To My Daughter: More Than Just A Pretty Face

Lies have been infiltrating the thoughts of women for centuries now. Some of the lies are: “If I become more successful or make a name for myself I’ll be happy. If my life looked more like hers or if I had that job I’d be happy. If I were married or if I could get pregnant I’d be happy. If I could lose a few pounds I’d be happy.” I’ve sat across from many successful and beautiful women. The world would say, “Their life must be perfect. They have it all: beauty, job, husband, children, etc.” More times than not each of these women have bravely shared with me about their struggles and the lies they fight not to be consumed by. The lies that tell them they aren’t ________ enough- not successful enough, not worthy enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not a good enough wife, mother, friend, employee etc.

Satan is the king of the “Lie Factory.” Since the beginning of time (literally), he’s aggressively been trying to lure women into doubting that what God says in His word is true. It all started in the garden. “Did God really say that?” Not all that much has changed. Satan still roams around like a roaring lion plotting to devour little Eves through lies about ourselves, God and others. He wants us to question God’s promises. He wants us to think we aren’t worthy enough for God’s word to hold any value for us. He wants us to be so focused on ourselves and consumed by our insecurities and self-perceived failures that we forget God’s ultimate purpose for our life-to make much of Him.

I believe Satan uses  “the comparison trap” as his biggest ally.  I remember falling into that deadly game dating back to middle school. The scars left on my body from cancer and the health issues I battled as a result made me feel so different from my peers and seemed to be in stark contrast to how I perceived the world to define a woman. And so, all though my teenage years and early college, I permitted others opinion’s of what is beautiful, valuable and worthy to define me. And so when I examined my life, I felt in many ways that I didn’t measure up. Through years of therapy, prayer and being really honest with those closest to me, I experienced freedom from the lies that used to torment me. And as God’s word transformed my mind, I came to realize how God would use all things in my life for my good and to bring glory to His name.

But, I’m not too far removed from that time that I’m not distinctively and overwhelming aware of the societal pressures placed on women. Even though I have experienced freedom, I still feel the pull sometimes towards those worldly standards and the lies that once consumed me. And it is because of my experience and knowledge that raising a daughter in this generation gravely concerns me at times.

Lately, when my 2-year gets up in the morning she has been proclaiming as soon as I walk in the room, “Morning, Mama! Hey, I a princess!” The other day I was cooking dinner and Ruby found a picture of her and her twin brother and brought it to me and pointed to herself, “Hey, I’m pretty!” I smile, as I know she has been listening to every single word we say.

In a world that is telling little girls and women of all ages, “you’re not enough” and “you’ll never measure up,” I want my daughter to know that her value extends way beyond what she sees in the mirror. Do I want my daughter to know she is beautiful? Absolutely. But most importantly, I want my little girl to be confident in the very person God uniquely made her to be. I want so much more for Ruby than self-confidence with her reflection in the mirror. I want her to know she is fearfully and wonderfully made and that God has a wonderful plan for her life.  In an ever-changing world of social media, standards and perfection, I long for her to know that the one thing that never changes, the one thing that remains constant is God’s unconditional love for her. In a world that is telling everyone that their value is found in what social media thinks about them, their appearance, employment or martial status, I want my daughter to not be fooled by this notion.

My prayer is that Ruby would know for certain that beauty isn’t just found in a pretty face. Rather, beauty comes in many forms-extending kindness, love and patience towards others, using the mind to bring about change in this world, being a strong voice for the oppressed and those who can’t speak for themselves, using humor to make others laugh, befriending those who don’t “fit in,” or using talents to bless someone. Instead of focusing all of her time and attention on cultivating outwardly beauty, my prayer is she would invest her time and energy in cultivating a beautiful soul, which can’t be done a part from Christ.

Some of the most beautiful people I’ve met had one trait in common: they cared less about what others think of them and invested their time directing others towards the ultimate source and creator of beauty-God. The National Geographic listed Antelope Island State Park in Syracuse, Utah as home to one of the most beautiful summer sunsets in the world. After a long day of traveling to this glorious spot, would it make any sense to pull out a mirror to look at yourself just as the sun is setting?  No, that would be considered foolishness. As the gorgeous colors were filling up the sky you would stand in awe and you would stare. You would realize the magnitude of beauty that is right before your eyes, as you point to your friends, “Wow! Look at that. Isn’t it the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen?”

Many of us have become so consumed by our insecurities and shortcomings that we forget our ultimate calling on this earth-to bring glory to God. We are constantly in the presence of the creator of beauty, the One who spoke the stars and sky into existence, and yet like the person pulling out their mirror during the most beautiful summer sunset, we forget. We forget that our calling on this earth isn’t to make a name for ourselves, but rather to move all attention and honor to Jesus. Do I still struggle with insecurities? Absolutely. But now I know where to fix my eyes-the author and perfector of my faith, Jesus Christ. God has the power to redeem us, transform our thinking and make us more like His Son, through His grace that was poured out for us. We forget because we stop looking at Christ. We forget because we look to other things and only find momentary satisfaction. In a world that is screaming, “Hey, look at me, look at me,” I want my daughter to know where her value comes from and to be able to say with confidence, “No, look at Him. Look at Christ.”

As mothers, this starts with us. If we long for our daughters to be confident that their purpose on this earth goes far beyond trivial things, than we have to lead by example. What is my daughter observing that I place my value in? Is she seeing that I treasure Christ above all else? Is she hearing me speak words of life and truth into our home?  Is she hearing mommy speak well of herself and other women? Or is she seeing a mama who is swayed by opinions and expectations of this world? I know for certain that our daughters are watching. They watching and they are listening. After all, my two-year-old daughter knows she’s a princess. I wonder who she heard that from?

The Mother’s Day I Didn’t Want To Remember

It was a Sunday morning in the middle of May. Mother’s Day. My body felt lifeless as I lay there in bed. My eyes were still sore and head was still throbbing from crying the night before. I knew that today was going to be a difficult one to face. After I finally convinced myself to get out of bed, I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, turned to the side, and put my hand over my empty belly. A few weeks prior I was so excited about getting to celebrate my first Mother’s Day with our little growing miracle.

We knew my ability to get pregnant was nearly impossible due to the cancer treatments I received early on in life. And so, after years of trying this was an answer to many prayers. This baby was in every definition of the word a miracle. We naively began plotting how we would tell our family and friends our exciting news. We even started thinking of names. Our hearts and home were filled with so much joy and expectancy. But as I was standing in front of the mirror on Mother’s Day, the excitement and joy that once filled my heart were quickly replaced with feelings of anger, bitterness and hopelessness. I felt broken. Incomplete. And in some ways less than what I was created to be and what I was created to do.

I went to church dressed in a fake smile. I sang songs. I greeted the people around me. I held back all of my tears until I couldn’t any more. I ended up leaving early just before the pastor (my husband) would ask all of the “mothers” to stand for recognition. I rushed out the back door of the church and headed straight towards our porch. We lived in the parsonage less than 10 feet away (literally), so thankfully I didn’t have that far to go before I made it to my bed (again). I can vividly remember my cheeks hitting the pillows that were still wet from crying the night before as I yelled into the sheets that I had pulled over my face, “Why God? Why?”

Anger, sad, hurt, confused, bitter- just a few of the many emotions I experienced over the next year. I had many questions for God and very few answers. But He met me in my pain. He met me in my tears. He was faithful despite my faithlessness. He was with me even when I doubted Him. I continually poured out all of those big emotions, questions and doubts at the foot of the cross because I knew Jesus could handle it. I stopped trying to dress myself with a fake smile and allowed myself to be honest with others about my pain. I learned through my vulnerability that others shared similar stories of loss and grief. And although it broke my heart to know they had walked a similar road, the reminder that I wasn’t alone brought a sense of connection, peace and healing that I truly believe is a gift from God. I now had friends who could empathize and encourage me to live a life beyond my own pain.

Strictly speaking, I’m still barren. In the eyes of my doctor, I’m still “infertile.” However, unlike before, feelings of brokenness and emptiness no longer haunt me. I’m not consumed by those thoughts anymore. God healed my heart to be at peace with my circumstances. Through infertility, I’ve learned that a diagnosis doesn’t have the power to define who I am as a woman. Christ does. Colossians 2:9 tells us that if we are in Christ, we have also been made complete in Him. I don’t walk around feeling like a broken woman because my heart has found fulfillment in Jesus. No negative pregnancy test or pregnancy announcement on Facebook can change that truth. The same goes for you too, my friend.

We went to the beach last week. As I sat back watching our beautiful twins running around squealing and giggling in the waves, feelings of profound gratefulness poured over me. I couldn’t stop myself from grinning ear to ear as they ran towards me from the ocean. With daddy close behind, they screamed, “Mama, mama, mama!” For a season of my life, I never thought I’d hear those words. And now look how far the Father has brought me. I’m wrapped up in the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard from my son and daughter. Perhaps if I could have seen God’s beautiful plan to grow our family through adoption, it would have been easier to trust in Him. However, we would have forfeited a season of growth, wisdom and perspective if we were able to see how this part of our story unfolded.

There were many Mother’s Days that, at the time, I didn’t want to remember because the sting from the pain was too great. Maybe you can relate to my story or perhaps you are still sitting in this season of waiting.  I don’t know when or if motherhood will come for you through a positive pregnancy test, adoption, or some other means. But I do know the One who knows and sees all wombs and all lives. I know the One who bore the wrenching pain of suffering and loss. And He calls us to raise our eyes from our empty wombs to the empty tomb. In my deepest pain and through all of my doubting, God was with me and Jesus is alive in me. He never left. My big emotions couldn’t scare Him off and yours can’t either. Don’t feel like you have to dress up with a fake smile on Mother’s Day. Jesus understands your loss. Your pain. You don’t have to carry this burden on your own. He promises to shoulder your worst losses if you receive Him as gain.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Learning To Be Present In Motherhood

Being Roman and Ruby’s mama is one of my greatest joys on this earth. They are the sweetest, silliest, and cutest almost-two-year-olds. Even though they bring so much joy to our heart and home, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to having challenging days as parents.

A few days ago disparaging thoughts clouded my mind telling me that I wasn’t quite measuring up as a mother and pastor’s wife. I was struggling with guilt surrounding what I wasn’t doing right and how what I was doing wasn’t quite good enough. The house was a mess. There were piles and piles of dirty laundry scattered in different corners of what seemed like every room in our home. The kids had made a game out of smashing banana in their hands and smearing it in their hair, which was actually really funny. But, do you know how hard it is to get a banana out of hair? I kept stubbing my big toe on random toys that were scattered throughout the living room. And at one point gave attention to the thought of throwing everything away. But, let’s be honest, the trash cans were overflowing at that point so that option wasn’t really viable!

There I found myself in a sea of antagonizing and self-demeaning thoughts swimming around in my head. I fooled myself into believing I was holding it together pretty well, as I wasn’t voicing my complaints or feelings of failure to my husband. However, it didn’t take long for those emotions to seep through and create a foul attitude recognizable by even the most unobservant person. These thoughts were not only crowding my headspace, but they were preventing me from existing in the now with the sweet little blessings running around and giggling in front of me.

It’s easy to allow the day’s stresses, worries and concerns to pile on top of each other and suck all of the gratefulness and happy right out of our heart. It’s easy to be blinded by our self proposed failures and ruthless evaluations of ourselves. It’s exhausting. These unhealthy mindsets steal our time and expend our energy, as they divert our attention and hinder us from being fully present with our kids. But, I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that it doesn’t’ have to be this way.

Typically the stress we feel comes with the unrealistic expectations we’ve set for ourselves. When I’m consumed by the ways I didn’t quite “measure up” for the day it usually can be linked to one factor: I’m functioning in a performance mentality mode. I’m living by the law. I’m expecting perfection from myself. This is an impossible task and one we aren’t expected to fulfill.

Although motherhood has forced me to come face-to-face with my shortcomings, God’s grace covers all of these things. The Perfect One was nailed to a cross along with all of my sin, failures, feelings of guilt, comparison, and all of those “I’m not good enoughs.” Christ death on the cross freed us from having to live by the law and welcomed us into the richness of His grace and mercy. I’ve found that as I slow my thoughts down with daily reminders of the Gospel and His truth, my days follow suit. As I sit and think about the grace that has been poured out for me, my load begins to feel a little lighter. And soon the antagonizing and self-demeaning thoughts in my head dissipate and my mind is free to swim in the sea of grace poured out for me by the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m kinder to my husband and myself. And I’m more patient with my kids. All the energy that I was expending towards those critical evaluations of myself has freed up more space in my heart and mind to be connected and present with my family.

A few nights ago I walked in on Ruby and Roman reading together. They had propped the book up on the recliner and were standing side-by-side flipping through the pages. My sweeties were chatting to each other in a language I didn’t understand, but I presumed was “twin talk.” Ruby had her little arm wrapped around his shoulders and would occasionally lean her head into towards his chest. I tried to be as quiet as possible because I didn’t want to interrupt this moment. I just wanted to be an observer, soaking up every inch of the sweetness found in my two beautiful children.

These moments are God’s little grace-givings, reminding me to slow down, reminding me that my children are only little for a short time and that our time here on this earth is numbered. I don’t want to spend my days here in a constant state of evaluating how my works are measuring up on the, “Is Kelly a good mom?” meter. After all, because I’m in Christ He says I’m enough. He defines my worth.

Friends, I’m praying that God would give you the strength to throw away whatever scale you use to measure your worth because it’s not found there. Your worth is found in Christ. Being present is about “rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling” (Shauna Niequist).

Let His truth and the blood Christ shed destroy all of those unrealistic and self-imposed expectations you have made for yourself. Then, may you be free to walk in the grace that has been freely poured out for you.

Another Holiday Pregnancy Announcement That Isn’t Mine

As a child, I anxiously looked forward to Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought my sister and me. When I was six years old, I remember thinking I heard Santa’s reindeer on our roof. I excitedly ran into my sister’s room and jumped onto her bed and said, “Did you hear that?!” Playing along, my older sister said, “Yes!” The remainder of that conversation has drawn blank on me. But, I can still see two little girls giggling and smiling just thinking about what the next morning would bring.

For many, the Christmas season exudes a sense of celebration, joy, excitement, awe, and wonder, and it should. After all, over 2,000 years ago our Savior was born. If that isn’t something to celebrate with family and friends, then I don’t know what is. But, for some, this holiday season is a reminder of great loss and pain. Perhaps the mother who used to greet you on Christmas morning with a pancake breakfast is no longer on this earth. Perhaps sitting in the living room on Christmas Eve reading the Christmas story feels different this year with the passing of your father. Maybe you were looking forward to sharing your pregnancy announcement with family and friends, but instead you are grieving the loss of your unborn child.

One of the most difficult holidays for me was Christmas 2014. Our baby’s due date was near the end of November, and I remember the anxiety that was building in my heart as the days moved toward Christmas. We were living in Louisiana at the time, and it was 70 degrees all during the month of December—bright and sunny. But I remember my heart felt very cold. I didn’t want to put up a Christmas tree, but Obbie insisted. And so, I obliged begrudgingly. I felt like there was absolutely nothing to celebrate. The baby who was supposed to be less than 30 days old and snuggling in my arms wasn’t there.

The influx of holiday pregnancy announcements filled my newsfeed. It was complete torture, but there I would find myself in the late hours of the night scrolling mindlessly through Facebook with a sad heart. Another holiday pregnancy announcement that isn’t mine, I would think to myself. Then the Christmas family photos would come—the ones with young couples and their children smiling.

Later that night, I saw a picture of six-year-old Kelly from Christmas smiling ear to ear. In that moment, I felt so distant from that little girl who was filled with so much awe and wonder. Those feelings were foreign to me. Obbie and I spent Christmas of 2014 with friends, and even though I was surrounded by a ton of people with their excited faces and giggling voices, I felt sad, empty, and alone. 

Although I am medically deemed infertile and though my womb is barren, my heart is full. And it isn’t just because our hearts (and hands!) are filled to the brim with the sweetest and silliest 18-month-old twins running around the house. After our miscarriage and before we started the adoption process, I was reminded that joy would never come through a positive pregnancy test, a child, or anything that this earth has to offer. The ultimate joy I was looking for, hoping for, and so desperately longing for was something that had already been given to me. It wasn’t a gift to be opened under the tree; it was found in the arms of my Savior. God was faithful to heal our hearts, even though our circumstances didn’t change. And as we continually ran to Him and (sometimes) fell into His arms, He filled us with the fullness of His joy. Not a temporal kind of joy, but an eternal one, the kind that enables you to sing, “It Is Well with My Soul” through life’s deepest wounds.

The holidays can bring about a sadness that on an ordinary day may exist, but during the holidays, it can seem more apparent. You are not alone. Perhaps you feel hopeless in your sadness. Perhaps your heart couldn’t feel farther from that warm, sunny, and 70-degree day. If you need to take a break from the holiday festivities, then do so, and don’t feel guilty that you have to step away from all of the excitement. But as you step away and as you grieve, my prayer for you is that you would not grieve without hope. May Christ give you the strength to grieve with hope knowing that God is the healer, protector, and redeemer of your heart. Grieve with hope knowing that God’s love for you is insurmountable and goes deeper than the pain and hurt encompassing you. Grieve with hope knowing that one day, the load you carry will feel lighter as you continue bringing your burdens to the cross. Grieve with hope knowing that the winter won’t last forever and the sun will come out again.

Through The Storm {Trusting God With Our Kids}

Do you ever lay in bed worried about the future of your children? Do thoughts plague your mind about them getting sick? Is your child suffering from an illness or mental health disorder and you wonder how you will make it through the day? Are you worried that your child isn’t hitting all of the developmental milestones like the other kids? As parents, there are a hundred fears we could let our thoughts be consumed by. I know this to be true from personal experience.

Eight weeks after we adopted Roman and Ruby, our home, city and the surrounding area were unexpectedly hit with the Great Flood of 2016. The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking dinner for Obbie and I. While feeding Roman, I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. I frantically pointed this out to Obbie, who quickly ran out the front door to talk with all of the neighbors that had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie from a distance. He had a very concerned look on his face. I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we have to pack everything up. The water is rising and we have to evacuate immediately.”

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I dragged a large empty trunk into the twin’s nursery. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, dreaming and hoping in this room. I had flashbacks to all of the countless hours I spent on the floor praying for our baby that the Lord would bring into our home. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers mindlessly into the trunk, I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:27). I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I was reminded that it was God who brought these precious children into our life. They were in His hands and there was no safer place to be. 

We threw as much as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck.  As we slowly waded through the flood, I looked down at my children and began to cry. The water was continually rising, our neighborhood was completely surrounded and there were only a few dry streets left. Those moments didn’t feel as if they belonged to me. It was like we were the characters in the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” where they rushed to the top of the building to prevent from being consumed by the water. I felt completely helpless. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies.” It was a prayer of surrender, as I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the flood. We were in God’s hands.

We were prepared to sleep in our mini van on the side of the road with our friends who evacuated their home too. It was dark, hot and humid. Many people in the area had been rescued by boat and that knowledge was looming over us as we waited. Not long after we arrived, a young woman ran out of her house with a concerned look on her face. “Are y’all the ones with the newborn twins? My husband is working a late shift so the house is empty and our street is still dry. Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room waiting for the streets to clear. These kind people welcomed us and fed us. God took care of us through the kindness of strangers. As soon as the waters subsided, the twins and I headed 12 hours north to stay with family, while Obbie began gutting our home with the assistance of friends.

We anticipated a lot as parents of newborn twins: sleepless nights, excessive crying, dirty diapers, a messy house, but we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for this disaster. Once the twins and I made it to my parent’s house, I fell on the couch in complete exhaustion. This was not how I imagined the first few months of parenthood. If I’d had known the flood was coming for us I would have said, “I can’t do that. I’m not strong enough.” And I was right. I wasn’t strong enough. There is no way I could have walked down that road without God breathing grace into my lungs.

When we first brought the twins home I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen to them. I would stare at them throughout the night and rarely slept. Sometimes when they’d cough or make what I interpreted to be a weird sound, Google and I would spend some time together. However, through the storm I was reminded that God is not only the Creator of all things, but He is the Keeper of all things. Our heavenly Father has entrusted us with the most precious gifts, and as parents we have the privilege of loving and shepherding our children. On the other side of the flood, I came to understand that one of the most important things I can do as a mother is to remember to whom my children belong. Surrendering my children everyday to God is the best way I can love them. Surrender releases you from fear and worry. It doesn’t eliminate every fearful or worrisome thought, but surrender reminds you where to take them- at the feet of your Savior.

Parents, when you remember that your heavenly Father is the ultimate Keeper of your child’s soul, an overwhelming peace consumes you, a kind of peace that will get you through life’s biggest storms. When worry comes for you as a parent (because it will), I pray God will illuminate your mind with His truth and bring your heart to a place of surrender. My prayer is that you can see what I did as I was holding my children,  with floodwater so high I could feel it splash on my cheeks. God is not only with them through the storm, He is keeping them safe, and upholding them in the very palm His hands.

The Messiness of Motherhood

Motherhood is messy…quite literally these days. Our twins are becoming very independent and as they’ve been mastering the art of “how to use utensils,” our kitchen has turned into something that resembles a cafeteria after a food fight. But, oh goodness they look absolutely adorable covered in yogurt, peanut butter, or whatever they can get their hands on!

Prior to having children I knew that parenthood wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. But just like marriage, we can’t really understand just how messy and difficult it can be until we stumble through it ourselves. I’m not talking about a “mac n’ cheese all over the floor and dried in your hair” type of mess, although that may or may not be a weekly (daily) occurrence in our home. I’m talking about the mess that resides in our own hearts and lives, as we come to terms with our humanity and the reality that we are all a work in progress.

When we first brought our twins home I quickly caught myself making a mental checklist of all my parental and marital shortcomings . “You didn’t play enough with the babies” or “the house is a mess” or “you need to clean those bottles in the sink” or “When was the last time you even cleaned the house?” After weeks of racking my brain, I quickly realized how these exhausting and unrealistic expectations were stealing my joy and my ability to be present with my husband, family and friends. And I quickly discovered that I was missing the point. Instead of allowing the challenges point me to Christ and even recognize how God was growing me through them, I allowed the difficulties to drive me towards my shortcomings, hence the mental checklist.

As a parent, freedom came with the knowledge that my children weren’t tallying the number of folded clothes each day or the number of times I vacuumed the house. They would, however, remember if I was present. Eventually, after weeks of self-reflection, I stopped in the middle of my checklist, got on the floor, and played with my sweet little babies. Although I’m not immune to bringing out that checklist occasionally, I’m learning to flourish in the mess as I walk in grace.

The danger of unrealistic expectations is that they rarely remain in just one area of your life. I recognize this in my own; sometimes I feel like a major failure as a Christian. When I begin to examine my thoughts of poor performance and the emotions tied to them, I recognize my inherent tendency for Pharisaical parenting, living each day based upon what I did or what I didn’t. However, our salvation isn’t based upon our works or daily performance, a truth we so easily forget. The beautiful thing about God’s grace is that it frees us from the “never ending list” of things we have to do to earn His salvation, His love, His grace.

Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha? When Jesus was invited into their home, Martha was focused on all the preparations and domestic work that needed to be done around the house. And where was Mary? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus, intently listening and soaking in all He had to say. When we function in a “works based mentality” it is like telling this Man that His death on the cross wasn’t sufficient. It’s like telling the man who bore all the sins of the world, “Excuse me, I get that what you did was very heroic, but I got this. I don’t need you.” By Martha making preparations her number one priority, she was essentially telling Jesus that what she was doing with her own hands was more important than the words coming out of His lips.

I have grown to see the purpose in my weaknesses, as they have become constant reminders of my need for grace. Instead of driving me to a mental check-list, I’m learning to let my shortcomings and failures remind me that I can’t do this on my own-I need Jesus.

When you start making a “why I’m a terrible Christian list” or “all the ways I’ve failed today as a mother list,” I pray that you will think of the work that has already been accomplished for you on the cross, through Jesus Christ. I pray that the story of Mary and Martha will come to your mind, and you will remember what Jesus said about the woman who chose to sit at His feet and just be present: “Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:42).  I pray that when the messiness of life tempts you to start that exhausting mental checklist once again, you would be reminded of the work God is doing, the grace poured out for you, and the beauty He is creating in your life through the mess. Just like our life, the pottery making process is messy, but the finished product is exquisite. Trust that the Master Potter knows exactly what He is doing as He is molding you into something beautiful.

Something Beautiful Here

My favorite part of the day begins when I’m woken up by my two sweeties “twin talking” to each other from across their cribs. I watch from the monitor and wonder what they could be chatting about. After a few minutes, I hear my favorite words come out of their mouths, words that for so long I thought I would never hear: “Ma Ma.” My heart melts into a puddle. I walk into their room, turn on the light, and their beautiful brown eyes grab my heart and pull it in tightly. They squeal with excitement and continue babbling and giggling. Roman, my sensitive little man, reaches for me: “Ma ma.” As I pick him up, he rests his head on my shoulder and then looks at me with the most handsome dimple-filled smile I’ve ever seen. Ruby, my independent little lady, reaches for me, and as I squeeze her up she wraps her little arm around my neck. I give her a kiss on the cheek, and she flashes those beautiful pearly whites at me like she does 100 times a day. I stare in amazement at our two beautiful children.

I try to freeze the picture in my mind so I don’t forget. I don’t want to move from this moment. If only I could have seen the beautiful masterpiece that God was orchestrating for our family. If only I could have seen the beautiful plan God had in store, it would have made it easier to trust Him. But then again, that wouldn’t be faith now would it?

Though I’m grateful for this work-in-progress masterpiece now, there were times when I was confused about what God’s brush strokes were creating. It was as if my life was a piece of unfinished artwork hanging in a big fancy white art gallery. I imagined myself standing before the art that God was constructing and asking Him, “What are you doing God? This doesn’t make sense. This doesn’t look good to me! I think it would look better with a little blue here, and a little yellow there and take that out…that’s just not right.”

Can you imagine if Monet had listened to the critics who called his paintings “formless, unfinished and ugly?” I imagine his artwork would look quite a bit different, and his title as one of the most famous painters in history would’ve been forfeited. But there I have stood many times giving the Master Artist, the Creator of the entire Universe, my critiques. I imagine Him listening to my “suggestions” with a grin on His face, as He pulls me in closely and says, “My daughter, you can’t see it just yet, but I’m creating a MASTERPIECE, something more beautiful than you could ever imagine.”

Following His brush strokes has been a daily act of surrender, trusting that He knows what is best for my life, and truly believing that He “withholds no good thing” from His children (Psalm 84:11). It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown, but that’s what He calls us to do. And guess what? God supplies us with His grace to do just that – trust. We can be certain and confident that we serve a good Father who loves us more than we can wrap our earthly minds around. So, let your heart rest on that truth for a minute. Our Heavenly Father loves YOU so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die a gruesome and painful death on the cross for my sins, for your sins, for her sins and for his sins so that we might come to know Him.

Perhaps in this very moment you feel forgotten, as if God was in the very middle of creating your masterpiece and just left it there as is. He hasn’t. He is right there, brush struck in hand. He works at His own pace and in His own time. Maybe you can relate to the girl at the art gallery confused with the very piece of work that is supposed to be her life. “What are you doing God? What are you up to? I don’t understand. This is so painful. This hurts too much.” I’ve been there too.

Although my heart is so full, it hasn’t always been easy. Through the cancer, infertility and loss, God has been faithful. It is through those painfully slow brush strokes that I felt the depths of His grace, love and kindness and learned there is no end to it. Even when your eyes can’t see what God is up to and you find it hard to follow His brush strokes-He is at work. He is creating a masterpiece- something MORE BEAUTIFUL than you could ever imagine.