As we approach 2022, many of us are grateful to have the last two years behind us. The last two years have been rough. I know there have been many times emotionally, physically, and spiritually when I’ve just wanted to throw in the towel.
Yet, they have been times of growth. The tension, the heartache we’ve experienced… if we’ve allowed them to do their refining work in our lives, have made us purer and stronger.
This summer was the most difficult season I’ve ever experienced. Within a 5-week span, I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant, was in a car accident when another driver ran a red light, and experienced a miscarriage (the miscarriage was unrelated to the car accident).
The miscarriage dragged out for 6 weeks and finally resulted in a D&C procedure and so much heartache and unexpected emotions. During that season of questioning God and dealing with uncontrollable emotions and intense exhuastion, I started seeing butterflies everywhere. Literally almost every time I was outside.
After seeing about the 100th butterfly in a month, I started asking God what was up with the butterflies. I’m not a mystic or one to see shapes in the clouds that I think are predicting the future. But it seemed like the butterflies were up to something. Or perhaps … God was up to something.
Butterflies represent change, newness, rebirth, or resurrection. A butterfly emerges from its chrysalis a much different creature than the caterpillar that entered that same chrysalis.
When a butterfly is inside its pupa or chrysalis, it may look like nothing is going on, but big changes are happening inside. “Special cells that were present in the larva are now growing rapidly. They will become the legs, wings, eyes and other parts of the adult butterfly. The caterpillar has a few tiny eyes, stubby legs and very short antennae. The adults have long legs, long antennae, and compound eyes,” from ANSP.org.
For many of us, perhaps it’s felt like we’re stuck inside a chrysalis over the last two years. Perhaps our socialization has been limited. Maybe we feel like we haven’t grown in our careers or relationships. It’s been a frustrating time for many.
But perhaps, like the beautiful butterfly, you are experiencing a rebirth. Perhaps big changes are happening on the inside. Changes that no one else can see because they can’t see inside your chrysalis. Your chrysalis is an inner chamber that only God can access.
I pray that as we approach the New Year, we approach it with hope. There’s more to life than a stuffy chrysalis chamber, my friend. God has a new life for you. And even if you’ve been “reborn” a hundred times before, God can do it again. He can breathe new life into you and use you once again for His purposes.
Recently I’ve been a little overwhelmed by Santa and Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I have nothing against these fun, fictional aspects of Christmas, but it seems they have infiltrated my 5-year-old son’s mind this holiday season. He is nonstop belting out “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and pointing out every corny inflatable Christmas decoration as we drive around neighborhoods.
“Mommy, am I on the naughty or nice list?” he asked me the other day.
As parents, we want to have the perfect response to questions like that. We want to have some knowledge that reaches the child right where they’re at and leaves a lasting spiritual impact. Now, I’m definitely not Mom of the Year, but I tried to use the opportunity to remind him that Santa’s Naughty or Nice List isn’t what matters most. “What matters is what Jesus thinks,” I told him. “Are your actions making Jesus happy?”
At Christmastime, kids tend to get very focused on receiving. It’s important to remind kids that Christmas is about giving. Jesus was God’s gift to us. The wise men are a great reminder that we can give gifts to Jesus (gifts like our time, attention, and tithe/offering). We can also give gifts to friends, family, the homeless, and great nonprofits.
Practically, I’ve been trying to incorporate more Jesus into our lives this Christmas. With all the influences that the world throws our way, it’s easy for them to become focused on the glitz and glamour of snowmen and reindeer and forget that Christmas is all about a baby King who humbly arrived in a stable.
5 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas:
Visit a live nativity, if your community has one. Or consider purchasing a nativity to display on your lawn or in your home.
Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
Watch Christmas movies/shows featured on Christ and giving. We love Veggie Tales “The Toy That Saved Christmas.” Which Christ-centered Christmas movies do you and your kids love?
Attend a Christmas church service as a family.
Christmas carols like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are fun, but be sure to expose them to Christ-centered ones too, like “Silent Night,” and “Away in a Manger.” My friend Yancy (2021 Dove Awards “Children’s Album of the Year” Winner) also has a great Christmas album, “Have a Fancy Yancy Christmas.”
What do you and your family do to keep Christ in Christmas?
People are angry and bitter. Angry at the world. Angry about COVID precautions. Bitter toward their spouse. Bitter toward their ungrateful kids.
Anger, bitterness and rage are increasingly prevalent in our society. One indicator of this is the huge increase in airline violence in 2021. As of Sept. 6, 2021, there have been 727 investigations of airline violence in the US. In comparison, in 2019, only 146 investigations were initiated by the FAA.
Pastor Chris Beall with Life.Church recently gave a powerful message about bitterness. We hold on to bitterness because someone has wronged us. But ultimately, bitterness poisons us and can destroy that relationship.
Bitterness is not surface-level feelings. It goes deep. The Bible describes bitterness as a root. “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” says Hebrews 12:15.
The thing about roots…. They’re not always easy to pull up. Have you ever pulled and pulled on a root in your garden, only to almost pull your back out? Those things are deep and strong! BUT, it is possible to remove the root. And if you don’t remove it, it has the potential to destroy your garden… AKA all the beautiful things God is doing in your life!
In his message, Pastor Beall shared how to kill the root of bitterness:
You expose it. -Talk to the person you are bitter about. Admit your feelings.
You cancel their debts. -Give up your claim to blame. -Cancel their debt, because God canceled yours.
The whole “giving up your claim to blame” is a hard one for me. If someone has wronged me, I enjoying playing the victim and having a pity party … for a little while, at least. I feel it is my RIGHT! And gosh darn it, what they did was so awful that I’ve earned the right to talk bad about them! You’ll always find someone who is willing to ride that train with you — who will encourage you to bad mouth that person who wronged you.
But is it doing you any good? Is it helping you become a better person and grow closer to God?
An amazing example of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness is Pastor Beall’s wife, Cindy. In this podcast, she shares how she was able to forgive Chris after he admitted to multiple affairs 20 years ago. Their story is an amazing example of forgiveness, transparency, and of someone not allowing “it’s my right to blame/be bitter” rule her life!
Don’t allow the root of bitterness to grow in your life! Expose it for what it is, cancel their debts, and move on! Life is too short to live it embittered.
I’ve gone through the wringer this year, which has resulted in almost a perpetual state of brokenness and feeling like I’m in survival mode.
This brokenness has given me a greater awareness of what others may be going through.
There is so much brokenness in our world today. The truth is, you don’t know what that co-worker in your office or that cashier at Target is going through. They might be going through:
A heart-wrenching divorce and battling for custody of their children
The unexpected death of a loved one
The grief of a miscarriage
The list goes on and on. Emotional intelligence and empathy are needed more than ever in this world. We need to be sensitive to the needs of those around us. But even more than we need Emotional Intelligence or empathy, we need compassion for a hurting world.
We can always look to Jesus as our example of how to love. When I think about Jesus loving someone who was going through something, I think about Peter. Remember when Jesus was about to die on a cross, and Peter denied Him three times? If I were Jesus, I would have completely written off my friendship with Peter. After all, the struggle Jesus was going through was much bigger in the scope of things than what Peter was experiencing. Jesus was facing a torturous death; Peter was facing fear of what people thought of him.
And yet, after His resurrection, Jesus took the time to restore His friendship with Peter in John 21. He asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” When someone asks you something once, you might give a fake answer. When they ask you twice, you might tell them how you really feel. But if they ask you three times, you know they mean business and you’d better get real.
Jesus could have abandoned Peter’s friendship and been just fine. But He took the time to restore that relationship, because He knew that at the time when Peter denied Him, he was going through something. Peter wasn’t emotionally prepared to publicly declare his love and commitment to Christ before His crucifixion, but he was most certainly ready to do so now. And Peter would go on to prove this love, as he would eventually endure martyrdom through upside-down crucifixion.
Extend grace. Extend compassion. Extend love. Those times when you’ve been hurting and someone has offered you a hug, or a home-cooked meal, or simply waved you into traffic when you would have had to wait five more minutes, hasn’t it felt like salve to your soul?
You can be the one who refreshes someone today. You can be the salve to someone’s hurting soul.
Give someone else mercy. Give them love. Give them grace. You may not know if they need it or not, but I guarantee you … they do. 100% of the time.
Even in the midst of what has been a very trying season, God has been reminding me that He likes to surprise us.
Personally, this has come through a couple of fun anecdotes over the last couple weeks:
I took my 5 year-old to an arcade for the first time. Of course, he only earned enough tickets to trade in for about 3 pieces of candy. However, a nice older couple came up to him and GAVE HIM their HUGE stuffed ninja (one of the biggest prizes available!) Of course, he was completely over the moon to accept the gift, and now he has high expectations of all future visits to an arcade!
I was the recipient of a drive-thru Random Act of Kindness for the first time recently. I rarely get breakfast at McDonalds, but I ordered a Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit and a Mocha, and when I got up to the window to pay, the cashier told me the car in front of me had already covered my bill! Of course I paid for the car behind me! You have to keep it going when you’re a recipient of a Random Act of Kindness!
This is super silly, but someone gave me what’s called a “Unicorn Bath Bomb.” I I thought this was because the bath bomb itself was multiple bright colors, kind of like a unicorn. But as I was enjoying my hot bath and the bath bomb eventually dissolved, up popped the tiniest little unicorn! It made me laugh and remember that life is indeed full of surprises! And now I keep the unicorn on my desk to remind me to look for surprises and the whimsical in life.
I’m going through a Bible study with some friends – “Elijah” by Priscilla Shirer, and the second week brings up this exact theme, that God loves surprising us.
In the story in 1 Kings 17, Elijah was in a desolate place called Cherith for what historians imagine to have been about 18 months. Basically, it was a dried up creek or ravine. He didn’t have access to food. However, God used the most unexpected means to much sure Elijah had sustenance: Ravens came twice a day to feed him.
Priscilla goes into great detail as to why ravens were such a surprise choice … one that could have clearly only come from God! Ravens are known as being stingy and greedy when it comes to food. They don’t like to share their food! (sounds like me!). Also, they don’t like returning to the same place. They are wanderers. And yet, the same birds brought him food twice a day. Seriously, ornithologists have no explanations as to why or how ravens tended to Elijah for more than a year. It doesn’t make logical sense.
God decided to use an unexpected source to meet a very real need.
So often in life, I find myself dwelling on disappointments. Disappointed that such and such family member or friend wasn’t there to help when I needed them. Saddened that the people I thought would always be there for me are too busy with their own very stressful lives to be the support I need.
Yet, what if God wants to surprise me?
What if, instead of using the people I would expect to bring comfort or help, He uses someone or something altogether different?
What if His idea of help and refreshment and comfort look like something altogether different to Him? Maybe I think I need a 60-minute massage and a long nap, but He knows I really need a free McDonald’s breakfast from a stranger. Maybe I think I need a two-hour long worship and prayer session, but He wants to surprise me by completely refreshing my spirit through one worship song on my drive to work.
I love being surprised. And I don’t want to flippantly dismiss any of the surprises God brings my way. I want to embrace and be thankful for each one.
We all have those seasons where we feel perpetual weakness. One hard thing after another seems to come up. We remember the days when we were so strong, had so much energy, and seemed to accomplish so much.
It’s in these seasons of weakness that we can draw on the grace that God gives. His grace and strength are never-ending and never-failing. Just when your power has completely run out, His grace begins.
Whether you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, sickness, financial struggles, the loss of a job … whatever it may be … God’s grace is bigger than your seemingly impossible circumstances!
If you’re having what feels like the hardest year of your life, I feel you. We WILL get through this. We will not try to be strong on our own. We will not try to survive day by day on our fleeting, human power.
I recently heard this song from one of my favorite worship artists, Martin Smith. I leave you with these powerful lyrics and the encouragement to trade in your weakness for the abundant grace God gives.
Grace By Martin Smith
It’s Grace, grace I’m nothing without You Grace, Your grace Shines on me
And there’ve been days when I’ve walked away Too much to carry nothing left to say Forgive me Lord when I’m weak and lost You traded heaven for a wooden cross
And all these years You’ve carried me You’ve been my eyes when I couldn’t see And beauty grows in the driving rain Your oil of gladness in the times of pain
Every time a friend suffered a miscarriage, I’ve never been able to comprehend the devastating loss that they’re going through. I have said to myself, “I’m so grateful I never have to go through that. I can’t imagine how hard it would be.”
When we had Jude 17 months ago, I declared “shopped closed” to my womb and fully satisfied myself in mothering my two boys. The shop was SO closed that I got rid of EVERY baby item we owned. Because Jude is so big for his age, we literally only have size 2T clothing and up at this point.
In July, my husband realized that my monthly visitor seemed to be late. He encouraged me to take a pregnancy test. When I did, and it gave me a plus sign, I was the most shocked/surprised I’ve ever been. I cried tears of mixed emotions. Tears of joy because every life is worthy of being celebrated. But also tears of utter overwhelm, because honestly, I have a hard time just handling the two kids I have now.
Yet over the next few weeks, I came to a place of acceptance. A place of joy at the prospect of the little life growing inside of me. My husband was elated when I told him the news. So we did what every parent does when they learn a baby is on the way — we began thinking of how we would have to rearrange our house to make way for a new little one, coming up with a list of baby names, etc.
On my first ultrasound, the doctor said he could see “a flicker of a heartbeat.” Being eternally optimistic, I thought, that’s good enough for me! However, my HCG levels were not increasing like they should have been. So the doc wanted me to go to radiology a week later for a more detailed ultrasound.
“At that ultrasound, taken at 7-8 weeks gestation, I could see the baby in the sac! Teeny tiny baby. I got the same photo printouts that I had collected from my previous pregnancies, with BABY! typed by the area where the tiny baby was chillin’. Yet, the heartbeat was slower than it should have been. The ultrasound tech let me hear the heartbeat, and I remember thinking, “That’s not as fast as my two other babies’ heartbeats were.” I could tell my husband was concerned, but he wasn’t telling me all of his medical professional thoughts. He wanted to keep hope alive.
A week later, we went in for another ultrasound, and there was no longer “a flicker of a heartbeat.” The baby had passed away.
It’s crazy how someone you’ve never met can leave such an impact on you. It’s crazy that you can love someone you’ve never met, even if it’s only for a few weeks. It’s crazy that you can feel so much loss at the absence of someone in your life, even if that someone was unexpected.
I know my miscarriage is not “typical.” You hear of rainbow babies — babies that are born after the parents have lost a previous baby to pregnancy. For us, there will be no rainbow baby. We feel contentment that at this stage in our lives, my womb is finished. I honestly don’t have the answers as to why God allowed me to get pregnant or why the baby didn’t survive. Maybe it’s so I can help others. Maybe it’s so I can experience and empathize with others’ pain on a deeper level.
Would I have loved this child just as much as my other children? Absolutely. I already did during that month that I knew he or she was inside of me. God made room in my heart to love one more child. Even if that child wasn’t mine to keep. And somehow, through this loss, He is giving me a greater love for my two children. Because life is such a miracle. Even in the midst of my pain, I can read Psalm 139:14 and thank God for the miracle of life that I am, that my husband is, that my children are.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. your eyes saw my unformed body.“
Did you know that of known pregnancies, 10 to 15 percent of babies are miscarried? Obviously, the number is even higher since many women don’t even realize they are pregnant and mistake miscarriage bleeding for a late period. This loss that I’ve experienced is heavy, but it is also common. So many people experience miscarriages, and the loss is real and tangible.
If you’re experiencing a miscarriage, I want to encourage you with a few thoughts:
It’s most likely that there’s nothing you could have done differently to have caused the baby to survive. The majority of miscarriages are linked to a chromosome problem. I can speak from experience that other than being surprised by this pregnancy, there was nothing I did differently with this pregnancy and the pregnancies of my two healthy boys. Do not blame yourself for the loss of your baby.
You are not alone. Since hearing the news of the baby’s miscarriage, my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place. If you are married or in a serious relationship during your miscarriage, it is great to have your partner to lean on. However, miscarriage feels like a very personal loss. It feels like an attack on your body. I have felt physically ill ever since losing the baby. This is a burden that my husband simply doesn’t fully understand. While he’s also devastated at the loss of the baby, he isn’t experiencing the loss physically. But even though he can’t fully grasp everything I’m experiencing, that doesn’t mean I’m alone. He is here for me. I have also reached out to family and friends, and they have responded in love, phone calls, texts, etc. More than anything, know that God is here with you during this time, and always. “...for He has said, ‘I will never (under any circumstances) desert you (nor give you up nor will I in any degree leave you helpless), nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you!” Hebrews 13:5 Amplified
It’s OK to not be OK. Sometimes we gloss over sad things and just try to move on with life. But experiencing a miscarriage is not easy. The emotional and physical burden may be too much for you to handle. If that is the case, please consider talking to a counselor, and/or a wise, loving family member or friend.
There are resources out there to help you cope with miscarriage. My friend Lauren started an amazing organization called I Am Fruitful to help women dealing with infertility and miscarriage. Check out their encouraging Instagram. I’ve also found several YouVersion Bible reading plans on miscarriage. My husband and I are currently going through the a plan called “Walking Through Miscarriage with God.”
If you have experienced a miscarriage, please share resources or advice that has been helpful for you!
We all need help. Some of us suck at asking for help. GUILTY AS CHARGED.
And I figure a lot of you are probably just like me: You want to seem like you’ve got it all together, like you don’t need other people to do anything for you. Like you’ve got everything totally under control… even though your world is crashing down around you.
One of the kindest people I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking to is Jill Donovan, Rustic Cuff founder.I recently interviewed her for my freelance writing gig for the Vintage Newsmagazine. Before I ever had a conversation with her, though, I adored this lady. She has a genuinely kind heart, as evidenced by the mission behind Rustic Cuff. These bracelets are known as “gift them to your friends” bangles. Jill lives in my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I know countless people who Jill has personally gifted Rustic Cuffs to. In fact, after I wrote the article about her, I received a delivery of a huge package of Rustic Cuffs. One of them was engraved with the names of my two sons, “Luke & Jude.” She had subtly asked their names during our interview, and then had a Rustic Cuff personally designed just for me! Talk about kindness personified.
All right, back to my point.
If you’re like me, you have a hard time asking for help. And during those seasons when you desperately need help — when you have a newborn, when you’re sick, when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one — you don’t even know how to ask for help. You’re so overwhelmed that you literally have no idea what to ask friends for when they send you well-meaning texts saying, “Let me know what I can do to help.”
In her podcast, “Find Your Get To,” Jill made an amazing point that really struck me. Don’t ask what you can do to help. Just do it. Who cares if you don’t know what your friend’s favorite meal is. Just get her something that sounds delicious, and she will appreciate the fact that someone cared enough to do something. Maybe you have a friend who is in grief, and her house is a mess. Just go clean it. Or, if you have the financial means to do so, hire a professional to clean her house.
That’s the type of friend I want to be. The one who acts. The one who will help even when I don’t even know exactly how to. Chances are, my friend in need doesn’t know how to tell me to help. She doesn’t know how to ask for help during her time of need.
Let’s be a blessing to those in need. Let’s sow seeds of kindness and love even when we don’t know exactly what kind of seeds they should be.
This has been the most challenging season. It seems like more days have felt like survival mode versus just regular living.
The start of COVID coincided with the birth of my second child. This season has been met with what seems like an endless cycle of at least one person in our household being sick, classroom/school closures, and feeling as though I can’t adequately handle everything on my plate. An endless cycle of the unexpected. How I miss predictability! When life is predictable, I can make plans and stick with them. I can make goals and achieve those goals. But for now, God seems to be teaching me to just trust Him to get through each day.
The month of May entailed my 14-month old getting an ear infection and roseola at the same time, followed by me experiencing excruciating tooth pain, only to find out I would need a root canal, followed by the baby getting hand foot mouth disease just days after he recovered from the other two illnesses, followed by me getting a mysterious GI illness the entire time we were on vacation in Colorado. All of this in the midst of a very busy season in my full-time job.
Sometimes, it just seems like too much. I feel like I can’t possibly be making a difference because I’m just trying to keep myself and my family above water.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you are in a season of survival, when you feel like you’re just holding on for dear life.
But sometimes, even in the midst of all of the craziness, we are still making a difference. Those prayers prayed before bedtime are going down deep into our kids’ hearts. The Jesus songs we are intentional to play in the car stay in their heads and come out their lips at school all throughout the day. Those times when it takes literally all of our strength to just get ourselves and our family out the door and to church on time? Those are seeds. They are making a difference.
I had one of those moments recently when I realized the importance of these seeds. As I was dropping my 4 year old off, his teacher pulled me aside and said, “Yesterday, during breakfast, Luke was telling everyone how much Jesus loves them.”
My heart exploded in pride. Something has stuck. And that something is the most important thing.
So life is crazy now. So I can’t seem to make plans and stick with them because of things out of my control. What is in my control? Loving God. Teaching my kids what it means to love God. I can do those things. I can praise God no matter my circumstance.
And every once in a while, I’ll get little glimpses that it’s sticking. That the seeds I’m planting are growing.
Don’t lose hope. Keep your head up, and keep doing what you know is right.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Blessings don’t just magically appear in our lives. There is a formula to living in blessings. I feel the older I get, the more I’m learning this rhythm and how to walk in the patterns of His blessings.
Living a life that is beyond ourselves.
The more we focus on ourselves and our own needs, the less satisfied we will be.
The more we look beyond ourselves and to the needs of others, the more satisfied we actually are.
“Give, and it will be given to you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
If you give only a little of your life to others, you’ll be blessed a little.
If you give in a big, irrational way, you’ll be blessed in a big, irrational way.
Don’t be afraid to give your life away. You only get this one life. Don’t hoard it all to yourself.