We All Have to Grow Up

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photo: Katie Bowman, 2012

Rebekah has looked up to her big brother John since the day she was born. In fact, he is the one who named her “Bekah” after he couldn’t say her full name Rebekah. John was her first friend, her first fight, and her first fun! She has never known life apart from him and oh does she love him and look up to him fiercely.

It’s hard to believe that on Thursday, John will show her the ropes in his school. It will now be her school – they will go together. Actually, when Bekah was in her three’s and four’s (the hardest years ever for me), I often wished for her to be a little older so I could manage the meltdowns better. I struggled so much and I had no idea how fast it would go by and that it was only a season, soon to change. When I saw our recent church photo, I realized just how much our family is growing up. Kindergarten has come and it came so fast.churchfamilyphoto

In the same way that we don’t keep returning to preschool year after year, relearning the basics over and over again, we’re also called to grow up in our faith.

Do you ever feel that resistance not to want to change? I would rather stay in Neverland. I have been reminded of this a lot lately as I see my struggles, hurts, and habits for what they truly are in the bright light – kind of ugly – an insecurity, unforgiveness, or slothfulness in different areas. When I see sinfulness inside me, I’m reminded that I have a lot of maturing to do.

1 Corinthians 13: 11-12 says,

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

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Just as a child only has a limited frame of reference and understanding, spiritually we are the same. We can only see life from a limited point of view here on earth. Like my own children, my understanding is imperfect and I have much to learn about God. It’s like trying to see through a mirror that is smudged, cloudy, scratched, dirty, and even broken. My perspective isn’t what it should be.

But soon, we won’t see through a jacked up mirror. We will see face to face the glory and majesty of God and we will eventually know what we don’t yet know right now. Not partially, but fully. 

I’m thankful that while I have so much growing up to do, one day, I will see things as God sees them in its fullest. I will see his people the way he sees them. I will see his plan how he sees it. In heaven, the things we valued and were obsessed about here on earth will be a shadow compared to the beauty and light of Jesus, who is the only one who satisfies our souls.

Growing up and maturing is never easy. I might cry on Thursday or I might be happy and thankful for the break – probably both. But moving ahead is a necessity. When we move past the basics spiritually, we are changed. And it is then that we do begin seeing a little more how heaven sees and we are fine leaving Neverland in order to grow deeper and stronger in our faith.

When God Interrupts Your Plans

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Photo: Lisa Francis

Three years ago today, our William Daniel was born on a beautiful Monday morning in Dallas. If you’ve followed this blog for a period of time, you may remember my announcement of being pregnant with Will. I was on birth control and exclusively breastfeeding. I found out when my third child, Hannah, was only four months old.

And I cried, oh did I cry. I questioned. I even threw my pregnancy test. How in the world could I be ready for a 4th child – right after just having Hannah? I barely had time to recover from her birth. I was numb and in disbelief, more so thinking about how I would be able to carry the load I already couldn’t bare. Jeremiah and I desired to have four children, but had wanted to wait a few years.

Would I take God at his word? Would I trust him for the strength I needed to survive life with four young children, 5 and under? Ultimately, would I accept this surprise gift as God’s sovereign will for my family and me? It was only a matter of days when God clearly showed me to be still and to surrender control. I accepted this precious gift from God’s hands and kept giving the baby inside me to God. It was a great testing of my faith.

IMG_9432When God interrupts our plans, it is uncomfortable and many times fear and worry consumes our hearts: an unplanned pregnancy, a job change, an unexpected illness, a detour in daily plans, a career change, or perhaps a waiting period that is just too long. But it is often in these diversions, we remember that we are not in control. We cannot be dependent on our circumstances, on people, or even ourselves. We cannot manipulate God’s will and it is then that we have to make a choice:

Surrender or become bitter.

We can murmur, complain, get angry, throw things, and stew on the disappointment. We can shake our fists at God. Or, we can trust that even though we don’t understand what we’ve been given, God is working for our good and loves us. As our heavenly father, he knows what is best for us and yes, even what we can handle. We can surrender control over to him and sometimes that might look like a constant giving over, at every new sunrise because it isn’t always a one time thing.

I think the greatest thing I’ve learned when plans don’t go my way is that of humility. Pride says, “I’ve got this figured out. I’m in control. I’m pretty good at knowing the way. I am the master of my destiny.” Humility says, “I don’t have life figured out. I need a Savior whom I can depend on. I need his guidance and direction every moment of my life. I need Jesus in all of life’s circumstances.”

IMG_5390Well, the last three years with Will have been an absolute joy. He completes our family and is our baby. He is full of life, energy, intelligence, silliness, and a deep love for his siblings. God knew what he was doing even though I didn’t see it on the results of my pregnancy test. He did know what I was capable of handling even on the days I have pulled my hair out!

And just like that, Will is three. We put away our last crib a few months ago, which felt surreal. He’s now in a big boy bed, partially potting training, saying all kinds of words, and goes to morning preschool in the fall. I love watching him grow and being his Mommy. I know that the days are long, but the years are short and it goes way too fast to even realize it.

I still have plenty of days where family life feels like it is spinning out of control with four kids, but I’m always reminded that not being in control is a pretty good place to be.

Happy Birthday, Will Will. You are loved so, so much!

 

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins – Even in Marriage & Motherhood

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This past Monday, I was a wreck. I went on my morning run to try to get rid of the mess inside of me. But even after listening to encouraging worship songs and working up a good sweat, I was tired, cranky, emotional, and irrational in my thought life. I couldn’t escape it all day long no matter how hard I tried.

If you’ve ever heard of the H.A.L.T. acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, you know that sin is creeping at your door when you have one, two, three, or all of these going on. And that you truly do need to halt! My issue was the T. My husband and children took the grunt of my exhaustion. My words and actions weren’t exactly a portrait of the Proverbs 31 woman.

I felt like giving up as a wife and mom. Tears ran fast and down my pillow that evening.

My sins are numerous, I thought. I just can’t get it together. Everywhere I turn I create a disaster.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there but it can be so discouraging when your sinful nature is not tamed and you feel like some sins you’ll never be able to overcome.

I remembered how tired I was and began to think rational again. I knew many of my reactions were due to that. I played my part by getting God’s word in my heart,  settling down, and asking forgiveness. I remembered the verse:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

I drew upon this truth because the Enemy’s lies in my head were:

You’re not good enough

You can’t handle this

God is ripping you off

You will never overcome

And then in that moment God’s word began to flood my soul with life-giving words:

You are enough

You can handle everything in my strength

I love you

I will help you overcome

Truth tells me that no matter how far I stray, love still covers a multitude of sins. My love for Jesus covers that. My love for those closest to me. And even the acceptance of myself.

Even on our very worst days, love still covers the darkest corners of our homes – the ugliest moments in marriage and motherhood. When we have failed those we love dearly, all the other 1,000 moments of love in a week that we have bestowed on them still trumps the 100 sins that have made us feel like an absolute failure of a wife and mom.

There is no sin that hasn’t been covered by his blood. 

Jesus understands our brokenness and thank goodness, his love never stops covering us – day in and day out. If you’ve found yourself swallowed by your own wake of disaster and exhaustion, know that you are loved, forgiven, bought at a high price, and set free from that sin. His grace is always available to draw upon in your time of need.

And by all means, HALT when you need to.

Cheering you on in the trenches,

Samantha

 

What I Want My Daughters to Know About Beauty & Worth

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“Momma, I need some lips,” my 3 1/2 year old daughter Hannah exclaims while we are shopping the aisles at our grocery store. “Lips” is our word for lipstick. She heads over to the makeup section and grabs a lipstick off the shelf.

“I need this one,” she says. I smile as she chooses the bright red colored one, like Taylor Swift’s choice lipstick color.

I could use that color, I think to myself knowing that I will end up using it more than Hannah will. I’ve always had a lipstick-lip gloss obsession.

What Really Makes You Beautiful

Now that I’m a mom of four – two that are girls – who are looking up to me as I put on my makeup in the mirror each morning, I’m realizing the great responsibility I have in raising them to understand what really makes us beautiful and worthy as women. Is it the bronze powdered blush, the lengthy eyelashes, the shiny lip gloss, the wavy hair, and flattering outfits? Is it being, trim, fit, fashionable, and attractive?

In a culture that is obsessed with image, how do I communicate to my girls that beauty is only skin deep as the cliche goes? I remember the feelings I had in middle school seeing the magazine covers and trying to measure up to a standard of beauty, only to fail. I remember wanting all the clothes that were in style – staring into the mirror and wondering if I looked anything like the gorgeous, airbrushed model staring back at me.

Many times when I tell our girls they are pretty, I will follow up and say, “You’re beautiful, but did you know what? Your heart is even more beautiful and what’s inside is what matters most.”

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I’m not sure if they’re getting it yet – they’re young – but I am praying these truths will sink in as they grow older. I want them to know that they are beautiful masterpieces in God’s sight and that they don’t need to chase the world’s affirmation for that or a boy’s approval. They don’t have to compare to an instagram feed, another person’s selfie, or the magazines at the checkout counter. They don’t have to look for love in all the wrong places because they are already deeply loved and accepted by their heavenly Father.

Heart, Soul, & Spirit

I want my daughters to know that the hidden person of the heart is where imperishable beauty is found. The beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is what we should desire most (rather than how the world is telling us to act or be). It is what is most precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4). I love that Scripture is not murky in this area but is crystal clear that we’re to work diligently on our hearts and inward beauty regarding:

  • Our character & values
  • Our attitudes
  • Our thought-life
  • What we allow to consume & influence us
  • What directs & shapes our heart
  • Our strength in times of testing/adversity
  • The core of our very soul

This doesn’t mean we don’t take good care of ourselves, wear nice clothes, and desire to look acceptable and even beautiful. I think we all desire and aim for that. I strive to take good care of myself for my husband and children, family, and friends. I love makeup, jewelry, and a nice tan. The problem is when it’s an obsession that consumes me and when I put more work into my outward appearance rather than my heart, then I need to change and consider where I’m placing my identity and value.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. – Prov. 31:30

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Jesus Makes You Radiant

I’ve certainly had mornings where I was all dressed up and ready to go, but my heart was far from the Lord. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks and my words weren’t pretty. My inner beauty was lacking and my children and husband saw my sour attitude and felt it. I’ve told my husband many times, “I need to get in the Word before I start this day. I need to say Good Morning, Lord, before I say Good Morning to anything else!”

We’ve all encountered women at some point in our lives who were drop-dead gorgeous, but nasty and ugly in character and attitude. We’ve also known women who might not be considered pretty by the world’s standards, but their heart, character, and happy smile made them so, so incredibly beautiful. Their inward joy radiates into the lives of others.

If there’s anything I really want my daughters to grasp, it is that they don’t have to be on a constant chase, like I was so often growing up. Even raised in a loving, Christian home, I didn’t always rest in the truth that love was right there with me and it was in Jesus – the author of love and absolute perfection. I want my daughters to know that it is Christ in us, who ultimately makes us radiant as his spirit is lived out in our lives. It is in Christ where we find all the fullness of love, acceptance, worth, joy, and hope.

As women, we are made in his image. Created by him no matter what shape, size, and features he has given us. We are his. Working on the inner beauty of our heart is worth every effort, no matter how difficult our days may be and even when our pride says not to do the hard work of focusing on our inner person.

Make no mistake, the inward beauty of your heart will eventually spill out into the lives of other people and it will be contagious.

You are seen. You are Known. You are Loved.

Blessings,

Samantha

Mommas Need Good Friday Too

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I don’t remember exactly what my son had done that afternoon, but it involved disobedience. I remember where we were – in our backyard on a hot summer’s day in Texas. He was pushing my buttons at just the right time. He continued with his defiance and it was in that moment that I grabbed him and lashed out at him, yelling and all. There is a point as mommas when we discipline for correction and there is a line that we cross when we break a child’s spirit. I had done the latter.

Anger filled my heart. And I was done. I wanted to throw in the towel. Guilt and shame flooded my soul for the way I had hurt him – my precious first born baby whom I loved with all my heart and soul.

After cooling off and just wanting to hide in a corner, I confessed my sin to the Lord and to my son. “I’m sorry, John. Mom is struggling and the way I treated you was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course, Mom. I love you,” were his words.

Oh the forgiveness that I did not deserve. But with welcoming, child-like faith my son accepted my apology. He loved me anyway and our relationship was restored.

I don’t know where you are in your journey in motherhood, but perhaps like me you’ve been there. Maybe today. You see your brokenness, humanity, and sinful nature for what it is and it ain’t pretty. You would rather isolate and not expose it for what it is. You carry burdens of shame and guilt. You don’t know how to manage it. You know that you simply can’t on your own. I get it.

Jesus does too.

By His Wounds You are Healed

Because of the costly price of our sin, Jesus took care of the enormous debt we could not pay. Because of our sin and weakness, he willingly went to the cross to be crucified. He suffered, he bled, and he died a criminal’s death.

His love ran red for you. His blood on the cross took care of your sin problem. And by his wounds, you are healed.

His wounds save you from the outbursts of anger, the covetousness, the discontentment, the cursing, the lusts of your flesh, the struggle with control, the need for approval, the desire to have more, the need to be successful, the intense struggle with your children, the pride and more.

You see, Good Friday is not just for the church-goer on Sunday morning but doesn’t yet have a real faith in Jesus, but it is for the one who is broken. It is for those who know their great and desperate need for a Savior. Good Friday is not only for the businessman, social worker, doctor, teacher, politician, and more but it is also for the Momma who is weary and trembling in her calling to raise up her children in the way they should go.

Mommas need Good Friday too. And Jesus was thinking of you on the cross. He understands your struggle and suffering too. The truth is that we can’t manage our sin in motherhood, but Jesus can. The truth is that we don’t have it all together and we need his grace every hour.

Stop Doubting & Believe

After Jesus’ victory over death and sin and after he rose from the dead, doubting Thomas still struggled to believe that Jesus was who he said he was – the Messiah. The Savior of the world. More importantly, his personal Savior.

After the resurrection when Jesus was with his disciples, he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

And Thomas responded: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas had touched his Savior’s wounds. The proof was before his eyes. Jesus was the Son of God. He had no excuse not to believe.

And Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:26-29).

He is for You

There is much we don’t see in our calling as mommas, but do we still believe that Jesus is who he said he is? Do we believe that his wounds have set us free in our struggle with sin and will continue to set us free in the hard days to come?

The good news, Momma, is that the burdens of shame and guilt that you carry have been covered by Jesus’ blood on the cross. I know it’s hard to believe, but you can live in victory over your sin by his strength and in his power. And he is fully able to help make you the Momma you desire to be.

He sees you. He knows you. He is for you as you shepherd the hearts of your children.

And it is in fact, a very, very, Good Friday.

Blessings to you,

Samantha

 

Strong God, Strong Mom

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At the beginning of the year, my husband and I were asked to speak for my mother’s group on the topic of marriage. During our talk, I shared some stories on how our kids have impacted our relationship and how I struggle at times with anger and control in raising our four young children. Sharing the more raw details of life can be a scary risk that involves vulnerability but I always figure that if it can help someone else, being authentic is worth it.

Well after our talk, one of my mom friends who I respected and was a “super mom” in my eyes, came up to me and said how much she related to what I had to say.

“Really?” I asked her…

Read the rest on FortheFamily.org

 

 

 

Learning to Release Your Children to The Lord

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It had been a normal Saturday with my husband and two year old son, John. We had plans to enjoy the morning at the lake. We parked our car and walked to the bridge where the geese and ducks were. The setting and serenity were perfect. My son stuck close to us as we showed him the beauty of God’s creation. Bicyclers flew by us and other runners on the bridge. Out of nowhere, my son darts out in the middle of the path just as a bicycler is heading straight for him. He screams, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Get out of the way!” My heart stopped…

Read the rest over on FortheFamily.org

6 Surprising Ways to Survive the Younger Years

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If you’re like me and you’re in the trenches of raising young children you’ve probably at least thought or said the words, “Help! I’m in survival mode!”

This has been true for my husband and I for the last several years. Our four children are a blessing to us – a gift from God whom we love and cherish with all our hearts – but we still have our share of challenges, trials, and conflict on a daily basis.

Just a couple hours ago, my 1.5 year old took a nice big bite into my 4 year olds cheek. She was screaming with tears running down her face simultaneously with my cranky 3 year old who has a runny nose and fever. Meanwhile, my 6 year old is in the bathroom having a hard time, and well, let’s just say there was a mess to clean up…

Read the rest here

A Letter to My Son (The Kindergarten Graduate)

IMG_7500I am pretty excited to be writing as a new contributor for Forthefamily.org. Especially as our family has grown in size over the last few years, I find myself having a lot of ideas for articles. Or rather, the struggle in raising children and keeping your marriage #1 is so real that I can’t not write about it! I wrote this letter a while back for my son and decided to edit it now that he is a kindergarten graduate. I read it to him recently and it was a sweet time between the two of us. I hope this brings you encouragement as you train, love, and disciple your own children and hopefully keep your hair in tact. 🙂

Dear Son,

You are growing into such a smart and sweet-spirited young boy. This past year you’ve gone from reading only a few words to reading chapter books and doing addition and subtraction. You recently graduated from Kindergarten and it feels like yesterday that your tiny fingers wrapped around mine and I couldn’t stop smelling your soft baby skin, over and over again.

I consider my role as your Momma a serious responsibility and privilege to which I will be held accountable to God. Every day I get to spend with you is a gift to invest in your precious life. I know that the time I have with you in these formative years is numbered. I still can’t believe you’ll be entering first grade in the fall. How can it be?

Read the rest over on FortheFamily.org

 

 

Giving Myself Permission to Fail

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A few days ago, my 6 year old boy John came home from school ecstatic about the prizes he had won and all the candy in his Easter goodie bag from school. One of his favorites was a bouncy ball. He bounced it on our hard wood floors and on the ceiling and his sister was jumping off the walls in sync with it.

“John, take that outside please,” I tell him as I desperately wanted some peace and quiet.

He opens the door and heads outside and within 3 minutes, he’s yelling my name.

“MOM! You shouldn’t have told me to go outside! I bounced the ball and now it’s lost.”

Oh boy. There goes my quiet time.

I go outside to help him look for it and it’s nowhere to be found.

“I’m sorry John.”

“It’s your fault. You told me to go outside,” he says on the verge of tears.

I reason with him and share how he is still responsible for the ball. I let it be and let it go, but something inside me still felt like I failed him. I guess I didn’t suggest the best solution for play.

My feelings toward his lost bouncy ball reminded me of how I often feel in motherhood. Am I failing at this? I never feel like I quite have it down and as soon as I do, some other struggle and difficulty surfaces.

In her honest article, “My Pact to Become Good at Failure,” Mandy Arioto says,

“In a sense, motherhood offered me new eyes to see that failure can be the thing that saves us. This is what I’ve come to believe about failure: it’s good. Just like childbirth is good. And by good I mean incredibly painful. Failure hurts, but there is tremendous potential for goodness to be born through it.”

– (Hello, Darling MOPS Magazine Spring Issue, pg. 29)

I think she is right on. For so many years, I have looked at failure as a bad thing. Could it be though, that failure can be turned into a good and godly thing?

When a deeply invested friendship hasn’t turned out the way I thought, I’ve felt like a failure. When I can’t seem to balance all the needs of my children and love my husband well, I’ve felt like a failure. When I lash out and say words I would’ve never imagined saying to those I love, I’ve felt like a failure. When dinner is not what anyone wants to eat, yep… failure.

And then there are situations and circumstances in the past that haunt my heart today in light of failure: A hurtful word, an unacceptable grade, the inability to do what was expected, a damaged relationship, and more.

IMG_7096Regardless of the sin I’ve committed and the sin that’s been done to me, God still uses failure and all the pain and suffering attached to it. Maybe we don’t see the purposes now — that’s okay. God loves us in the midst of our deepest failures.

There is never a time when He is shaking his fists and yelling at us to get our act together; rather His arms are outstretched like a father to his child. He tells us to, “Come.”  He accepts us by grace through faith, not by any good works we have done. Even on our best day, we still fall short. That’s why we need Him. That is what we celebrate this Easter.

I will fail, but I am not defined by my failures because God redeems them. He forgives. He is gracious. He is patient. And pain, while it is so difficult, can be a wonderful tool for growth and change and Christ-likeness. If I gave myself permission to fail, and let God pick up the broken pieces for me, I’m pretty sure I would start to see things with a fresh pair of lenses where grace saturates the world around me. It is a daily battle to rely on these truths, but it’s possible.

Well, the bouncy ball incident hasn’t been talked about all weekend until yesterday when John stormed into the house and yelled:

“MOM! I found the ball. It was in front of the slide!” He threw his arms around my waist and almost knocked me down, to which I translated: Mom you’re still the best!

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