The Kingdom Here. Now.

Photo by Taylor Cash Photography

…He’s knocking, and if we’ll let Him in, we’ll feast together.  Now.  Not “one day when” but right here, in our in-between time.  We’ll eat till we’re bursting, and with a happy heart, we’ll recognize Him as the One we were longing for in the first place.

We’ll find that the Promise Keeper – not the promise – is our prize.  And that no fulfilled promise can compare to the One who made that promise.

Continue reading here.

~

I’m honored to be writing about the now nature of the Kingdom over at my dear friend Jessica’s blog today.  Friend, I pray this encourages you in your place of waiting.  His Kingdom is a here and now Kingdom!

A Thank You Note to Our Baby Boy on Mother’s Day

Baby Boy,

You’ve ruined me.

Your cry pierced my world… and you tore my heart wide open. Forever.

Photo by Cat Gifford

Mothering you is changing me. It’s making me better.

So when I think about celebrating my first Mother’s Day, I have to thank you.

Thank you, Baby Boy, for bursting onto the scene and ambushing me with joy. You snuck up on me, with your tiny feet and silky skin… I didn’t even know what was coming.


You’re showing me new ways to love your daddy. New ways to love, period. Thank you for that.

 

You’ve drenched me in wonder. I knew life was a gift… but carrying you made me see the miracle it really is. I watch you while you sleep in your bassinet – the one your daddy and grandmother slept in- and I marvel.

 

Thirty three years ago, your daddy was the baby boy sleeping there…and his momma was me.

You’re taking my eyes off of me. Thank you for teaching me patience and selflessness with your middle of the night feedings. I found His grace in new ways there. And thank you even more for sleeping through the night now!

Thank you for showing me that there are things worth gaining weight for… That the world won’t end if I go to Target with no make-up on… And that life can be full – the fullest it’s ever been – while getting very little sleep.

Thank you for multiplying my love. Multiplying everything in me, really. Whatever dreams and passions I had before… they’ve grown exponentially since you came along.

I see people with more compassion than I used to, especially single moms. And children… oh Baby Boy, you’ve shown me just how precious children are to the Father. It’s washed over me countless times now- I’ll lay you on the changing table and you look up at me with your bright, trusting eyes… and I could weep over the abuse and injustice done to other babies like you. I cared before… but not like this. Thank you for opening my eyes.

Thank you for reminding me each day what matters most, that presence matters more than any to-do list. That if it’s between dancing with you and organizing the study, dancing with you is always, always the right choice.

Thank you for showing me just how precious our time on this earth is… and for making me treasure the fullness of each moment I’ve been given. You’re causing me to enjoy the journey more than I ever have, and to be content in the hiddenness only the Father sees.

Baby Boy, I can’t get enough of your surprise smiles. And your little noises. Your sweet smell. The joy I feel when I scoop you up in my arms, and the warmth of your tiny body hugged up to mine.

 

Mother’s Day doesn’t make me think about me… it makes me think about you.

 

Photo by Sugarsnap Photography

So thank you, Baby Boy. You made me a momma. And mothering you is making me the person I want to be.

Cleansed by Parenthood

For me, becoming a parent has been like catching the most enormous wave. The moment you hear that cry, the wave picks you up and carries you away.

Carries you to fresh waters, and immerses you in newness like never before. New love, new beauty, new demands, new sounds, new rhythms…

Photo by Sugarsnap Photography



I was cleared to exercise again at my final doctor visit the other day… And I’m in disbelief that it’s been seven whole weeks since I worked out. You probably have to know me to understand… This is the longest I’ve gone without exercising since sixth grade. No joke. Some kind of fire was lit in me about fitness at an early age, and I never looked back. I’m extremely disciplined by nature; so over the years exercise has been as routine as brushing my teeth. And it continued to be for my entire pregnancy.

…And then our baby boy arrived.

We heard that cry, fell head over heels, and everything changed in an instant.

And the changes weren’t just emotional – they were physical, too. Birthing a child makes demands of a woman’s body that can’t be matched by any other experience. Never have you been asked to do and give so much while your body is trying to mend itself on pockets of deep but broken sleep. And if you’re going to heal, rest – not exercise – is the needed balm.

So for about seven weeks, that’s what I’ve done. I’ve breathed a sigh of relief, rested, and enjoyed our son. It’s been healing in more ways than one. Cleansing, actually.

To cease doing something that had been part of my daily regimen for nearly two decades has been a holy thing for me. Physical rest has very much yielded spiritual rest.

And now, just like that, I’ve been cleared to work out again. Nearly two months have unfolded in the blink of an eye, and I have the go-ahead to restart this thing that has been such a big part of my life.

Only, I’m a different person than I was eight weeks ago. The zealous discipline I pictured instantly reappearing (before I became pregnant) hasn’t. Something [someone] has turned my world upside down in the best ways possible, and smashed the rules that used to govern my time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m excited to get moving again and have already done a few preliminary sets of donkey kicks. [Again, you probably have to know me to appreciate this. Just message me if you want to know about this all-time favorite glute exercise of mine!] I’m starting to move, and I won’t lie – I’ve been happy to see my belly shrink and look forward to regaining my pre-pregnancy stomach. [I’m still a woman, afterall.]

But despite my excitement to be moving again, something inside of me has changed. Permanently. This exercise thing just can’t have the size slice in my life that it used to.  It’ll be present, but in a new way… sitting noticeably lower on my list.

I’ve seen this same cleansing take place in Andrew, too. For him, it’s been a five month withdrawal from golf. A holy ceasation from something that’s as big a part of him as exercise has been for me. Interestingly, the weekend I was cleared to work out again was the same weekend he ended up picking up his clubs again for the first time.

Becoming a parent is wild. Much like a fast, it forces you into stillness and ceasation where there used to be consuming activity. You’re asked to lay down some things – good things- that simply don’t belong in such a sacred season. Eventually, those closed doors reopen… But when you walk through them again, it’s different from before. You’re different. Some things just don’t have the hold on you they once did.

“There’s no turning back to who we once were.” My dear friend wrote these words to me in a card a few days ago. We walked through seminary together as wives and students, and now, we’re both mothers.

I don’t know if any truer words could be said about becoming a parent. There really is no turning back… and no desire to.

That giant wave has carried me to better, brighter waters, and cleansed me in ways I didn’t even know I needed.

“It is a profound gift for God to interrupt our tightly controlled lives

with something (someone) so unbelievably consuming as to rewrite all our rules…”

[wise words from my sweet cousin, Michele]

Holy Disruption

Our little man turned five weeks old Tuesday.

Five whole weeks since we were swallowed up in this beautiful tidal wave called parenthood.

Already, our son is teaching us so much. New ways to love, new ways to give of ourselves, and new joys to embrace.

Each day, we’re watching him express more and more of the person he is. It feels like he’s reaching milestones on a daily basis, and my Nikon can barely keep up.

“No more pictures, Mommy!”



Some of richest [and most challenging] experiences on this new journey have been growth spurts. Whether it’s a physical or mental leap, I’ve learned quickly that these spurts make our son’s world chaotic for a few days. Our soft, established rhythm up and changes to become loud and unfamiliar.

When he’s making a leap, our easy-going boy can quickly go from this…

To this…

And I think there’s something to see here.

Growth comes through the vehicle of disruption.

During Landrum’s first growth spurt, when he was around 7-10 days old, I was trying to figure out what in the world had happened to our usually calm child when it hit me all of the sudden. If he was ever going to grow bigger than the eight pound [12 oz!] boy we brought home, something about his rhythm would have to change. Of course he would need to eat more. So of course his daily routine would get all mixed up.

And don’t I want him to grow? Don’t I want him to keep becoming the strong, healthy boy he was created to be? Yes.

The disruption was headed somewhere good – so I realized I better embrace it.

Since then, he’s had another recent spurt – a mental leap… and with it came disruption. This day or two of chaos looked a little different from his first growth spurt, but it was chaos nonetheless.

What’s striking me about these growth spurts is that what feels very much like a setback is, in fact, our son leaping forward.

I listened to the most beautiful message* the other day, and in it, this woman was describing the birth process. She talked about a nearly universal experience women have during childbirth when they reach a point they feel they can’t go any further. They feel physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, like they simply can’t go on. This usually happens as the baby’s head is crowning.

Just as the long-anticipated life is beginning to manifest, a mother feels she can’t go on. It’s simply too much. She doesn’t have any more to give, can’t endure any longer… and is, honestly, tempted to give up just as her baby is being birthed.

Friends, there’s something to glean here. There’s something the Father wants us to see.

Growth requires disruption. Giving birth to something new comes with very hard moments. But doing the same thing we’ve always done will keep us the same people we’ve always been. Familiar rhythms will keep us singing the same song till Kingdom come. Clinging to our un-challenging routine will not stretch us into who we were created to be. And this is not the life I want.

If we want to walk in the BIG things God is declaring over our lives, we better learn to embrace disruption, because it’s leading us some place good. All the moving parts, the newness, the unfamiliar chaos that feels like a setback – it’s propelling us forward.

When He is Lord of it, disruption is holy.  And it enlarges us to receive His promises.

So maybe you find yourself in this place of holy disruption today.  Maybe His promise to you seems a million miles away.  Maybe you’re convinced that you’ve lost ground in all the chaos.  I’m here to tell you, Friend, you’re not moving backward – you’re leaping forward.  And you’re closer to your promise than you’ve ever been.

Photo by Cat Gifford

~

*Message is entitled “Sing, Oh Barren Woman”

What We Declare Over Our Children

I’m a word person. Always have been. And now, more than ever, I recognize the power they hold. My momma heart is being unlocked in every way imaginable these days – and words are playing an important role in this.

Words have the power to ignite and to snuff out. To encourage and to deflate. To make deposits into the heart and to make withdrawals. To liberate and to suppress. To fan the flame of faith and to water down with cynicism.

Becoming a parent has put all this under the magnifying glass for me.

Andrew and I have been given this precious life to steward. The Father has placed our son under our spiritual authority. This is both a beautiful and weighty gift. We have the opportunity to prophesy things over his life, to speak into his heart, the way no one else can.

Oh, how we want to agree with what Heaven is saying over his life. Not the world. Not logic. Not popular opinion. Not statistics.

These competing voices will always have an opinion, and they’ll be sure to give it to us. “Boys aren’t supposed to cry.” “Boys tend to struggle with this or that.” “Just wait till he’s a teenager…” On and on.

Thank goodness we have a stronger, truer Voice speaking counsel tailor made for our son and his unique journey. Our assignment as his parents is to lean into that Voice with our whole heart, and to agree with it in what we declare over him.

Maybe that’ll mean turning off the TV sometimes.  Maybe it’ll mean taking that friend or relative’s words with a grain of salt.  Maybe it’ll mean stopping the google searches… or limiting time spent on social media.  It will most definitely mean time spent in the Scriptures – those secret moments when we hide the Word in our heart so the Spirit can breathe on it down the road, right when we’ll need it.  It will also mean actively speaking the truth over him, raising our voices on a daily basis in agreement with the Father’s boundless promises.  We want this to be a tangible, real thing in our home.

So over his crib, we’ve mounted a prophetic declaration. Words that paint a big, bold picture for today and for his future.  Words that reflect how BIG his God is.

You were born to blaze new trails. Pioneer great adventures. Reclaim new territory. Take daring risks. You were born to tell an original story. Be God strong and foolishly courageous. Let faith not fear be your compass. Truth not lies be your guide. Always remember to give God room to prove Himself faithful. You were born for such a time as this.

These words are just as much for us as they are for him. They remind me that the promises over our son’s life are BIG – God big… and that the Father’s dreams over mine and my husband’s lives are just as big as those for our son. And that our love for our boy barely holds a candle to the Father’s.

I love that these words will be spoken over him in his lying down and in his rising each day. They help me to zoom out during 3am feedings and see that something much bigger than me is happening as I care for him, that there’s a bigger story playing out even now. That as I pour into him, the Father is fashioning him to be a sharp arrow that will pierce the hearts and minds of His choosing.

Friends, what we declare over our children is powerful. Our prayers literally shape the trajectory of their lives. It matters what we’re dreaming over them. Saying about them. Praying over them. Agreeing to be true of them.

Time is short, and much is at stake. There’s a Kingdom calling forth the sharpest of arrows. My prayer today and forever is that we as parents speak words over our children that breathe life, establish their true identity, and liberate them to play their God-given role in that Kingdom.

Let’s agree with Heaven’s words over our little ones!

~

Children are an inheritance from the Lord,

offspring a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior

are children born in one’s youth.

Psalm 127:3-4

~

Professional Photos by Sugarsnap Photography

Pregnancy, Birth, and the Joy of Surrender

It’s a beautiful new adventure I’m on, this thing called motherhood. On Valentine’s Day we welcomed our son, Landrum, into the world.

Oh, how life has changed in the last ten days.

2.14.17 - Andrew's best ever birthday gift, our beautiful son

2.14.17 – Andrew’s best ever birthday gift, our beautiful son

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Diaper changes – *lots* of them, surprise showers at the changing table, the 7-10 day growth spurt [help me, Jesus — this child loves to eat!] and the sweetest newborn snuggles imaginable.

We’ve been ambushed by joy.

5 days old

5 days old

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…and as I’ve thought back on our pregnancy and birth experience, I see that God was setting us up for this joy from the beginning. But we had to follow His lead to get there.

Below, I’m sharing some about our journey and the open-handed posture the Lord fashioned in us throughout the pregnancy…and how it paved the way for pure joy at his arrival.

I believe there’s something in this that’s bigger than my experience alone, and I pray our story speaks life and encouragement to you fellow parents out there, wherever you are on the journey!

*all professional photos by Sugar Snap Photography*

Third Trimester Basketball

Baby Boy and I are 37 weeks along now, and I can hardly believe it! It feels like time is speeding up. And even though it’s so close now, I still can’t wrap my mind around meeting him face to face.

Pregnancy is something we’re so familiar with until experiencing it ourselves. At least, that’s how it was for me. I saw pregnant women and babies out and about all the time – and honestly never thought much of it. Don’t get me wrong – I knew children were tremendous gifts and that becoming a parent is a huge deal… But kind of in the same way a southerner knows it’s beautiful out west. We can watch all the documentaries and see pictures and hear other people’s travel stories… but not until hopping a plane and seeing it with our own eyes will we fully understand.

That’s how pregnancy has been for me. Something I’ve understood casually and from a distance has now become an up-close, intimate reality. It’s unlocking a whole new world inside my heart.

It’s the craziest miracle, this thing called life. How it’s breathed into existence…how it starts as a tiny, hidden secret… and then grows into unmistakable visibility.

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Baby Boy and I have definitely reached the “unmistakable” phase. It took a long time, but we finally got there.


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…And people’s responses to my pregnant belly have been one of the sweetest parts of this nine month journey. Even if I had nothing else to go on, people’s reactions alone would tell me everything: life is a miracle. It’s worth taking note of… and worth celebrating.

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Andrew and I have this thing with transition. For us, when change comes, it touches every part of our lives. So besides our baby and parenthood preparations, we’ve been hard at work on a fixer-upper where our family of three will live. Whether we will make our move before or after Baby Boy’s arrival is being determined over the next week or so. To say we have a lot going on is a huge understatement. One minute we’re discussing light fixtures and carpet, the next minute we’re thinking through our hospital bag… then it’s time to go antiquing again……or pack up another load and take it to our new basement.

Andrew keeps finding the perfect pieces for our new house!

Andrew keeps finding the perfect pieces for our new house!

Packing things up has of course led to walks down memory lane.

Old Pictures…

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Old drawings I had forgotten about…

I was pretty infatuated with Liz's beauty years ago. I always loved drawing portraits.

I was pretty infatuated with Liz’s beauty years ago. I always loved drawing portraits.

Even boxes of middle school and high school letters! The kind we wrote during class and folded the same way every time. I still have all of them! Literally boxes of them.  For some reason, I’ve never thrown them away.

~

In the midst of everything else we’re working on, my car has started having a mid-life crisis [or maybe an end-of-life crisis]. We’ve had a crazy number of “repairs” over the last month and are now deciding whether it’s time to let my beloved Jeep go. This has been a pretty big decision to add to the mix. Honestly, several other parts of our lives are transitioning too. It seems that the Father wants to show Himself very strong by leading literally every part of our lives into wild, unfamiliar, and exciting territory, all at the same time.

And if He wants to show Himself strong [I believe He always does], who am I to stop Him? Worship, especially this song, has been such an anchor and joy-protector in the midst of all these moving parts. I’m so thankful for His strong arms to lean on.

~

One of our recent baby prep adventures was a GIGANTIC Costco stock up. People have been telling us for years to get a membership, and having a baby finally helped us pull the trigger. We both tend to go “all in” with anything we do…and of course our first Costco visit was no different.

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We’re good on paper products, dish soap, trash bags, and a whole bunch of other stuff until 2018. And the stock-up didn’t stop there! Oh no… we’ve bought obscene amounts of water, toothpaste, retainer cleanser… [Yes, I still sleep in my retainers. See below picture, and you’ll understand why. I’m never going back!]  I’m thinking we’ll have enough going on adjusting to life with Little Man. Who needs the nuisance of a bunch of extra errands for this kind of stuff??

Thank God there's life beyond yearbook pictures.

Thank God there’s life beyond yearbook pictures.

~

Earlier this month, in the middle of our baby and house hustle and bustle, the most glorious snow blew in. It was a beautiful interruption that forced us to pause and simply have fun…for a whole weekend. It was just what we needed.

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And it offered the best excuse for more bump pictures.

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Snow bibs seem so roomy until you're eight and a half months pregnant!

Snow bibs seem so roomy until you’re eight and a half months pregnant!

Left: 30 Weeks [12.5.16] Right: 35 Weeks [1.9.17]

Left: 30 Weeks [12.5.16]
Right: 35 Weeks [1.9.17]

Back in November, Andrew surprised me with The Magnolia Story for my birthday. I’ve completely flipped out over Chip and Joanna’s show, and I just love who they are as people. So this book was the perfect gift. Life has been such a whirlwind, though, I wondered if this read might not happen for a long while.

But then for a few weeks I kept feeling the Lord’s nudge to read it now, before the baby comes. So I listened. [I’m learning to always listen when I feel His nudge to read something.] I’m half way through, and their story is speaking such timely words into our current season of life. I see Chip and Joanna’s lives and ministry as a parable. They’re discreet in the way they present themselves on tv and in the book too, but the Spirit’s work is all over their story.

For me, reading this has been a fresh invitation to dream big and take risks.

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Part of our own fixer-upper fun has been watching our home’s transformation. It’s exciting to see all the details we’ve been discussing for months come together, especially when sweet friends drop by to see the progress.

I adore this woman. She radiates with the Spirit of God.

I adore this woman. She radiates the Spirit of God.

And speaking of sweet friends, five of my dearest threw Baby Boy and me the most beautiful shower on Sunday! Love was poured into every detail, and I was overwhelmed with everyone’s kindness and generosity.

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Em was the sweetest gift assistant ever! She handed me every single present I opened. <3

Em was the sweetest gift assistant ever! She handed me every single present I opened. ❤

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We just love candid laughing shots!

We just love candid laughing shots!

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Unquestionably, one of the most beautiful parts of this pregnancy journey has been watching Andrew become a daddy. For me, having a baby was a tremendous leap of faith. For him, though, it’s a long-time desire fulfilled. He’s loved everyone else’s children so well for so many years, and now he gets to love his very own. Watching it happen is something to behold. Yall, this man… I just don’t have words.

View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity

There’s a good chance I’ll be crying the hardest and loudest of all in that delivery room.

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As we await his arrival, these are a few of the blessings I’ve been praying over our son.

Maybe some of you expectant parents out there will want to pray some of these

over your own children. The blessings of God begin in the womb!

Let’s agree with Heaven’s BIG dreams over our little ones.

~

Baby Boy, I bless you

to know, even from my womb, that you are loved and wanted,

that you are chosen and called forth into the family of God,

I bless you

to walk in true sonship, as His son and as ours,

and to know Him, to really know Him, from your earliest days.

Son, I bless you

with the joy of the Lord,

a pure heart,

holy laughter,

Heaven’s wholeness,

the Spirit’s freedom,

and genuine friends who propel you forward in your love for Him.

I bless you

to experience and carry the Father’s love all the days of your life,

releasing it into every person you encounter.

In the beautiful Name of Jesus.

Receive the Gift He IS Giving

I don’t know about you, Friend, but in our neck of the woods, we’ve been enjoying beautiful snow for the last three days.  It had been forecasted for about a week, but in South Carolina, you learn not to take these kinds of forecasts too seriously.  Too many “blizzards” have turned out being just a few silly flurries.

But this past weekend was one of those rare times when the snow actually came.  Friday night brought a beautiful blanket of five to six inches… and with it, the chance to receive a surprise gift from God.

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I had to choose whether or not I would receive His gift, though.  Before the snow came, our weekend held slightly different plans.  But I’m learning that the Lord’s best surprises often come in the form of “changed plans.”  So often, I’m coming to think of them as holy rearrangements.

In the video below, I’m sharing for a few quick minutes about how this weekend was a fresh opportunity to see things through the Holy Spirit’s lens, a fresh chance to choose quiet surrender and open hands.  Ya know, only open hands are positioned to receive the better thing He’s giving.  And His gifts always bring joy!

2016 Hewitt Holiday Letter

{sarcasm alert}

Dear Family & Friends-

Before I dive into our yearly update, I just have to thank each of you for so faithfully reading our letters and sharing them with others. Every year, I have people from all over – some from as far away as Campobello – contact me and share how the Hewitt Holiday Letter has spoken to them. We do NOT take that lightly.

One of mine and Andrew’s favorite Christmas traditions is to sit down together and recount the year’s blessings. We pull up the fireplace app on our phone, turn on our Kenny G favorites, and sit for hours listening to the fire crackle while we relive the year’s victories. We barely get through January before the tears start gushing.

One of the big themes of our 2016 has been risk-taking. This year, we’ve thrown caution to the wind and moved out to the edge where all the danger and passion are. Like when it snowed in January, and I spontaneously jumped onto the sled with my nephew while Andrew pulled us around at breakneck speed on the golf cart.

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We were whipping and whirling and caught up in another world as Andrew pulled us along. “Faster, faster!” we yelled. What a rush. There was a moment right after we finished our ride that I just had to stop, throw my head back, and shout.

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It reminds me of the time we were at a Red Woods park, and I desperately wanted a picture up close with the trees. The only problem was, getting the picture I wanted would require me to hop the fence…and the sign clearly said not to go past the fence. For a minute or so, my mind was tossed to and fro between obeying the rule versus getting the picture I wanted. It was a real dilemma… my head was spinning.

But then this zeal came over me. Sweating profusely, I turned my eyes from the sign, marched right over the fence, planted myself by the giant trees, and posed while Andrew took several secret pictures of me. My resolve in that moment was unshakable. Andrew couldn’t get over it.

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Whew. Chills run up and down my body every time I think back on that day. Sign – what sign?? Rules – what rules??

Anyway, Andrew hasn’t played around this year either. For the longest, he’s daydreamed about sporting brighter, more tropical outfits during the summer…but has held back because “What if those shorts are too short?” and “What would people think?” This year though, sudden and unexplainable courage came over him – it was very much like my Redwoods photo experience. He stopped caring what other people think and finally got the outfit he had been picturing.

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Neither of us could have been happier. These shorter, swim-trunk-like shorts have been MUCH cooler during the hot summer months. Plus, anytime we’ve unexpectedly been invited to go swimming, Andrew has always been ready. Things have been so much smoother since he stepped out in faith and got that first outfit.

Not long after his wardrobe breakthrough, Andrew was asked to dress up as a clown for a local children’s event. With all of the clown controversies we’ve had lately, you can imagine what a weighty decision this was for him. But like I said, we resolved at the beginning of this year not to be held back by fear but to march forward in faith.

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He did dress up. And he was a complete success. The kids loved him. And the icing on the cake: no one in Spartanburg attempted to connect him to the clown crimes at all. That’s what you call divine favor, Ladies and Gentlemen. Great risk brings great reward.

After taking all these risks and seeing such breakthrough, we knew it was time for us to take the next step. We’ve been feeling the need for a recreational vehicle for some time now. Sometimes riding around the block in my Jeep just doesn’t cut it. So we took the plunge and got a Kubota.

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I love this thing. We’re wild and free when we’re on it. Sometimes we just ride in circles around the house, hair blowing in the wind, seatbelts unfastened… There’s nothing like it. These joyrides remind me of how I felt when I won the Junior Scholar Award in 8th grade.

Junior Scholar Event

Junior Scholar Event

I have to be honest though. Real warfare has come with all of this risk-taking. Like last month when we were having a steak dinner by the firepit with some friends. Daniel was responsible for utensils, and as soon as he told us that he brought plasticware, I had a red flag. I could see what was probably going to happen, though I managed to keep a straight face.

Sure enough, only a bite or two into my steak, my fork broke. When I heard it crack, I just cringed. Here we were, celebrating mine and Zaina’s birthdays, trying to treasure the moment, and now I had no idea how I was going to finish my steak. I sat there thinking and realized it had been at least 12-18 months since I had last broken a fork like this. This was clearly warfare. Satan wanted to shut down our celebration [and was probably still mad over Andrew’s clown victory]. Once I recognized what was going on, everything shifted. I was not going to succumb to his schemes.

Andrew saw the battle raging around me and went to look for another fork. And let me tell you, he found a REAL fork, not a plastic one. It was one he had brought with him that he had forgotten about. Peace washed over our gathering immediately. I was able to finish my steak, and we had the best time that night.

This was at the firepit, just before the fork/spiritual warfare episode.

This was at the firepit, just before the fork/spiritual warfare episode.

God is so good. He doesn’t just replace what was lost; He gives you something better than you even started with! I’ve thought about sitting that fork somewhere around the house as a reminder of this beautiful promise.

After sailing over the fork hurdle, we ended up buying a fixer upper. One of our first steps in the project was replacing all of the home’s old windows with new ones. I decided to list the old windows on facebook, just in case there were any takers we could bless.

Friends, I stand amazed. People have come out of the woodwork to buy these windows! My parents and I talked it over and simply couldn’t believe how many people in the Spartanburg area were desperate for new windows. No doubt, people had been duct taping their broken ones and barely staying alive in their freezing cold homes, waiting for a miracle – a Christmas miracle. And then they saw my facebook post. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about how God is using our old windows to bless other people and make their homes warm again this Christmas.

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We got to be so many people’s miracle this holiday season! How precious!

Speaking of “miracle,” something that has really ministered to me this year are the spiritual glamour shots flooding my social media feeds. Oftentimes, these are selfies captioned with a Scripture or words of inspiration.

So many times, I’ve been “down” when I began to scroll through Instagram, and before I knew it, I would see one of these inspirational selfies and BAM…the presence of God would nearly knock me down. Friends, you can’t put a price on this kind of visitation from heaven.

I’ve been so moved by it all that I feel the call to sow the same kind of encouragement into others. Freely I’ve received – so freely I’m going to give. It’s time I shared my own spiritual selfies and portraits. But I need your help. Which one of these speaks to you the most powerfully?

My inclination with this first one was to caption it with a popular, but non-Scriptural saying and/or a vague inspirational phrase…

"God helps those who help themselves" OR "Glory come down"

“God helps those who help themselves” OR “Glory come down”

My vision for this second shot was to really get people digging in their Bibles by including a more obscure passage combined with a serious facial expression.

"Above were high-grade stones, cut to size, and cedar beams." I Kings 7:11

“Above were high-grade stones, cut to size, and cedar beams.” I Kings 7:11

This next one has an aspect of mystery to it, because you can’t see my face… you can only see my cute maternity outfit. But should the emphasis be on my belly or on the clothing?

"Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water" OR, simply "The garments of praise"

“Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water” OR, simply “The garments of praise”

Then again, I’m so passionate about revival…and I think this picture might be just the one to spark a fire in others.

"Open the floodgates of heaven" OR simply, "Revival"

“Open the floodgates of heaven” OR simply, “Revival”

On the flip side, it could be equally powerful to have a classic smile with a simple reference to a well-loved passage

"Psalm 23" OR "John 3:16"

“Psalm 23” OR “John 3:16”

Then again, I’m always moved when I see candid laughing pictures… and I LOVE when I’m so tickled that I flail my hair all about without even knowing it…

I could caption this as "The joy of the Lord" OR "Laughter is a good medicine"...

I could caption this as “The joy of the Lord” OR “Laughter is a good medicine”…

Will you guys think and pray on these and get back to me?  I want to encourage others BIG time with whichever picture(s) I post.  If you have other angles, filters, hashtags, or captions to recommend, please let me know! These pictures are all about Jesus – so I want to look perfect in them!

THANK YOU for celebrating this magnificent year with us! I pray this picture of Andrew and me laughing wildly takes you into 2017 on a high!

View More: http://rachelackermanphoto.pass.us/hayley--andrew

~

2015 Holiday Letter

2014 Holiday Letter

2013 Holiday Letter

2012 Holiday Letter

2011 Holiday Letter

Painting the Promise of Isaiah 60

Merry Christmas, Friends! I hope you’re having a joy-filled season.

Ours has been so beautiful –  very different from all other Christmas seasons.  My growing belly and our fixer-upper have made for lots of new adventures!  In this season of newness, I’ve felt the Lord drawing me back into the world of art.

I’ve had a love for drawing and painting since I was really young… but so far have only been able to pursue them during random pockets of time.  There always seem to be other pursuits in my life that put art on the back burner.

Several months ago, I decided that Isaiah 60:1-3 needed to hang in our home.  It’s been a dear passage to me for many years now.  And this past spring as I was finishing seminary, I had the privilege of studying this passage in the Hebrew for several months.  I sat under a brilliant scholar, Dr. Petter, who has an unspeakable gift for unearthing treasures from the Hebrew text (he’s a rare, killer combo of scholarly brilliance and Holy Spirit anointing – it’s pure dynamite).  Under his leadership, I looked at these three verses under a magnifying glass.  I dissected every word, considered every verb form, and examined its poetic form – all in order to draw the full meaning, promise, and beauty from the text.

At first, I thought of having this passage printed.  I thought I would simply copy and paste the Hebrew to someone who could print it, and that’s how I would get it hanging in our home.  But then I felt the Lord bringing up this art thing.  I knew He wanted me to create this piece rather than having it printed.

So sometime in November, I spontaneously went to Michael’s and loaded up on canvases and paint.  I started this project soon after.  As always, it proved to be a bigger challenge – and a slower project – than I predicted.  I saw really quickly that I needed to let this be a slow process… and that each time I went to the canvas was an opportunity to lean on His ability and not my own.

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The cool thing is, the slowness of the process allowed these words to become etched on my heart all the more.  And now that I’m finally finished, I have a yes, imperfect, but hand-crafted piece that I’ve poured myself into.

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Now these words will hang in our home as an ongoing declaration – and a continual opportunity to review this language I love so much!

So what does this passage say already?! In the video below, I discuss the passage itself, a few of the treasures I found in it while studying, and more about why I wanted it hanging in our home.

I pray this encourages you! His word is true, and it stands forever!

Pregnancy Diaries: 30 Weeks

We’re already thirty weeks along, and I can hardly believe it! February is fast approaching! A lot has changed over the last month or two…

Photo by Laura Hamon

Photo by Laura Hamon

For one, we’ve discovered Trader Joe’s. I mean, we’ve known about it for a long time – we just hadn’t tried it for ourselves. But a dear friend and her good cooking convinced me to give it a go. We were hooked on our first visit. It turns out the hype is legit!

Hello Fresh gave me the boost I needed to get back in the kitchen a few months ago…and now Trader Joe’s has taken over as just the thing I needed to keep me there. They have such a great quality and variety of food – at really affordable prices…and they have lots of easy meal options too. It’s basically a WAY better version of Whole Foods.

Here are a few of my favorite TJ’s treats:

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Mango gummies.

These turned out to be a genius impulse buy at the register on our first trip. If you know me, you know that I have a long history with gummies. I know a good gummy when I find one, and let me tell you, these are special! We stay stocked on these at all times now.

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Greek yogurts.

Guys, I have flipped out over these yogurts. Especially the pomegranate and mango flavors. My rhythm for the last few months has involved at least two of these each day, one with breakfast and one shortly before bed. Andrew usually has one at breakfast too. So yogurt stock-up time is serious in our household these days. I was checking out at TJ’s a few weeks ago with, oh… 40 yogurts or so…

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…and after making this huge stack at the register our cashier went out on a limb and said, “I’m guessing yall are yogurt people.”

And then there’s the discovery that’s changing everything…

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Cookie butter.

Ya know, sometimes your husband just hits it out of the park. This was one of those times. He insisted we buy this cookie butter on a recent stock-up, and I was pretty uninterested when he first showed it to me. I had no idea how excited I should have been. If I had known how much I was going to love it, I would have kissed him right on the spot. We dip honey pretzels in this heavenly paste and whoa… #bestsnackever.

Discovering this new world of food during pregnancy has been brilliant timing. Our latest baby development update informed us that our boy is going to more than triple in weight between now and delivery. Judging from my rapidly growing belly, I’d say he’s working hard to meet that goal.

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His growth has been so rapid over the last few weeks! I can hardly keep up with my ever-changing dimenions.

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I forget that my mid-section is basically a bowling ball now and try to go about tasks as usual, only to have something [i.e. a cabinet door] bump into my stomach. My center of gravity is changing too. I *might* have nearly fallen over a time or two while going to the bathroom in the night. [I’m finding that pregnancy is cause for lots of unexpected laughs.]

Besides my usual workouts, I’ve now added serious weightlifting to my daily regimen. Like when I have to hoist myself out of the bed. No joke – I’m pushing myself up with both arms now. It feels like I’m a heavy-as-lead mass being pulled out of the ocean floor. Then there’s the act of getting myself out of the floor after putting on shoes. This feels like I’m doing iron man squats. I feel really hard core every time I stand up.

Pregnancy brings such awesome surges of joy, too. Like when I stumbled upon the cutest little snowsuit the other day and just had to get it.

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Picturing the tiny person who will come out of my womb and be able to wear this little outfit is just too much for me.

Gifts have been trickling in for several months now, and I never knew before actually being pregnant how much this would mean to me. There’s something really sweet about another person loving your child while you’re still carrying him.

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We registered last week.

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This alone was an experience. So many options. So many little details. Such excitement. Such thankfulness for dear friends who are helping me navigate this new world of babies and parenting. And gratitude for the One I’m leaning on through this whole process.

Now that my belly has grown and I’m unmistakably pregnant, people’s comments are becoming more frequent and, at times, more interesting. A few times, upon noticing my belly, a stranger has excitedly asked, “Are you pregnant?!” with the surprised/almost-betrayed tone of an old friend whom I’ve neglected to tell. [When asked, I always confirm that I am, in fact, pregnant – not just losing control with the cookie butter and mango gummies.]

One of my favorite comments has been “You’re the biggest I’ve ever seen you!!!” Well let’s hope. I am 30 weeks pregnant.

Several times now, strangers have asked what we’re having, and upon hearing “a boy,” have replied by saying how happy Andrew must be. We are quick to respond to these statements with, “yes, we were equally thrilled to have a girl or a boy.” And we mean that. Life is life. Both men and women are God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27). We each carry and reflect specific elements of the Lord’s beauty and strength. Both are cause for celebration. And celebrate we will…

Speaking of celebration, just this past week we closed on our fixer-upper! We’ve loved every moment of these five years in our little house – life in 600 square feet has overflowed with goodness… but we’re so excited to expand our living space a little to make room for life as a family of three.

If we hadn’t started watching Fixer Upper several months ago, I would never have had eyes to see this home’s potential. But thanks to Chip and JoJo, a whole new world of creative renovation ideas has opened up to us. And it doesn’t hurt that my dad is a builder. He’s our ace in the hole for this project.

Kitchen before demo

Kitchen before demo

Kitchen during demo

Kitchen during demo

Kitchen after demo

Kitchen after demo

We’re basically living our own real-life Fixer Upper episode right now. My dad and Andrew are Chip, and I like to think of myself as Joanna. [Hey, a girl can dream.] They’ve been doing nonstop demo the past several days, and I drop by regularly and point out things, tell them what I’m picturing, and create more projects for them. It’s working out so nicely. 😉

I'm a natural with the nail gun...

I’m a natural with the nail gun…

Every day, we’re working on house and baby stuff. We’re looking at kitchen layouts, researching white washed brick, thinking through our baby registry, reading our parenting book, finishing a painting, searching Pinterest, ordering wall-hangings, cooking dinner (!!), and in the midst of it all, resting in Him and enjoying each step of this beautiful process.

Nesting. That’s the word. Prayerful, excited, in-over-our-heads, let-God-be-BIG, nesting.

Photo by Laura Hamon

Photo by Laura Hamon

The Six Month Bump

I love everything about fall.  So recently, we spent the evening with Laura Hamon while she captured our joy over this growing baby bump.  The three of us were surrounded by autumn radiance.  It was a beautiful moment in time that created memories – and pictures – I’ll treasure forever.  Here are just a few of our favorites…

View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity View More: http://laurahamonphotography.pass.us/hhmaternity

Thank you, Laura, for your beautiful work and for making this shoot so much fun!  What a gift!

Second Trimester Bliss

What a difference a new trimester makes! This most recent phase of pregnancy has been a whole different world from my first trimester.

For one, I’ve regained my usual tastes and have had a MUCH broader appetite. That alone has made life much easier. Salads are back. Asian is back. Even Southwestern food has made a comeback! [But not Chipotle… I don’t know if my love for that place will ever be revived. I’m shaking my head in disgust just thinking about it.]

With the return of my normal appetite has come the fresh boost I needed to get back into the kitchen. I’ve been on a long hiatus from cooking…to the tune of about four years. I had such naïve fantasies going into seminary. Of course I’ll still cook every night, I thought. Of course I’ll still have my dinner calendar. [You don’t even want to know about this legalistic prison called a dinner calendar I had us locked up in before starting school. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post.]

The reality of studying ancient languages and writing lengthy academic pieces quickly blew my cooking fantasies to smithereens, and with them, the food calendar. Thanks be to God! Looking back, it’s one of the best things that could have happened to us. Getting liberated from that calendar was basically like getting set free from a demon. [I can hear Andrew shouting ‘amen’!]

For four years now, the pendulum has been at the opposite extreme. And lately I’ve felt the Lord’s nudge to venture back into the world of cooking. So I did. I’m excited to say we’ve been preparing dinners at home for a month or so now, and we’re loving it!

One of my dear friends recommended Hello Fresh to us several months ago, and doing that for the first few weeks has been just the thing I needed to get the juices flowing again. It’s an app that allows you to pick your menu for each week and then on Mondays delivers to your doorstep all the groceries you’ll need and the recipes for each entree. Will you just look at some of these meals we’ve prepared?!

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I’m not one to brag, but seriously?! I’m making meals that include things like gremolata?? [Who even knew that was a word?!] This is HUGE for me. So huge I probably should have saved it for our annual holiday letter, but I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.

This jumpstart has been awesome. I’m learning a new way of life in the kitchen that’s fun and creative rather than legalistic. And some of my dear, young-mom friends are graciously sharing their recipes and secrets with me to help keep my momentum going.

Another perk of this trimester has been regained energy. We’ve taken advantage of this by getting out of town a few times and soaking up the beauty of fall.

17 Weeks!

17 Weeks!

It wasn’t long after our mountain getaway that I felt the baby’s first flutters of movement! What an experience! It was in the middle of the night, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was feeling, but I knew it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.

Three weeks after those first flutters, we reached the half way mark.

20 Weeks! Half way there!

20 Weeks! Half way there!

It was FINALLY time for our twenty week appointment. I couldn’t wait to find out what this baby was.

We found out we’re having a BOY!!!

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What a beautiful surprise! A little Andrew.

A few days after this amazing news, we left on a high for our babymoon in Zion National Park. The splendor of this place is breathtaking. I’ll always treasure our time together in such a majestic place during such a sweet season of life.

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It was at this exciting twenty week mark that Baby Boy decided to make a noticeable appearance.

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There was a week or two of stillness after those first flutters in September, but since getting flutters the second time, they’ve only grown to be bigger and more frequent. Now they’re kicks! Kicks that happen every day, throughout the day.

22 Weeks!

22 Weeks!

Pregnancy leaves me stunned all over again every single day. To think our son started as a microscopic seed who has now grown into a baby that’s kicking me and hearing our voices and may one day grow to be as tall as his dad… I can’t wrap my mind around it. And I don’t think we’re supposed to. I believe He meant for us to be wowed into speechlessness by the whole process.

Baby Boy’s sudden growth has had me repositioning myself while I sleep at night. A sweet friend gave me her Snoogle pregnancy pillow to try out…

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But Andrew thought it was only appropriate for him to test it first.

This growing belly is more noticeable during my workouts now, too. Push-ups are more of a challenge than they used to be. But hey, if I’m able to keep them up the whole pregnancy, I imagine I’ll end up with much stronger arms from lifting all this extra weight!

A bigger baby bump has also made for tighter jeans. I’ve been getting by just fine using the hairband trick to fasten my pants… but the last two weeks have turned one hairband into two. It seemed my search for maternity pants was about to begin. Honestly, this is not a very exciting prospect for someone my size. Like a lot of things in this world, maternity clothing isn’t usually made with smaller people in mind – not even the “XS” maternity stuff. It swallows me.

So this past Saturday when I discovered that my corduroy pants have more give than my jeans and can be fastened very comfortably, it was a HUGE victory! I gained a whole new wardrobe – and a comfortable one at that! Pregnancy has definitely made comfort the biggest priority in my fashion. Cuteness is preferable, but comfort is non-negotiable.

23 Weeks! I'm living in these very old cotton pants right now. :)

23 Weeks! I’m living in these very old cotton pants right now. 🙂

24 Weeks in my wonderful, stretchy cords!

24 Weeks in my wonderful, stretchy cords!

~

This season of life is all about newness.

There are new views…

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New shapes…

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24 Weeks!

24 Weeks!

And new names that come with new callings…

Mama Bird shirt, compliments of our dear friends, the Randalls <3

Mama Bird shirt, compliments of our dear friends, the Randalls ❤

In the midst of all the newness that’s come with carrying our son, there’s also the fresh work God is doing in mine and Andrew’s lives as a whole. We’re flooded with such thankfulness and love as we pray over our child and dream about what’s to come.

He’s also doing something beautiful through a tighter circle of sisters He’s placed me in during this pregnancy. I see now that this is something I’ve needed for a long time. We’re processing life together, praying for one another, and worshipping together. I feel such promise in what He’s started here.

He’s also led me into the new territory of a video blog. I never imagined I would be doing anything with videos. But I’m learning to stay wide open to whatever the Father has for me. He has spoken clearly and given me every tool I need to get started – so it’s been my joy to say ‘yes’ to this new venture. If you haven’t checked out this project yet, please do! These are precious Kingdom people in my life who are speaking powerful words of encouragement, truth, and life. I’m so excited about what the Lord has up His sleeve in this.

Newness. That’s the season we’re in. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

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~

Baby Boy, you are loved and treasured.

We’re thrilled to meet you face to face!

A Word to the Expectant Mother

To the Expectant Mother:

This journey we’re on – the one of bringing life into the world – it’s amazing, isn’t it? It takes me by surprise all over again every day.

It’s truly a miracle… and brings with it a whole new world of dreams, emotions, and things to learn. One moment I’m praying over this child… the next I’m thinking about the shower guest list I still haven’t started… which naturally reminds me of a newborn care book I want to read soon. And then there are the rushes of sheer excitement and almost disbelief that this wonderful thing really is happening.

In the midst of all this dreaming and planning, if there were only one thing I could say to you, my pregnant friend, it would be this:

Guard your heart.

While it’s true that everyone needs to be guarding their hearts, you, Expectant Mother, are in a beautiful season where this need is magnified. Exponentially magnified.

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You’ve started an entirely new journey in carrying this child… and suddenly, many voices are vying for your attention as you navigate this new terrain of pregnancy and motherhood.

There’s the voice of your peers, the ones who are already raising children. They’ve been through pregnancy, childbirth, and the newborn stage before and are excited to share lots of things with you.

There’s the voice of your family, which might be a partly encouraging, partly discouraging presence in your life. Some are sharing in your joy, some may be silent, and some may be warning you about all that you’re “in for” while they laugh condescendingly.

There’s the voice of the media with its endless articles, scientific studies, celebrity postpartum weight loss secrets, and how-to lists. If given an ear, this voice, too, has mixed effects on your inner life. Some things arouse fear, while others reinforce your insecurities by overwhelming you.

There’s the voice of the medical community, which usually means well but can be very cut and dry. They have “tests” to offer you, “scenarios” to think about, and “indicators” they’re checking for. This, too, is a voice whose sound may bring peace or may stir up uncertainty in your heart.

There’s also the voice of the general public. This voice is raised while you’re out and about or interacting with people on social media. Various opinions are thrown at you, tacked on with complimentary “advice” and warnings of everything you’re about to “lose” by having this child. And within the realm of social media, there’s a constant invitation to measure yourself and your pregnancy using the false gauge of “likes” or comparison to other people.

Of course, there’s your own voice too – the one that talks when you’re looking at things through your natural eyes. This logical sounding voice may have you calculating the medical bills, trying to figure out what certain parts of your life are going to look like after the baby comes, or overthinking your pregnancy weight gain.

There’s also the voice of your enemy. This is an important one to recognize. He’s not taking these nine months off. He knows where you are weak and vulnerable and he’s sure to jab at you in those precise places. It might be in your dreams at night, or through another’s negative words, but somehow, he’s trying to get an inroad to your heart.

Friend, listen to me for a second. Lean in close.

You are hosting a life.

You can’t afford to give an ear to all the voices that are trying to speak into you right now. Your heart is the place from which your very life flows (Proverbs 4:23). Its condition is setting the atmosphere for both you and your child.

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Above all these voices vying for your attention, the one I pray you give your ear to is His.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Sister, you have not been left on your own to figure out pregnancy and motherhood. You have a very present Shepherd who has green pastures for you to lie down in, quiet waters to sit beside, and a banquet table at which you can feast. Put your hand in the one He’s extending to you, and let Him lead you through this precious season.

Put down the articles. Stop googling stuff. Keep your Holy Spirit filter over your ears and heart in every conversation. Reject negative and foreboding words. Know your enemy and command him to flee when he rears his ugly head. Don’t buy in to all the warnings of what you’ll never enjoy again or ever be allowed to do as a mother.

Lean in close to your Shepherd. Consume His word daily. Quiet yourself and make room for Him to speak a fresh word. Sing to Him. Voice your adoration of who He is. Declare the truth and promises of God over your child. Gird yourself in His armor. Agree with His goodness and extravagant love.

If you are a child of God, you are under His dominion. Only His words have authority in your life and your child’s. So Momma,

Guard your heart.

Shut out all the noise,

And cling to Him with all that you are.

Pregnancy Diaries: 18 Weeks

I could tell you guys were dying for a pregnancy update! I’m now 18 weeks along, and a lot has changed since my first trimester craziness.

Don’t get me wrong… the eating has still been a little crazy, but I’ve regained a lot of my usual taste over the past month. [Thank you, Lord!]

For the first half of August, I was on this fried fish kick. It started when I ate some of my dad’s fried perch one day. I mostly avoid fried food – so typically I eat like five bites of this meal, just for a taste, and then fill up on something lighter. But this time, I downed about half the pan of fish without a second thought. It just felt right.

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This opened a can of worms. A day or two later, I told Andrew I wanted to go to the Fish Camp. In our entire relationship, we’ve probably gone to The Flounder two, maybe three, times. I couldn’t wait to get there. I ordered a full plate of fried flounder and hush puppies. While we were waiting on our food, Andrew smiled, made this endearing face, and said, “I’ve been waiting fifteen years to see you eat like this.”

Andrew, and the rest of the world it seems, calls this “eating like a normal person.” But for me, this is out-of-control. BUCK WILD.

What 'life on the edge' looks like...

What ‘life on the edge’ looks like…

After about two weeks, fried fish fell to the back burner. On a road trip last month, my taste for Asian suddenly returned. [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]  *Thank heavens* a PF Chang’s was on our route! I thought this moment should be documented…

[I have to get sneaky to capture him.]

[I have to get sneaky to capture him.]

For the record, this meal hit the spot… and I’ve been eating Asian again ever since!

The next day [same road trip], I got an overwhelming desire for a healthy lunch. So naturally, I opted for a Zaxby’s fried chicken caesar salad loaded with croutons and dressing. I just knew I had done the right thing.

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Okay, okay. I can feel the judgment coming from some of you. You’ll be happy to know that these fatty entrees have become more of a splurge than the norm. Thankfully, this second trimester has resurrected my love for salad – like actual healthy salads. I can’t get enough of Cribb’s seasonal berry one. It’s ah-mazing!

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And Olive Garden’s minestrone soup continues to hit the spot. My need for this soup becomes quite urgent at times. A few weeks ago while Andrew was out of town, an all-consuming desire for this soup came over me around 7pm. As you may recall from my first trimester post, I’ve learned the hard way that I need to eat in the restaurant if I want to be sure of a good minestrone experience. The only problem was… I didn’t want to go eat at Olive Garden by myself. I tried to think of other dinner options, but nothing came close to being as exciting as that soup. So I did what any level-headed person would do: I texted my dilemma/dinner request to a few friends who I felt loved me enough to potentially come sit with me at Olive Garden on a very short notice on a Saturday night.

And BEHOLD, Laurie texted back saying she would!!!!!

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This angel from God, who had already eaten dinner mind you, met me at the restaurant and watched me eat endless soup until 10:00. [I live by the truth that ‘you have not because you ask not’, and I could literally fill a book with stories of how this has proven itself time and again. This Olive Garden testimony is just one of thousands I could share. #allglorytoGod]

Besides salad and soup, Granny Smith apples dipped in vanilla Greek yogurt have become a favorite. It’s my nightly [9 or 10pm-ish] ritual.

Just look at 'em!

Just look at ’em!

~

In other news, exercise continues to be part of my daily routine. Each day, I do about thirty minutes on the elliptical and thirty minutes of other exercises like push-ups, squats, etc. With a few minor adjustments, I’ve continued daily ab exercises too. On the weekends, I’ve been walking to switch things up. I plan to do more walking once cooler weather comes. I honestly love the feeling of exercise as much now as I did before pregnancy!

At our last doctor’s appointment, I reached a big milestone.

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Andrew is ecstatic to announce that I’ve ‘joined the 100 pound club.’ I’m telling you, dreams are coming true left and right for him through this pregnancy.

It’s hard to believe that in two weeks we’ll be half way there! I’m so excited to find out whether we’re expecting a son or daughter. In the meantime, I’m having lots of crazy dreams and frequent bathroom breaks.

“Get ready for a growth spurt!” This was the opening line of my 16 week email. I would say this growth spurt is officially underway!

18 Weeks!

18 Weeks!

Andrew and I sure appreciate those of you who have been praying for the three of us! We’re dreaming and praying BIG over this little one! Thank you for being part of this journey.

Whose Table Are You Sitting At?

Friend, you might not know it, but you’re sitting at a table. You’ve pulled up a seat at one of many tables to which you’ve been invited. Every day, you’re keeping the company and eating the food of the table at which you sit.

There are many possibilities as to which table you discover yourself sitting at, because many have extended their invitation to you. And then there’s the one… the best table… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Maybe you’re sitting at The Table of People’s Opinion… Sometimes, when it seems that everyone is happy with you, you love your seat here. When all seems well and their approval keeps coming, it feels like this table is the perfect fit for you. You feel satisfied with the applause, cheery smiles, compliments, and “likes” that are being served. For a while, this seems to be a nourishing feast.

The thing is, at this table the food goes rotten all too quickly, sometimes – you notice – before you’ve even swallowed it. Before you know it, your brush with human approval vanishes. The people turn out to be fickle…and as quickly as the applause started, it stops. The entree that felt so satisfying in the beginning soon sours in your stomach as many decide that they don’t like you so much afterall. To keep your seat here, you’ll need to bridle who you really are. You’ll be continually checking the people’s thermometer to assess which version of you is acceptable today.

Surely there’s a better place for you…

~

Or maybe you’ve found a seat at The Table of Fear… There’s great unease around this table, but no one around you knows another way to be. Even when good food is served, you can’t enjoy it… because what if you look stupid while eating it? What if the other table guests think you’re weird? What if they reject you? What if you somehow fail at this gathering? What if you end up abandoned? What if you end up losing your seat here?

The thought of all the potential disasters immobilizes you. Your true desires have long been drowned under the weight of the “what ifs.”

This can’t be the only table with an open seat…

~

Maybe you find yourself at The Table of Personal Achievement… If you’re naturally driven, you probably accepted the invite to this table without a second thought. As long as you’re working on your next degree, up for your next promotion, or on the brink of one-upping another table guest, you find your seat here quite cushy. When awards and recognition are served up, you eat until you can barely breathe.

The only problem is, the glory of each accomplishment soon fades. And though you just ate like a glutton, you’re amazed at how soon your stomach starts growling from the emptiness. Just when your seeming feast has shriveled up, the person sitting next to you gets their big break…making your achievement feel forgotten. If you want to keep your place at this table, you better set your sights on the next goal. There’s no time to rest here, not if you don’t want to lose your seat.

Something about this “meal” leaves you wanting…

~

Perhaps you’ll discover you’ve been sitting at The Table of Shame… You never wanted to be invited to this table, but the invitation came for you. And since you didn’t think you had received any other invites, you took your seat here. This meal never even had the illusion of being fulfilling. The food here is scarce, and even when it is served, you feel like you don’t deserve to eat it. So you sit there hungry. The table guests are no fun either. Everyone seems constricted, frozen, and fearful.

So often, you want to leave this table…but something invisible and heavy makes it feel like you’re chained to your seat. Every time you think of trying to break away from this horrible meal, this intimidating voice convinces you of how impossible it would be…and reminds you that you have no other invitations.

Surely, somewhere out there, there’s a better seat than this…

~

Maybe you find yourself at The Table of the Establishment… You’ve landed the seat you were taught to aspire to… at the table that appears to be impeccable…among the who’s who of dinner guests. For the longest, sitting here made you want to pinch yourself. Graduating from that prestigious school, marrying into that family, moving into that neighborhood, having that much in your bank account, being networked with that group of people. The meal at this table is five courses, with the best presentation you can imagine.

But by the second or third course, you notice something disheartening: this gorgeous spread doesn’t taste nearly as good as it looks. The food looks filling, but it’s not…and everything tastes a little like cardboard. You never would have guessed it, but this never-ending “feast” doesn’t nourish. Things feel strangely lifeless. And after all these courses, you’re still hungry.

There has to be more than this…

~

Maybe you’ve pulled up a seat at The Table of Comparison and Competition… Your ‘yes’ to the invite was easy once you realized how much better you seemed to be doing than most of the other guests. Through the first course, all was well. But then, as conversation continued, you realized these people weren’t trailing as far behind as you thought. It turns out one of them is smarter than you… and one of them has a house much bigger than yours… and the two right beside you seem to have a happier marriage than yours, and more talented kids. All of the sudden, your initial pride dissipates into severe discontentment.

Down the table, you can still spot a few guests who clearly can’t hold a candle to you… but they’re too far away for your comfort. If you want to be happy at this table, you’ll always be on the lookout for who’s trailing you, and on a constant pursuit to catch up with whoever you’re trailing.

There has to be a more peaceful place to sit than this…

~

It could be that you’re sitting at The Table of the Past… Your seat here keeps you in the days of way-back-when… when the injustice happened to you, when your hope was shattered, when you were betrayed, when things fell apart, when you felt abandoned, or when you sank in the humiliation of failure. The guests sitting around you and the food being served are all familiar to you, and most of the time, you take comfort in that.

Sometimes, though, you feel a draw to live in the present…but your table mates have nothing to say about that; they just keep pointing you back to the past. And while you like the familiarity of the food, you finally start noticing that it’s stale…some of it even moldy. If you want to stay here, you better develop a taste for the old, the decaying, and the smelly. You can forget about anything alive and fresh.

Surely you can find a better table than this…

~

Or it could be that you’ve been sitting at The Table of Religion… The invitation to this table promised you life: a seat near Jesus himself. So you gladly came to the table. When you arrived, the table guests were full of such eloquent words about Him… and they taught you exactly how to read His word and how to busy yourself doing things for Him. For a while, you were enamored with it all. But now, it’s dawned on that you still haven’t seen Jesus at the table. And then you realize how odd it is that the guests here have to set the table themselves, prepare the food themselves, and do their own clean-up. And while the food is okay, it isn’t nearly as good as you thought it would be.

So you start to ask those around you where Jesus is, and when you’ll get to know Him rather than just talking about Him…and when the food will get better. You’re met with disapproving glares. One responds that you just need to read the Bible more diligently, while another offers you a few “principles” to try. No one around you seems to be bothered by the fact Jesus isn’t at the table. Something is terribly off here…

Suddenly, in the distance, you spot the One you’ve been looking for. Jesus locks eyes with you…and motions for you to come where He is. So while everyone’s busy cleaning up, you sneak away and run over to Him. He leads you down an unusual path, and just when you’re wondering where in the world He’s taking you, you come up on a breathtaking banquet table.

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Without even being told, you know… It’s

The Father’s Table

You look with awe and can’t help but to step closer. Seeing it up close, you realize all the other tables have been poor attempts to mimic this one. Lots of guests are already seated, but you can clearly see some open spots. How amazing would it be… you think to yourself. Then you see something that stops you in your tracks. The open seat in front of you has a place card with your name on it! The whole time you’ve been sitting at that other table, He’s had a seat saved for you here.

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Upon sitting down you notice all Three are present here – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Already, the Table of Religion is a distant, laughable memory. The guests sitting around you are as diverse as can be. They each used to sit at lesser tables too. As conversation and feasting get underway, your heart breathes a sigh of relief. You belong here. You’ve finally come home.

At this table, you’ve become part of the family. And you sit under a canopy of love, peace, truth, joy, and rest. There’s no striving to keep your seat here; the Father Himself saves it for you. And the food seems to get better with every single bite. But beyond the food, you’ve found something here that every other table lacked: a place where you’re truly known, you’re loved for who you really are, and you have no need to perform, one-up, or hide.

Each guest brings unique power and beauty to the table, and each one is irreplacable. Why didn’t I sit here sooner? And without Him even saying it, something inside you knows that this feast will never end.

As you keep discovering your place here, the old tables start calling your name, and strangely enough, you may consider going back to one of them. That’s the thing about the Father’s Table. He’ll never force you to come to it…and He’ll never force you to stay. But Darling, don’t go back. Don’t ever leave your seat at the Father’s Table.

No matter who chooses to live their days at lesser tables, no matter how many years you spent in the wrong company, no matter how many invitations you receive to go back to the way you used to live… Don’t ever go back. Stay seated at the Father’s Table where you are loved, wild, and free. Where truth is experienced, not just read. Where people’s appraisal can’t penetrate His shield around you. Where dreams are conceived and life grows.

“Listen, listen to me,

and eat what is good,

and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

Isaiah 55:2

~

Photos by Brooke Irby

The Seed Inside Your Seed

I get pregnancy progress emails several times a week now. One that came the other day informed me of something pretty amazing. If this baby is a girl, she already has millions of eggs inside of her – all that she will ever have, in fact.

Thinking on this sparked something in me. If I’m carrying a girl, I’m not only carrying my child, but my grandchildren as well. And all of this before the rest of the world can recognize that I’m carrying anything.

Sometimes the majesty of creation leaves me speechless. That a woman can be carrying people inside of her whom she won’t actually see until decades to come is mind boggling. David’s words capture my awe: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalm 139:6).

I was sitting with my mom and grandmother the other day, and realized God was giving me a visual of this generational thing I’ve been meditating on. When my grandmother was pregnant with my mom, she was also pregnant with my sister and me. She was carrying my mom’s life, which would tell a story spanning decades…but my prenatal mom was carrying life of her own: the seeds of my sister and me – lives that would also span decades and tell their own stories.

At one point, we were all inside of the same womb. A few of us were just in seed form.

Now here we are, decades later… no longer seeds but full grown adults with stories to tell. So much life has been released and lived through my grandmother’s long ago pregnancy. There have been beautiful days and extremely hard days, belly laughs, amazing friendships, marriages, answered prayers, tears, and unspeakable joy. And all of it started inside of her womb.

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What strikes me in all this is how vivid a visual it offers for invisible Kingdom realities. There are seeds inside of a woman’s seed; something about this leaves me in speechless awe. But perhaps more breathtaking is the fact that this ‘seed inside of a seed’ miracle is the way the Kingdom operates all the time.

The Kingdom “…is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:31-32).

In the Kingdom, things always start in seed form. And seed form always entails hiddenness, smallness, and the chance of being deemed insignificant.

First, think about this in terms of pregnancy. “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body” (Psalm 139:15-16).

It’s appropriate that the Spirit’s words through David speak not of being hidden, but of being seen by the One who matters. These words blot out a lie so easy to believe when all you have is a seed – the one that says that smallness and hiddenness equal purposelessness.

Now, think about this in terms of life in the Kingdom. Everything God does both in and through our lives starts as a seed. This is true both in our coming to know Jesus [think how many seeds are sown into some people before they bloom, causing the person to surrender to Christ] and in living out our destiny in Him.

He has placed gifts, passions, and strengths within each of us that are meant to be developed and released into the world around us. But the call of God always starts in seed form. It’s this truth that many people miss. They’re expecting something big, visible, and established from the start…and when they can’t see it quickly enough, they give up and walk away from the promises of God. [Just imagine if we did this with pregnancy: “I thought I would give birth to an adult… this is only a baby!”]

We can be guilty not only of misevaluating our own callings but also of misevaluating others’ callings. We’ll look at people through natural eyes rather than eyes of the Spirit – and when we don’t perceive them or their pursuits as logical or numerically successful, we wrongly assume they’re floundering or have missed God.

The truth we’re missing in these assumptions about ourselves and others is that God always starts things in seed form. He’s telling a long-term, far-reaching story – one that will take quite a while to fully tell.

I’m reminded of Heidi Baker’s salvation experience. To natural eyes, that night’s altar call was somewhat disappointing. Only one person came forward in response to the preacher’s invitation to meet Jesus. What natural eyes wouldn’t have ever seen that night, though, is that this one person’s ‘yes’ to God would eventually shake Africa with revival fire. That one person just happened to be Heidi Baker, the woman who is now well on her way to fulfilling her vision of taking in 1 million orphaned children before she goes home to the Lord.

The Holy Spirit was a seed planted inside of Heidi that night she said ‘yes’ to Jesus. And that preacher could never have known the magnitude of the seed inside of Heidi’s seed. Natural eyes didn’t see it, but God already knew the seed inside of her carrried the promise of a million fathered orphans.

And it doesn’t stop there. Every orphan-turned-son or -daughter now carries their own Kingdom seeds, each with promise of its own. Friend, are you starting to see the power of a seed?

C.S. Lewis also comes to mind. God planted promise inside of him in the forms of a brilliant mind and a gift to write. Only… he started as an atheist. Those Kingdom seeds he carried were completely hidden for so many years. Then the light turned on, and his intellect suddenly came under the Lordship of Christ. As a Christian, his writing became a conduit that released life into every heart that encountered his words. The seed that was inside his seed grows in magnitude to this day.

C.S. Lewis left this earth more than fifty years ago… yet, by the thousands, people continue to be changed by encountering his writing. Every time someone receives life through his words, the Kingdom seed that he carried multiplies all the more…and plants new seeds of promise inside of each reader.

If I take the time to consider the vastness held inside of a single seed, I’m arrested by wonder. The Father, and His beautiful Kingdom of which we are part, is unfathomable. Unstoppable. Untamable.

And Friend, Heidi Baker, C.S. Lewis, and my grandmother aren’t the only ones carrying seeds. You carry your own. There are things the Father planted in you long ago that are waiting to be released.

Some of you have felt a stirring to get out of your comfort zone… Share your story. Pursue the degree. Admit your sin. Start the art classes. Get back into church. Give the friendship another try. Step up to the plate as a parent. Start volunteering. Be the first to forgive. Write the letter. Pursue adoption. Confront the issue. Go on the mission trip. Start the business. Use your gift.

On the one hand, it feels risky. And on the other, maybe you’ve felt that what you have to offer would be insignificant. Stop letting these things hold you back. Friend, the seed of God is inside of you. You carry promise. And the promise you carry holds promises of its own. There’s a seed inside your seed.

There are people who are going to come alive when you start operating in your gift. Your releasing what God has put inside of you is going to ignite His life in others. This destined thing He has for you doesn’t start “one day when” but here and now. Right where you are, with the tools you already have in your hand.

Friend, release your seed. By His empowering grace, give what He’s put inside of you to give. And just like a mother who carries and gives birth to her child, watch the seed grow. Watch it impart promise to others. Watch it release seeds of its own.

Only Heaven will fully reveal the magnitude of the seed inside your seed.

Dream About the Marriage, Not Just the Wedding

To the girl who’s dreaming about the day you marry your prince…

You’re the one with all the wedding boards on Pinterest. The one fantasizing about the perfect flowers, food, and favors. The one with the shiny new ring… Or maybe you don’t have a ring yet – or a guy for that matter. But still, you dream.

You dream about how breathtaking your gown will be, how handsome your groom, how gorgeous the ceremony, how wonderful the friends who will stand by your side, how perfect your first dance, how vibrant the colors, and how magical the send off.

Lovely, you’ve dreamed up a glorious day. No doubt about it.

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But can I let you in on something?

You’ve got something much bigger, much better to dream about than a wedding.

It’s called a marriage.

A day-in, day-out, lifelong journey of two becoming one.

You two will have the best conversations – the kind that last for hours and finally break through some barrier, taking you deeper into each other’s hearts. You’ll also end up arguing over the most random things. There will be weeks when long work hours keep you from seeing each other much. And Friday nights when take-out and time to veg are heaven on earth.

Unexpected car repairs that throw your budget. That quirk you manage to overlook for several months that finally gets on your last nerve. Job changes. Anniversaries. Figuring out how to split holidays between two families. The trips you save up for. Misunderstandings. Apologies. Belly laughs that sneak up on you out of nowhere.

Sometimes it’ll take everything in you to take your complaint to the Lord rather than nagging at him. Other times, you’ll sit stunned at the endless patience this man keeps showing you. Darling, if your eyes are open, you’ll soon see that he’s not the only one in this relationship who needs fixing. You’ll both need Him so desperately. I pray you’ll both recognize it…and never stop running to Him.

More times than not, your marriage will consist of ordinary moments far-removed from cinematic glamor.

Like the day your new kitchen table is ready after months of waiting.

It's official - the Hewitt cottage now seats 4!

It’s official – the Hewitt cottage now seats 4!

~

Or the rainy Saturday afternoon the two of you spend playing with your camera settings.

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~

Or the nightly facetime chat during work travel.

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~

Or the time you nail the perfect beach memory with your self-timer.

A 26th birthday never looked so good.

A 26th birthday never looked so good.

~

Or the sky you stumble upon while biking that makes the 100% humidity and bugs flying into your eyes completely worth it.

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~

Or your spontaneous, at-home salon session.

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~

Or the time you happen upon the coolest his and her headbands.

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Lovely One, it’s on these ordinary days that I hope you’ll love him the most. This is where life is lived – in the routine dinners, photo flops, and new kitchen tables. Marriage is much more about t-shirts and gym shorts than evening gowns and bouquets. It’s a lifelong story of letting your hair down in front of each other and becoming truly known.

If you yield to it, it’s a journey that will refine you and open your heart to deeper love than you ever could have imagined on your wedding day.

Don’t mistake the ordinariness of most days for a lack of beauty. It’s the hidden days where love is a choice that’s fought for – that’s where the greatest beauty emerges, and the deepest love is forged. When crisis hits, and it will, let love go all the deeper. Reach out to wise voices who have been where you are. Don’t try to go at this alone.

And don’t hinge your hopes on a picture-perfect journey [spoiler alert: they don’t exist]. Hinge your hopes on His unfailing love.

A beautiful marriage will require so much more of you than a beautiful wedding day. Give yourself over to it, fully. Yield yourself to His story. No investment you make in it will ever be wasted.

And sure, go ahead: dream about your wedding. But for every thought you give to that day, give a thousand to the marriage. Let the wedding be the start, not the end of your dreams.

When it’s all said and done, Bride-to-Be, your groom will always be the prize to cherish. Not the flowers, not the ambiance, not the dress, not the pictures. My hope is that fifty years from now you’ll have walked through life’s highs and lows with this man… that you’ll really know him… and that you’ll still find your hand holding his.

Photo by Rachel Ackerman

Photo by Rachel Ackerman

First Trimester Craziness

Pregnancy is a wild, miraculous thing. At twelve weeks along, I’m wowed by the process…and the crazy things that come along with this process.

Like the tiredness. Whoa. The tiredness.

Earlier this summer, this was my biggest clue that something was up…though it took me a little while to connect the dots.

I had been having this nagging, wanting-a-nap feeling for several days and then one day it finally became overwhelming. I pressed through with all my might and got one load of laundry folded and two emails sent. Over an entire afternoon.

I was alarmed at myself, to say the least. I kept thinking, Here I am, thirty years old, just finished this ridiculously challenging degree, and now I can barely fold laundry and send an email??? What is happening to me??

I was pretty discouraged. It’s laughable now. Thankfully, I finally got a clue and told Andrew I thought we might need to get a pregnancy test.

Turned out I hadn’t lost my lease on life – I had a person growing inside of me! Whew!

…And WHOA!! This is really happening. This is real life. It took me several days to get my mind wrapped around it.

But my abrupt appetite changes faithfully reminded me every 60 minutes or so that this was in fact happening and was indeed real life.

8 Weeks [and 5 days :)] Not much to see on the outside yet...lots going on inside though!

8 Weeks [and 5 days :)] Not much to see on the outside yet…lots going on inside though!

Oh, the first trimester appetite…

Ninety nine percent of my usual diet instantly became disgusting.

We had a long interstate drive about a week after finding out I was pregnant. Andrew was trying his best to get some lunch inside this woman and was mentioning every restaurant we passed.

Chipotle? No!

Panera? Eww!

Outback? Gross!

Chick-fil-a? No way!

This went on and on and on. Finally, against all odds, a Five Guys caught my attention and didn’t sound repulsive. “Can you just stop there and get me a bacon cheeseburger?” Were these words really coming out of my mouth? I’m Miss “Pick Two at Panera.” When was the last time I even ate a burger??

It was delicious.

And that wasn’t my only burger. For about ten days, I existed on cheeseburgers, steaks, and chili-smothered spuds from McAlister’s.

But then the red meat phase passed and suddenly, childhood foods were the new thing.

Cereal. An old favorite I hadn’t eaten in years.

Grits. Mmmmmmmmm.

Pasta.

More pasta.

Then just the other day: A HARDEE’S GRAVY BISCUIT!

Mmmmm...

Mmmmm…

I ate these all the time growing up. These and doughnut holes were the joy of my life. But I let them go many years ago when I discovered health and fitness. I probably hadn’t indulged in a gravy biscuit since college. It was heavenly.

And that led to a Chick-fil-a chicken biscuit the next day. Around 10:40am I had a sudden surge of desire for one…but had a feeling they had already stopped serving breakfast. So I called to check, and sure enough, breakfast had ended at 10:30…but the guy helping me heard the urgency in my voice and put me on hold so he could check for any possible leftover biscuits. He came back with great news: he had found one and, yes, he would save it for me until I got there!  [#WINNING]  I made a mad dash for my car.

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I’ll be honest though. The chicken biscuit didn’t hit the spot the way the gravy biscuit did. There’s still something weird going on between me and chicken.

Thankfully, I’ve also had a much healthier go-to dish: Olive Garden’s minestrone soup.

In the last ten-ish days, I’ve bought no fewer than four half-gallon buckets of this soup. It’s a tomato-based soup full of several kinds of beans, a little bit of pasta, celery, spinach, and other veggies. It’s delightful…when they scoop it correctly. The last two buckets I bought were scooped by someone who obviously doesn’t value good minestrone consistency. The bucket was ¾ tomatoes and juice – no beans or pasta in sight. I had no choice but to return those two buckets. [Andrew went in to return the second bad bucket, in hopes that I won’t get blacklisted.]

Some of you are probably thinking it’s pregnancy hormones behind the soup returns. But my passions for justice and right minestrone soup consistency reach WAY further back than twelve weeks. Pregnancy or no pregnancy, these returns were inevitable.

In the midst of resting and figuring out this whole food thing, I’ve continued my usual exercise regimen of an hour a day, six days a week. What used to take an hour, though, has been taking an hour and a half. Only in the last several days have I started getting back to my usual pace.

Which brings me to perhaps the sweetest thing I’m experiencing in this wild new season:

GRACE

The Lord has graciously given me this season of pregnancy, and I’m going to receive it and walk in grace toward myself.

Workouts may take longer, my body may be demanding more rest, my appetite may be unrecognizable, and the routine I’ve enjoyed for years may be completely turned upside down… but all these changes are making room for new life. They are the Lord’s doing.

Something bigger than me is happening. And the best thing I can do is go with His flow and align myself with the Grace He is giving.

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Now I Get to Love You in Return

I’ve had the song below on repeat for months now. I do that. I stumble upon some worship song that touches my core and get stuck on it for months on end. The words get seared on my heart. [I hope you’re finding your songs, too, Friend. He has life waiting in specific songs for each of us.]

Anyway, here’s a few of the words:

I am overwhelmed by your affection…

The kindness and the greatness of your love

~

Now nothing can hold me back from you,

Your love will never let me go

~

Thank you that we’re living in Your Kingdom

Jesus, you’re the King upon the throne

Thank you for the way you’ve always loved me

and now I get to love you in return.

Photo by spaceamoeba

Now I get to love you in return. That one line – it sums up what walking with God is meant to be.

It strikes a chord. And not only because of its truth and beauty. But because it’s the opposite of what many of us were taught about the “Christian” life.

So many of us, in our fragile and impressionable state as new believers [or our at-church-every-time-the-doors-were-open childhoods] heard the glorious Gospel about this Risen Lord and Living Word… and we believed. With all of our hearts. And invited Him in.

But then, religion – in its subtle, yet firm insistence – crept in and dumbed down our expectations. The Risen Lord and Living Word became more about earnest reading material than here and now realities. The Holy Spirit remained a vague and mostly avoided third member of the Godhead.

And the idea of walking intimately with God – something that was alive when our faith was young – got exchanged for engaging in Christian activities. A good believer, we were taught [sometimes through literal words but mostly through unspoken “teaching”] is someone who gets really involved at church. Learns to serve. Volunteers. Does the mission trips. Rarely misses a service. Learns to tithe. Stops doing the overtly bad things. And maybe even gets brave enough to talk about Jesus with others.

Nice, well-meaning language surrounded this silent teaching. And everyone around us seemed to buy in. Knowing Him wasn’t really the point, but rather, engaging church life in the expected way. Over time, what we hungered for in the beginning was reduced in our minds to “immature” [ or even “non-Biblical”] thinking. Our spark was all but snuffed out.

Every now and then, though, the wind would blow and that spark swelled again. It might have been during conversation. Or a tiny whisper we thought might be Him. Maybe there is more to Him we’d think. Maybe He really can be known. Maybe I was onto something real in the beginning.

Friend, you were.

That spark inside of you is real. It’s from Him. And it’s that spark to which this song is speaking. There is more to Him… and there’s more for us.

“Now I get to love You in return”

We get to love Him back. That was His invitation to us from the very beginning. To love Him back, really. With all that we are.

To say ‘yes’ to this wild adventure He wants to take us on –

where we hear His voice,

are beckoned out of our comfort zone into the unknown,

receive life and true understanding from His Word,

move beyond understanding it to wielding it as a weapon,

are led to green pastures and quiet waters,

and enjoy conversational intimacy with Him.

An adventure where knowing Him, hearing Him, comes first.

And our “actions” flow from this place of intimacy rather than arbitrary, human obligation.

This is not immature thinking. This is the Gospel.

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons

through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will –

to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us

in the One he loves.”

Ephesians 1:6

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“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal,

the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…”

Ephesians 1:13-14

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“In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near

through the blood of Christ.”

Ephesians 2:13

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“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

and to know this love that surpasses knowledge

that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:18-19

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“Do not get drunk on wine…

Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Ephesians 5:18

~

Friends, He was delighted to make us His sons and daughters and has freely given us grace to live as dearly loved children. He marked us by depositing His Spirit inside of us – that’s the spark you feel. The little thing inside that tells you there has to be more to Him.

And if we’ll let Him, He’ll become way more than a little spark. He’ll grow into an all-consuming flame. He will fill us to brim with the real thing. We won’t need alcohol or any other false comfort for joy – we’ll be filled to overflowing with the Reality that little spark whispered of.

We’ll get to love Him back. By knowing Him and being His…and only doing from a place of intimacy.

~

Father, show us how.

Uproot any religion that’s crept into our hearts

and kept us from knowing You, from being free in You.

Open our eyes and hearts to what is really ours in You.

Grace us to get to know You.

Grace us to go on Your adventure.

~

~

Photo by spaceameoba

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