I thought that when I had my third baby, our family was complete. My little blonde boy had been unexpected, but he brought a fullness to our family.
But God had other plans.
If Gibson was unexpected, you can probably imagine that finding out I was pregnant with our fourth was a complete shock. I had begun to dream again about my own plans and goals. Gibson was out of diapers and it seemed like the right time to pursue my passions. I signed up for a missions trip, my first since getting pregnant a decade before. I signed up for a blogging conference longing to grow in my desire to write. My life seemed poised for a new season.
Pregnancy felt like a step backwards. Starting over again with sleepless nights? Having to deal with diapers and wonky schedules and wasn’t I too old for this?!! The “Advanced Maternal Age” sheet my doctor handed to me on my first visit confirmed my swirling thoughts. I cried for the loss of the direction I thought my life was heading. It was all so unexpected.
But God’s plans are always perfect.
After the initial shock, I began to embrace my pregnancy and to dream about the precious little one growing in my womb. I went on the missions trip, delighting in my precious companion who shared my adventure. I went to the blogging conference and it impacted my life in profound ways despite the shift in my personal priorities.
Then we had the ultrasound to find out the baby’s gender. With one girl and two boys, it felt unreasonable to hope for another girl. Would God really bless me with such incredible sweetness when my initial response to this child was less than stellar? Turns out he had decided to bless our lives with another girl despite my selfishness and failures. I was overwhelmed with his kindness to me.
For nearly a decade prior to this surprise, we had been slowly losing my precious Dad to alzheimers. This incremental loss brought great sorrow to my life. My Dad was precious to me, a lover of Jesus, the Word of God and his girls. Our bond was tight and so my heart was breaking as I watched more and more of him slowly slip away.
Four months after Ainsley was born, we knew it was time to say goodbye to Grandfather and so my bookend girls joined me on a flight to Kansas to introduce my Dad to his last grandchild and to say our final goodbyes.
What should have been a heartwrenching, sorrowful time turned into a joyous celebration! My Dad, through the fog, smiled when he held his granddaughter. Ainsley brought joy to all of us in a time when our hearts were breaking. She was an unexpected balm for our souls and I was reminded that God knew exactly what he was doing.
I fought against his plans, protesting that my plans were better. Oh, the foolishness of my heart! God knew that she would arrive at just the right time to bring me comfort, joy and purpose in the midst of devastation.
Today we are celebrating eight years since Ainsley joined our family, truly completing us in all of the best possible ways. She has brought joy to my life beyond what I could have ever imagined. She keeps me young! She has kept me going at times when I have wanted to give up or simply wallow in my grief.
When we sing “I see the evidence of your goodness all over my life” while we’re driving in our car, I look in my rearview mirror and see my four precious children and my heart is full. I’ve lost both of my parents now, yet the Lord continues to remind me that he is so very good. I don’t have far to look. No matter what we lose in this life or the struggles we face, God’s sweetness shines through. Even when I fail, he continues to pour out his steadfast love on me, lifting my eyes from my circumstances and teaching me to fix them on him.
I have learned to stop making my own plans and instead hold them loosely. Because I have learned one of the best secrets in life. Sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected ones.
Happy birthday, Ainsley Rose! We love you beyond what you can imagine! Always, forever.
Yesterday you came downstairs and told me that you had the best dream ever. You proceeded to tell me your dream and I decided to record it, because it’s one of those dreams that I think you will want to remember. Here it is:
Some men were walking through a swamp when giant octopus arms came out of the water and grabbed them. The leader knelt in the water and prayed. He said, ” Lord, calm their souls.” His prayer encouraged everyone to pray and as a result, the octopus arms released the men and they found shelter.
As you relayed this story to me, your eyes were bright with excitement. You told me that your dream was about the gospel. Knowing that God will always protect and save those who cry out to him boosted your faith. You couldn’t stop talking about the gospel!
Ainsley, I pray that you would always live with this wide eyed wonder! I pray that God would continue to reveal truths of himself to you. You are right. He will protect you and he will save you, not from giant octopus arms, but from the sin that so easily entangles. You will face difficulty in this life, but you can know that the Lord will hear your cries for help. And he will be with you in the midst of any difficulty you face.
Isn’t it incredible to know that Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to die in your place, to take your sins upon himself? He died, but death has no power over Jesus! He rose again and now he lives offering eternal life to all who would believe. This is the gospel. It is the good news that changes everything. It is the news that allows you to walk in hope, to know the protection and salvation of God.
May you always walk with him, crying out to him, trusting him!
I love you, sweet little dreamer!
When I think back to the day you were born, I can see how God was orchestrating our story from the very beginning. You were hoped for and loved long before you came to be, a fulfillment of deep longings and desires in my heart. God used that time in my life to slowly peel back my fingers from the grip of control I thought I needed to have on my life. I thought I would have three kids, two years apart, the perfect family.
Miscarriage. Partial Molar Pregnancy. Uncertainty about ever having children. Those words were NOT part of my plan. But they became part of my story anyway and as a result, you were a beautiful gift after a season of loss.
I didn’t dare hope with a due date of May 9th that you would come in April. It was a secret longing of my heart-to have an April baby- one that only our Father knew. When I went to bed on April 29, 2003, I thought it would be a typical night of pregnancy, but you made it clear that you were ready to come. Later it seemed like you changed your mind. We pushed against each other for three hours both of us determined to get our way. I discovered in those long, excruciating hours that I had a strength in me I didn’t know existed. A strength that I would need to handle your strong will. I believe that God knew you needed me. But He also knew that I needed YOU!
Here we are eighteen years later and we still push against each other. You’re grasping at independence while I’m desperately trying to let go. You’re figuring out how to be an adult and I’m trying to understand how to parent an adult. It’s messy at times and painful. I say things I regret. You feel like you can never please me.
Yet here’s what I know for sure- every season of difficulty we have ever faced has birthed a deeper, stronger, more exquisitely beautiful relationship between us. I am amazed that you love me like you do. And I am overwhelmed with pride when I see you succeed, knowing how hard you have fought to get there.
I still try to control all the things, don’t I? It always comes from a place of wanting what is best for you, but I forget that while I get to influence your story, I don’t get to write it. I’m so grateful that you have committed your life to the One who writes the best stories, the One who takes our brokenness and turns it into beauty. All of our chapters seem to be variations on that theme! God brings us to a place of brokenness, so that we will know to our core that there is nothing we can do apart from Him. And then He sweetly and lovingly restores, bringing us back to a place of beauty, stronger than what we could have ever been on our own.
If there is one thing I could tell you on this momentous day, your eighteenth birthday, it would be to remember this truth. Your failures and your mistakes are interwoven into your story for a purpose. They will cause you to appreciate the wonder and the beauty God is preparing for you in deeper and better ways than you could have ever imagined.
After you were born, I spent the next twenty four hours hooked up to an IV, unable to get out of bed. Dad changed every diaper, learned how to swaddle you, held you close when I was too weary to even lift my arms. I felt like my very first day of motherhood was a failure. Then. Now I know that it was the biggest success story ever. Because understanding my weaknesses and being poignantly aware of my inadequacies, taught me to relinquish control and to understand that you would need others to love you, support you and be there for you. It’s the lesson I need to be reminded of as you prepare to launch.
I will always be here for you, Lindsay! I will be your biggest cheerleader. I will cry the ugly tears when you sing or write or show love to others in the achingly beautiful way you do. But I will never be enough to meet all of your needs. I will continue to fail. But I can entrust you to our great God who will never let you down. What a comfort this is to me! He is worthy of our trust, so continue to walk forward confidently, holding fast to Him!
I love you, Lindsay Elise! Happy 18th birthday!
This morning, I woke up early thinking about two friends of mine, one who is younger than me, one older. I love both of them dearly and I haven’t lived close to either of them for over a decade. When we talk, it is as if no time has passed. But too much time HAS passed since our last conversations.
I have been a mentor to many girls and women in my life. It was a natural result of being a youth leader for many years when my husband was a youth pastor and then serving primarily adults for the past fourteen years But I have also been mentored by many, not because it was a formal mentor relationship, but because I learned from an early age to deliberately seek out women who would faithfully point me to Jesus.
A few years ago, I attended a workshop at a women’s conference on the topic of mentoring, specifically the challenges of the older generation reaching out to the younger and the younger generation seeking the wisdom of the older. As different women talked about the divide they felt between themselves and others, I was struck by how complicated we have made this whole mentoring thing. In many cases, mentoring has been turned into a program and women attempt to “match” themselves with a mentor. There is an inevitable disappointment when this relationship doesn’t meet expectations.
Mentoring in scripture is actually a command. In Titus 2:3 it says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior… They are to teach what is good.” And Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Older women are to teach the younger, but they’re not supposed to teach their own theories or opinions. Rather they are to teach wisdom and kindness. This can only happen if women are seeking to learn from the ultimate source of wisdom and kindness, Jesus himself!
We’re all on a journey, so we are all learning things at different times and in different ways. It’s one of the reasons I have sought to invite many women to speak into my life. Some are further along on this journey and I glean from their wisdom. Others are at the same place as me and we struggle together to spur one another on. And some are a little further behind and my role looks more like instructing and guiding. But all of these relationships must be viewed through a lens of humility. I am NEVER the authority in mentoring relationships. My role is simply to point to Jesus. If we miss this, we make mentoring about what we have to pass on and about how great we are. (It’s important here to make a differentiation between mentoring and counseling or work relationships. Mentoring is not about authority, but counseling/work relationships ARE. Understanding these differences is crucial for healthy and successful relationships).
Since I don’t believe that mentoring is a program, but rather a fluid, organic relationship, it changes all of the time. When my kids were infants and toddlers, my main source of mentorship was through MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) programs. When they were in public school, I pursued friendships with other Moms. Now that we homeschool, my co-op friends are a huge part of my life. Through all of these different seasons, I have had older saints in my church who have pointed me to Jesus through their own pursuit of him and I have had younger women who I have been able to pour into, also pointing them to Jesus.
Do you have those friends in your life who love the Word of God and are passionate about loving Jesus more? Every time you talk together, you inevitably talk about what you are reading in scripture and about what the Lord is doing in your life. You can’t help it, because the more you fall in love with Jesus, the more it will just bubble over. And when others are on that same path, it is a beautiful thing! But you can’t force these types of relationships. You can’t expect others to be as excited as you. You must simply keep pursuing truth and asking the Lord to surround you with others who feel the same. My experience is that He LOVES to answer this prayer! When I look back over my life, I am overwhelmed as I consider the many women who have lovingly poured into me and the many whom I have been able to lovingly pour into.
It changes. The relationships I had when my husband and I first started out in ministry are still precious to me, but I haven’t lived close to these women for seventeen years! Proximity is a huge part of mentoring. And that’s okay. If you lose touch with someone who was a crucial part of your growth in life, don’t feel guilty. God used them in your life for that season. He will continue to bless them for their faithfulness whether or not you are in close relationship.
And sometimes you will pour a great deal of time and energy into others only to have them turn their backs on you. This has happened countless times in my life and it has been painful every time. BUT what the Lord is faithfully teaching me is that if I really believe that mentoring is not about me, then it’s okay if others reject me. If I have pointed them to Jesus and I have encouraged them to pursue the truth of the Word of God, then I can entrust them to the Lord and I must keep trusting in Christ myself.
Mentoring is a risk in that sense, but it is one worth taking. Because the Lord will bless our faithfulness.
Now I need to go, because I need to reach out to my two friends I woke up thinking about.
Pour into others with the wisdom and kindness you have received from Jesus. And let others who are drinking from that same well pour into you!