Let’s be the rain this world so desperately needs.

Rain.

It cleanses and renews.

Bringing life back to dry and cracked ground.

Washing away decay and brightening the Earth.

Oh God does this land need rain right now.

We need cleansing rain to bring life back to this ground cracked with hate.

We need washing rain to pour down on humanity and revive decaying and hardened hearts.

Oh God do we need rain right now.

But, the rain isn’t going to come in a flood like the days of Noah.

The rain isn’t going to come in a downpour of holy water to change hearts and minds.

No. No. No.

The rain we need – and the rain that will start to heal?

That rain has got to come from us.

We, who have been tasked with fighting for “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

We, who claim to want to walk in the way of the man who was the ultimate champion of the oppressed and beaten.

We, who have been given grace upon grace from He who was without fault and still slain.

So yes, pray and pray and pray. We serve a mighty miracle worker.

But also – do and do and do.

Love and love and love.

Because guys- He’s not going to flood the Earth again with water.

He’s already filled each of us, who have asked for and received the forgiveness we do not deserve, with the Living Water needed to be the cleansing rain.

It’s up to us to start raining down – raining down empathy – raining down hope – raining down cries for justice – raining down fights for the oppressed- raining down generosity…

It’s up to us to start raining down radical, transformative love.

Because Jesus? He was, and is, radical and transformative.

And He is Love.

The Earth is His

Have you ever walked outside and felt your body relax in an involuntary sigh? Like something in the essence of your soul was reunited with a missing part?

Me too.

I have been privileged to have had the outdoors be a huge part of my life. I grew up in San Diego, California and relished the feel of the sun upon my skin pretty much year-round. We took annual trips to Colorado and would spend parts of the summer backpacking in the Rockies. Hiking in the pristine woods and sleeping in tents nestled in valleys at the base of mountains. In college, I spent a semester “abroad” in the Sierra Nevadas where part of our curriculum was to spend a week backpacking with friends; hiking miles and miles a day then sleeping out under the stars and swimming in crystal lakes. The rest of the semester was spent kayaking at midnight and studying the classics outside with the meadow as a classroom. My husband and I spent the first year of our marriage teaching English in China, which allowed us to explore the great outdoors in a different country. Floating down rivers accompanied by water buffalo and sleeping in huts with lizards as bunk mates. Grand explorations of the great outdoors.

However, now that I’ve lived in South Texas for almost 6 years, and have two littles of my own, we don’t go on grand adventures much anymore. We’ve tried to make it a habit to go on walks and hikes in nature (yes! There is some in South Texas!) since we’ve moved here, but I won’t lie, it takes a lot of effort. More effort than it ever did growing up, being in college, or being newlyweds without a care in the world.

Since mid-March, that has changed a bit. My husband and I both started working from home and the girls stopped going to daycare. We’ve stopped having other commitments and started having less places to go. We’ve started going on walks around our neighborhood every-day after our work day ends and have stopped spending hours on commutes/drop-off/pick-up routines. We’ve gotten out the water toys and beach towels and have started having to de-clutter the backyard at night. We’ve made Saturdays a day for hiking to the local hidden gem of a lake along the city greenway. Arms are tanning and hair is lightening.

And ya know? So are spirits and attitudes. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of screen time and whining and throwing of snacks to small children to stop said whining while conference calls have to happen for work. We’ve had bad days and stressful days and hard days and mad days because that’s life right now.

But we have been spending more time outside, and it is without a doubt, good for all of us.

Last week, after a particularly enthusiastic water fight in the backyard after work, the girls had gone to bed and my husband looked at me and said, “You’re in a really good mood. It was being outside, wasn’t it?” I guess after almost 8 years of marriage, he knows me pretty well.

“Yup.” I said, “I love the sun.”

It’s true too. Growing up, I used to go outside and just lay on our sidewalk in the sun. In college, when I had a sort of freak out and called home crying one day, my mom (also a sun lover) told me to “go outside in the sun for awhile.” And it worked. I have journal entries from my semester in England (where the sun did not shine practically the whole time I was there) that say, “the sun came out today. It was a good day.”

The sun. Being outside. It energizes me. I know the sun saps some people of energy, but for me, it gives me energy. Some of my best and most profound memories and moments have happened outside, either in the sun, or under the stars. Because for me, being outside… it’s life giving.

Vitamin D is good for humans. Fresh air is good for humans. We know this. You’ve heard it during this COVID-19 crisis – spend time outdoors while you are quarantined. We have all heard that being outside is good for us at some point in our lives. We have all probably encouraged someone else to go outside because we know it is good for the mind, body, and soul.

But I personally think it is more than just Vitamin D releasing neurotransmitters in our brain.

Nature, God’s first creation – is in a constant state of worship. God is the ultimate Creator, and His creation of the Earth was not a one-time event that happened and is now over. No, He continues to create – trees continue to grow, creatures continue to multiply, waters continue to writhe – all because of Him.

So is it any wonder that standing in the midst of creation; standing in the midst of all the trees of the fields clapping their hands, we should feel awe and a sense of peace?

When we go out into nature, we are standing in the masterpiece of our Maker.

We are standing in the middle of life being breathed into the Earth.

When we go and spend time in that sacred space, we are spending time with He who created, is presently creating, and will continue to create long after we are gone.

As we continue in this time where sickness is spreading and our contact with other humans is necessarily limited, let us not forget that we still have access to the active, and very much alive, creation by the hands of our Lord.

Let us not forget that no matter what, this Earth is His.

“The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1

Let us delight in our God like a toddler delights in her Mama

“Mama! Mama!” I got up from the kitchen table after dinner and asked my husband, “Did Brynn (our 4 year old) say “Mama” this much when she was this little?” I was wondering because our 18month old had been repeating “Mama” incessantly for the whole week of our Christmas trip to Colorado and wasn’t stopping now that we were home. He replied, “Yup, if not more.” “Huh,” I said, “I couldn’t remember.”

Of course, just because she’s four doesn’t mean I don’t still hear “Mama” out of her mouth at least 5 times every hour that we are together, but the constant repetition every time her eyes land on me doesn’t happen as much as it did when she was her little sister’s age. Now, she yells “Mama” when she needs something, wants me to be with her, or is mad about something. She will still call my name if she is hurt or sad, but she doesn’t just randomly look over at me and say “Mama!” like her little sis does with excitement and joy upon her face. She rarely cups my face with her hands and whispers “Mama,” with her eyes and attention nowhere else but my face, adoration pouring from the word into my soul. Oh, I still get some great cuddles from my 4-year old along with an impromptu, “I love you Mama, you are my best friend,” and sometimes she requests that I be the one to buckle her into her car seat, but the infatuation with her Mama just for the sake of me being Mama feels like it is diminishing a tad each year. Which is fine, that’s how growing up works, I know that. The older she gets, the more independent she gets, the more relationships outside of her Dad and me she develops, the more activities to occupy her mind she’ll be involved with, etc. I’ll always be there for her, and she’ll always need me, but the days of speaking my name just to show her affection for me are lessening.

And you know, I can’t help but wonder… Jesus says in Mark 10:14-16, “ When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.’”

Now, I have several people in my life (in my family even) who have legitimately gone to school to study scripture and become pastors, and I have not. I’m not even great at reading my Bible daily, but when I read that verse and I think of my kids, I wonder. Was Jesus calling us to become like my sweet 18month old who not only cries out for her Mama whenever she needs something, or is scared, but just because she is delighted to be with her Mama? Was Jesus telling us that He knew that adults have such a sense of independence and busyness that we tend to slip into only calling upon Him when we are asking for something or in immense pain? That we only turn to our Heavenly Father when it’s been a few months and we realize we haven’t “picked up the phone” to talk to Him?

Guys, when I am away on a work trip and my husband FaceTimes me at night, my little one is all smiles and “Mama! Mama!” while my 4-yr old is running around the house like the Energizer Bunny, occasionally poking her face into the camera to say a quick hello. She’s only 4 and already her sense of missing me when I’m gone has dissipated compared to her sister’s (also, she just has a whole lot more energy 😂). I can’t help but think about my own less-than-frequent texts and calls to my parents, whom I love very much, and cringe when I think about that compared to the doting 18month old I have following me around the house babbling, “Mama! Hugs!”

And I think, that even though this is probably not what Jesus was specifically talking about in those verses about children and the kingdom of God, that He desperately wants us to delight in Him like a sweet 18month old delights in her Mama. He wants us to be in constant communication with Him, for the ups and downs and all arounds, but also to just enjoy being in His presence. He wants us to call out to him when we are distraught and elated, yes, and unabashedly so (also just like our children)! But He also longs for us to stop, cup His face with our hands and whisper, “Abba” with all of our attention and adoration upon Him – for the sole reason that we are His children and He is our God.

Human Mary, Being a Human Mom

My grandfather made us a wooden nativity ornament set the first year my husband and I got married and I’ve put the pieces hodge podge on our tree every year since that first year 7 Christmases ago.  Maybe I’d pause to make sure the Baby Jesus piece was somewhere it could be seen instead of hidden in the back, but maybe not. I definitely didn’t give the other pieces a second thought as I found places for them all over the tree.  This year, however, when I pulled Mary out of the box, with my 4-year-old unwrapping ornaments next to me and my 18mo old pulling the ornaments off the tree just as fast as they were going up, I paused.  I saw that figure kneeling in her nondescript robes and pictured Mary as a mom.  Yes, I’ve always known Mary was the mother of Jesus, and I’ve marveled at the obedience of her words, “let it be,” but not often have I stopped to picture, really picture, her as a mom.  Not the Holy Mother, but “mom.”  As I pulled that little Mary out of the box and found a place for her on the tree, I started thinking. I started picturing. I started picturing Mary as the human Mom that she was.  Jesus was fully human and fully God, but Mary? She was fully human. An extraordinary human, no doubt, but human nonetheless.

The verses in Luke that are read every year state quickly, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” As I have had the extreme privilege of being pregnant and given birth two times myself, I began to think about those verses and what they actually mean as a human woman, and I started picturing Mary.

I pictured that human Mary gazing at the stretch marks adorning her growing belly, tracing them with her fingers as she pictured the tiny nose she would soon be tracing.  I pictured Mary tossing and turning at night, wadding up extra linens to support her sore back as she tried to sleep.  I pictured Mary giggling like the girl she was, when the baby in her belly kicked and rolled, causing her skin to ripple like the dessert sand on a windy day.  I pictured Mary, large and uncomfortable asking Joseph to help her strap the sandals around her swollen feet as they got ready to make the 90mile trek to Bethlehem. I pictured Mary telling Joseph they had to stop so she could pee…again.  I pictured Mary feeling the first contractions, knowing it would soon be time.  I pictured Mary, slightly panicked as the pain intensified and the alarms in her brain started going off, her voice tense and choppy between contractions, pleading with Joseph to find a place, any place, they could stop.  I pictured Mary telling Joseph the stable was fine, telling him to hurry, telling him it hurt-so-bad. I pictured Mary moaning in pain as her sweaty body rocked back and forth with the back to back contractions.  I pictured Mary feel the tell tale pressure, eyes wide with fright, pain and excitement as she gasped to Joseph – “He’s coming.” 

And oh, I pictured Mary, human as I, grunt with the guttural, instinctual cry of physically pushing life out into the world.  I pictured her half laughing, half crying as she held her son for the first time on her chest.  I pictured her trying to get him to latch, and picture her wincing when the latch isn’t quite right.  I pictured her wearily waking in the night to feed her babe as Joseph lay peacefully sleeping on the hay a few feet away.  I pictured her changing his swaddling cloths in the night, shushing him back to sleep while she paced the inside of that stable, rocking him gently in her arms, feeling her heart explode with love so pure and so profound it was a little scary.  I pictured her pondering these things in that heart.

I picture all this and more. Mary tired for weeks on end.  Mary beaming with pride over her boy learning to walk.  Mary crying quietly by herself because her son was growing so fast and she knew he was destined for greatness beyond her.  Mary as a toddler mom being frustrated that her cooking wasn’t received well at every meal. Mary realizing in panic that her tween was missing.  Mary as a mom of a teenage boy.  Mary having all the mixed emotions as she saw crowds start to follow her boy.  Mary at the cross.  Human mom Mary, wailing with despair over her son.  That little baby she held in her arms only 33 short years before in the stable on that first Christmas night – being hung up before her eyes. Dying before her eyes.  Her baby.  Yes, the Savior of the World, but also, her sweet baby boy.  I wonder, did her moans of pain as she watched the life leave her son’s eyes sound reminiscent of the moans of pain that ushered in that same life?  I can’t imagine. 

Mary – chosen by God to be Mom, in all her humanness, to the Messiah. To Emmanuel. When she gasped those words to Joseph, “He’s coming” she was gasping to the World. She knew, as she snuggled her babe and breathed in his intoxicating newborn scent, that He was not hers alone, or hers to keep, and yet… she was his mom. What a profound gift and a profound burden for a human woman to carry.

May we, as humans, as women, as moms, learn from Mary.  Learn how to demonstrate humility and grace in this role we’ve been given as moms.  Learn to love without bounds and without restraint, the littles we have been given on this Earth.  And let us remember, they are not ours alone, nor are they ours to keep.  May we surrender their little hearts and big futures to the One who formed them. 

And may we trust our role of “mom” to the One who knew the pain Mary would endure as a flawed human in her role, but also knew the great capacity for love that human heart beating in her chest held and so entrusted her with His very own son sent to redeem us all.

Using our words for good

Words. I’ve always been good with words. Good in the sense that I’ve always been comfortable with them. Comfortable with letting them slip off my tongue, or fingers, and watching them fly. Sometimes for the good, but sometimes not.

In school. My English essays came home with “A” printed on the top with little notes saying, “Great imagery!” Or, “Can I use this as an example in my next class?” But my report cards came home with little notes listed on the side saying, “talks too much.” Or, “can be a distraction.”

At home. I knew how to tell a story without leaving out any details, and quip one liners to keep the family in stitches. I also knew how to poke at insecurities and say just the right thing to set my sister off, earning us both “verbal time outs” or a stern, “Sarcasm doesn’t make you smart,” from my parents.

With friends. I could cheer up and encourage when life got rough, bringing love and validation. Then turn around and spout out judgmental lines about how a classmate smells, just to earn a couple laughs.

You see, I’ve always been good with words, but I have not always used my words for good.

And words are powerful.

I’ve done my fair share of growing up since high school and like to think that I’ve tightened the reign on my tongue, at least a little. I’m in a profession where I have the immense honor of listening to peoples’ stories and using my words to help foster hope in their lives. I write for fun, but also with the desire that my words can be used as a balm on someone’s hurt or confusion- helping them to know they are not alone. I do my best to speak love and life into and over my kids, using my words to point them to Jesus and let them know they are safe and loved.

I TRY to use my words for good now. Do I slip up? Yes. Do I find myself wishing I could take back some snide remark or sarcastic response? Absolutely. Do I speak harshly to my husband and my children? Unfortunately, more often than I’d like to admit.

But, I’m making an intentional effort to TRY to heed James’ warning in the Bible about the, “world of evil amongst the parts of the body.”

Because words are so so powerful. They can be used for great and magnificent works- or they can be used for destruction and chaos.

The apostle John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And in Genesis, God “Spoke” the world into existence.

words.are.power.

Words birth creations into existence.

It is up to us what type of creations we are bringing forth into this fallen world by way of our words. Are we speaking words of encouragement to help build people up? Or are we spewing out criticisms and judgments to tear people down?

That little “thing” you had to tell your friend… Was it celebratory news that’s birthing admiration for a mutual friend? Or was it gossip about someone you have a problem with that you allow to burst forth like spider eggs hatching from your mouth to scurry around, spreading filth and pain and distrust?

Use your words to create powerful love and acceptance.

Use your words to bring peace and healing.

Use your words to bring light and life into dark places of hurt and sadness.

And friends, if we use our tongues to praise Jesus as our savior- please please, let’s be intentional about using our words to point people to that savior, instead of turning them away.

Let’s not just be good with words, let’s use them for good.

💙Kiley

Peace in the blurred lines between hope and heartache

Hope. Heartache. Healing.

The lines between these three are often faint and sometimes blurred. In my case, the line was a faint blue. At least on Monday. On Monday of last week, the line was faint and blue. An unexpected line that gave me butterflies of joy and anxiety all at once. A line that projected images of a growing belly for the 3rd time and questions of what kind of car we would need to buy. A line that suggested an addition to the family that would bring stress, yes, but so much joy. A line that thrust the current youngest to the middle child position in a second’s notice. A line that was filled with hope.

The line was faint though. So faint that my head told my heart to not let the love grow yet. So faint that I tried to not let any ripples disturb my dearly sought after, tranquil, inner lake of peace. A line faint enough that the ever-ready rational side of me stepped up to the plate and said – “Wait.” Wait a day or two before you teeter off the ledge and plunge headlong into hope. Because that line is faint and if you plunge into hope too fast, heartache may be the outcome. Just as it was when that faint line came and went the month before we became pregnant with our second child. And that heartache disrupts the calm. Heartache ushers forth not just ripples, but waves, to crack that glassy surface wide open, allowing the deep waters to spill forth in wet droplets that then leak down faces in messy trails. And to me, an Enneagram 9 who prides herself on being calm…collected…stable…unperturbed… at inner “peace” – these messy trails of emotion are to be avoided.

Ah, but the mind. The mind doesn’t always win out in these scenarios, does it? No, as much as I may like to think that my mind is in control of my pesky feelings, it does not always win out in these scenarios. Especially when it comes to thin blue lines that act as a tightrope between hope and what could be, heartache. No, my preverbal feet slipped off the tightrope and landed on the side of hope. All day Monday and all day Tuesday, I found myself planning for a third child. Planning with hope, the move of my two little girls into the same room so the new babe (probably a 3rd girl in my mind) would have a place to sleep. I found myself grinning in secret about the life I had started to believe was growing inside me. I found myself involuntarily thinking of our family as a family of five. I found myself hoping that when I took a second test on Wednesday, that faint line would be a dark blue line, confirming life.

But, that’s not how life always works, ya know? I got up Wednesday morning and that faint blue line that had been there Monday hadn’t gotten darker. It didn’t show up quicker like I expected it to. In fact, it didn’t show up at all. The line was gone. A clear white circle blinked up at me. And just like that, the hope had vanished. Gone were the concerns of fitting three car seats in the car. Gone were the internal bets of whether or not there would have been 3 blondy little girls in the family. Gone was the hope that in nine months, I’d have another baby to cuddle and rock. I hadn’t been planning on this unexpected hope to come on Monday, but it came anyway – and despite my desperate attempts at not letting it take root. It had. And so, when it was gone, my inner lake was disrupted a bit. Like a pebble had been dropped in the middle and tiny waves started to ripple outward, leaving me teetering in my own internal boat rocking back and forth on that lake of feelings.

I don’t know if the faint blue line 2 years ago or last week had been faulty tests (although a 5 day “lateness” both times would suggest otherwise), or chemical pregnancies, or real pregnancies that ended before they truly started – and I won’t know. But seeing those blue lines sparked hope and so the absence both times stung.

Because I’ve learned recently (through some therapy, through some reading of good books, through some intentional introspection, through some late night chats with good friends) that my tendency is to avoid – or stuff – these “negative emotions” to maintain the inner peace I value so much, I have been trying to at least give them a passing glance before sweeping them away with an easy smile, a shrug, and the words “I’m fine.” But it’s hard. It’s not comfortable – and admitting that this fine line caused a disturbance in my “peaceful” countenance is difficult for me. Which is why, when this same thing happened about 2 years ago, I told a few people in an off-hand way, but kept the sadness I felt down. Deep down. For the most part, I maintained my “peace.” Yesterday, I was listening to, “The Road Back to You” and heard some words that resonated deeply. He said, “what looks like peace, is just your desire to be unaffected by life.” Yikes.

My favorite Bible verse has always been, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” but how silly I’ve been in my understanding of Paul’s words to the Philippians. He wasn’t speaking about learning to be content when things are good and hopeful and joyful. He wasn’t talking about ignoring the not-so-pleasant aspects of life, or convincing himself that they did not bother him. He was saying that he’s learned to be content because he had experienced hope and heartache and had found the answer to true peace in God. Not the superficial peace of a calm, cool, collected demeanor, but “peace that passes all understanding” because God is with us. Peace that can be had in the midst of heartache and the midst of hope. Peace that is a tranquil state of a soul WHATEVER the circumstances. As a peace (little “p”) seeker and craver, this true Peace is what my soul needs.

It’s what your soul needs as you allow yourself to hope and inevitably, sometimes end up on the side of heartache.

I know Jesus, but I am far from living in this Peace daily. I cling to my little “p” peace when the inner waters get rocky, (and truly by God’s grace, I haven’t yet experienced the tsunami like waves many of you have in this life) instead of riding the waves while clinging to the One who is Peace himself in the midst of the storm. It’s hard and uncomfortable for me, but I’m trying – I’m practicing – by texting friends the words, “You know, I’m kind of sad about this” that Wednesday, and by writing this post for all the world to read, to let go and let those messy trails of emotions leak out. Because by allowing them to leak out, I am allowing myself to admit that I do not have the peace needed for this life. I do not have the strength on my own in this life, much as I’d like to think I do. I have nothing in this life if I don’t have Jesus.

So, as you walk the fine, faint lines between Hope and Heartache – remember – in the midst of those blurred lines can come Healing from the one who offers us Peace that surpasses all understanding.

In the darkness of the storm, He is the light

Yesterday, I was driving home from a work trip in a little town in South Texas. It was only a two hour drive and I had planned to spend those kid free hours listening to my Harry Potter audiobook for the umpteenth time and letting my brain zone out blissfully, because I’m an Enneagram 9 and that’s what we do best. Especially after an emotionally charged day of Suicide Prevention training.

As I started driving out of the town and I turned onto the farm road that took me through fields of cattle and hay bails, I turned off The Goblet of Fire and just gazed out the window thinking about the sereneness of the scenery before me. I’m a city girl from California who has lived in Texas for about five years, but is still fascinated with the countryside. As I was looking out the window, trying to take pictures without looking at my phone, I noticed the storm clouds on the horizon. I could see lightning flashing in the dark section that started to fill the right half of my windshield and marveled at the contrast between the clear, bright blue sky to the left and the dark, looming sky to the right.

By this time, I had turned my music on instead of my book and was listening to Phil Wickham sing soothingly, “the brightness of your glory has arrived,” as I drove knowingly, head-first into the storm that had now taken over the sky in front of me. The rain poured down during, “a deep deep flood, an ocean flows from you – a deep deep love, yea it’s filling up the room,” and I couldn’t help but smile as I sensed something stirring within me.

The road got hard to see before me. Windshield wipers frantically beating the rain back just enough that I could see a few feet of road. Rain pounded loudly, making it hard to hear the music.

Usually, I get nervous driving in this kind of rain. This kind of rain that forms fast puddles on the road. This kind of rain that brings loud thunder and flashes of lightning somewhere close by. This kind of rain that makes going forward difficult. This kind of rain that obscures the road ahead.

This dark kind of rain.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I felt peace.
I felt joy.
I felt love and reassurance.
I felt the lyrics of the song being played for my soul to sing along.
“The fullness of your grace is here with me.”
My soul felt it there in that rain. My mind felt it there in that darkness.

I drove through that storm in peace and awe of His creation.
I drove through that storm knowing that no matter how long it lasted, His presence was all I needed.
I drove through that storm and after about fifteen minutes, the rain began to lessen and stop.

The road before me was suddenly dry again and the sky was clear and blue.
I’d literally driven through the storm from one end to the other.
The contrast in the sky was once again stark.

To my left and behind me, the sky was dark and tumultuous while the way ahead was clear and bright. I kept trying to crane my neck to take in the sight through the rearview mirror, and the occasional look behind, out the back windows because my San Diegan native eyes couldn’t get enough of the weather torn stratosphere.

My music at this point had progressed to another Phil song, a favorite of mine, that just reinforced my feeling that maybe God was trying to tell me something.

Or maybe….show me something.

The song playing now was saying, “I look up to the sky and say, you’re beautiful.” Which is, of course, where my eyes had been drawn this whole drive; before, during, and now, after the storm. I kept telling myself to just pull over for a minute to take a picture of the contrast I couldn’t stop trying to view, and I kept not doing it. Finally, I saw a little ranch driveway and I pulled off onto it. I stuck my head out the window and when I turned back to look at the sky, my insides jumped a little.

I was expecting beauty and vastness.
I was expecting dark clouds bruising the bright crisp face of the heavens.
I was expecting the contrast of the storm and the clear.

But I wasn’t expecting the bright colorful rainbow shining in the middle of that juxtaposition.
I wasn’t expecting such a visible reminder of God’s promise.

And when I saw it, that feeling of peace and of joy and of love and of reassurance I felt during the storm intensified.
I don’t have these moments often. I don’t have the, “I feel God” experiences daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. I have faith in, and knowledge of, our God and His great love, but the “feeling” that people talk about, not much.

But yesterday.

Yesterday, on that country road, I did. The song sang, “The richness of, your beauty’s all I see” -and it was. As I looked back at that rainbow, and at the sky, so evident of His beauty and might, I felt Him there with me. I took some pictures, grinning to myself on the side of that poorly paved road in the middle of south Texas, and pulled back onto the deserted lane headed home. And since I don’t have these feelings often, when I had a sudden thought pop into my head of, “That rainbow was for me,” I laughed at my ego-centricism. But when I looked back in the rearview mirror, that bright rainbow I saw just a few minutes before was already faded, barely visible.

I’m sure there is some scientific explanation that includes angles and light prisms to explain my brief view, but I think it was what I needed just then. And I think maybe God knew that and used His creation of science paired with his physical, earthly creation of the sky to show me something.

Maybe to remind me that, in the midst of the darkness of this world;
In the midst of all the pain and suffering;
in the midst of the hurt and brokenness – that I see in my friends, that I see in my community, that I see in the world.
In the midst of all that storminess, He is here.

I think that maybe He knew I needed that reminder as I drove home from another suicide prevention workshop held during suicide prevention month, a day after 9-11, during a week full of hurting friends and sadness on the TV.

I think He knew that this logical, sometimes cynical, girl needed to literally drive through a storm, turn around to face the darkness, and see His promise shining brightly back at her in the storm thrashed sky.

I think He knew.

And I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because sometimes the road gets hard to see in front of you.
And the rain beats down so It’s hard to hear the hope singing to you from the speakers in your life.
And the darkness surrounds you.
But I was reminded today that He is there in the darkness.
His promise remains in the darkness, even if we can’t see it.

Not that storms won’t come – because they will.
Not that the road will always be clear – because it won’t be.
Not that the rain will stop, because it may not.
But His promise remains.
His promise that He is still there in the storm.
He is still there in the darkness.
He is still here.

He is here with me.
He is here with you.
He is here with us.

He is here.
He is here.
He is here.

Hallelujah, He is here.

Being #mama to my Girly Wild Child

When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to have a girl. I have never been girly and was sure I wouldn’t know how to be a “girl mom.” I envisioned pink bows and glitter strewn about the house. I pictured prim lace and gracefully crossed legs. I dreaded day long tea parties and whining about dirt. I thought of princesses and unicorns and mourned neglected dinosaurs and trucks. The list went on. And because I had all these thoughts, I knew in my deepest heart that I was for sure going to end up with all girls. Ridiculous, I know. I logically understood that there was a 50/50 shot, but I knew I would have girls.

Sure enough, that gender revealing ultrasound confirmed my fears- we were having a little girl. Now, those fears almost instantly dissipated once we heard, “It’s a girl!” because let’s be real, I was already in love with that little girl. But I was still a bit apprehensive. I saw the #girlmom attached to all the sweet, pink posts and the #boymom attached to all the high energy, adventurous posts and wondered how I was going to make it. I told myself over and over that I would be ok- I knew how to braid hair and was prepared to let my little girl be whatever version of “girl” she wanted to be- even if that meant tea parties in princess dresses all day long.

That was 4 years ago. And I wish I could tell that pregnant mama that she had nothing to worry about. I wish I could tell her how incredibly cool her girls – yes, plural – would be. I wish I could tell her that in four years, she would look around her house and see pink bows on the counter and glittery sequences stuck to the floor that had fallen off of a cheap Ariel dress-up costume — and she would love it. I wish I could tell her that along with the pink bows, she sees helicopter toys in the toy box and dinosaur stuffed animals on the couch. I wish I could tell her that the 3.5 year old practically lives in princess dresses and tutus, but wears them while running full speed everywhere, daring the world to tell her to slow down. I wish I could tell her that tooting and burping and an obsession with the word “booty” were all in her future despite the lack of sons. I wish I could tell her that the words “calm” and “prim” would never be used in the same sentence as her first-born’s name. I wish I could tell her that the daycare teachers would comment on the mixture of leadership and empathy they saw in that ringlet-headed little girl. I wish I could tell her to hang on tight because that Mama had no idea what was coming in the form of that 9lb 11ozs of pure baby girl.

I think back to that time and chuckle at the stereotypes I was worried about, even though I didn’t fit them myself as a kid. I chuckle because many of them are half true in our household, and it is so much fun. I also chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times people tell me once they know I have two girls (3.5 and 1), “Aw, two girls! Girls are so much calmer and sweeter than boys.” Or even, “Girls are a lot easier than boys.” And maybe those assumptions would withstand a wide reaching, randomized research study, but it doesn’t hold true in our house. It doesn’t apply to my 110% energy filled, adventure seeking, dirt loving, snail collecting, sister hauling, FIESTY little girl.

I proudly wear the label #girlmom, but I know from experience what an all-encompassing title that really is. I smile when I see #girlmom on the tea party posts, because my little girl does love herself a tea party. But I also smile when I see the #boymom posts about finding toy cars in the dryer or bugs in pockets, because to me, that also falls under my #girlmom status. And I think that is so so cool. I think my precious girls are so so cool. And mostly, I think it is so so cool that God made them exactly unique, and exactly in His image.How fun that the Creator of all things thought to give me, tom-boy turned #girlmom, a blond, curly headed little girl who loves to wear her batman jacket with built in mask over her pink tutu on ballet day.

How fun that He knew I would be the best #girlmom to that boisterous little human who puts snails in the pockets of her dress then stands up and straightens the tiara perched upon her head.

Whenever I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of raising a “girly wild child,” I think about this and it gives me confidence and strength. Confidence to be the #girlmom that our Creator created me to be for these specifically unique little girls.

I hope it gives you confidence too, fellow Mama. Because whether you are a #girlmom, #boymom or #momofboth, your children just know you as #MAMA. And that is so so cool.

Restful Chaos

The past three and a half years have been one long busy season. Busy as in: working full time with one baby, then adding full time graduate school, then hubby getting a second job, then getting pregnant with baby #2, then buying and remodeling a house/living with friends until a couple weeks before baby 2 was due, then having baby 2 and continuing with full time graduate school and work (while nursing and pumping this past year), while being Life Group leaders and Sunday school teachers at our church for 2 of those years. There was little sleep, lots of mac n cheese, and many moments of pure exhaustion.

When I was about 6 months pregnant with baby girl 2, our oldest was 2 and we were in the middle of our house reno/living with gracious friends phase, there was a 2 week period that the exhaustion was at it’s peak. At the beginning of one week, we were at the ER with our 2 year old, and in the middle of the next week we were back at the ER in the middle of the night for my husband. I remember getting home with him, taking a quick shower, getting dressed, taking our daughter to daycare, working from home while watching over the hubby, picking our daughter up, dropping her off with a friend to watch her while I was in class that night, and stopping by Starbucks for some much needed caffeine on the way to school where I would be seeing counseling clients that night. I sat outside on the bench in the Texas February sunshine with my iced coffee thinking, “This is crazy. I can’t function like this much longer.” I opened my Bible App, and looked at the plan I had started maybe 2 days before- called “Finding Balance in Life.” It was a plan that utilized an app called “Abide” (which I fully recommend!) where there was a meditative like devotional that you listen to. I sat there in the sun (which in and of itself is one of my self-care mechanisms) and listened to the trained-to-be-soothing voice of a man saying, “Are you tired? When Jesus asks us this it makes us stop and think. Are YOU tired? Do you wake up tired?” I chuckled to myself as the perfectness of the timing of this particular daily devotional was not lost on me. The voice proceeded to repeat Matthew 11:28-29- “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.”

It was read in different versions, and when it read the Message version (which is usually not my fav), it translated the verse like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” And that was what I needed. I didn’t need a vacation away from my busy life, or even for the busyness to end or slow down. I needed to go to the One who could give me rest in the midst of the worldly busyness that this season came with. And you know what? After that quick twenty minutes in the sun (which I 100% believe is of the ways I enter into the presence of God- enjoying and marveling at His creation), with fresh caffeine flowing through my body and the promise of rest that goes beyond 8 straight hours of sleep (what even is that?) – I did feel refreshed. Refreshed by the grace and strength of a God who loves his children. I was able to walk into my counseling sessions ready to pour into my clients with the mental energy, empathy and attention that I did not have an hour previously.

I wish I could say that throughout the next year and a half until I graduated this past month, I faithfully abided in the One who could give me the rest I so desperately craved – during midnight feedings with a baby who, despite all efforts to sleep train with allll the different methods, still wakes up at a few days from being a year old; or after a day of 8 clients back to back; or during the late nights of studying for my licensing exam that started after the girls went to bed; or during the monthly trips to the pediatrician or urgent care for chronic ear infections- but I am human and so my Bible app stayed closed many days and I tried to manage on my own. Let me tell you, those days of trying to be strong on my own, while I managed to physically do it, were not restful. But the days that I did at least try to enter into the restful presence of the ultimate Counselor, while I still felt the physical tiredness that comes from little sleep and lots of expelled energy, my mental/emotional fatigue was lessened significantly.

Jesus didn’t say, “come to me and feel ready to run a marathon” or “Pray and all your troubles and responsibilities will go away.” He doesn’t even say that he will give us physical rest- He said, “Learn from me and you will find rest for your soul.” For your SOUL. Often the stressors of life, even good stressors like babies and opportunities to pursue a career you feel is using the talents and gifts given to you, go beyond physical tiredness and cross into “soul exhaustion.” This “soul exhaustion” is what Jesus promises to help carry and alleviate- and all we have to do is go to Him. I think that going to Him looks different for all of us. For me, it means spending time meditating on the Word, listening to calm music, going for walks with the family, laughing with (at) my goofball husband, basking in the sunshine, or spending late hours at the local ihop with good friends who Jesus uses to pour into my soul. These are things that God used during these 3 years to help my soul find rest while I did hard things that I’m proud to have accomplished, but am glad are over.Since I graduated a few weeks ago, I’m done with night classes and homework assignments, and after next week I’ll be done nursing/pumping (which seriously takes a lot of time and energy!). This means that the busyness of the past 3-year season has diminished significantly. However, I’ve still got a marriage, a very spirited toddler, a baby who still wakes up at night, church responsibilities and a full time job. So, I’m going to continue to do my best to find a new balance in life while abiding in the One who can help me stave off the soul exhaustion that threatens to creep up in the busiest of seasons as well as the everyday chaos that is what we call Life.

“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.”- -Matthew 11:28-29