what we saw in writing- A BOY!

I’d been praying hard all along for another boy so we would have 2 girls and 2 boys and that our boys would be the bookends. I also felt like it could be a boy since this pregnancy has felt similar to my son John’s so it was such an answer to prayer to receive the news. God is so gracious.

What I’m most amazed by at this 16 week mark is how much God has changed my heart. Of course, it has been a process as I’m a work in progress. I know more than ever that I’m not in control of my life as much as I’d like to think I am. I can make plans, but the Lord determines my steps (Prov. 16:9). He is the Creator of life and knows what He is doing. Can I trust him with my very own life? Can I trust him that this is his perfect will for our family? Absolutely. He has never forsaken me.

IMG_4678That doesn’t mean the road ahead will be smooth sailing by any means. Raising a family is hard work. Our home will look pretty crazy with four little ones running around- it already is with 3! But God has made our life so rich and so full with our children.

Thank you for sharing in the joy of our little boy who is on his way very soon!

7 Years of Marriage, Newtown & Faith for the Future

Well today marks seven years that I’ve been married to my husband Jeremiah. It’s crazy how much life can change in just seven years and honestly it really doesn’t feel like that many years have passed by.

I’m grateful for the gift of marriage. God continues to use marriage to sanctify me, show me my sin, and teach me selflessness. Daily, I’m humbled that God gave me such a loving, hard-working, godly, selfless leader to follow, who I proudly call my husband. Just like any other couple, we’ve had our share of struggles and trials but God has been faithful through every step and we give him glory for all that he has done.

We are committed to one another till death do us part and we will continue to do what it takes to keep our marriage from merely surviving to thriving. And we have learned over seven years that this is hard work.

Just last night, we were watching the CNN vigil for the community of Newtown, Connecticut. We heard President Obama’s thoughtful speech and watched the slideshow of photos of the children and adults whose lives were taken from this world on Friday.

And I wept in Jeremiah’s arms. Tears were all I had. Tears for those precious children and for our nation as a whole. I thanked God that I had someone to grieve with. My heart ached and I longed for Jesus’ return. I asked the “why’s?” and dealt with the anger.

And today, on our anniversary, that ache is still very present. I’m celebrating these past years with my husband but I’m also praying that God would heal our nation and comfort grieving Newtown. I’m praying that the next seven years Jeremiah and I will have a fervency in our faith like we’ve never had before.

There is work to be done and it starts with us. It starts with the church, whom God uses as a means to bring light into the darkness. And I have needed this wake-up call out of mediocrity and waiting for others to start the conversation.

I want to love louder and unashamedly share the gospel.

There is no other choice and as Obama had said in that speech, “we can do better” as a nation. But I also know that the church can do better too and that it starts with me.

My prayer is that the next seven years will be less about “us and our marriage” and more about Christ and his kingdom and how he can use us to make a difference. Time is running out in reaching this world with the hope that is found in Christ.

And I think more than anything that is where the real ache inside me is coming from.

Until then I hope you will join me and take a look at your own faith and life and how God might use your time, talent, and treasure to make an impact in this world. I promise to do my best to encourage and spur you on as we seek God’s will together as broken, feeble people yet nonetheless people who have been radically changed by Christ.

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