Not what you expected? Don’t miss the magic

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was ninety-eight percent convinced I was carrying a boy.

I couldn’t tell you why—but I was quite sure. And you know better than to argue with a pregnant lady.

So when the ultrasound tech confidently declared, “Girl!” I blinked, perplexed, and looked at my husband, Dan. Girl?We were certain they would find boy parts, not girl parts, on that fuzzy black and white screen.

As one of five sisters, I was over the moon at this news. A little girl! I knew how to do girl stuff. This could be good. The names we’d been tossing around probably weren’t going to work, though.

As it happened, by the time we got to our car in the parking lot of the doctor’s office, my imagination had taken off again. I could just picture our little girl: a tiny brunette with dark brown eyes, like mine. (Fast-forward a bit, and the girl is blonde as can be, curls aplenty, with the most beautiful green-gray eyes.)

By that point—18 weeks of not being able to keep food down, glow nowhere to be found—you’d think I would have caught on that none of this was under my control.

Please click here to read the rest of this essay for Kindred Mom’s Comparison & Contentment series. I’m honored to be a Writer-in-Residence on the Kindred Mom team this fall! 

Look back, remember, abide

Two years ago, after nearly a full year of juggling the idea in my mind and praying that if it was to be part of our story God would make a way, I quit my part-time church staff writer/editor job. The reasons my husband and I discussed were many, and they were complicated. But more than anything else, I missed my kids—one finishing up first grade and one having just turned a year old. Logic told us that I needed to keep working. (Our bank account agreed.) But there was no avoiding God’s persistent nudging on the subject: I needed to give up my job, which I had slowly allowed to invade my off-hours, stealing my joy and my ability to be emotionally and mentally present. And we needed to trust Him to meet our needs. Two years later, despite the curveballs that more than once or twice tempted us to doubt, I can say with gratitude that He has met our family’s every need, and then some.

When I look back over my writing from these couple of years—both what I’ve shared with the world and what I’ve saved for myself, sacred—and remember, all I can do is give honor and glory to God for His faithfulness. I read my own words and shake my head, realizing He loved me too much to let me remain unchanged as my life shifted from one season into the next.

I recently came across a draft I’d written one year after leaving my job. I felt like a mess and a failure at the time and was struggling with whether quitting had been the best decision after all. Today I feel like like someone else out there might need the words. For me they are evidence, a reminder of God’s goodness and the fact that even in times of transition and even with all of my shortcomings, He has never abandoned me. He won’t abandon you, either. Be encouraged.

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Remembering hope when everything feels wrong

He called me out to the backyard. Chin in hand, sitting at the kitchen counter, hunched over my phone, I sighed and looked up. “What?”

“Just come.”

Usually I’m the one dragging my family out back to appreciate particularly good sunsets with me. But this time he led me out and faced me away from the sunset, where the light was hitting a band of white clouds over my neighbors’ roofs in such a way that the giant puffs—sure sign of a Florida thunderstorm developing in the distance—were glowing. I held my breath as they in slow motion grew larger and drew closer, turning from white to peach to pink against the deep blue sky. Some portion of the moon hung in the sky above us. I stood motionless and stared, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

I looked at Dan. He asked if I was okay. What is okay, really? I’d been fluctuating between ends of the spectrum—deep gratitude and joy swinging to sorrow and confusion, and back again. It was a wisely cautious question on his part. I shrugged, knowing tears were close to the surface. He stayed close for a couple of minutes, then turned to go back inside where the kids were playing, leaving me to my thoughts.

The wind was warm after a record high day for April, the air refreshing on my skin—that perfectly sweet and smooth kind of breeze that you want to relish a little longer. Warm. Comforting.

A 3-year-old boy from church left earth for heaven less than two weeks ago. He is safe, whole, and well there. He is good now, better than good, but I keep crying. I think of him when my own preschooler drives me crazy. When she whispers love in my ear with hot little breaths. When she squeezes her arms around my neck so tight and plants wet kisses all over my face. When she practices a song in her class, where he is missed: “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”

When I lock eyes with her, she says, “I love you too, Mommy,” even though I haven’t said anything.

The breeze feels like life, beautiful and soft. And at the same time I am weeping for the pain it brings as it moves over my skin. I feel alive, and it hurts, and so I stand in my backyard and stare at the sky and let the tears come.

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Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way

I’ve read the book. Seen the movie—the old animated one—dozens of times. Was in the play as a middle-schooler when my school put it on.

The spider dies in the end. We all know this. Our beloved Charlotte saves her friend Wilbur, the pig whose days were numbered unless someone intervened.

And then her time is up.

As a child listening to my teacher read the story for the first time, as a 13-year-old acting it out, as a mom listening to my husband read the E.B. White classic aloud with the baby draped over one shoulder and our then 6-year-old on his lap, I got the sadness of Charlotte’s Web. 

That’s what it was—sad. Books about animals always are.

But then last week, that little girl who once curled up with her dad to listen to the tale became Charlotte in a (highly anticipated) 3rd-grade, 30-minute version.

I sat there perched on the second row of that little corner theatre, camera in one hand and phone in the other, and watched her intently.

And my heart broke all over the place, because as she spoke her last lines in her little voice and the lights dimmed, I—for the first time—fully wrapped my mind around what Charlotte had just done.

I finally got it.  Continue reading

Before we click Unfollow

I noticed earlier this week that at some point—I have no idea when—I must have accidentally hit the “Like” button for the Facebook page of a certain political figure as I scrolled through my newsfeed. When I discovered what I’d inadvertently done, I laughed because of who the figure was and how that blue thumbs-up might have been interpreted. (I’m not going to name the figure because it’s not relevant to this post.)

But then I started putting two and two together and I realized some people had likely unfollowed or blocked my posts as a result of that “Like.”

That was sobering. Suddenly my accidental click didn’t seem funny anymore.

Since the election, I’ve seen well-meaning, kind-hearted people posting instructions on how to block certain friends/pages from being visible in our newsfeeds when we don’t agree with the content they’re sharing. I’ll admit, I use this tool myself and will say that there are times when it is useful and even necessary. I block junk, fake news, posts with foul language, and over-sharers (sorry!), among other things. Sometimes I need to step back from a certain feed for a season, for the sake of my own heart. You likely have your reasons too, and I think that’s all ok. Too much is too much.

But I regret my own haste to “block” and “unfollow” people lately based on the sharing of views and opinions that don’t line up with my own. I am sorry for it. For someone who requires so much grace, I sure am stingy with it. 

I’m challenging myself, and I’ll encourage you, too: Don’t cut people out—of your newsfeed or your life—just because you have political or ideological differences. Don’t create a bubble for yourself that only includes likeminded folks. Take a deep breath, step back for a moment, and remember there’s a person on the other side of your screen—a human being, just as loved and cherished by God as you are. Let that sink in for a minute.

Let’s be better at acknowledging each other’s humanness and the fact that it’s not only good to have relationships with people with whom we disagree, it’s necessary.

I think we are all capable of more kindness, compassion, and empathy.

My first step was to take a peek at the people and pages I had hidden from my Facebook feed. From a computer, you can do this by hovering over the News Feed header in the left column. Click the gear that appears to the left of the words “News Feed” and then select “Edit Preferences.” A new window should pop up. Click on “Reconnect with people you unfollowed” and see who’s there. You might be surprised. (I was.) From there you have the option to re-follow people from your list.

As I looked at mine, I prayed for God to soften my heart toward friends with opposing views, and then I added some back into my bubble.

One step at a time.

Who’s with me? 

For an insightful analysis on this topic, I’d recommend this article.

Grace, Freedom, and the Rules

The unpredictability of a summer schedule with kids home from school and no routine to depend on left me feeling a little bit crazy one week over the summer, so I resolved to create consistency elsewhere. I somewhat randomly chose a passage of Scripture to dwell on every day for one week. The same passage, every day. No hopping around elsewhere in my Bible or pulling out a devotional—just reading my selected passage, thanking God for the words, and asking him to show me something new each day about himself and myself. These are the verses I selected:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. —John 1:16-17 

I frowned at the page after the first read, puzzled by the words despite their familiarity from years and years of church attendance and Bible studies. I’d heard that first sentence a lot. It’s pretty and flowy, and on its own, sounds like a nice place to sit and rest, you know? After all, it’s grace upon grace—not just grace, but more grace on top of that! Okay, great. But what do I do with that? I moved on to the next sentence and began to focus on the bigger story—the eternal perspective.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

God gave Moses the law to give to his people. It was rigid to say the least, and as we see in the Old Testament over and over and over again, the punishment for disregarding it was severe. Yet it was God’s grace in the form of rules to live by. It was a gift.

I think of one of those things parents love to say that kids loathe: “I’m doing this because I love you.” We want our children to stay safe from harm, so we establish rules; they have to eat their veggies, look both ways before crossing, and keep their seatbelts buckled. We’re not trying to make them miserable—we’re trying to keep them alive, for Pete’s sake.

God does this for us, too.

But there’s more. We also get Jesus. Grace upon grace. Another translation phrases it “grace in place of grace.” Jesus is God’s grace to us in the form of a person we can know and relate to, fulfillment of his promises, the One who stood in our place and took the punishment we deserved—death—so that we could truly live.

We have the Word, rules to live by. We have Christ, fulfilling the law and taking the punishment for the rule-breaking we will inevitably do—grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And we have the Holy Spirit to be with us always, intercede for us, and help us discern the hard places.

This was big for me to grasp, and in the moment understanding began to dawn on me, I reached over from where I’d been sitting in bed and shook my husband’s shoulder, startling him awake, because I needed to tell someone this thing that had never really clicked for me before. It’s gift upon gift upon gift—and as much as I like to convince myself I’ve somehow earned it by doing the right things, I couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t deserve any of it.

God’s rules and his grace work together. They don’t limit us. They set us free. 

This is a challenging concept for a girl who actually likes following the rules. (A lot.) So I’d like to take the month of October and look back at snapshots of my life each day, finding the places where those stories intersect with ideas about rules, grace, and freedom. It will probably be a little messy, which makes me uncomfortable. I might struggle some days to hit “publish” on work I know is unfinished and on thoughts I’m still processing. But I’m feeling expectant that this exercise will be a good one—both in writing and in better understanding God’s love.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

Who tells your story?

My sis and I made a slight detour to Savannah on our drive home from the Influence Conference last weekend to stretch our legs and soak up some history, wandering around the cemetery and various squares, reading plaques and admiring statues. We also listened to the Hamilton soundtrack in the car… for the second time that weekend. It was quite the educational road trip.

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If you’re not familiar with the musical Hamilton (I wasn’t before my sister introduced me this weekend, but you’re probably cooler than I am), it tells the complicated story of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton—set to R&B and hip-hop. It sounds a little crazy, and I was skeptical, not going to lie. But I was captivated from the first track, and for the next three hours got lost in the tale, the non-stop lyrics, the rhythm of it all. (I have to step into mom mode—or maybe just Rebekah mode—here for a sec and give you the PSA that this soundtrack does have some explicit lyrics and is labeled with a warning. If you know me personally, you know I can’t stand foul language. But I love musicals, and this show is phenomenal. Please don’t judge me. Thank you.) 

After listening to this production twice in two days, I haven’t been able to get one song in particular out of my head, and it’s the final number. The chorus repeats: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” It’s haunting and powerful.

Who tells your story? 

I’m in the midst of a season where this theme of storytelling feels like my pulse, repeating everywhere from the conference I just attended, to the ministry of Shama Women, to our current sermon series at church (it’s titled The Story—okay God, I’m listening), to, well, Hamilton (yes, God spoke to me through a Broadway musical).

IMG_7219Here’s the thought I can’t escape from, and it’s really all I wanted to say here right now, as much as I would love to keep talking Hamilton with you:

Our stories matter, whether they seem big and dramatic or small and insignificant. I’ve lived a good chunk of years thinking that no one wants or needs to hear about my life because it’s not exciting enough. That’s a lie. Don’t let the enemy tell you that your story isn’t interesting enough to make an impact. On the flip side, don’t let the enemy tell you that your story is too crazy or too much for people to handle, either! God is writing your story for you specifically, and nothing He does—and I mean nothing—is without purpose.

Your story is a gift to someone. It might be a gift to a lot of people. IMG_7214

I think I read that C.S. Lewis defined friendship as the moment when one person says to another, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” (I hope that’s a real quote and not just something someone stuck on a meme.) The point is, our stories show us we’re not alone, if we are willing to share them. They connect us to each other. They inspire and encourage. They teach. Most importantly, they point anyone who will listen (or read) back to the Author of them all, who deserves all the glory.

Will we be brave enough to share them?

Bikes, bruises, and growing up

At age 7 and a half—’cause we all know the halves are important—my daughter has learned to ride her bike training-wheel free.

It took three afternoons. Three long, are-we-doing-this-parenting-thing-right?, call-upon-the-name-of-Jesus afternoons.

I’m being a little dramatic, but then, so was she. I don’t know where she gets it from.

[Side note, I now know all about balance bikes. We missed the memo. That’s what second kids are for, right?] 

The process began rather abruptly with the announcement that she was ready for the training wheels to come off. Peer pressure might have had something to do with it, as most of her classmates and quite a few much younger friends have already passed this milestone. She’s been aware of this and has taken it in stride. For her, it wasn’t the time yet. She hadn’t been ready, and that was okay with her and okay with us.

We’ve learned to trust her instincts with things like this. When she received her first big-girl bike with training wheels for Christmas a few years ago, she lovingly ran her hands over its shiny pink surface. She was effusive in expressing her gratitude to Mom and Dad for the gift. She even sat on it for a minute so I could take a photo. But no no no, she was not ready to take it outside and put her feet to the pedals just yet.

So it sat, and we waited, and all the while she thought it over. And then one day, she hopped on and rode away, and that was that.

It was a huge learning moment for us as parents as we began to understand just a little bit more about how this girl worked and the intricacies of the traits God had woven into her personality.

We found ourselves back in the same boat again when a birthday passed, and then another, and she was no no no, not ready to take those training wheels off.

But three days ago, she decided it was time.

Day 1 was… well, I’m not going to talk about Day 1.

On Day 2, things were starting to come together—the pedaling, the steering—but boy was she quick to throw herself off the bike when she felt she was losing control. It became the routine: start to wobble, wail like a banshee, and leap off the beast bike and into the safety of the grass. This was simultaneously frustrating and entertaining. But we began to notice that despite the scrapes and bruises she was accumulating and the sweat, dirt, and tears of frustration running down her sweet face, she was not and I mean not going to stop. She was getting so close, but after a couple hours of this torture (for all of us), I had to set a timer to put an end to it and promised we’d be back at it the next day.

So, Day 3. She had a fierce gleam in her eye as she strapped on the purple princess helmet. She let me take a picture of her sitting on the bike. And then she kicked off and just rode away. For the next two hours I watched her wheel up and down the sidewalk in front of our home, turn around in the neighbors’ driveways, and swing back by again while I cheered, shot video, texted the grandparents to share the news, and breathed a massive sigh of relief.


Learning to ride a bike. I can’t remember what the process was like when I was the one wibbling and wobbling on two wheels for the first time. But if it was anything like this, well, bless my dear parents.

This morning we noticed she’d selected a pair of tall socks for school, which she had pulled up past her shins. I thought it was an odd selection (temps here are reaching the 80s already) and raised an eyebrow at my husband.

“She’s covering up the bruises,” he explained. She pulled down the socks to show me her shins.

Small blue and purple bruises marked paths up the fronts of both legs—wounds from all those collisions with her pedals while falling off the bike. I grimaced, but encouraged her that it was okay and she didn’t need to hide them. Her dad chimed in, telling her they were awesome battle scars and that made them cool.

She looked at us skeptically and hiked the socks back up.

We’ve been seeing the signs of a little girl who’s growing up. Lingering a little longer in the mirror when she brushes her hair. Getting embarrassed more easily. Writing a note to a boy: “You’re cute.” (My husband nearly died.) Showing concern over having the right thing to wear. Simultaneously wanting my arms around her at all times and wanting me to leave her alone.

But this, with the bruises. There is so much for us to learn, 7-year-olds and parents.

The bruises are ugly. Why would we want anyone to see them?

Because there is beauty in those wounds. There is a story.

What strength and determination my daughter discovered within herself in those moments as she struggled to conquer this thing she’d set out to do! But perhaps more significant, she recognized after time and time of falling—struggling alone through the frustration—that Mom and Dad were right there for her, calling out advice, ready to swoop in and scoop her back up, help her get back on track if she would only let us.

We fall; He offers us a hand and helps us to our feet. We brush ourselves off. He sets us back on the path and we try, try again. When we finally overcome it, whatever challenge we face, we take with us those black and blue reminders of the struggle. But we also walk away with a story to tell—a beautiful, grace-filled story.

Don’t be ashamed that you fell down, baby girl. Show your bruises and tell your story, and know your mama is trying her best to do the same.

When your kid is a free spirit, and you are… not

Sometimes my daughter bounces out of her bedroom dressed and ready to head out the door and I cringe. Maybe “sometimes” is too generous. Maybe it’s every time she’s not in a school uniform and has the chance to dress herself.

The odd color choices. The patterns screaming at each other. Mismatched socks with shoes that don’t go. A sensible hair clip and a giant flower headband. The jewelry and purse. A sparkly belt with hearts on it to top it all off.

My husband exclaims, “You look wonderful! Let’s go!” and then he senses my hesitation and we have an eyeball conversation.

“Tell her she looks nice,” his eyes say.

“But… but… none of it goes together!” my eyes reply.

“Just. Do. It,” his eyes say back firmly.

Sometimes I inhale, exhale, and do the thing that is good for my kid: let her be wild and free. (She’s worn a tutu to Home Depot a time or two.)

But more often than I like to admit, I gently persuade her to swap out something from her ensemble to tone it down a bit.

I always regret it.

In 5th grade, there was a girl in my class who I thought was The. Coolest. She had (what I viewed at the time as) a daring, short, crimpy haircut with the part way over to one side, and she didn’t wear the department-store kids’ clothes, side ponytails, and coordinating scrunchies that I wore. In fact, nothing she wore matched—t-shirts with writing on them and patterned shorts, crazy neon socks with dirty sneakers. I secretly admired her bravery. She carried herself like she did not care one bit what she was wearing.

So I begged my mom to let me wear mismatched clothes to school—not on Tacky Tourist day, either—and one day she let me. The hilarity of it is how much time I spent trying to put together an outfit in which I could look like I didn’t care what I was wearing. (I’m laughing while slightly ashamed because I think I did this very thing last weekend.)

I let Mom go back to laying out my clothes for me after that.

Turns out I just like matching, okay? 

My sweet and spunky daughter did not inherit my affinity for things that go together, so I find myself enrolled in the School of Parenting a Free Spirit. I’m trying hard to be a good student here. I’ve flunked a few pop quizzes on Letting Her Dress Herself (Within Reason), but I think I passed the Decorating Her Own Bedroom exam. And that one was a doozy.

Last summer, we let her pick a color and repainted her room, which I had worked hard to get to Pottery Barn standards when she was a toddler. (Well. Close enough.) She chose cotton candy pink. (I talked her down from red, because I felt she’d find that to be a mistake later. Within reason, right?) The bedding we agreed on, along with the new dresser (age 7 and she still had a changing table in her room, sorry kiddo). Okay! This room was really starting to come together!

But then that pink paint dried and the girl had vision for what she wanted on those pristine walls: Farm animal art from her nursery and all the photos and her favorite posters and a canvas TOMS flag that came in a shoebox and the Disney princess decals and the papier-mâché globe she made at school and a piece of construction paper with random stickers on it and the Hello Kitty clock and the paper flowers she made with one of her grandmas.

It looked like Rainbow Dash and Princess Sofia went into the interior design business and she was their first client.

This room is not exactly Instagrammable. It is not going to show up on Pinterest as some mom’s inspiration for a dreamy, light, bright children’s room. It actually kind of hurts my eyes sometimes. But here’s the thing—who cares? It is her space, and she loves it. She thrives in all of its pink-ness with all of her favorite things scattered around.

My room was a little chaotic-looking when I was a kid, too—my mom gave us free reign and let’s just say I went through a lot of Scotch tape over the years. But as an adult, how I struggle with the desire for things to be just so! Something urges me to step in and fix, pretty-up, instruct, gently (or not so gently) persuade my child to do something the way I would do it.

The voice in my head says to her, What if you drew a purple flower instead of a black heart on that birthday card? How about if we just put this special paper in the drawer to keep it safe instead of taping it to your wall? Do you really need the sparkly belt today? 

I am learning to tell that voice to hush up.

She is creative and inventive. She likes clashing patterns and things that sparkle. So what? Let her do her thing. Let her make messes. Let her be playful. Let her embrace the unique qualities God wove into her being.

She and I are different in many ways, but we’re not opposites. I often catch glimpses of my childhood self in her, bits of my personality and quirks that have trickled through. (Sorry baby girl.) Sometimes I just know exactly what she’s thinking and why she’s thinking it, because Oh sweet pea, me too. I know. Other times I feel completely mystified and can turn nowhere else but to God’s Word for help parenting this little person He’s entrusted to my care.

Where else would I turn? He has hemmed her in, before and behind. He knows her; He is the author of her story.

God is good that way, isn’t He? The things I’ve learned from mothering… Well, the list is long already, and with little sister coming up five years behind, it’s going to get longer. I may be raising these girls, but I’m the one doing the growing up around here.


Sunday mornings and saying sorry

Sunday morning Rebekah is the worst.

Just ask my family. I’ve given them permission to speak freely.

What is it about Sunday mornings?




WHY IS THERE NO MORE COFFEE? [Weeping and gnashing of teeth]


On Sunday mornings, I turn into the worst version of myself, Mom Who Yells A Lot. And then in the car (at 9:52, still a good 20 minutes from church, which starts at 10), after I’ve sat and stewed in frustration for a few minutes and tried to work out how it’s everyone else’s fault I didn’t get up when my alarm went off and couldn’t find the right shoes and let my giant mug of delicious, perfectly blended coffee go cold on the kitchen counter… I apologize.

I apologize to my husband—not in a whisper so the kids can’t hear, but loudly enough that they can hear, because they should.

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?”

And then I do something even wilder. I turn to the backseat and look into the eyes of my daughter who is pretending not to listen to the grown-up talk up front. (Oh they are always listening. Just count on it.)

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?”

Yes, I am my children’s mother, but they need to know that I am also a sinner.

I am an authority figure in their lives whom they should respect, yes. But even in my role as Mama, I am not some pillar of unattainable perfection. I am a sinner, I fall short, I make mistakes—just like they do. I’m not exempt from having to say sorry just because I am big and they are small. They are humans. Little humans, but still. God made them in His image. And sometimes they deserve an apology too.

I'm not exempt from having to say sorry just because I am big and they are small.

We all mess up sometimes, even Mom and Dad.

This wonderful thing happens when I get on my daughter’s level and earnestly seek her forgiveness. Her response is usually quiet but certain: “I forgive you, Mama.” And then it’s the good stuff—hugging and talking to my kid about how we all need Jesus and how He uses us even when we think we’ve messed everything up. It’s truth she needs to hear with her little ears and witness with her own eyes. It’s truth I need to hear and see from those I admire as well.

Parents, your littles admire you. They do. They love you and want to be just like you. How incredible an opportunity we’ve been given to model grace in imperfection. Let’s show our kids that this is how we live: We make mistakes, we are grieved by them, and we make it right. We extend apologies, we ask for forgiveness, we offer forgiveness, we live out reconciliation in front of them. We hug it out.

Next Sunday, I will call upon the name of Jesus for help and try not to yell at the people I love.

But if I do, I will say I’m sorry.