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do it afraid

“Do it afraid.”
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Yesterday, I came across these words and I can’t stop thinking about them. 

So often my prayer has been to be fearless. I worry, I hold back, I don’t act because of fear. But what if instead my prayer became to “do it afraid”? 

As I look back on my life and all the times I did “do it afraid”, my mind overflows with stories lined with amazing grace. Stories where God’s presence was undeniable. Stories of abundant love. Life will undeniably bring fearful situations our way. What are we missing by sitting stagnant in that fear? 

Is there a decision you need to make? An opportunity waiting? Is there a conversation you need to have? An answer you need to find ? Is God calling you to something or somewhere ? Whatever it is. Whatever we face, I pray that in these days ahead we can all remember to “do it afraid”. Let’s make the choice to really lean on Him. To trust Him to catch us if we fall. To trust Him to give us wings. To give us anything and everything we need. 

And may we inspire our children to do the same. 

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looking ahead

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As we head into 2018 my heart overflows with gratitude for the days, the moments we leave behind. God is always working on each of us. In 2017, He continued to teach me so much about myself and others. 


Over the weekend, my husband and I were in the car talking. My eyes filled with tears as I vulnerably shared with him. God has opened doors; doors I never dreamed about. Opportunities that I am so grateful for. He has also asked me to lay things down. As I look around, I see people doing awesome, amazing things. Unintentionally, I begin to compare our paths. I can feel like I am not enough. Yet, God reminds me every single time that I am right where I need to be. 


As I shared out loud with my husband, it was so eye opening, so freeing to say the words. While yes, success and affirmation from the world can feel great for a brief moment; nothing compares to following God’s path. It is always covered with grace, mercy, and infinite love.


As I follow Him, my focus becomes so clear. Slowing down and being intentional with our family has brought such peace and abundance. Having space in our days; margin in my own schedule to be still, to enjoy motherhood more deeply, is something that is truly unrivaled.


As we begin a new year, my prayer is that I will never forget to keep Him as my compass. 


Thank you for being here, for sharing your authentic and raw stories with me, time and time again. This community is such a gift. Never stop being YOU and don’t forget you aren’t alone. 


Happy New Year! .
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“Here I am
All my intentions
All my obsessions
I want to lay them all down
In Your hands
Only Your love is vital
Though I'm not entitled
Still You call me Your child
God You don't need me
But somehow You want me
Oh how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go
God You don't need me
But somehow You want me
Oh how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control”
-tenth avenue north

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right here

A couple months ago she quit sleeping in her crib. We fought it at first; trying cry it out, trying to lay next to the crib, trying to nurse her to sleep and then lay her down in the crib. Nothing seemed to change her mind. It was almost as if she was afraid to be in it. She is our fourth, yet this was a first. 

So, in desperation for her to get some sleep and for me to do the same, she began sleeping in our bed. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it worked. Part of me, deep down, feared what people would think (how silly ). And part of me worried how we would transition from this (even though having three older kids, I KNOW they don’t stay or come to your bed forever).

Time has passed and she is still sleeping in our bed. As I was laying with her at nap time the other day, I thought about all the ways I really love this time. While we didn’t plan to have her sleep in our bed, most nights, my heart overflows with gratitude as I feel her snuggled next to me. I love feeling her little hand on me. I love knowing she is sleeping so peacefully. And I know this...it won’t last forever. Instead of worrying about what will come next, I’ve decided to really enjoy this NOW because these days truly are fleeting. 

Life doesn’t always go the way we plan. It doesn’t always look the way we envisioned but if we can somehow let go of those expectations a bit, we will enjoy right NOW so much more. We certainly (and I am saying this to myself the loudest) do not need to worry what others are thinking about us. If they are judging our decisions. Finally, we don’t need to always worry about what is next. With our children, with our careers, with our health; with whatever. 

I want to stop striving so much; and instead rest with the peace of God. I want to be right here, in today, because it is a pretty special place to be and I sure would hate to miss it. 

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brave

As we head into the New Year, I am challenged to live life with more courage; which honestly, equates to having more faith. To trust God. With the big. The small. And everything in between. Whether this means being brave enough to start those hard conversations or trying something new or uncomfortable. I know God is asking me to get off the sidelines. To take a chance. To be brave. .
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In less than two months, I will be traveling to speak at @clickawayconference , an annual photography conference hosted by @clickinmoms . I am so humbled by this opportunity and super excited for this chance to meet so many other women in this industry; many friends that I have only known online until this event.
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In complete transparency, I must also add that I am super nervous. I thrive in small groups, around tables, connecting one on one. The thought of getting on stage in front of a large group is a bit intimidating and way out of my comfort zone.
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As I prepare for this speaking event, I can't help but think of our oldest daughter. Over the last few years, I have seen her step out in faith as she walked into uncomfortable situations. I have seen her face fears, in search of dreams. I have seen her lean on God in ways that continue to make me reexamine my own faith.
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What a gift He has given me in this girl of ours. To remind me daily that there is so much more to be experienced in life when we let go and trust Him. 

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Last days of the year.

The days following Christmas are some of my most favorite. We’ve made bath bombs, lip balm and lotions. We’ve play-doughed and LEGO-ed. We’ve painted and baked. We’ve watched movies and stayed up way too late. We’ve slept past nine and stayed in our pjs past lunch. We’ve spent afternoons by the lake and picked up take out for dinner.
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There has been in and out flow of family and friends gathered around our table and our sofa. Laundry is piled as high as the ceiling and the house has looked like a tornado hit.
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Truthfully, I can’t think of a better way to end the year. I hope these moments and days stay close in their hearts forever. 

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truths

I think it would be so hard to be a teen today. .
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I have struggled often in life with confusing affirmation for love. Likewise, not feeling like I am enough when there is a lack of affirmation. At 42, I still have to pray to God, to remind me that His approval, His love is the only one that truly matters. 

Today’s teens face a myriad of social pressures to fit in, to feel loved, to be liked. Yes, social pressures have always existed but with social media’s these pressures seem tenfold. The reality of feeling left out, feeling not enough, feeling lonely are a screen away. Alternatively, social media can give a false sense of love and acceptance through likes, shares and comments.

While our daughter is not on social media; it doesn’t make her immune to the challenges of this generation. I wish I knew some way to make this time easier.

My best advice to her, to all teens is to be confident in who they are. The teens that I know are talented, smart, artistic, creative. They are athletic, strong and brave. I pray they each know how special they are. That their worth doesn’t come from a friend or stranger on Instagram or wherever saying they are awesome, hot or accepted. 

God created each of us uniquely with purpose. We must look to Him for direction. For love. He accepts us always JUST as we are. 

I want our daughter to know that real friends are true gems. They are people that will always be there for you. They aren’t your “bestie” one day; while not knowing you the next. I hope she never fails to remember that she is beautiful for her heart and the person she is; not because of what she wears or how she looks. 

I want her to know, that yes, this is an important time of life, but so much of what seems important now will fade quickly in the future. Real relationships, mean so much more than being invited to every get together, every party. Having people that know you, the real you, beyond the surface, is a true and rare gift.

Most of all I want her to know that she is infinitely loved and accepted unconditionally. These truths are steadfast. They will never change. Our love for her is unwavering.

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two

Yesterday, she officially turned two. 

With each passing year, with each child, birthdays remain to be a time of such mixed emotions. It’s such a joy to celebrate life and growth; yet, the mama in me wants to slow the years as I cherish these days and stages so much.

From the teen who texts me to say I will be her best friend forever to this little one yelling LOB YOU in the sweetest, loudest voice....and everything in between. Life is certainly precious. So each year, admittedly I take time to mourn, to let go of what has passed. To promise to never forget all those small details. And then I am sure to seek all the beauty I can find right where we are.

Today, I was reminded how beautiful two is as she ran to me with wonder and joy...flower, flower, she said. And gave me the sweetest of gifts. 

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new tradition

Last year, for her first birthday, I carefully planned each detail including her cake which I custom ordered from a cute little local bakery. This year, we bought a box mix and baked her cake together. I think it will be a new tradition. Why do we sometimes try so hard, when simple can be so special? 

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special day

When she was born on Christmas night, I remember the doctor and the anesthesiologist both making comments about her having a Christmas birthday. From that moment on, the mama in me vowed no matter how busy the Christmas season is, we would make sure her birthday was celebrated. That her special day was never forgotten.

This year, we decided to keep our celebration for her simple. We would just have family over and enjoy a cake together. My husband and I both come from families with four siblings. As I looked around the house tonight my heart overflowed. Cousins were everywhere. 17 cousins were all together. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Family filled all of our spaces. 

With every year that passes, I cherish these memories more and more. Generations together. Sharing old memories and making new ones. She may not remember this night years from now, but I know I will forever. 

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almost Christmas

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Christmas is only 3 days away. Years ago, I would have been stressing because we didn’t send Christmas cards out. I would be upset that zero gifts are wrapped. I would be analyzing all that I had not done. All that we had not done.
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Yesterday, the kids were doing the daily Christmas countdown. They all agreed how sad they would be when Christmas was over. How they loved this season so much. 
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In those moments I was reminded what matters most. We can’t do it all. Whether it be Christmas or any other season of the year. This Christmas season we chose being together. We chose lots and lots of messy baking. Singing Christmas carols every chance we got and watching way more Hallmark movies than I should probably admit. 
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I love that they love this season. These daily memories we shared over the last month celebrating Christmas will be some I treasure the rest of my life. Yes, motherhood with these four children is a fleeting season, but moreover LIFE itself is fleeting. 
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Each day is a gift and tomorrow is never promised. Christmas season or any season, I never want to “stress out” so much over life that I miss out on living it. 

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her story

I’ve shared our story of hope. Of infertility. Of waiting. Praying for this child for many years. A story filled with so much light even through some very dark days. .

There’s more to her story. A part I never want to forget. Almost nine years ago I was pregnant with our third child. I had miscarried before getting pregnant with her. My husband was very busy at that point with his military career. He was called away on several deployments. Leaving us alone for months at a time. .

For most of our married life, we dreamed and talked about having four children, yet at that point our family felt very full. I was doing so much on my own. Our older two children were only 5 and 2 and many days I was overwhelmed. After talking to the doctor and knowing I would be having a third c-section, somewhere in my mind, I decided that during that c-section I would get my tubes tied. Fast forward months later, I suddenly became very ill and I was taken by ambulance to deliver our baby girl almost two months early. My husband and I had never really had the opportunity to discuss the tubal. In fact, we had always had different views on it. He was not in agreement with it; feeling we should leave this decision in God's hands. We didn’t pray and seek God’s discernment on this huge decision together; yet in my desperation, in the haste of all that was going on, in my extreme sickness and emotional state, I signed the papers to have the tubal during the c-section. 


I will never forget the feeling in my stomach, after having the tubal and all the medicine had worn off, the moment I realized what I had done. The loss I felt. The loneliness in that decision and situation.

Years would pass, yet I never fully let go of those regretful feelings. We prayed, giving those feelings to God time and time again. We waited. After many years and many prayers, I had a tubal reversal. Even after the surgery, years would pass as we faced infertility. We finally found peace knowing, no matter what the outcome, we had followed God. We had completely given this prayer to Him. One month after all of our failed infertility treatments, I became pregnant with this sweet girl, who would then be born almost five weeks early on Christmas night. 

Yes, her story is filled with hope, but her story is also one of mercy and redemption. Of God’s amazing grace. His healing and His never ending love. I am reminded to take everything to Him in prayer. To give my life to Him to lead because truly my life is His.

As I look at her, as I love her, I am overwhelmed by the love God has shown us. I realize that we did nothing to deserve this child of ours. I realize that every story doesn't end like this. There is waiting that seems to never end. There is pain that seems unstoppable. There is hope that is lost. It is through Christ and His unyielding, undeserved love, that we can rejoice through every pain and every sorrow. It is through Him that we will find purpose in the waiting. Comfort in the pain. And mercy, for we deserve nothing, yet He continues to love us. As we get closer to the day of her birth, the day we will also celebrate Christ’s birth, I sing these same words, that Mary sang so many years ago: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my soul rejoices in God my Savior."

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we've all been there

Last weekend we were at Disney and I accidentally hit another mother with my stroller while coming out of the bathroom with our girls. Immediately, I told her how sorry I was. She graciously smiled and said:

Don’t worry about it. We’ve all been there!

I kept thinking about her kindness and her words all day. Wishing we could all be more like that. In all situations. 


Why do we constantly worry so much about what others are doing? How they are parenting. How they are living. Worrying about things that have nothing to do with us or our families. 

On the other side, as mothers, as parents, it can often feel like we are on display to everyone around us. Our loved ones. Strangers. Everyone we are around. It seems like people have an opinion, good or bad, on every decision we make. 


I am reminded over and over again that God created each of us with our own unique beauty. Our unique strengths, gifts and weaknesses. We are all different; yet, He calls us to love each other unconditionally. To be His light to one another.

Next time we see that mama or family struggling with something or choosing a different path than we would. Instead of thinking about all the ways we would have done things differently. Why don’t we just offer love and acceptance? Why don’t we just think “we’ve all been there”. .

Because in one way or another we have. 

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letting go

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We were away for the weekend and while driving home, my husband and I were talking about how different life is parenting our fourth child at almost 2 compared to when our first, now 13, was the same age. 

What a gift it is to be able to see life at this point with fresh eyes. There’s a fullness that I feel. A way of being able to really be in the moment. Not always looking ahead. Not always worrying every detail to death. Just seeing this time with a beauty I would often miss years ago. 

I’ve learned to let go and through that letting go, I’ve learned to really enjoy today. .
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She misses a nap. Life keeps going. .
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She wants to sit at the table and not in a high chair. She still eats. .
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She never wants to be dressed. She always takes out her hair clip. She’s a beautiful mess; smiling, singing and laughing through her days. .
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She spills her grape juice again. Because she doesn’t think she needs a sippy cup. It cleans up.

I cherish our days together. Always by my side in the kitchen, playing in the sink or the cabinets, while I cook or do dishes. Trips to the grocery store, watching her say hi to everyone we pass. Tagging along with her siblings and their friends. Running after them at every soccer game, just like she’s one of the gang. Snuggling me at bedtime and telling me “love you” for the first time.

These toddler days are some of the most wonderful. If I could sit down and talk to the mom 10 years behind me... I would tell you to let go a little. Or a lot. To be in these moments and enjoy them because they will be gone in what feels like the blink of an eye. The details that don’t seem to be going just right. They will all be okay. Life is messy. But goodness, it’s so beautiful when you really look carefully at that mess. In one week from today, she will turn two. I thank God for the gift of her and for the opportunity to really see what truly matters.

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being present

We’ve been trying out different sugar cookie recipes this year and yesterday we found our favorite so far.

And we might have gotten just a little carried away with the flour snow?! Yes, we created a huge mess, but goodness we laughed and laughed.

Mamas, I hope you are taking time, especially this season, to laugh. To be in these moments. Too often we get caught up in so many details, trying to make everything just right. We can miss some of the most beautiful memories if we don’t remember to slow down. I’m learning that so many of those details don’t honestly matter. Not compared to the gift of being present. 

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unconditional love

I was driving to our daughter’s soccer game this weekend, listening to a sermon on the radio, when I heard the following statement.

“Live God’s assignment for you, but don’t assume it’s God’s assignment for them.”

Such a powerful message for parents. What freedom we can give our children through living out these words. Letting them find their path. Accepting them unconditionally when they make choices different than we did or do. 

I’m quite certain there are many adults still living with unnecessary, yet such real guilt. Feeling not enough because they chose a different path than their parents. Or maybe living with regret because they never followed their own dreams or what they felt God calling them to in fear of disappointing their parents. 

We are given such a gift in parenthood. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to love them unconditionally, guiding them to find discernment over God’s purpose for their life. Similar or different than our own... it is theirs. 

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longing

Two weeks from today she will turn two. These days have been a blissful blur filled with abundant love and unyielding grace and growth. Honestly, it’s hard to remember a time without her as part of our family. 


Yet, as I look at her, tears will often stream down my face. The emotions still so raw. I remember the pain I felt. Crying in the bath at night, crying in the car, crying in bed when no one else would see. My heart longed for her. There was a feeling I could never really explain to other people. Like a piece of me was missing. I had so much to be grateful for in our three children, yet this longing never stopped. 


Last night, six young women and myself discussed how Jesus has been fully present in His relationship with each of us. 


I am always reminded of the years we spent praying and waiting for her. The years we endured so much from infertility, a high-risk pregnancy, and a premature delivery. Yes, I can look all around and see people with such easier stories. But I thank God for the plan He had with her. Those struggles and uncertainties. Those tears and those days of feeling so alone. He made Himself known. He was fully present through all of it. Growing me. Growing our family. Teaching us so much about His love and grace. 


I am often taken back to that Christmas night when she arrived five weeks early; our miracle in so many ways. And I am reminded that He is always near. So often in our struggles, we are tempted to ask: “where are you God?” Instead, may we all use these times to see and feel Him and His presence in ways we may have otherwise never experienced. 

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together

When they look back on their childhood, I hope they remember it something like this. .
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A beautiful picture of togetherness; of light and love shining amidst all of our imperfections. .
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The truth is, this picture, this reality, didn't just happen by chance. .
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My husband and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage next year. These years have not come with ease or certainty. We have been through so much together. We have experienced joys that have surpassed anything I could have ever dreamed for, but we have also experienced heartache and trials. We have been through separation and war. We have been through death and loss. We have been through sickness and infertility. 


We have struggled and argued and shared many unkind words. We didn't arrive here together by chance. No, it is only through our devotion to God and each other, that He brought us here. It has taken a lot of grace and humility. It has been years of lessons learned. Day by day, we are still learning the true meaning of sacrificial love. Together and as parents. 
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Now with four children, the life we live as a family, the life we want our children to remember, takes a lot of intentionality. 


It means making decisions that aren't always easy. Decisions that mean we are different at times than what the world deems normal. We've said no to things when it would have been a lot easier to say yes. But these "no's" have guarded our children and this small season of life they experience called childhood. These "no's" have given us space and time to be together. To truly create community within our home. 


Family life has meant sacrifice and balance. 


No, we didn't just get here by chance. Decisions have been made and prayers have been prayed that brought us to this place today. It took me time to realize the value of intentionality. While, I could name hundreds of things I am struggling with and infinite ways I could do better as a wife and mother, I am learning the power of love and grace. I am learning that as God grows our family, He is also growing me. We will struggle and we will fall. But we will also triumph and find joy.

As our children look back on these days, together as a family, my greatest prayer is that they felt love. That this place, we intentionally prayed for and created, was a place they knew they always belonged. 


Mamas, I know each one of you are striving to create a place for your children. A place they will remember and cherish. And I know it isn't easy. I know there are days you feel like you are failing in a million ways. I know that some days you feel like you aren't enough. That you can't provide enough. Can we all find peace in knowing that none of us are enough in ourselves, on our own, without Him? We don’t have to do it on our own, but we must be intentional about asking Him to guide us. And I promise, He will. 

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new rhythm

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Three months ago, I stood in this same place. Tears running down my face. It was our first day back to homeschooling. And the day had felt like mass mayhem. I realized life was in a new season with four ranging from 13 to 1, but I hadn’t quite realized how this would look day to day with schooling. Our toddler suddenly seemed so busy and quite loud. 


We knew in our hearts that this was God’s plan for our family. This was the start of year seven homeschooling and I knew there would be some adjusting as we found our new rhythm. But the truth is, that place of growth and change can feel so hard. It can feel never ending. 
We leaned into God. My husband and I both prayed through those growing pains. In the middle of it, she decided to cut her three hour afternoon nap shorter. Fall activities began and there were days that felt so challenging.

And now, three months later, through the daily ebb and flow, we have found this beautiful rhythm. There are days she joins us at the school table. There are days we take school outside while she does chalk. There are days she plays endlessly in the sink while we do math. The older kids take turns playing with her at times and thankfully she has found her way back to napping. We still have days that we decide to stop what we are doing...knowing there is always tomorrow. 


My husband and I have seen God’s affirmation about this lifestyle choice for our family over and over again. When we follow His plan, we aren’t guaranteed easy, but He will provide a way, in His time. I’ve been able to reflect a lot the past few weeks and my heart overflows with gratitude and peace. To be right here today. 


Mamas, you may not homeschool, but I would imagine you have your own life rhythms that have changed or are changing. Don’t quit seeking Him. He wants to hear from us—about all the big things; but also about all these daily intricacies. I know on those long days, when nothing seems to feel right, it can feel so lonely. But you aren’t alone. And as He gently guides you to your new daily flow, there will be a beauty that you hold onto with new appreciation. 

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dreams

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Last week one of my nieces joined us for dinner. Somehow we got on the topic of the future. She was telling me how she wanted to live in the mountains when she grew up. And then I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. In her most matter of fact seven year old voice she told me she wanted to be like her mom. That she would take care of her family. My heart swooned for a moment over the sweet words she shared. 


Our daughters are growing up in a generation that has a loud singing chorus of “girls can do anything.” It’s quite amazing for our girls to be growing up in a time when their dreams can be limitless. A time where the possibilities truly are endless. Yet, there is something that always tugs at my heart. Something I also want our girls to know. 


I want our girls to know it’s okay to dream of being a mother. To dream of having a family to take care of. I want them all to know that dream is enough. It doesn’t require more. 
Not everyone will have this dream. Some will have dreams of careers and some will have dreams of playing professional sports. Some will dream of going overseas and serving. Some will be mamas and do other amazing things at the same time. 


But should our girls find themselves at home, as mothers, serving their families, I never want them to question their identity. God has a purpose and plan for each one of us. I never want them to feel like they are “just a mother.” I hope they will know the value of their role. The importance and gift they have been given. 


For years, I had dreams of what I would be one day, how my life would look. I formed so many ideas based on what I thought sounded good or would look good. Nothing has ever come close to the path, the journey God has led me on as a wife and mother. I am grateful for all the unrealized dreams that led me right here. And I can’t wait to see where God leads each of them. 

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a growing connection

You had a hard time adjusting when your baby sister was born. You had been the baby of our family for over six years. We had thought for many years you were our last child and we held tight to you as each phase passed. 


And then after many years of praying, many years of dreaming, she joined our family. There were days you told me that you wished it was how it had been before she arrived. Days you told me you wished you were still the baby. 


It seemed instantly that she bonded with Bubby and Sissy...but it took you guys a bit longer. Slowly, you started paying more attention to her. You began to help with her and then as she grew day by day, week by week, you began playing with her. Now, we all hear her yelling La La, La La; searching for you , demanding that you join her outside. Your heart has opened wide for her. You are compassionate and you love her in such a special way. I see it, we all see it daily. 

Some days, I want to scoop you up and tell you that I’m so sorry you aren’t still the baby. But the truth is, if you were still the baby, you would have missed so much.

What God has given you in your sister is far better than being the baby of the family. You have a friend for life. And truth be told, a sister is so much more than just a friend, she is a part of you. You will share more than you can even imagine right now. You will see this all clearly one day. What you know now is only a glimpse of what is to come. 


For now, I’m so grateful to see this beautiful bond growing. I love you both so much. 

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