Hope for the New Year: The people living in darkness have seen a great light

Some might notice I don’t write so much anymore or at least it’s taken a gradual down turn. I’d love to say that it’s just from my life being so full and busy (which it is), but the biggest reason for my lack of words is darkness. I’ve been in the darkest place of my life so far the last two years. I’ve suffered a lot of emotional and mental pain. Trauma, emotional distress, depression, anxiety, dissociation, despair, hopelessness, loneliness and feelings of isolation. There are reasons for this suffering, but I won’t be revealing the circumstances for now.

But let me tell you what the Lord has done heading into this new year.

I’d love to say my circumstances have completely changed, and that my sorrow is ended. That’s not happening as of right now, though I don’t want to give up hope. Instead the Lord has done a great work in my heart. There are times when I felt his silence, but I have experienced in new and deeper ways his loving shepherd care for me. I don’t just have theological beliefs of joy in the midst of suffering, comfort from him in sorrow, his support and care for the broken hearted and crushed in spirit, but I’ve finally felt it and experienced it personally. When I was at my lowest, people would suddenly be contacting me telling me the Lord was putting me on their hearts and they were praying for me.

One powerful instance of God answering prayer quickly was when I was feeling lonely, and I was telling the Lord that I was all alone and had no one to comfort me. I felt that still small voice speak to me, “But I’m here, Liz.” Learning from David in the Psalms (really even how Moses communicated with God) and learning how to lament, I pushed back: “I know, Lord, but you know I don’t have your bodily presence here with me and humans need your physical agents of comfort as well.” An hour or so later a friend I hadn’t talked to in awhile randomly texted me to see how I was doing. She told me she had been thinking about me and praying. The tears streamed down my face as I experienced the care and comfort of a real God. A God who sees the suffering of his people in a broken world and acts in real time for them. He is real and he is good. Though the desert is all around me and the trees are barren of fruit I don’t just theologically know God is good, but I feel that he’s good deep down in my bones. I feel that he is truly there for me all the time, especially when I’m weak and hurting.

The tough part of experiencing deep suffering is the weakness it brings. If we aren’t careful it can corrupt our hearts. I recently realized I didn’t like the person I was becoming: hateful, bitter, and resentful. I had let the darkness around me invade my heart and let it slowly poison my mind. I had not been guarding my heart where the well springs of life are, instead hope deferred had made my heart sick. I knew I needed to get help for myself and change. “The people in darkness have seen a great light”. The darkness of my circumstances haven’t changed, but I’ve made it my aim to still be a person of the light in my present darkness. And it began with God himself handing me the light of hope. His hope. The kind of hope that sees what we can’t see right now.

Isaiah 35:3-4 says, “Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” I had a recent experience where it almost felt like God had sent his ministering angels to straighten my drooping shoulders and strengthen my weak knees, so I could continue to stand. It was as if a surge of power was infused in me, I felt my fighting spirit return, and I began to feel like I had words to say now. I experienced a bubbling up of real joy in my spirit. I had always heard of Christians who experienced deep suffering and yet said they experienced joy in the midst of it. Now I felt that I had finally experienced this fully for myself, and that what they say is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. The joy of the Lord is my strength. It’s clear though that it’s of him and his doing.

For those who have been watching the latest Star Wars series, Andor, the prison escape was powerful for me. I felt like those men when they realized the lies of the enemy (the Empire). Lies that promised them freedom someday. But when the men realized the truth, that they were never letting them out, they immediately responded with determination, resolve, and revolution. They were done. They would get their freedom on their own and not subject themselves to the oppression of the Empire. Eventually more people in the galaxy began to see the darkness of the Empire encroaching on their lives. This realization didn’t make them passively despair, but be alert, watchful, sober-minded, self-controlled, and actively fight.

God calls us to fight against the Empire; outside of us and inside of us. There are forces of darkness at work in this world from the beginning of time, in our present age, and for how long forward none of us knows. But we are always called to fight with God and his forces of light, forces from the beginning of time, and established in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that are at work even now renewing this world and renewing our hearts and minds. In this way we are a people called to the paradox of always sorrowing and always rejoicing. And this is what I will fight for in my own life. I will fight to stay in this tension.


The Problem with Boys: What They Need and How We Can Help

What does it mean to be a man? This question has been answered in history through many different ways. Some noble and integral, and some just the opposite. My more cynical side would say it’s the later part mostly. And yet, I’m the mom of two boys, so I wrestle with this question myself. At times, I fear how they will turn out as men. I question how they will treat people, women especially, and I worry for the health of their relationships. The culture at large is still asking this question and the Church as well. Sadly, the Church can adopt the lies of masculinity found in the culture, as Mike Cosper points out in his podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll is a prime example of a male leader in the Church answering this question in toxic ways. As we’ve seen the rise of someone like Rachel Denhollander, saw the fall of Ravi Zacherias post-mortem, and the recent findings in the Southern Baptist Convention, parts of the Church are telling the world what it means to be a man, and it’s not very different from what the world tells us. 

In the documentary, The Mask You Live In, educator, author, activist, pastor and coach Joe Ehrmann shares a story from his childhood. As a small boy his father took him into the basement for a talk, telling him to “be a man!” “Stop with the tears. Stop with the emotions.” Ehrmann says this encounter was a source of great shame for him as he began his journey fighting this feeling of not being enough of a man. He then goes on to share how football became a way for him to hide. Maybe then his dad would see him as strong and tough and give him the love and attention he craved? Ehrmann says these three words: “Be a man!” are the most destructive words in our society. 

The Mask You Live In explores the socialization of boys in the ways of “manhood”. How from a young age boys are taught, culturally and socially, to lock down their emotions. Even with the most recent school shooting in Texas, perpetrated by another young man, our social problem is on full display. By the time a boy commits a violent act he has already embraced and lived out the lies of masculinity that our culture promotes. As Ehrmann points out in his Ted Talk: “Violence is unprocessed grief” and “Boys who can’t cry, shoot bullets.” In our culture today a man is measured by his athleticism (strength, speed, skill set), his sexual conquests, and his economic success. This is how the world tells us to measure the worth of a man. And these lies come at a great cost to our boys. 

George Orwell said, “He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it.” In the documentary, The Mask You Live In, various boys say things like, “We don’t really talk about feelings at our house,” “I felt alone”, “I was an outcast”, “I couldn’t be myself”. Psychologist and educator, Dr. William Pollack, says boys are not encouraged to talk about any kind of pain, and when they do most parents look for ways to fix the problem; parents tend to focus on an action instead of the emotions. Boys (and I would argue some girls too) put on a mask to hide their insecurities and vulnerabilities, because they feel the cultural pressure to hide (or mask) their emotions. This leaves a boy disconnected from himself, and if he doesn’t understand his own emotions and feelings, then how will he ever be an understanding and empathetic person? As Ehrmann points out, we don’t typically raise boys to be relationally successful. 

And yet, this is my heart’s passion as a mother of two boys. My biggest goal is to foster a healthy relationship with them, model for them the things I want them to emulate, things like openness, honesty, and humility in relationships. I know I mess up at times, but I still strive to be a safe person for them. They know the times I mess up, because we talk about it. This helps them know I’m still safe, but not perfect. I make naming emotions in myself and in them a priority, and we talk about things we can do when we feel a certain way. This creates safety, security, and connection in a home. I try my hardest to validate and confirm their feelings and experiences, even if it involves me or their siblings. If I can be the one person my children come to for emotional, relational, and life help then I’m satisfied. 

Ehrmann points out the significance of a boy having just one meaningful relationship. A close connection where he can open up, share what he’s going through, be held accountable, and express what he’s feeling. We typically associate these qualities with girls (though I have personally seen enough women who don’t have these skills), and we assume an innate biological nature to girls that is different from boys when it comes to social/emotional development. Because of those beliefs, or gender stereotypes, we end up perpetuating them. Because we assume boys are innately bad at talking about their feelings, and having close relationships, we then don’t expect that of them and then they grow up to be dysfunctional men who are not fully human. We end up treating our daughters very differently from our sons, instead of realizing that boys and girls are both human beings with feelings and emotions and needs for connection. Psychologist, Dr. Michael Thompson, says boys and girls are much more the same than they are different. He shares a study where 50,000 boys and 50,000 girls were given the same psychological tests and the bell curve for boys and girls overlaps 90%. It’s the traits found in the edges sticking out of the bell curves where we get our gender stereotypes. 

The American Psychological Association says that 80% of men suffer from some form of alexithymia (an inability to put emotions/feelings into words). With all this emotional suppression we’re teaching our boys (directly or indirectly) combined with narrow definitions of masculinity, it’s no wonder we have a mental health crisis (which typically turns into a substance abuse crisis) in our country. Many boys are at risk for mental health disorders and substance abuse, and far too many at risk of suicide. All of this has the potential to accumulate into acts of violence. Ehrmann says a broken man is one who has disconnected his head from his heart. He then shares how a real man is one who knows the importance of relationships and being connected to a great cause. It’s about a man’s heart. Emotional connection is not a feminine trait, it’s a human one, and our boys are missing out. As the great orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” 

So, where does this leave the Church? We need to examine the ways we’ve adopted the larger cultures beliefs about manhood into our Church culture. We need to root out these lies that should have no part in the Kingdom of God. This is not the way of the man of sorrows, the God who became flesh and dwelt among us in the ultimate act of empathy and connection. A good biblical counter phrase to “Be a man!” is “Jesus wept”. Jesus showed us what it means to be human and what it means to be divine. God has a heart, God has feelings and emotions. He made us in his image, therefore we have emotions and feelings. When we shut them down we are not only becoming less human, we are becoming less like God. We are distorting his image in us and in the lives of others. God created us for connection. With himself and with others. And yet we walk around as lesser parts of ourselves, disconnected, and less whole. May we seek ways to connect deeply and meaningfully with others as we open up and heal our collective brokenness in this country and in our world. May his Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and may we join in that work in our own lives, in our homes, in our churches, and in our communities.  

Why I’m Not a Complementarian Anymore

Kids who grew up in the church are all deconstructing in one way or another. Not because there is something wrong with the Sunday School answers we gave of Jesus, God, and the Bible. But because there is something wrong with evangelicalism and church culture. I grew up in what I would call a hyper-complementarian church. My closest family is complementarian. It’s how I grew up. Many of the girls I saw growing up in that church didn’t go to college, but got a job and waited for a husband as they prepared for marriage and motherhood. Of course women have the freedom to not go to college, but the message received was, “why go to college and pursue a career if you only want to be a wife and mother?” or “the highest calling is to be a wife and mother, so why should a girl go to college?” The main point is that girls in my church were indirectly being told that a woman’s place is in the home as a wife and mother, and that her value was tied up in a man, without offering any other scenarios away from this pattern. I tried my best to sort through these unhealthy (and unbiblical) messages as a young single woman and fight them on my own. 

Though I did try my best to sort through and process these subliminal messages, I wasn’t prepared for how the errant messages I received (rooted in complementarianism) would serve to hinder me as a woman in my particular marriage. I entered marriage with man-centered messages I received growing up: please your husband (and yes, this also means sexually), serve your husband, sacrifice your life for your husband, look good for your husband, basically just revolve your whole life around him. Some of these are not bad messages in and of themselves (of course we want to serve our husbands and please them to a healthy extent), but if the woman is the only one doing these things then something is very wrong with the marriage. I was primed for submission, but what I needed was to learn assertiveness and boundaries. 

The messages I received about myself as a woman, about men, and marriage were not right and eventually proved damaging to me. I know this is not everyone’s experience with complementarian beliefs, but it’s mine. And the last six years I’ve been unpeeling, questioning, and searching for what I believe about men and women, marriage, and gender roles. I’ve been reading a lot, and one recent book I found helpful was by Michelle Lee-Barnewall called, Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate. If you are just beginning to question your stance, this is a great place to start. She doesn’t answer any of the hot button questions everyone wants answered from the Bible like, who gets to make the decisions in marriage? Can women preach? Are men supposed to lead and have authority? But Barnewall does offer some great questions for both sides of the debate and some different frameworks to start from. 

I feel like she does a good job staying objective and not favoring either side. She’s not saying which stance is correct, but she is trying to provide a new way forward where we can reconfigure the issue altogether. 

She says this, “Like many of the people with whom I have spoken, whether professors, pastors, or laypeople, I have come to believe that the topic cannot be completely defined by either the complementarian or egalitarian viewpoint, and that there is room, perhaps even a necessity, for an alternative way of conceptualizing gender issues.” 

Basically, Barnewall is saying we don’t have to choose from only two positions, it doesn’t have to be so polarizing, and not all of life is made up of either/or decisions. Maybe authority and equality aren’t the right categories to begin from, but love, unity, and holiness. Barnewall says, 

“Gender relates to love and unity between husbands and wives, among the many members of the body, and ultimately between Christ and his bride.” 

Both sides are also coming from an individualistic viewpoint (hence authority and equality terms being used), but Barnewall reframes the issues of gender from a community standpoint as the truer focus of God’s Kingdom (hence the more communal words of love and unity). 

It’s also important to understand how we’re part of an upside down kingdom where the last is first, the greatest least, and the weak are strong. This type of reversal of the ways of the world is clear throughout Scripture and should help us navigate the ideas of authority and equality. Barnewall also addresses the “softening” that complementarians have taken with their stance by using the term servant leadership for men. She makes it clear from Scripture that it should not be just a modifier of the word leadership, but the place that leadership is based in and grown out of. I really appreciated that part. It’s one thing if a man is a leader and just tries to tack on the servant part, but it’s a whole other person who starts as a lowly humble servant. Robert Greenleaf, a Quaker, is actually the one who originated the term “servant leadership”. He describes the different dynamics of each:

“The natural servant, the person who is servant first, is more likely to persevere and refine a particular hypothesis on what serves another’s highest priority needs than is the person who is leader first and who later serves out of promptings of conscience or in conformity with normative expectations.”

This book by Barnewall is more of an academic read than a Christian Living book. She does a great job laying out gender in evangelical history, then she goes into reframing gender according to Kingdom themes. She then addresses and critiques (rethinks) equality and rights in ministry and marriage (egalitarian), and then she does the same for authority and leadership in ministry (complementarian). She also dives into these ideas in the context of marriage from Genesis 2-3 and Ephesians 5. 

Wherever you land in the debate, I hope you pick up this book and keep an open mind. If you don’t find your home on either side and want to stay away from the labels (like me) this is one hundred percent the book for you. The third way Barnewall proposes is a bit more ambiguous than the hard stances we see, but I think she leaves it with us to answer the questions she proposes and flesh it out in community. The kingdom themes of inclusivity and unity are beautiful, and what I believe God truly wants for the Church. 

God Sees: For the Broken, Oppressed, and the Victim

We live in the city, and we see many homeless people with signs on the road and on the sidewalk downtown. My kids see them, but it wasn’t until last year that my oldest son said something. He began by asking me questions, like who’s helping them? And what can we do? So, we joined up with a group from our local church and went to a homeless shelter to serve up food we brought and ate together (pre-COVID, so we only had a chance to do this one time). But this year my son brought it up again and said he wants to help the homeless and the poor. So, we’re looking into what we can do this year to help them. My son also had the idea to keep his coin purse in the car to hand out money at times when we’re driving. 

My son sees. He doesn’t close his eyes in deliberate ignorance, but he opens them wide in love and care and moves forward in compassion. My son sees the hurting in our city. He sees how God sees. 

My boys and I have started reading the book of Exodus together, and we’ve read about the suffering of the Israelites under the Egyptian Pharaoh. In a time when God’s people were slaves and suffering under infant male genocide the Bible says this, “God saw the people of Israel — and God knew” (Ex. 2:25). God moved towards his people in compassion when he called to Moses from a burning bush and said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings” (Ex. 3:7). 

God sees. 

Jacob loved Rachel more than her sister Leah. Leah was mistreated by her sister, and despised and rejected by her husband. Yet, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (Gen. 29:31). God saw Leah even when her husband did not. And it was through Leah’s womb that the line of Jesus came through, not Rachel’s. Our God sees the despised and rejected and moves toward them; he even chooses them and raises them up for great purposes. 

Another woman from the Old Testament (one who is not technically one of God’s people, the Israelites), whom God saw in her suffering, was Hagar. Sarah could not bear Abraham children and, instead of waiting longer on the promises of God, they took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, to Abraham as a surrogate. The Bible then goes on to say that Sarah mistreats Hagar, so Hagar runs away. God stops Hagar and says he has heard of her misery and he promises to take care of her. Then it says this in Genesis 16:13:

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”

God saw Hagar first and then she saw him. 

We serve a God who sees. He sees us right where we are: In our desperation, our affliction, our pain, and distress. He sees us in our trauma and in the aftermath of it. Though it might feel to us that he hides his face, “The eyes of the Lord run and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9). 

Jacob was chosen by God and yet God also saw a woman who was victimized by his sin and he chose her too. Sarah was chosen by God to bear the promised child for Abraham, but God did not overlook another woman who was a victim of Sarah’s sin. He is a defender of the weak and he always sees mistreatment. The Psalmist says,

“Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.

Do not forget the helpless.

Why does the wicked man revile God?

    Why does he say to himself,

    “He won’t call me to account”?

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;

    you consider their grief and take it in hand.

The victims commit themselves to you;

    you are the helper of the fatherless.

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;

    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, 

defending the fatherless and the oppressed,

    so that mere earthly mortals

    will never again strike terror.”

(Ps. 10:12-14, 17-18)

It’s clear in Exodus, as God demonstrates his power through signs and wonders in Egypt, that he uses his power on behalf of the weak and the oppressed. He works for the victims. He is the God who sees, who hears, and who acts. He sees the poor and the homeless just as my son does. My son’s heartbeat for them is the same heartbeat of God’s. My son doesn’t look the other way, he looks straight at brokenness and is moved by it. God sees and is moved as well.

Mothering at the End of Me

I entered motherhood with certain expectations. I thought I would be happier than I was, and I thought mothering would come more naturally and easily. I still loved being a mom, but I could tell God was using motherhood to change me — and sometimes that change was painful. Sometimes I came to the end of myself.

When I first had children, I heaped unnecessary burdens on myself, buying the lie that I had to do it all and be it all (and all the time). In my pride and guilt, I didn’t want to ask for help. God used the challenges of motherhood to expose my self-sufficiency in motherhood. The more children I had, and the more difficult behaviors that surfaced in them, I had a harder time keeping my mask of strength from falling off. This was part of God’s loving design for me (and for all mothers).

Part of our calling as moms is to embrace our dependence on God — to accept and admit our weaknesses and to lean into our human limitations with his help. Our weaknesses are where Christ meets us with even greater grace, power, and strength. We find true strength, as the apostle Paul says, when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:10). A mother’s only hope is in a Savior who will be enough for us when we don’t feel like enough.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

When Trust God isn’t Enough: Childhood Anxiety

A flag went up in my head when I first noticed the anxious behavior of my two year old son. My husband and I prayed regularly with him concerning his fear and anxiety and taught him appropriate biblical truths and verses. But as time went on, I began to feel at a loss as a parent in the face of his anxious behavior. 

So, I asked professionals for help. A behavioral scientist diagnosed him with separation anxiety and social anxiety the summer of 2019, and a few months later we began Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This assistance gave me practical tools to help my son walk through his anxiety, and it helped him be more brave and face some of his fears. 

Though his anxiety is unrelated to COVID, I’m sure many children during this pandemic have experienced fear and anxiety on some level — their typical way of life abruptly disrupted and the future uncertain. Many of the lessons I’m learning in my son’s struggle with anxiety can apply to children struggling with COVID. I’m no expert at offering advice in this arena, but I am a mom willing to share what I’ve learned so far. 

  1. Engage the Emotions

Everyone, even with good intentions, can make mistakes. One that Christians often make, when it comes to fear and anxiety, is to give trite answers: “Trust God,” or “Don’t worry.” Of course, these statements are true, but can feel dismissive of real human emotion, and at times used as a way to avoid dealing with underlying issues. Most Christians are rightly concerned with the idea of truth informing our emotions, but we don’t always have to jump to the “truth part” right away. First, we should acknowledge, validate, and engage the emotions. 

I try my best to acknowledge my son’s feelings of anxiety, then validate his feelings as real. When I try to engage my son’s emotions it’s typically in the form of questions, probing to figure out why he might be feeling this way and how it feels for him. This takes time. Sometimes, it doesn’t work to do all this in the moment of anxiety, but to wait and talk about it later.

If we can get our kids talking about their feelings, it will help them grow into emotionally mature adults who can cope with life in healthy ways. It will help strengthen their honesty and vulnerability with us, thereby creating a close relationship between parent and child, and all of this will connect in their relationship with God as they learn to identify their struggles and bring them to him. Lastly, engaging our children’s emotions will help them grow in compassion and empathy for others. They will learn to truly love their neighbor. 

  1. Truth Telling

Fear and anxiety is often based on countless lies, which requires the need for speaking truth to those suffering with anxiety. But let’s also keep in mind that though there is a spiritual element at hand in anxiety, for many, it’s also mental and physical. We know the truth of scripture is powerful for our children, but truth telling can also look like rationalizing with our children in practical ways.

Recently, my son started exhibiting certain behaviors associated with his separation anxiety again. If he doesn’t see me for a minute, I hear a loud, “Mom?!” and sometimes the running of feet as he tries to find me. I eventually brought his actions to his attention, and I asked him to try something next time he doesn’t see me. I told him to stop and think first before he yells for me and tries to find me. 

“Think about the usual places I go to in the house when you don’t see me: the laundry room, the bathroom, upstairs to grab something quickly. Then just wait a little longer until you see me again.”

Instead of jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst (which we’ve talked about in therapy), he’s learning to exercise self-control and speak truth or reality into his fears. Children (and adults) need to not only speak the truth of God’s Word into their fears, they also need to train themselves to speak practical, rational truths to themselves. 

  1. Comfort, Compassion, and Patience

Being a mom of a child who suffers with chronic anxiety, I am still learning patience, compassion, and comfort. The story of God’s interactions with Gideon in the book of Judges has helped me see how I need to grow in my interactions with my son. When God calls Gideon to be Israel’s next judge and deliverer, God greets Gideon as a “mighty man of valor” (Judg. 6:12). But what we continually see of this man is fear and anxiety. 

Gideon lists some excuses for why he can’t save Israel (Judg. 6:15), and even though God answers, “I’ll be with you,” Gideon then asks for a sign (Judg. 6:17). Once the sign confirms who this strange visitor is, Gideon finally believes, but then responds in fear (Judg. 6:25-27). The most remembered part of Gideon’s story is when he asks for the two signs from God with the fleece of wool (Judg. 6:36–40). Gideon is still not confident that God will use him to save Israel from the Midianites, so he needs tangible signs to prove God will do what he says.

God never calls out Gideon and says, “You need another sign? What’s wrong with you? Haven’t you learned yet? Don’t you know who I am?” Instead, he walks beside Gideon and shapes him into the mighty man of valor that he has declared him to be. He was patient with his need for signs, which brought Gideon comfort and reassurance. He gave Gideon the signs, even though He didn’t need to. 

The phrase, “Do not fear” is repeated over and over in the Bible, because God knows fear is a natural part of our lives, until he makes a new world without the curse of fear in it. One day, we will be free of fear. One day, my son will be free of fear. Until then, I join in God’s work of making him a mighty man of valor. 

3 Ways Motherhood Can Make You More Like Christ

My husband and I have had a tough year as parents—as I’m sure many other parents have too. Our two year old started to show more of her personality, which kept us all on our toes. Our middle son began displaying a new level of misbehavior that stopped my husband and I in our tracks and, at points, left us broken down in tears. The dynamic between all three of our children took a new turn we weren’t prepared for. And on top of that, COVID and the related restrictions brought an extra layer of stress. All of this has created new areas of tension in our marriage that we’re still trying to sort through.

I share this to underline that although I wrote a book on motherhood, I’m still very much living out the challenges and joys described within its pages. This is real life, and it’s the perfect place for our Savior to meet us and help us. The struggles of motherhood are fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ. Here are just three ways he is so often at work in the hearts of moms.

Read the three ways here >>

Having A Realistic Perspective Of Marriage In The Church

Growing up in the Church I’ve always felt like marriage was mostly viewed through the lens of roles: the husband leads and the wife submits. A lot of times I would see the beautiful picture of Christ and his bride, the Church, being like marriage. These ideas are found in the pages of Scripture, and I’m not coming against them, but I do feel the need to shift the focus off of these idealized views that are overly promoted in the Church. Focusing too much on the picture of Christ and the Church, and roles in marriage, disregards the large number of marriages that are in pain.

I’ll never forget the older married lady in my church (whose husband didn’t come to Church with her) who reached out to me when she heard my marriage was struggling. We met up at Starbucks and she told me about the pain in her marriage. She shared her story with me about how she stayed married to her unbelieving husband, and how she had to cling to Christ as her spiritual husband. “I realized I had to push more into my relationship with Jesus.” These were words of wisdom from an older married woman who knew suffering. She saw that I was hurting and reached out to me. This is a beautiful picture of honoring marriage in the Church.

God’s Faithfulness When We Are Faithless

When God made his covenant with Noah, and then Abraham, and so on, he knew they would break it. God knew his people would continually break the covenant. But God remained true to himself and was faithful; so much so that he died in order to keep the covenant. He held up his end of the bargain well, and us, well, not so much. In the covenant of marriage both parties are faithless sinners, but we can honor marriage by looking to the faithful One who will help us stay faithful in the marriage covenant. We can look to his faithfulness even when we are faithless (or our spouse is faithless) and remember that God’s faithfulness now covers us (and our spouse) through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He has atoned for our faithlessness in marriage. Even when we fail in marriage, we can bring it to Christ and our spouse, and rely on the Spirit to help us in our weakness.

Marriage can be a place of happiness and a place of sadness. Some marriages experience more of one than the other. The hardships vary in every season and over the years in every marriage, but everyone knows at some point that being married isn’t easy. For many it is a source of pain and suffering as well. The Church would do well to acknowledge this more publicly and privately. If we didn’t make talking about marriage struggles so “taboo,” then maybe more marriages would be helped. One of the best ways to honor marriage in the Church is to openly acknowledge the brokenness of it.

Read the rest at Speak For the Unborn >>

The Happy Place of Humble Dependence

Ever heard of reaching your limit? As moms, we likely come to that place more times than we can count. When I was a first-time mom, I thought I should be able to do everything on my own: take care of my baby while also doing the dishes, cleaning, cooking, and keeping on top of the laundry pile. I even felt like it was wrong if I wanted to have a break from my child. It felt weak to ask for help. It showed my true state: that I wasn’t Supermom. 

We have God designed limitations simply because we are created beings. We have to eat, we have to sleep, we get sick, and all of these experiences point to creaturely dependence. And yet there is something in us as human beings that wants to fight against this dependence, these limitations. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we want to be like God. We want to do it all, and be it all, to everyone. We want to be strong and capable. 

But, it’s good to remember that the Christian faith isn’t for those who are strong and good enough, but for those who are weak and foolish. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1:27–29, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

We tend to forget that this portion of Scripture is referring to all of us—to all those called by God in Christ. He is building an army of weaklings to show his strength and power through us. 

And God often uses the instrument of motherhood in our lives to humble us, to show us we are weak and foolish, finite and limited. Accepting these truths about our limited creatureliness and God’s infinite power is the key to our rest in Christ as mothers. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:23–30). 

When we learn the lowliness and humility of Christ, it will bring us rest. Some of our burdens and weariness can be rooted in pride when we think we can be like God in ways that are reserved only for him. Also, many of the burdens we put on ourselves as mothers are ones we don’t have to bear—burdens that are not put on us by the law of God, but through extra man-made laws put on us by the culture in the world and certain expectations in the church. Jesus invites us to cast them off and learn the humility of dependence from him. 

Read the rest at Risen Motherhood >>

My Book Went to Press

My first book went to press at the beginning of the month. It’s set to release on March 1, 2021. But you can pre-order now. You can also read a description of the book on my new blog page.

So, basically now until the official book release it’s all marketing and promotion.

The marketing manager and I will be working on setting up a Facebook launch team. If anyone is on FB and interested in being apart, please let me know. It would involve helping share links on social media (which we would provide and give direction for), writing a review on Amazon and Good Reads. There will also be many book and gift card giveaways in the group, and also a live Q and A with me.

You will receive a free e-copy, but only the first 25 to apply will receive a free hard copy.

If anyone is interested in applying to be part of the team, please let me know by the end of December and by clicking on my contact page and sending me a message.

Thank you for all your reading over the years. It means so much to me.

Why I’ve been So Silent

I don’t typically put up posts about updates, but I am today! This blog has honestly turned more into a site to store the writing I began doing on other outlets over the years. But even those types of posts I haven’t put up in about a year. I stopped writing for other outlets to focus on a book.

Last year I got a book deal with The Good Book Company, and since last September until this past month I was working on writing and editing (with my editor). But I am overjoyed to say that the manuscript is completed (except for the final stage with the proofreader). Now we’ll be working on plans for promotion until it releases sometime in the new year.

I’ve had an email database of supporters (just supporting through prayer and feedback) over the last 2-3 years of this long process to get a book deal and see it through to the end. If any of my subscribers/followers on here would like to be included in that group of supporters, please send me your name and email on my contact form

The book is about how motherhood brings us to the end of ourselves in order that we might throw ourselves at the Savior’s feet. Thank you so much for supporting my writing thus far.


You have a Friend in the Valley

The other day, I saw a text graphic on Facebook that contained these words: “Fear has no place in the life of a believer.” The caption explained that if we truly know we are eternally loved, fear should not be part of our lives. A pastor posted this. Another time, in a Bible study setting, I heard a pastor’s wife talk about doing a shooter drill at her children’s school (also her place of employment) and how as a believer she was full of peace, but her unbelieving co-worker was wrought with fear. Her comment after sharing the story was similar to the text graphic: she didn’t have any fear about the situation, because she was a believer.

Scripture Acknowledges Our Fear

These two examples show that, especially in the Church, fear and anxiety are still stigmatized. Yes, all over Scripture we hear, “do not fear,” but it’s said with the expectation that we will fear (Ps. 56:3). It’s a natural human experience. God knows this, and Jesus was familiar with it. When Jesus calmed the storm for His disciples, He did tell them they had small faith, but He also never denied the severity and danger of the storm. Peter had “little faith” because he believed the danger of the storm was stronger than the power of Jesus. And we can’t forget the overall context of this scenario: Jesus was always using these situations (signs and miracles) to point to His even greater spiritual power over the curse of sin and death. He was always pointing to His death and resurrection.

In fact, I believe it can be argued that Jesus Himself experienced fear and anxiety (yet without any taint of sin) in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39–46). He sweat blood and tears. He had to have been anxious and in great turmoil on the night before He died, knowing what was ahead of Him. And yet, we see in the midst of His anxiety, Jesus shows us that we must pray as He did.

There is much to fear in this life. The Bible never negates this but always assumes it. I believe fear will always be a part of a believer’s life (though some will battle it worse than others). This is because of the curse and because we are made of dust (Ps. 103:14). Jesus is fully capable of delivering us from our fear and anxiety, and many of us might have a testimony of Him doing that, but the only full victory that Jesus promises us in this life is victory over the consequences and power of our sin through the gospel. There is no “name it and claim it” in Scripture for complete deliverance from fear and anxiety in this life; that is a promise we can only claim for the life to come.

A Valley Path to Growth in Our Fear

Read the rest here >>

The Bible’s Hope for your Anxiety: How Scripture trains us to respond to fear

Anxiety is close to home for me. In fact, it’s right under my roof. Though I’m not typically an anxious person, I’ve had my own dark season of anxiety. And my husband has struggled with it on a sometimes daily basis—even to the point where it has affected our home and marriage. Like his dad, my firstborn son struggles with anxiety. I began to notice strange behavior from him even as a toddler and preschooler. My son’s anxiety affected me. It limited me. At the time, I didn’t realize that not all moms have to work through these types of behaviors with their children. Though I’ve seen tremendous growth in him for the past eight months, anxiety can still lurk on the edges of his life.

There are many ways to handle anxiety. Different methods work for different people. Some need medication, some find counseling or therapy helpful, and some get help through other types of managing techniques. While all of these options are helpful, and necessary for some people, there is a spiritual foundation that must be in place (even while seeking professional help). The anxious heart and mind must be anchored in the rock of God’s Word. No matter what our circumstances, the Bible offers hope for us in our anxiety.

Read the rest here >>

Process and Pray Through the Arts

“Know thyself.” The ancient Greek maxim holds some truth to it. Though there is such a thing as morbid introspection, knowing ourselves can be crucial for the believer in Christ. We mainly find out about ourselves through reading Scripture, which acquaints us with our sinful nature and helps us get to know the character of God, but we can also get to know ourselves by taking time to process our thoughts and feelings. There is such a thing as healthy self-reflection and assessment in light of the grace found in Christ. If self-reflection and assessment leads to increased knowledge of God, and if it leads to a deeper love for and a closer relationship with Christ, then it’s healthy.

Leave Room for Silence and Reflection

Our culture, in general, is busy and fast-paced. We tend to overschedule and pack in as much as we can in our lives for various reasons—success, money, fame, anxiety, etc. We don’t leave enough room for silence, for the stillness and quiet to invade us and show us ourselves and the Word of God applied to our lives. God can still work in our lives during busyness, but we must fight against intentionally crowding him out due to idols of the heart. One way we can stop the madness and invite the stillness is through the arts: stopping to do something with our hands; laboring to make something beautiful—whether a loaf of bread, a painting, or a knit hat; taking a walk with a camera in hand; or carving out time to sit down and write, whether that be formal writing on a laptop or informal writing in a personal journal.

God created us to process. And we do a disservice to ourselves when we zoom past that and ignore or bury our feelings instead of acknowledging them and working through them. Our emotions are a gift from God and designed by Him as a signpost for us. We don’t need to be scared of emotions or automatically assume they are all sinful. But we do need to make sure that the Word of Truth is always our foundation and use it to test our thoughts and feelings. The end goal of acknowledging and processing our thoughts and feelings is always to love God and neighbor more. It’s not ultimately about our self-fulfillment or self-actualization, and it’s not at all about self-glorification. We process in order to understand and help ourselves, so we can then love others better. The end result must always be doing the right thing in accordance with Scripture; the end fruit is always virtue. And spiritual rest is another added bonus.

Follow the Psalmists’ Example

The arts can be one vehicle of providing rest through helping us process life, emotions, human experience, and even the truths of Scripture. We see a prime example of this from King David.

Read the rest at Revive our Hearts >>