What is Motherhood?

Motherhood is not getting much sleep at night.

It is regularly cleaning up pee, poop, or milk.

It is becoming a child all over again.

After Asa was born, I had about 20 stitches to fix some tearing. Those 20 stitches reminded me of what it feels like to be helpless and vulnerable. They reminded me what it means to have childlike faith in someone. I couldn’t get up off the couch or out of bed without Landon’s help those first few days. I couldn’t dry off my legs for myself. I couldn’t feed myself because I was so tired. I was completely dependent on other people for help.

With that helplessness comes a need for childlike faith. I had to believe that my husband, my mom, and Landon’s mom would help me in the midst of my exhaustion. As Asa is completely dependent on me, I was completely dependent on others. The hardest part of labor for me was not the vulnerability of giving birth but the vulnerability of relying on others.

It is so scary to rely on others. Eventually, they let you down. I don’t say that because anyone has let me down in the last few weeks but because I know I have let so many people down in the past. I know I will let people down in the future, too. Trusting another person is a very vulnerable act that we all have to do if we are to live well with others.

I am a helpless child. I am a helpless child, and I am responsible for my own helpless child. I have never felt that responsibility more strongly than here in motherhood. Motherhood has caused me to cry out to God for help more desperately than ever before, especially while I was in the pain of healing from stitches. Without strength from the Lord, I wouldn’t be able to wake up in the middle of the night to nurse Asa, burp him, and change his diaper. Without strength from Him, I couldn’t get up in the morning and start my day. Once I’m up, I am awake, by the grace of God.

_mg_5216

Motherhood is about humility. Motherhood is about recognizing my weaknesses, my pride, and my inability to do everything on my own. There’s no way I could function on my own. I have to remind myself of that. Rather, motherhood regularly reminds me of that when I begin to forget.

As a helpless child, I needed Landon to change Asa’s diapers in the middle of the night since I couldn’t get out of bed for myself. I needed my mom to help me with chores and Asa just so I could relax enough to take a nap. I needed Landon’s mom to pick up groceries and cuddle Asa so that I could breathe. I needed our church small group to bring us meals. I needed God to strengthen me when I was exhausted and in pain.

I still need Him. Every hour of every day. I need Him to give me childlike faith. I need Him to give me the strength to trust other people and be vulnerable with them.

Motherhood is learning to be a child again and believing the best of everyone.

Motherhood is completely worth it.

Advent: What It Feels Like to Wait for a Baby (And Comfort for Those Still Waiting)

I wrote this blog post on November 29th, but I want to share with you these honest thoughts and feelings I had before Asa was born on December 2nd, 2016. May the Lord use them to encourage and comfort.

In a world full of darkness and fear, I am learning to hope. I am learning to trust.

Nine months of pregnancy all began with a scare. Just 10 days after Landon and I discovered that we would be parents, we lost that joy. For four and a half days, we grieved and mourned the loss of our blueberry-sized baby. I sank into sadness and depression and apathy with one whole month of the school semester left. Emotionally, I did not have the strength to focus on academics in the midst of such sadness.

Spiritually, too, I was drained. We were not yet planning to start our family, and I was supposed to graduate with my undergraduate degree December 2016. A baby due in November 2016 would be a lot to handle with just one month left of school. However, we began to look forward to meeting our little “Blueberry.” When we thought we lost him, I didn’t understand why God would prepare us to receive such a precious gift only to snatch it away. I didn’t understand what He was doing.

Then I saw a doctor. Our Blueberry was okay… His heart was still beating… His light was still shining…

And I had a big choice to make: I could cling so tightly to this gift, terrified to let go lest I lose it again, or I could trust that the Lord’s plan was good and perfect and beautiful, whatever it held in store for us.

As Mary did when she sat at Jesus’ feet, ignoring Martha’s nagging to stress over the details of a meal, I believe I have chosen the better portion. I have taken my fear of loss and laid it at Jesus’ feet. I have chosen rest for my soul despite the possibility of hurt. Trust can be so scary if you don’t have Someone trustworthy to rely on.

Sometimes, my heart is tempted to stray away from trust. It is tempted to clutch tightly to the gift Landon and I are waiting for, despite God’s tender call to release my grip. At times, I tremble at the possibility of our little boy’s heart giving out so late in my pregnancy and feeling no more baby kicks. No more kneading on my bladder when our baby needs more room in my womb. No more.

Occasionally, I must talk myself down from a ledge of fear. The fear that I will fail. The fear that something tragic will happen to my child. The fear that my son’s heartbeat will stop and mine will have to continue on without his. These are just a few fears mothers experience.

That fear is a reality for so many parents. A worst fear realized.

“No parent should have to bury their child.”

Yet it happens in our world of darkness and despair. I will never stop wishing that this would change.

Sometimes, my heart is tempted to feel guilty that I thought I lost my tiny baby and didn’t. Sometimes, I don’t share my story for fear I will awaken painful memories in another woman’s heart and incite bitterness in her soul.

I don’t want my guilt to crowd out gratitude. It is not my merit that preserved Asa’s life thus far. It is God’s mercy. A mercy I do not understand. A mercy I wish would touch each broken woman of our world.

In a way, it does. Somehow.

That little baby we have all been waiting for… He came. He is the One we wait for each Advent as we celebrate His first coming and anticipate His return. Then, 2,000 years ago, the Father endured the death of His Son so that we might have life and joy and hope.

stained-glass-nativity-1185056-1600x1200

That is a hope and joy that will never be snatched away from the broken heart of the believing woman. The darkness cannot extinguish the Light of the Gospel.

My prayer for this season for those who have lost hope is that you will open your heart to healing and joy. I have had a taste of your pain. The teensiest, tiniest taste. And I mourn with you. I pray for you. My heart grieves with yours. May the Great Physician heal you and the Holy Spirit comfort you as you enter this season of waiting and wishing and anticipating.

Good morning!

ON NOW

You may ask why it is a good morning. I could give you the Gandalf spiel about mornings, but I will refrain.

I am awake. As I turn my head, the grace of God is far too great to count. I can begin to list all of God’s little showings of grace to me, but it would take all day.

As I have looked at this year with anticipation and joy and thankfulness, I also see discontent creeping in. It is the easiest thing to make New Year’s Resolutions, and it seems somehow even easier to break them. When 2016 rolled in, I didn’t make any hard and fast resolutions. However, I did make a small list of areas in which I want to grow. One of those areas is discipline.

Gross. Discipline. The dreaded word. It means you can’t do anything fun, right?

Totally wrong!

By exhibiting discipline in my homework and responsibilities, I have better time to do what I really want to do.

My dad always told me that I would be better off if I did my work before I did anything pleasurable, and he was right. He still is right.

Procrastination often leaves me feeling discontent. I put of my work for so long, but once I start it, I realize that it isn’t so bad after all. “If I had only done my homework first, then I would actually have to time to [blog, paint, write letters, read, bake, spend time with friends].

I don’t want to label myself as a procrastinator.

I want to know myself as someone who works hard and rests well. I want to say, at the end of the day, that I enjoyed the responsibilities and beautiful moments.

As I go through this year, I think the content of my blog will change a little bit. Not drastically. But I want to blog about the various things in which I find the joy of God. That means attempting to keep plants alive and being a giddy school kid when they bloom, and painting little pictures for people to brighten a letter.

And that means recognizing the grace of God in the little things. That means being disciplined in order to have time to look around me and appreciate the little things.

Sometimes, when I am on Pinterest or Facebook, I wish I had another’s life and beautiful moments. But more than that, I want my own beautiful moments. I wouldn’t trade my way of life for someone else’s. I just need to recognize the absolutely beautiful moments of my life by logging out of Facebook or closing Pinterest.

I have a beautiful life because Christ has redeemed me, and He has brought me before His throne and into His presence. He has blessed me by giving me a husband that encourages and challenges me towards Jesus. He has given me two families that serve the Lord and each other in beautiful ways. I have a beautiful life.

I will pause to see the beautiful moments.

 

Nothing Satisfies My Soul

For days, or really for years, I have been looking in all of the wrong places for something to satisfy my soul.

People. Social media. Acceptance. Hulu. Books. Talent.

Sin.

I just want that instant satisfaction.

Sin.

There are practices that the church is quick to condemn as sinful. But there are also practices we fail to recognize as sinful.

John Piper, in a Desiring God blog post, touches on how social media and electronics can be unhealthy, particularly if we begin our day with them. (To read his post titled “Six Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning,” click here.)

I wrestle with what to do first in the morning: have my quiet time or check Facebook? Have my quiet time or get ready for the day? And at some point the question becomes: check Facebook or get ready?

At some point, I remove time with the Lord from the equation. Anything can remove Jesus from the equation on a given morning – desire for more sleep, hunger, homework, procrastination, friends. Those aren’t bad things. (Okay, procrastination usually isn’t a good thing.) Nothing satisfies my soul. These things don’t address the longing in my heart for something deep and precious. It takes a lot of self-discipline and self-control to tear myself away from the world that I can see and touch and hear to spend time in the Word of God.

But my strength isn’t enough. It takes the grace of God to enable me to do what I need to do. Am I listening to Him?

If I never stop long enough to read His Work, to pray, to talk about the grace of God with other people, I cannot hear Him. My flesh and the Spirit of God do battle on a daily basis. How will I begin my day? How do I go about my day? How do I end it? I so often waste my time with what has no eternal value, and it frustrates me!

I love Piper’s quote that appears at the end of his article. He says this:

“I feel like I have to get saved every morning. I wake  up and the devil is sitting on my face.”

Every day is a battle. Each morning, what will I choose? I don’t always get it right. So often I put off my quiet time for the sake of homework or sleep or physical appearance (aka: not looking like a bum). But those things do not set my heart in the right place.; they don’t foster an eternal perspective. May the decisions I make bring honor to my Father in heaven. May the mystery and the power of the Word of God capture my heart. May the Gospel of Christ never lose its novelty in light of my sin. May the Holy Spirit use each morning to make me more like the Son who has risen once and for all for my sake. May I be satisfied in the holiness of the Lord who has poured out His life for me.

Hi, My Name Is Martha.

Well, my name is obviously not Martha. It is Emily. It has been for almost 21 years now.

But I know so often I act like a Martha. How does a Martha act? Well, how did this particular Martha act?

Jesus came to the house of Mary and Martha, two sister, and while one did all the work, the other sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his teaching. The impression is that Martha did the wrong thing by not sitting at the feet of Jesus.

While that is so true, there is another good point about what she was doing and why it wasn’t good for her.

Jesus, the Messiah of the world, was sitting in her home, and she was distracted.

Luke 10 says this in the ESV:

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (10:40-42).

She was distracted, and because she was so, she was anxious and troubled.

By taking her eyes off of Jesus, Martha experienced the stress and frustration that comes with this fallen world. She grew worried when she needed peace. She grew tired when she needed rest. Jesus was offering these things to her, but she missed it.

Martha overlooked the gift Jesus was holding out to her in His own hands.

Oh, how often do I miss what Jesus has placed right in front of me! The Lord repeatedly gives me growing friendships, academic challenges, and grace for each day. I miss it. I miss out on the rest and peace that God tries to give me.

A great challenge of this life is learning to see the grace and peace that God gives for each day. May I see it. May you see it.

May we embrace the Father of peace and the Giver of grace.

This is What Life Looks Like

Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes it is busy. Sometimes you just need to sit down and do nothing and breathe.

Sometimes all you can really do at the end of the day is look ridiculous because you need to work out and the most fun way to do that is hula hooping on Wii Fit Plus without an actual hula hoop. (And sometimes your fiance will just laugh at you because you are sore from hula-hooping in the middle of a room without a hula hoop.)

But life is good. Life is now. Life doesn’t begin when I get married or when I graduate from college or when we start a family.

Susan, Queen of Narnia, forgot what she once was and left behind Narnia as a place of make believe in favor of growing up and maturing.

Oh, may I never fly through this phase of life, forgetting the treasures it holds!

This is what life looks like now:
It is full of planning a wedding.
It is full of quality time with international students, with middle school girls, and with sweet friends.
It is full of cleaning and organizing and throwing things away.
It is full of love and family and traveling.
It is full of celebrating and mourning.

There is a time for all of these things, and all of these things are worth the time.

May the Lord bless the time I have in this world for His glory. May recognizing joy now be worship to Christ.

Take a Breath

Rainy Day

This picture doesn’t capture the colorful glimpse I caught of the world yesterday. Yesterday, I saw soft blue paneling where there is actually eggshell paneling. A yellow shine on the roof reflected the light of a red setting sun. The grass sparkled green, cloaked in rain drops.

This sweet weather (grossly humid, but visually beautiful) was a pretty picture of sweet simplicity.

I took a breath.

In the midst of all the tired moments, God does not fail to provide rest and peace for his children. He amazes me with His faithfulness.

In all of the busyness of life, sometimes I forget to breathe. At least, I forget to take a deep breath. But there is so much to be thankful for and to admire.

One of the most beautiful blessings is getting to spend the rest of my life with Landon. Five weeks ago, Landon asked me to marry him, and I was so happy to say yes! This young man has blessed me. He has loved me in a way that reveals so much about the love of Christ. I couldn’t ask for more because I think he is the best already.

emily and landon 34

Landon teaches me so much about the Lord and about life. Recently, he reminded me to enjoy these moments of engagement now. This season of engagement naturally looks forward to marriage as we plan our wedding in December, but that isn’t the destination. We are in a relationship now, and it can still be filled with moments of joy and fun instead of crowded with stress and decision-making.

Enjoying the present is a difficult endeavor. But it is worth it.

With the stress of planning a wedding, it is so easy to get caught up in the details and forget to see the joy in everything. But I believe that it is more than worth it to actively pursue rest and joy.

For pursuing rest is an active quieting of the soul. It is actively trusting the Lord.

And I would rather not choose to dwell in my own stress when I can relax in the presence of the Lord.

 

A Pile of Stones

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

She waits. She flinches. Who will it be? Who is going to cast the first rock? Where will it hit? How long will she experience the pain?

But Jesus, the righteous Judge, the One Without Sin, does not cast the first stone. Instead, he asks this woman caught in adultery where her accusers have gone. They have left. They knew their own sin.

"Nether do I condemn you."

The Sinless Christ who could condemn chooses not to do so. Rather, He forgives, and urges the woman to leave her sin behind.

Note: While the Old Testament prescribes stoning as a punishment for some sin, it can also be seen as a picture of condemnation. Stoning was a condemnation from one’s community for an act that often affected more than just that individual.

As I stand here, I am both the condemned and the condemner. I am a hypocrite. I want to cast stones, yet I deserve to have stones cast at me. I rage against those who have sinned against me, yet I know I have sinned against others.

God seems to think that it is amusing to get me in a tizzy about something and then reminds me that I do the exact same thing I am upset about someone else doing to me.

In my desire to cast stones at someone else, my desire is actually to heap stones upon myself.

Ouch.

A mental image: Think about Super Mario Bros. You’ve picked up a Koopa shell to toss. It hits the corner wrong. And now you’ve just knocked yourself out. That’s exactly what I have done. (I apologize if you have no experience with Koopa shells and have no idea what I am talking about…)

Nearing the end of the semester, I faced a lot of discouragement when I heard that several people were saying uninformed things about me and my life without knowing what was going on. People were making judgments about my life without really knowing all of the pain I was experiencing. Some were “concerned” about me, and in positions to talk to me about their concerns, yet they didn’t; they merely talked about it with others. Some of their comments had merit, yes. But to hear about these comments from someone other than the source was painful.

It hurt. I had a heaping measure of righteous anger.

I was mad about something I myself do.

I have done that. I make judgments and comments. I don’t always love my brothers and sisters with my words. I justify my words with “concern” and the “need to process.”

I hate that. I hate that I may have hurt people as I have been hurt. And I may never know who I have hurt.

 "Go, and from now on sin no more."

Jesus does not want me to walk away from His grace unchanged. He pointed out His grace to me in the midst of my frustration. He asked me to forgive and to look at my own life. Before you check the speck, examine the plank in your own eye, right?

So that’s fun.

Looking at a mirror is a little terrifying sometimes.

But there is grace. There is hope. There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Emerging from the Pool After a Long Swim

It was like leaping into a pool that was just a little bit too deep. I couldn’t find the bottom of the pool to launch myself back up to the surface.

It was. Hard. To keep. My breath.

Arms flailing, I pull myself up through the water and back to the world of oxygen.

Gasp!

Air again.

That’s is the feeling of being done with this year and this semester, in particular. For four months, I took 18 college credit hours, taught Sunday school, and worked with the college newspaper. This semester has been full of challenges and stress. It has been a season where I have experienced the most anxiety and depression. I have never had so many rough days.

But the season is over. Well, it has been for a week.

As I wind down and catch my breath, I am catching a glimpse of all of the lessons that can be learned from this past semester.

A few of those lessons:

Joy. Prayer. Mornings. Scripture. Friends. Quiet.

God has taught me that it is important to count my blessings and the moments of joy in the midst of pain. In the little things, God is teaching and calling and loving me.

Prayer is a beautiful spiritual discipline, and processing with the Lord helps me respond with more grace. The Lord has shown me so much grace in my failings and my mistakes, and I will continually need more grace. I will also need to learn, every day, how to give more grace. Prayer is a place to do that.

This semester, I learned the wonder of mornings. Without 8 am classes, I could get up, enjoy the morning, and sit in the sweet morning sunshine on my couch.

Scripture speaks. All of it speaks, and it is the Word of God. This semester, there has been a great desire in my heart to read and know the Bible, reading through the entire thing in one year. The Lord has provided for me His Word so that I may know more about His glory and His character. (I’ve never made it through the whole thing in a period of a year, and I really want to!)

With such a busy schedule and a stressful year, I have recognized the importance of friends. I have done a pretty lame job of loving and encouraging my friends well. I want to and need to be more consistent and more in tune to the people around me. Friends rebuke and encourage. Friends defend. I have seen the gift of friendship, and I endeavor to be a better friend, to love better, to cherish the moments. These people are a gift from the Lord that I have often taken for granted. He has been so gracious to me. I don’t want to be too busy with academics and outside commitments that I miss out on fun times and quiet moments with my friends.

So here we are. The beginning of a new season, having learned new lessons. I know God will use this season to teach me so much more.

Here’s to a summer of floating on the surface of the pool before I get out and jump in again. I guess I will take the time to put on a little sunscreen before I go out in the sun for too long.

Holy Rest

The Most Holy humbled Himself. In a manger, Mary made do with what she was given. The shepherds heard from the angels the resounding chorus that announced their Savior’s birth.

This. This was the Savior of the world. That was Israel’s promised rest. His was the Sabbath fulfilled. This was the end to striving. This was Holiness robing us with His righteousness.

Advent is awaiting Christ’s coming. We celebrate His first coming, and we eagerly anticipate His return.

O come, O come, Immanuel…

“God with us.”

Holiness with us. Holiness given to us. We are now robed in righteousness when we have done nothing to deserve it. We could not earn our rest. We could not earn our holiness. Yet the Lord paid the price so that we may be made holy.

Baby Jesus, Christmas, reminds us that God has not abandoned us. He remembers us. He established rest at creation, and Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath through His coming.

Hebrews 2-4 has a lot to say about that Sabbath rest:

In the Old Testament, the Promised Land was a place of rest for the people of Israel, but many of the Israelites missed the rest that the Lord’s desired for them. Many attempted to earn rest through the Law of Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and some blatantly disobeyed and forfeited the promise of rest (4:6).

The Lord, since the foundation of the world, established rest for the people, through faith (4:3), even though Jesus had not yet come. Joshua brought temporary rest, but Israel missed out on the even greater everlasting rest – an eternal rest for the soul (4:8). Deaf ears and disobedience kept the people in a state of restlessness.

When the author of Hebrews says to “strive to enter that rest” (4:11), it is not a command to depend on one’s own works to acquire rest, but it is a daily reminder of one’s place before God – humility leads to repentance and a desire to be obedient. As believers today, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (2:1) in regards to salvation, so we can rest in what Jesus did on the cross, not neglecting what we have heard and read. It is through the promised Messiah that rest is found. A Sabbath rest is an outward expression of an inner, intimate rest in Jesus Christ – a regular reminder that we do not have to work for the rest that the Lord offered us freely long ago.

Our Sabbath rest is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, His coming about 2,000 years ago.

Though rest can still be watching a movie and lounging in fuzzy pants, “holy rest” is something different.

As I mature, reading the Word of God is more and more restful. Yes, it takes more brain power than Hulu (I’m too cheap to pay for Netflix), but it is more fulfilling, by far. The Word of God is the letter that declares our freedom, our rest.

This is “holy rest.” Jesus came to give us holy rest, Sabbath rest.

So while my break could be filled with hours of television and social media and movies (that doesn’t mean I am not going to catch up on a couple favorite television shows), I think my break is better used in the Word. It is better used working hard for the glory of God. It is better used preparing for next semester.

My break is better used resting in the holiness and righteousness of God.

You are here

You are holy

We are standing

In Your glory

All Sons & Daughters, God with Us