Family · Gifts · Motherhood · Real Christianity · Uncategorized

A Mother of Promise

gift from lordA couple of years ago, I felt the compression of too much mommying on my shoulders and realized that I didn’t have much of a plan for my days. I realized I was surviving and not thriving. I realized that we can go through hard seasons, but we don’t have to get stuck in the muck of “gotta get through this day.”

To borrow a verse from one of my favorite songs by Tonic – “I wanted more. More than I was giving. More than was handling. More than I was bearing. More than I was offering.” This chorus closes with “For a love that isn’t there.”

A Mother of Promise Cleans the Lens

The love was there, but it was just covered up by a lot of scattered needs, toys, frustrations, emotions, unmet expectations and heart clutter.

I didn’t have a good grasp on how to be the best of me for my kids or my husband. So, I did something that helps me think and helps me focus.

I made a list of the needs of each person in my immediate family. I spent some time in prayer over how I could deliver the best of me to my promises. It was such a simple exercise, but it was powerful. When you understand what’s expected of you, you can more forward in focus and grow.

I had a lot of ideas of how I wanted to do things, but not a lot of focus on those core needs..png

Sally Clarkson calls the way we approach our people our “grid” or “filter.” I discovered through this exercise that my grid was a little dirty. I had a lot of ideas of how I wanted to do things, but not a lot of focus on those core needs.

For instance, my son needs A LOT of connection with me to feel secure. I love holding my children. I love to read to them and talk to them, but this one stretches me beyond my limits of connection.

I get a bit “touched out” with the constant need to be held. So, I’ve approached this two ways – by getting frustrated with him and making him more insecure and through being proactive and intentional and gentle with limits.

Which approach do you think works best? Proactive and intentional always win him over. I’m just not always that patient. So, I have to go back to the promise he is in my life.

Prayers and Promises Help Us Skirt the Pit

I really do have to go back and look at baby pictures and remember that my son’s presence in my life is a part of the blessing of healing.

God doesn’t want to just give us our blessings; he wants us to use our blessings for good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I can influence a young man to stand firm on the promise of his eternal life or I can get frustrated with his constant whining and yell at him and open the entrance to the pit of insecurity, anxiety, overwhelm. Man Cub is a lot like me. These snares can get him by the throat. And they can spend a day for us. A day that’s anything but promising.

Or I can show him the way out of the pit for good. I can be a woman who stands on the promise Elihu gave to Job when he approached him about the problem of “pit living.”

“Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them—let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’” Job 33:23-28

I can be a living, breathing mother of promise to show my son (and the rest of my people and others I encounter) how prayer changes everything. I can help them skirt the pit and get out of it when they stumble.

mother of promise son.png

Psalm 40 seems so fitting to the relationship I have with my son’s promise:

I waited patiently for the Lord and he turned to me and heard my cry. It was almost a year between my miscarriage and the news of Man Cub. 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. I was lost and didn’t feel much like praying during that dark time, but I did it anyway.

I spent a lot of time in that pit questioning my marriage, my worth and my faith. But I know those prayers and looking for the promises are what got me out of that pit. The firm place to stand was my purpose – to love my husband and my first child and to hope for more to love. His mercy is true.

firm place

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Depending on the Lord for my light gave me strength and a heart turned toward gratitude and he gave me a great blessing in my son.

Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. That’s what I hope my children will see in me.

He was someone I asked for and when I go before that throne one day, I have to answer for what I did with that promise.

That’s why I want to be a mother of promise. I want to be a woman of my word.

My prayer with this post is that you are encouraged to walk in the light of Jesus and promise your children bring into your life.

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When I Feel Taken For Granted

thank youSo, I took a day off yesterday. Cleaning, cooking, making decisions and basically everything other than feeding the kids and changing their diapers.

Little One decided it was a good day for extra diapers. She must of sniffed something amiss with the mommy vibe.

The result of that day off? A grumpy mom. A grumpy wife. A grumpy me this morning.

Hubby had to go to work. I saw this as an intrusion on our weekend. His presence isn’t necessary, but I like for Saturday to be our day. But sometimes work calls.

And I wasn’t very nice about it. Continue reading “When I Feel Taken For Granted”

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10 Years a Wife – Defining Moments

weddingpicIt’s May 28, 2015. Ten years later. I’ve been married for a decade. No matter which way I write it, that statement has the gravity of joy, pain, love and life wrapped up in a future I didn’t expect.

I’ve said many times that I didn’t marry the guy I expected to marry. He’s not anything I dreamed of, but he’s exactly what I needed.

I know he was hand picked to be my husband. I know he was the answer to the vague prayer I poured out to God so many times in the six months before I met my best friend.

Ten years sounded like a lifetime when I was 24 and about to march down that aisle without the pedicure I wanted. It’s what actors get paid millions to complain about in C-rated romantic comedies.

But it happened just like that – 10 years a wife.

I’ve got a few complaints (the hanger on the bed, ahem), but these are honestly the best and worst 10 years of my life. But what’s important is that we did these 10 years together. Side-by-side. Through pain. Through bliss.

Through it all. 

We have way more than we can imagine ahead, but going through life with this man for the past decade has taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be. In celebration of being Mrs. J. Warren Brandon for 10 years, I’d like to share what I think are 10 defining moments of our life together.

Happy Anniversary, Curly! I love you more than cookie dough ice cream with chocolate syrup sprinkled with salt.

1. You can’t just go home after you get married. 

I remember walking back through the door to our little dump of a house after our honeymoon in North Carolina and thinking, “This is it. I can’t get mad and leave. This is permanent.”

I was overwhelmed with joy to be his wife. But I was scared as hell at the finality of marriage. I knew divorce was an option, but as I learned in the next defining moment…

2. Divorce is not something you threaten. 

I think it was our second year or so, and I got mad. Really mad. I think it was our first really big married fight. I let those dangerous words slip, “Fine. Then I want a divorce.”

He looked at me with a look that could’ve burned a hole in the wall and said, “Don’t say it unless you mean it.”

Ahem. Empty threats don’t work on this guy. Noted.

The hurt in his voice at those careless words etched my heart and taught me a valuable lesson in loving someone. My words matter.

3. You never really know someone until you see them lose. 

Oh, I wanted to gather him up in my arms and just cry together. But our sweet little nephew needed someone to watch over him as he and his family said goodbye.

Warren lost his dad in our third year of marriage. It was sudden and completely unexpected.

And his handling of it was completely unexpected on my part.

I experienced the pain of death at a very young age. It was like an ax on my life. It hardened me. It made me want to run and hide.

But not this guy. He made his peace with it that day. He said goodbye and celebrated. Really celebrated his dad.

He also gave his dad’s eulogy. And in that magnetic way he has, he brought the house down.

He doesn’t remember a word of it, but everyone in that room remembers seeing his heart for the man who taught him to be a man shine brightly that day.

Warren shines in adversity. I want to be more like him when I grow up.

4. We don’t always get what we want first.

I became a praying wife after Warren lost his dad. I’d always prayed when things got hard or when I was in a good place spiritually. But I wasn’t dedicated to praying for my marriage.

Those next two years were big for us. We developed real plans for our lives together. Yes, we have one life together, but Warren and I work because we have separate lives. We are very different people and it took me a long time to realize how different we are.

It took takes a lot of prayer to keep me focused on the needs of two very different people choosing to share a lifetime.

The biggest lesson God taught me in our first five years was that His plan for us is better than my plan for us. He also taught me how much of a planner I actually am. I like to know what’s next. But I like to dream.

And my big dream was to be a writer at home raising kids.

However, our finances didn’t add up to writer at home with kids just then. It added up to Warren getting his chance to fail and succeed first.

Warren and I both don’t do well in the boundaries of a job or an institution. We’re capable of following the rules and working really hard to be successful in our jobs. But we don’t like the confines of working in an office or a van.

We both caught the allure of self-employment early in our lives. We both wanted to build something great. But Warren needed to go first.

He needed refining. He needed to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. And my role was to pray for him and support him through it.

This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Giving up my pride and letting him walk before me humbled me and gave me a glimpse at my greater purpose in this life.

I was to be his prayer warrior. That’s a huge honor. And a role I’m so happy to play.

5. I now like surprises. 

One question Warren asks me on a regular basis is, “Does that surprise you?” It’s usually in response to my comments on a situation. I like to talk through my interactions with others. And he’s a good sounding board.

The answer to his question is almost always, “No.”

But he’s always surprising me with his patience and with his perspective.

I don’t really like not knowing what’s going on, but I’ll take the surprise of not knowing how he’s going to react. It’s refreshing to share life with someone and still be surprised 10 years later.

6. There is no joy that describes becoming three.

We planned our first baby. But nothing. And I mean nothing went according to plan with this girl from the moment she arrived. She rocked my world and took her daddy’s heart hostage. She’s intense and beautiful and one of a kind.

Seeing him belly laugh at some of her antics makes me fall in love with him all over again.

Seeing him weep as she arrived in that hospital room was the most profound moment of love I’ve had with this guy. He was beside himself with joy. And it was beautiful.

7. Nothing matters except us. 

I’m using a loose chronology here, but in our fifth year, things got really tough. We were both on our own. My business was still very new. His was fading fast.

We were barely putting food on the table and gas in the car. We lost a baby. We had to pay for a big surgery. We were at rock bottom.

And through all the fear and tears, he always saw it. Nothing matters except for us. No one could take that away. It was the three of us and as long as we’re together, we’ll make it.

8. Ashes really do lead to beauty. 

When things got so tough, I started reading the book of Philippians. Chapter 2 has a very short prayer that I started praying over my marriage:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Not long after I started praying this through the storm, an old man asked me if Warren did roofs. He’s been roofing and remodeling ever since. And I’ve never seen him happier.

I also got my dream – to be a mommy. I get to teach our kids. I get to go see my friends. I get to spend hours in the kitchen. I get to do what I want because we are like-minded and focused on loving each other where we both fit.

That beauty rose from the ashes of us giving ourselves completely over to His plan.

9. It’s a boy with curls.

Oh, sweet Logan Douglas. We thought we were the best parents in the universe.

Then, we met Man Cub.

This kid is so opposite of what we know and so peculiar.

He’s obsessed with closure. He’s incredibly stubborn. He’s incredibly tough. And he’s incredibly perfect in our little family.

I once told Warren that I only married him because I wanted a little boy with curls.

I can’t leave because it often takes the two of us to handle this tiny handful.

10. Another one!

There was no way I could be pregnant. Well, I was wrong. I was shocked. And we got the best little surprise of our lives. Anna Cat is nearly 10 months old and the chunkiest, happiest baby. She’s a perfect addition to a decade of love.

And maybe one day she’ll like her daddy.

Until then, I think he’ll do just fine for me.

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A Letter to My New Daughter

I wrote this at 4 a.m. last Saturday morning while I was alone for what may be the last time for a long time. I’m not complaining though. These three children are the best gifts a woman can have.

Dear Little One,
I’m sitting here in the dark listening to your heartbeat strong and clear. The contractions are getting stronger – a sign that you are making your way to meet your mom and dad.

I was so shocked to know you were going to be joining our family back in December. I actually lived in denial for about 6 weeks. It just didn’t seem real to have two babies in a year.

You’ve been my easiest pregnancy. No issues and you even decided to come on your own. I don’t know what that says about the days, months and years ahead.

But I do know a few things.

You brought my attention to God’s calling on my life. I stopped what I thought was my dream to be yours and your sister and brother’s mom fully.

I’m so thankful that you were the gift that I didn’t know I needed. Who knew flooding the Nile or hearing your sister read The Very Hungry Caterpillar or your brother give me the sign for more yogurt would make me pause in moments of pure joy.

You are joining a family that’s full of fun and love and a huge dose of God’s grace. He didn’t give you the perfect mom or dad, but he gave you the right ones.

You are loved and you will laugh until you cry. You will be amongst siblings with the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. Your daddy will dote on you. Your mommy will nurture and teach you. Your sister will adore you and dress you up and teach you to dance. Your brother will be your best friend after he realizes you aren’t leaving us. 

You have the most devoted grandparents, great grandparents, and a ton of aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends and a huge church family to welcome you. To pray for you. To love you. 

You are blessed Little One. You are loved. You are ours. Welcome to our family.

 

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Why My Daughter Needs to Know She Is a Treasure

my beautiful girl
Our first real treasure on this Earth.

A few things led to this post today: a post from a dad to his daughter that she needs to know she is beautiful because she is who God made her to be, a conversation I had with my little girl this morning and a soon-to-be addition to our family.

One of my favorite bloggers – Matt Walsh – posted a letter to his toddler daughter about how he hopes she never buys into the “not good enough” message that is screamed at all of us, but especially our girls today. I can tell you the “not good enough” message was one that wounded my heart more than anything from the day I turned six years old. It’s also the reason I started this blog. It’s a message I want to fight to the death for my girls. 

At six, I asked my mom to help me get blond hair and blue eyes because my “supposed” BFF had them. There wasn’t much she could do about the eyes, but I do remember her talking to a stylist about dyeing my hair blond. I think we settled on a body wave (not a good idea for a girl with already voluminous hair), but Mom’s heart was in the right place. 

Something I wish I had understood at that age was that the opinion of others wasn’t the one we should seek. My mom is a people pleaser, and so am I. It’s a gift, but it’s also a weakness. My mom and my dad tried their hardest to overcome that weakness with positive reinforcement, but they couldn’t always compete with the lies we girls believe about ourselves. 

As Matt says in his letter to his little girl, “Many of us want to be desirable to everyone, even and especially those we don’t know. We want them to feel something when they look our way.”

I really don’t want that attitude for my two girls, but I see the seeds starting to grow in my first – the self-awareness that eats a girl up. 

Just this morning, my sweet girl asked me jovially if I liked her hair, her hands, her hips, her feet, her clam claws, her muscles. She was being silly, but I can see these connections forming in her mind. The seeking approval.

She is always fawning over her daddy to get his reinforcement. And he does a beautiful job of it. He’s very aware that she needs his approval and his attention in a way I can’t provide. 

Finally, I’ve noticed a few things about my two kids this week that are absolutely a result of our upcoming family addition. They both want to cling to me.

RL wants to go back to baby days and be held and snuggled to sleep. Logan just wants to be a baby. He is a baby, but he’s torn between the decision to be a toddler and a lap baby.

It’s hard on them, but I’ll tell you it’s hard on my heart.

I can see the joy of them growing up together. I can see the love they will have for each other in the coming years. I can see the future.

They don’t have the cognitive ability to see it yet. They don’t have the wisdom and the belief that they are unique and loved for whom they are stored in their hearts. 

It’s taking everything in my tired, bloated pregnant being to be kind and gentle with them. What I really want to do is snap at them and tell them to grow up. But that will continue to help them feed into the insecurities they both feel about not knowing the future and how a new baby will make them feel. 

So, I’m holding my tongue (as much as possible) and loving on them and guiding them toward independence and acceptance of their new life with their new sister. 

The boy I’m not too worried about. He won’t remember most of this time. But for our girl, I’m being deliberate about letting her know what a treasure she is to us, to those around her and to God.

Here’s a little story I wrote for her about a year ago; one that I hope to add to in the days and months to come. 

Once upon a time, there was a mother and a father who wanted a baby. So they prayed to God to give them a child.

God answered because he is good. One February, the mother found out she would be a mommy for the first time. It was a dream come true for this mommy.

She had ideas for the little baby’s room, what she would teach him or her, what she would name him or her.

She dreamed about the child’s smile. The child’s laugh.

Would the baby have blue eyes like her daddy? Or brown eyes like her mommy? Would the baby’s hair be curly? Would the baby have golden locks like the little girl in the story of the three bears?

One warm May afternoon, they visited the doctor to find out whether the baby was a girl or a boy. Within seconds, they saw that they were going to have a princess. A beautiful, perfect princess.

Even though the girl’s family was not of royal blood on this Earth, they will one day be a royal family in God’s kingdom.

Just a few weeks later, the mommy and daddy had a great loss in their life. The daddy’s father passed away. Very suddenly. It was sad and the mommy had a hard time being happy. When she saw the daddy hurting over his father’s death, it made her hurt to her core.

But she couldn’t be sad for long. The day her little princess would be born was fast approaching. And it comforted her that her grandfather knew her name.

Her name was Reagan Leigh. While the mommy and daddy didn’t know God chose the little girl’s name, he did. He wrote the name in the book of her life before she was born.

In his book on how to be a prince or princess in his Kingdom, he says, “All the days ordained for me were written before one of them came to be.”

That includes her name. He named her Reagan – which means regal. That’s a fancy word for royal. And her middle name, Leigh, was an addition insisted on by her mommy.

It’s a beautiful name and given to her as a gift. You see, Reagan Leigh’s mommy received the same gift from her mommy – a name from the person she was closest to as a girl – her sister.

Her mommy’s second name – Carol – means champion. She uses that gift to champion others. Championing others means that you cheer them on. You go forward to fight for them. This girl’s mommy fought every day for her children and family to be the royal family God called them to be.

Mommies treasure their sisters because they are God’s gift to his princesses. Sisters stand up for you. They protect you and they love you more than you will ever know.

And aunts with nieces named after them have a special affection and honor when their name is passed on. They are there to love and protect and pray for that little princess.

Your second name – Leigh. It means healer.

More times than I can count, your namesake – Kristen Leigh – helped the little girl’s mommy heal. She held her hand and was there when it seemed no one else in the world seemed to care. She is someone your mommy can share a secret with and someone who prayed for her and walks with her in this broken world. She’s someone you want to sit by in God’s kingdom.

She was a healer. And the little girl was also given that gift. He chose Reagan Leigh to be a healer to many, many people.

You have a very special job as His princess. Your kind words. Your beautiful smile. Your big personality. All of these pieces of you make you a special, special princess.

As soon as you were born, your mommy and daddy had a first taste of what eternity in God’s kingdom will be like. When your daddy held you, he said, “She’s so sweet.”

And that you are our healing princess. You were given to us at a time when life was broken. We were sad and lost. And you brought us into God’s glory.

You were an answered prayer. A promise that love is the greatest treasure anyone can ever know.

And your heart is full of God’s love. You must remember that.

Your charge as his princess is to go out and bring more people that promise.

How do you do that?

You smile and talk to everyone you meet. You sit next to the crying girl. You help your baby brother giggle when he’s sad. You hug your grandparents like you’ll never see them again. You draw and write your famous cards for those who need a little encouragement or remembrance. You thank God every day that he has put you in his story, right here, right now.

And when the tough times come, please remember that you are God’s princess. He made you just like he wanted you.

He made you strong like your daddy. Caring like your mommy. Funny and full of wonder like your grandfather. But most of all, he made you – you.

A princess. A royal healer sent to Earth to heal people with kindness, love and laughter.