We Are Free Indeed

"Are you afraid?"  I didn't know the power that these three small words had to make me come unraveled.  As I sat on the edge of our bed, my whole body shook as tears rolled down my cheeks and soaked into the fabric of my sweater.  Just the night before, a text message from someone  I love deeply, lit up my phone with the words, "Don't be afraid."

It took the intentionality and care of those I am closest to for me to realize that, yes, I am very afraid.  A season of life that should be full of hope and rejoicing has been held captive by an enemy that would love nothing more than to paralyze me and keep me from walking forward in faith.

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So I've determined to wrestle with these fears, to call them out by name and to put them in their proper light so that I may find freedom. 

I am afraid of losing the ones I love deeply.  I am afraid of sickness, because it seems to lurk around every corner.  I fear authentic friendship-- being deeply known by others but also of losing it because I am "too much".  I am afraid of my mother.  I am afraid of not being the mother my own children desperately need.  I am afraid that God won't show up when I need Him to most.  I am afraid of the future, of the unknown.  I am afraid that I may get to the end life and not like the person I was all of my years.  

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With Summer winding down and a new year of MOPS about to start, I can't help but think of all of the mommas who will walk through the doors of our church, nearly crippled by fear.  Afraid to leave their babies and afraid of the new and unfamiliar faces.  Each of us bring our own weighted bag of fears as we begin this new year together.  This morning I want to challenge us as a group of united daughters of the King.

What are YOU afraid of this morning, sweet Momma?  What fears can we call out TOGETHER this year to set YOU free from captivity?  Write them down on scrap paper, in the margins of your Bible or even on a clean diaper if that's the closest thing you have in this moment. Hey, we're all mommas ;).  Bring your called out fears with you on your first day of MOPS.

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Together, we are going to join hands in unity.  We will proclaim freedom from the captivity of our fears.  We will not be slaves to them any longer.  We will resolve to not stand paralyzed any longer but to walk forward in HOPE. It is through the release of fear and the emergence from captivity that we see our TRUEST most authentic selves for the women God designed us to be.  

The Spirit of the Lord has anointed us and THIS year, we are going to discover together, how to be free indeed.  Will you join us, Mommas?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
— Luke 4:18-19

Back to Eden

We were meant to walk in the garden
— Leeanna Tankersley

I could not have predicted that I would find myself on the very first morning of the new year having a melt down on the beach.  There I was, hugging my knees to my chest sporting an old beanie with my winter coat thrown over my annoyingly festive Christmas pajamas having myself a good old fashioned ugly cry in the sand.  We were back in my hometown on the east coast for the holidays and to put it as politely as possible it had been a disaster of a trip—inordinate amounts of vomit, family drama, and a non-stop schedule with two littles had taken its toll.  In fact, 2016 had kind of knocked my socks off and I felt it all catch up to me in that moment. 

It was a beautiful overcast morning and we had bundled up to take our morning walk on the beach in our pajamas.  I relished getting to experience this morning ritual with my littles and my husband—I grew up by the ocean and I love nothing more than the salty breeze on my cheeks and the sound of the waves in every season.  We were greeted by dolphins swimming south along the shoreline and sand pipers darting about after their breakfast.  On our walk back, I was desperately trying to hold it together preparing myself for the day ahead when my husband perceptively looked at me and said, “Why don’t you stay out here for a bit and I’ll take the kids back to the house.”  I nodded appreciatively and bee lined for the shore, tears already starting to escape down my cheeks.  I plopped down in the sand and LOST IT.  Anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, loss, stress, despair-- it all bubbled to the surface and as if in solidarity, a few sporadicrain drops hit my face. 

How many times had I sat alone on this exact shoreline and ugly cried?  To be completely honest--more times than I would like to admit.  This was my safe place, my place of meditation, of solitude and space to process, my place to talk to God and to listen for his voice.  After my inner storm had passed I sat there sniffling trying to gather myself back together knowing I should get back.  But then I heard the word “stay” whispered to my soul.  And so I sat there hugging my knees to my chest for a few more minutes. 

To my surprise I noticed another pod of dolphins fishing for their breakfast off the shore—I love seeing wild animals in their natural habitats.  I smiled and watched this little family swim south and I delighted in their beauty and freedom.  My head had finally cleared and I started to get up to leave, when I noticed another pod was following not too far behind and then to my astonishment another behind them and another after that.  I sat there in disbelief and wonder watching more dolphins than I had ever seen swim past me down the shore line.  And there on that desolate beach I witnessed my very first New Year’s dolphin parade feeling perfectly and overwhelmingly loved by the Creator of the Universe.

There is something about the spending time natural world that settles, comforts, and revives.  It’s not surprising to me that the first home ever made was a garden (Genesis 2:8-9).  The Creator, who could have built the finest mansion with a glance, chose to make a garden home for the first couple to dwell.  I like to imagine him, like an expectant mother preparing her home for her new baby as he lovingly spun and fashioned a beautiful garden.  I imagine his excitement as he filled it with vegetation that would not only bring nourishment but also pleasure to his new and perfect children.   God, in his impeccable wisdom, designed and created a whole natural world to delight and nurture his children and it was there, in the natural beauty of the garden, that he would commune with them.  We were designed from the beginning to feel at home in nature and to commune with God through nature.  I am once again floored at how we have been so loved by God from the very beginning.                  

Famous conservationist and early National Park activist, John Muir, said, “Going to the mountains is going home.”  Now, lest you think I am suggesting we should name ourselves Mowgli and start singing the bare necessities—I am not.  But I do believe a little bit of Eden is imbedded in our DNA.  When we connect with the natural world we are in a very primitive sense “going home.”  

Nature by God’s perfect design has dramatic influences on the human brain and the human body and scientists have been studying these effects for centuries.  In multiple studies, scientists found that healthy adults who were exposed to parks, woodlands, and other natural environments for even as little as five minutes experienced  lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower heart rates, less anxiety, and better moods than their counterparts who were exposed to urban settings.   Another study found that hospital patients that could see trees from their windows recovered quicker than ones that didn’t have a natural view.  And according to studies done on backpackers, spending at least three days in the wilderness can “detox” your brain and increase your memory, problem solving capabilities, and creativity.   And just in case those facts didn’t wow you--apparently taking a walk in a natural space can be as effective as a cup of coffee!    

To say that life is busy with littles would be a considerable understatement.  The days fly by in a hectic haze as we change diapers, toilet train, nurse, dress, cook, clean, bathe, rock, correct, sing, read, teach, organize, mediate, chauffeur, and work.  Life with littles is so beautiful but incredibly demanding.  There are days, especially in the winter time, when I realize that I haven’t even stepped foot out of my house.   The thought of having to bundle myself and two littles with 25 items of warm clothing each only to hear my toddler tell me she has to go to the bathroom and the baby start fussing for her nap makes me feel like laying down on the floor and waving the white flag of surrender.   But I have found on the days when I push past the hassles and I take my little loves out into the wondrous natural world that we have been gifted, I find that we all breathe just a little bit deeper.  I find myself slowing down and delighting with childlike wonder in the chubby little faces that call me momma.  And I find my soul returning to a place of thankfulness and rest in the one who created it all.        

So what does connecting with God’s gift of nature look like for you?  For me, it is a half hour at the park with my littles before the sun goes down.  It’s the feeders hung from my backyard trees so I can watch the birds from my kitchen window.  It’s flowers in a vase on the kitchen table.  It’s Sunday family hikes with no makeup and hair tucked in a ball cap.  And yes, sometimes, it’s ugly crying on the beach in my pajamas. 

Mamas, you are so loved by the Creator of the Universe.  Go out and enjoy his love notes to you.

No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening - still all is Beauty!
— - John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir
J.R. is a beach girl who fell head over heels for a Colorado mountain boy.  They have been married for ten years and she still thinks he’s the best person she knows.  She is the proud momma of three exquisite children but she is only able to hold two in her arms after her oldest went to be with Jesus five years ago.   She is an avid lifelong learner of whatever strikes her fancy from raising chickens her backyard to learning photography.  She is a dreamer, a serial over thinker, an avid reader, and believes in the power of people’s stories.  Chocolate cake is one of her love languages and she will always make room for you at her dinner table. 

J.R. is a beach girl who fell head over heels for a Colorado mountain boy.  They have been married for ten years and she still thinks he’s the best person she knows.  She is the proud momma of three exquisite children but she is only able to hold two in her arms after her oldest went to be with Jesus five years ago.   She is an avid lifelong learner of whatever strikes her fancy from raising chickens her backyard to learning photography.  She is a dreamer, a serial over thinker, an avid reader, and believes in the power of people’s stories.  Chocolate cake is one of her love languages and she will always make room for you at her dinner table. 

Cultivating Delight

After I picked to write about this topic, I instantly wondered why.  I am notoriously a negative person by default and I often struggle to find joy in everyday moments.  But perhaps, my negative heart needs to try to see joy in the midst of a difficult season of my life. 

My family and I just moved here in the beginning of May and my husband’s parents followed us here a few weeks later.  They have always been a big part of our lives and especially a big part of our kids’ lives.  I often told people in the middle of our move that at least my in-laws were moving here too so there wouldn’t be too much change for our kids. 

But God had different plans for us.  In the middle of August, God ushered my mother-in-law into heaven much to our surprise and dismay.  And now we find ourselves in the wake of grief during a tough holiday season.  It’s tempting to sit and point a finger at God and wallow in wonder, confusion, and anger but yet I know God longs for me to find abundance in the midst of my family’s brokenness.

A few years back I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and learned the art of actually counting the many gifts God had given me in the midst of difficult circumstances.  I remember thanking God for the little things – our house, our yard, my family, morning snuggles, evening fires, etc.  But where I saw God turn mourning into joy is when I would press in to see the gifts in the tough things he allowed into my life.

When I was reading that book, I was spending the majority of my days in bed often writhing in pain due to postherpetic neuralgia (prolonged nerve pain from the shingles virus).  So I found myself thanking God for my bed, the high ceiling in my bedroom, the sun shining through the window blinds…but after weeks of straining to see God in the little moments, I grew weary.  Really? How can I be thankful in the midst of this horrible pain?

But every time I thanked God for a little blessing, it forced me to see that God had not forgotten me.  Yes, he allowed me to go through something terrible, but He was also still there standing next to me in my deepest pain.  I remember lying in bed one day and thanking God for my pain – thanking Him for the blessing that came from my pain: a deeper relationship with my husband, several new relationships with women that helped me with my children, and ushering me into daily dependence on my Savior.

And as I thanked Him for the difficult circumstance in my life, it forced me to put Him on the throne of my heart.  It allowed me to step back and see that this life isn’t about me and my happiness – it’s about bringing Him glory in everything I do.  Little by little, God started cultivating delight in my heart even though my circumstance did not change.  Even now when I look back at that time in my life when pain wreaked havoc on my physical body, I remember feeling joyful – perhaps the most joyful I have ever been. 

And so now, I find myself in another difficult season of life.  But I think I have a choice: I can continue to point a finger at God and stay angry or I can choose to thank Him for the gifts He continues to give me in the midst of this broken season. 

I am constantly reminded that God never changes.  The Bible says He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  So no matter what happens or what God allows, He is still God and He is still good.  And as I take the time to thank Him for all of the gifts He still gives me, it allows my eyes to be open.  It allows me to see Him again even though He’s always been there.

I’m not sure what you are going through today, but I encourage you to see God today.  Look for the ways He is still blessing you.  Some days, it may be something as simple as thanking Him for a house to live in, a cup (or three) of coffee, the crumbs on the floor that remind you of your crazy kids, or for two legs that allow you to walk.  I know some days it can feel like a stretch but trust me, as you look to see God, your heart is reminded that you have a Heavenly father that has never stopped loving you.  And as you see Him, He will cultivate delight in your heart, through one small gift at a time. 

Let me introduce myself: I’m Sue and I’m originally from Indiana though my husband and I decided to move our little family here to CO this past May. My husband and I met in college and have been married for almost 17 years. We have two beautiful kids ages 3 and 6 through the gift of domestic adoption.  I am a wife and a stay at home mom, and I am also a licensed physical therapist currently working on getting my license here in CO. I have had the privilege of growing up in a Christian family and being married to a God-fearing man.

As I’ve gotten older I have learned that life doesn’t always go according to my plans and that life here on Earth can be messy and difficult.  But I’m learning to live my life dependent on Christ and to trust that He is still good and He is still God regardless of the circumstance. You can follow more of my story at dailydependence.com.

Inspiration For The Season

Hi Ladies! I hope this season is meeting you with lots of love, warmth, hot chocolate or if you are like me a Spiced Flat White in a festive red cup (YUM!), joy in the reason we celebrate, and rest (laughing hysterically while typing because I know you are all likely in the same boat… better yet…sleigh as me, rushing around trying to do it all to make the season perfect)!

Can I just get real and vulnerable for a minute… these past few weeks have been absolutely crazy and exhausting. I have really struggled to find the motivation and inspiration to write this piece. Is that not ironic… I am writing a piece about drawing inspiration… Between my highly variable work schedule, my 9-month old being sick for the past four weeks with three different illnesses, super tight finances, and loads of travel to see family, I have really struggled to keep everything tied up in a neat red bow.

I mean as I write this my sweet girl is pulling out every piece of clean folded laundry on to the floor (if I get laundry put away it is a high five worthy celebration!) … Hey, whatever occupies her while I get this on paper, right!? Anyway, God has really been working on my heart this season. I am really starting to feel like I am in the thick of it and the only respite I find is in the Lord. I try and try to strong arm my way through these situations and I am left feeling helpless; conversely when I get in the Word, then down on my knees and surrender, everything seems to fall in to place. If that’s not inspiring then nothing is.

Preparing to write this piece I re-read Chapter 9 in our Becoming Starry Eyed devotional and BAM! inspiration struck (luckily right in time, today is the deadline for turning it in lol!). I was fighting back tears to get through it. Amazing how I chose this chapter months ago, it spoke to me then, but was EXACTLY what I needed to read in this moment of motherhood. Thank you for your timing Lord! The author writes alluringly about the connection between mother and child. While I am feeling like a letdown in nearly every facet of my life, this segment reminded me that God has created this relationship divinely. 

The chapter outlines an excerpt from a Mommypotamus blog  <-- (TOTALLY worth the read) and reassures me that my baby and I have a sacred connection that was designed by the Lord. He knit her together in my womb and He chose me to be her mama, ME! Hazel knows me on a cellular level, she synchronizes her heart beat to mine when I am present, her cells are in me and have the ability to heal me, and my voice alone comforts her. Powerful, right!? I mean she is not going to remember the things I am doing today that my human brain labels as failure, her love is pure and present because I am her mama. This just puts it all into perspective for me. I recall a beautiful sentiment that one of you lovely mamas shared at the beginning of the MOPS season; it has become my life mantra. If my girl grows up to love Jesus, then I have succeeded. Period. Hands down the best thing I know. This takes the pressure off, demolishes my negativity, and dissolves my self-directed mom shaming.

This realization has also inspired me to reflect on my relationship with Jesus. He also knows me intimately, better than I know myself. He also knit me together in my mother’s womb, He knew my name before I was even a twinkle in my mother’s eye, He knows my life from beginning to end. It makes me realize how special parenthood is and gives us some insight into the heart of God our father.

Our relationship with God gives us the same, scratch that even more, comfort than we give our babies. We are so loved! When we let the Holy Spirt in He becomes part of our DNA, the source of our strength and courage. When we synchronize our hearts to His will we walk in peace, joy, and assurance.  Jesus has the power to heal every ailment on a cellular level; we speak His healing power over our lives, believe it, and wait expectantly for the Lord to move. We can find serenity and contentment in His promises when we are in the Word. It is amazing to me that Jesus came to this world as an innocent baby to die for our sins. He shared the mother-child bond with Mary. Even more amazing is that He is the ultimate Father. He sacrificed it all of us, loves us unconditionally, allows us to make our mistakes, desires a close relationship with us, and He will never leave us. Best part is all we have to do is say “yes” to that relationship! Praise the Lord!

My prayer for you this season: “Heavenly Father, thank you for these sweet mamas. They inspire me, comfort me, and encourage me. I pray that their holiday season be filed with joy and peace in the hope that you gave us by sending Your son to atone for our sin. May we be inspired by those around us but mostly Lord by You and the way You move in our lives. Father we invite You to do Your will in our hearts. Prepare our hearts to remember and give thanks for Your ultimate gift this Christmas. Lord thank you for being our Father. May you slow our busyness, comfort our hearts, heal our ailments, assure us of your promises, give us confidence in our God given gifts, and finally give us courage to life our lives for You alone. We love you Father! In your precious name we pray, Amen.”

Thank you mamas for taking time to read my words. I hope that you have found something that inspires you or that you can relate to. You are so special and loved.

Adriane is a wife, mother, and part-time speech-language pathologist. She lives in Littleton, CO with her husband, infant daughter Hazel, and two crazy rescue dogs, Lucy and Solerno. Adriane a 5th generation Coloradoan from the Western Slope. She enjoys spending time with her large extended family, eating (vegetarian), and playing outside! This is Adriane’s first year in MOPS and she cannot wait to get to know more Christ-following mamas!

Remembering What We Love

I chose the topic "Remembering What We Love" from our Mops book because I immediately started quoting Mufasa from The Lion King when he was in the clouds telling Simba to "Remember Who you Are". You might be giggling to yourself right now thinking, "This mom has gone of her rocker!" But hear me out. I promise to try to make sense out of the chaos in my head. 

The moment we become mothers there is a switch flipped inside of all of us. This switch runs deep, it becomes part of our core. In my case, and I imagine so many others, I put myself last, always. We skip showers, eat crumbs and soggy leftovers, Our food is rarely the temperature we want it to be, our workouts get overlooked.  Our conversations begin to revolve solely around Mickey mouse and Mac-n-cheese. Don't even get me started on the concept of being "touched out". 

I beg your pardon Ma’am, but GET OFF! 
— Zazu, The Lion King


In all of the madness and chaos of motherhood, it's easy to look back to the glory days. It's easy to dwell on the years of being the captain of the volleyball team, the years that you were fit and didn't feel like your body had betrayed you. It's easy to wish for the times when you and your significant other could be spontaneous and not depend on the luck of finding a sitter. It's easy to pine for the days of unscheduled sex and doing things just because you loved to do them. But looking back and wishing for those days will only cause pain, bitterness and frustration.

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.
— Rafiki, The Lion King

Here's where the Mufasa part comes in.

So often we get caught up in our lives and lose who we are -- who we were. True, it's not great to wish for the good 'ol days, but I believe that it is vitally important to remember the girls we used to be.

We were bright, full of hope. We had moxie and nothing could stop us. We had passions and desires, goals and dreams. We were unstoppable. And then we became Mothers, and something in us burns with the responsibility and desire to care for, protect and guide these tiny humans that we grew inside of our bodies or spent months/years adopting. It becomes the new us.

But I'm here to give you permission to think of yourself. Remember who you are. Remember what your other names are. I'm Mama, JoJo, Honey, Daughter, Wife, Daughter of the King. And that last one is the most important, isn't it? I think that for me it's the one that most often is over looked. That is where this Lion King quote comes into play, 

Simba, you have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba, you are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life. Remember who you are. Remember
— Mufassa, The Lion King

Have we forgotten who we are? Daughters of the King? Take a moment today to dwell on that. You are a daughter of a KING.

Remember that you matter.
Remember that you are beautiful.
Remember who you are.
Remember what you love.

Remember.

Jordan Garner is a native of Colorado. As a married mom of two boys, her life is surrounded by all things superhero, cars and bouncy balls. She loves music and volleyball and has a black belt in taekwondo, but she mostly enjoys loving on women and their small children while helping them to know that they aren't alone and that they aren't ruining their kids ;)

Birthing a New Concept of God

In December of 2008, I was laid off from my job as an Event Planner for the Orlando World Center Marriott. I was 24 years old, a new believer, newly married, and 6 months pregnant with our first child (Addison).

I would be the second of over 100 employees the World Center would lay off over the next 6 months, as our American economy plunged into darkness and despair. As I left the meeting, coworkers started to console me. Although, to their amazement and mine, I needed no consoling. One reminded me that, in lieu of being laid off, my husband (Trevor) had just taken a tremendous pay cut. We had a baby on the way (Due March 9th). Not to mention, Christmas was in a few weeks. I turned to her and words flowed from my heart that I had never before uttered… "I’ve got my God.”

Then, within days…reality set in. I proceeded to cry and deal with feelings of hopelessness, resentment, despair, and panic. I was a new believer but I didn’t yet understand the basics of God’s character, His promises, or His ways. I cried out, “Where are you Lord?”

On the morning of February 6th, 2009, my world would forever change. My spiritual “lightbulb” would come on, and my concept of God would never be the same.

At 35 weeks pregnant, I was having a routine ultrasound done. The ultrasound doctor pointed to a small cluster on the screen that he couldn’t explain. He told me he needed to send me to someone who could. After a non-stress test, my OB sent me to the women and children’s hospital.  “It’s probably nothing”, he said.

I called my husband and updated him. Then I took my sweet time getting to the hospital. I stopped for gas, got myself a drink, and moseyed to the ER. They took me in right away. Two specialists, two ultrasounds, two non-stress tests, and a few hours went by. “It looks like nothing”, both doctors concluded.

I texted Trevor to tell him I was fine, and Addison was fine. That I was bored, hungry, and uncomfortable.

The third specialist came in and performed yet another ultrasound. His face turned grim. He whirled the ultrasound screen around to me, and explained that the cluster was not the problem, compared to what else he was seeing. He zoomed in on the umbilical cord. Pieces of it were falling off. It was frayed and coming apart. My heart started to race and I had so many questions I didn’t know which to ask first. The doctor went on to say, “I have never seen this before. There is no way for us to know how or when this happened.”

Long pause. “We’ve been monitoring her brain function…” and then he turned to me with a look that hit me in my core. It dawned on me in that moment that the cord is the baby’s source of life…where they get all of their nutrients…all of their oxygen. “We won’t know the severity of things until she’s out. She has to come right now.”

I lost all composure. I called my husband, who dropped everything and flew to the hospital.

The nurses took us to the head of anesthesiology. He personally wanted to take care of this special case.  The surgeon came in to meet us. He was my OB’s practice partner. He “just so happened” to be on call that day. They wheeled me into the operating room. The anesthesiologist handed Trevor a box of tissues and said, “Get ready because the second she hears that baby cry she is going to lose it, and you can’t let her drown in her tears son.” Trevor nervously held tissues and a video camera. The anesthesiologist stayed with me, stroking my hair and reassuring me. The doctors and nurses came in. Within two minutes, I heard the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my entire life…my baby crying. I sobbed tears of LOVE and JOY. The whole room sang “Happy Birthday”. It was so kind. More tears of JOY.

The surgeon leaned over and said, “Glad we got her out. Turns out your placenta had completely ruptured.” He handed me this tiny pink bundle, all of 5 pounds. She was PERFECT. At 5 weeks early she was totally and completely healthy.

That night I reflected on it all. God brought to my mind what could have happened, had I not been laid off just a few months before. Event Planning came with an erratic calendar. I had to reschedule doctors’ appointments regularly. Had I been working, it is likely that I would have rescheduled my appointment. The doctors assured me that had I come in the next day, we would not have left the hospital as parents. It would have been too late. Had I come in the day before, it may not have happened or been caught. Perfect timing they said. There is only one ALMIGHTY being that I can think of that has PERFECT TIMING.

The next morning my OB came to visit. He hugged us and said, “Guys, it doesn’t get more perfect that that. God blessed you.”

LIGHTBULB.

Placental abruptions occur in less than 1% of pregnancies worldwide. They are typically due to sudden physical trauma, or extensive drug use. Occurring in women under the age of 20, and over the age of 35. I fit none of these descriptions.

I once saw a painting in a hospital, of an operating room with doctors standing around a patient, and Jesus standing with them. THAT is our God. Jesus was in our situation, in our room…without us ever even inviting him. God had His hand on us the whole time… without us even asking for it. He is the God of miracles. He heals the blind, and the spiritually blind. Addison is a miracle. My spiritual eyes being opened that day was a miracle. Opened to the truth that God is real, He is involved, He is palpable, and He is accessible. He is the God of seeing around corners. He is in EVERY DETAIL of our lives, and He is GOOD.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
— Deuteronomy 31:8

Hi, I'm Robyn. I am a daughter of the One True King, and a stay-at-home wife and mother. A Florida girl, married to a Colorado native, living in Littleton with my husband, Trevor, our daughters, Addison and Lucy, and our rambunctious dog, Tobin. Most days you can find us all outside enjoying God's glory called "The Rocky Mountains". I am an extrovert with a big smile, and an even bigger heart. I got saved at 24 years old and God has ROCKED my world ever since. There's nothing I won't do to make time for conversation with friends, coffee, and JESUS! I am a veracious reader and have an ongoing love affair with words. Proverbs 16:24 says "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones". I believe we as Christian women have the power to help heal one another with our words by telling our God stories. May God use my words (His stories) in these blogs to bless you, strengthen you, make you laugh, bring you JOY, and let you know you are NEVER alone!

The Common Bonds of Motherhood

She was beautiful and she was quiet. Alejandra was about 7 years old and had light brown skin, long dark hair, and deep brown eyes… eyes full of trepidation. It touched me as I noticed the similarity and also the contrast to my daughter – a few years older and not so quiet, my Alexandra (Lexi) had fair skin, long blonde hair, and pale blue eyes… eyes full of assurance.

Alejandra had a small bag with her that had pajamas and another set of clothes… hmm… unusual.  In her hand she held a crumpled note. It was in Spanish but I could see it was written to Alejandra and it was a bible verse, Psalm 91.

And it was signed Te amo, Mamá.

I asked her about it and she said she was supposed to keep it with her always. She asked if I could read it to her every night. Embarrassed that I couldn’t read the Spanish, I vowed to read Psalm 91 to her right then and whenever she asked, albeit, in English. I called a friend and asked her to read it to Alejandra over the phone in her mother’s language.

            I love hearing scripture and prayers spoken in different languages. It reminds me of how big God is. And how we will all understand each other, in every language, when Christ comes again.

 What a beautiful Psalm and reminder of God’s faithful protection. It broke my heart reading it through the eyes of another mother. A mother who loved her Alejandra with the passion that I loved my Alexandra. A mother from another country, who spoke another language, who had dramatically different life experiences than myself, that included on this day, watching the police and social services take her young daughter away from her. And a mother who would go to bed that night agonizing over what her Alejandra might be going through. Try to imagine that for yourself. Can you even?

As I approached the visitation room, I was taken aback by her beauty. The movie Spanglish was out around that time, and Alejandra’s mother looked very much like one of my favorite movie characters, Flor Moreno. But when she saw me through the large window in the wall, it was very clear that I was the last person she wanted to see. Her eyes turned dark and fierce with anger… and she pulled Alejandra to her and stared me down. Yet my heart ached for this mom. I could not imagine the pain she was about to go through…  watching another woman walk away with her child. HER child. All she knew was that I was the one who got to put her baby girl to sleep that night.

I entered the room and looked only at her, not the Caseworker and not Alejandra. I wanted her to know. To know that I knew… that she was the Mom. To know that I knew her heart was broken. Tears welled up in my eyes and fell for this Mamá of Alejandra.  Regardless of the circumstances that lead to a situation like this, a mother’s heart is still a mother’s heart. Broken every moment of life for the love that consumes us once we are a mother.

She spoke no English so I couldn’t tell her in words but I had to try. I put my hand out to her and told her she had a beautiful daughter who was sweet and well behaved and lovely. And I told her that Alejandra loved her and missed her… so very much. I told her we prayed for her. By name. And I handed her Psalm 91 written out in English, telling her we read it aloud every day. Through tears I told her I was sorry. Then I walked out of the room with her daughter, her Alejandra. I looked back at her through the window and she wept openly while watching us the whole way. Never losing eye contact I brought my hand up to my heart. Momma tears poured down both of our faces. Bravely, she raised her hand to her heart in response. Even in the midst of such agonizing circumstances, and with every reason to see each other with uncertainty, or judgement, or jealousy…  we both knew, and somehow, we trusted a mother’s love.

About Kristine --

I’m a complicated girl from the outset…can’t decide if I’m Kristy or Kristine.  I’m schizophrenic and so am I?  Either name is great but my favorite name is “Mom”.  I know it should be Daughter of the King….then Wife…then… Mom.  Jesus & I are working on that. 

I’m a Colorado native… but spent some years in beautiful East Tennessee after college where I met my indescribable (but really) Southern man Mickey, my husband of 31 years.  My career was running different non-profit organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Family & Children’s services (an outpatient mental health & training organization).  When my second son was born I quit and became a stay-at-home mom, part-time Real Estate Broker, and volunteered for everything under this Colorado sun.  I am still a Realtor and love helping people with their home (& heart journey).

I have three amazing biological children… Micah who lives in Nashville, Nico who lives in Chicago and Lexi Lee who along my most precious and handsome SIL Spencer, live in Littleton, Praise the Lord!  If God is real, the boys will be moving home soon.  Perhaps the deepest part of our family story is the wonderful, difficult, profound journey of being a foster family.  We have fostered dozens of children and are incredibly blessed to have two of them back in our lives and counted as our children.  Nate & Erick live in So-Cal and Nate is married to my sweet & sassy DIL Candace and they are expecting N Jay in November of 2016.  If God is real, they will be moving home soon too!

I love Jesus, my family, & brokenness.  Deep conversations, authenticity, real life stories & the lessons learned.  Sports, funny people, fast forward, sprinkles, competition & music cuts through me.  An ideal night is a fire, no cell phones & intense games with my husband and kids. 

Micah, Patrick (now goes by Nate), Nico, Erick, & Lexi Lee…  

All grown up...how I love these people!

All grown up...how I love these people!

Our whole crew!

Our whole crew!

On Golden Wings

My family has a long line of daughters relying on mothers. I have two brothers, my mom four brothers, and my beautiful, late Grandmama 2 brothers as well. We were flowers among sturdy oaks and we needed each other.

Psalm 103:13-18: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.”
— Psalm 103:13-18
My Grandmama and my Mama circa 1955

My Grandmama and my Mama circa 1955

After being sent home as a healthy, baby girl on December 7, 1985, my mama’s whole world turned upside down three months later. Her sweet peaches would need open heart surgery to fix a congenital heart defect that developed after birth. The sweet peach was me. Now that I am a mama I cannot imagine the worry and stress my parents must have felt; completely out of control…. my life literally in God’s hands. My Grandmama and Grandpapa flew in immediately. As my mom quivered with fright, looking at her new angel girl completely covered in tubes and surgical tape, my Grandmama sat by my mama and whispered, “Imagine Kelsey in a glow of yellow light. This light is God… protecting her when you cannot.”

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
— Psalm 27:1

My mama and I pre-surgery circa January 1986

The doctor’s hands were guided by the Lord and at age 16 years I was completely cleared as having a healthy heart. The repair not even visible anymore it was so flawless. But from that fateful, surgical day in April 1986, my mama has been my rock. Walking with me when anything thing gets rough. When I was 16 years old, I battled depression. My mama never left my side. Searching out whatever medical professionals I needed.

After laboring through the night, my sweet Addelyn was welcomed into the world. With Daddy busy being her protector, all I wanted was my Mama to help me become a mama.

When Addelyn was 3 years old, I was struggling with anorexia. I found myself controlling my food intake to an extreme and exercising non-stop trying to find any sort of control in this crazy thing called motherhood. Again, my mama, walking my daughter, Addelyn, in a stroller while I went to a sports nutritionist, had my back.

In that same time frame I accepted Christ as my Savior, finally surrendering to the fact that He is ultimately in control and my life has never been the same since.

Fast forward to April 2014. Zarra Rebekah entered the world an hour after Christmas 2013. Her water birth was glorious, she was precious and I was finally a mama again after trying for a whole year. But then a dark cloud, an anxious cloud, an obsessive compulsive cloud loomed above. Post-partum depression sucked any joy from every ounce of my body. It was paralyzing. My mama was my warrior. Answering every single panicked call I made to her every day. After hitting rock bottom, my mom met me on the floor of my house and said, “Kelsey, this has been harder for me to watch you go through than open heart surgery and so, remembering what your Grandmama told me during that horrible moment in life, I will tell you the same. You are enveloped in a yellow glow of God’s light. He is protecting you and will see you through.” And He did.

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…
— Isaiah 66:13

My girls and I. Taken shortly after finding the light again after PPD circa September 2014

My Grandmama went to the Lord this last April with all five of her children and her dutiful husband at her bedside. As she slowly slipped away they whispered comforting words in her ears. My mother, heartbroken, yet relieved her mama was not in pain any longer, exited the nursing home. The crisp Minnesota air hitting her tear-stained face she stood in shock as a tiny yellow butterfly fluttered in front of her face. It was much too cold for butterflies to appear in April in Minnesota. To this day she will tell you it was my Grandmama angel fluttering away on golden wings to meet her Savior.

My Grandmama and my girls New Year’s Day before she passed in April.

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the rooftops.
— Matthew 10:27

This last summer, I was having a particularly rough day. I decided to put Zarra in the running stroller and go run out my woes. Putting one weary foot in front of the other I noticed a shadow frolicking on the ground. Looking above I already knew it was my angel, my yellow butterfly, my Grandmama running along with me through my sorrow. I continue to this day to see my Grandmama in the form of a yellow butterfly especially during moments of motherhood when I need to slow down, moments of motherhood when I need to look to the sky and lean on Jesus, moments when she is happy I am out adventuring with my girls. If there was anything that woman loved the most as a mama it was a good adventure with her five babies.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
— 2 Corinthians 5:17

My Grandmama, my mama and 4 sturdy oaks circa 1961

I dedicate this blog post to my late Grandmama, Marilyn Colby Smith. May I frolic with her on golden wings in heaven some day.

Kelsey was born and raised in Colorado. She is married to her high school sweet heart –Chad. Together they created two spirited and sweet girls – Addelyn (7) and Zarra (3). When she is not wrangling kids, she loves to be outside, sleep under the stars and do just about anything active – hiking, yoga, kickboxing, running, you name it. She came to the Lord when her eldest daughter was 2 years old and she realized she actually was not the one in control of her life. Her walk with the Lord has become stronger every day since that pivotal moment on her knees on top of a mountain. Her current favorite bible verse is 1 Peter 4:8 “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything” (The Message). She feels her calling from the Almighty is to lift other Mamas up in any way she can.

 

Overflowing Baskets

There are times in the rare quiet moments that I reflect on motherhood thus far. Yep all 7 and a half months of it. I quickly realize how blessed it has been and how fortunate I am to have had the experiences I’ve had so far. I already see a village growing up around my little family and I could not be more thrilled. In truth I knew I wanted to surround myself and our new bundle with other mamas and babies before Hazel was born, but I never imagined it would happen the way it did. My basket feels so full right now!

My family is 4 hours West and when I first got pregnant I had time to get myself worked up about how there would be little help to keep our nugget alive…I mean of course I had my sweet husband by my side eager to face this journey with me, but if we are being real he knew as much as me…basically nothing. I went through my pregnancy preparing as much as I could. We took the classes, read about possible issues we could encounter, prepared baby’s room, washed the clothes, talked to family, etc. We were ready…well as ready as we could get without baby in hand.

Then she came. She was perfect, sweet, and of course came without an instruction book. Thankfully our trio had lots of support for the first two weeks. First it was the mom brigade…my mom cooked us healthy, delicious meals and Kyle’s mom cleaned our home until it sparkled. They let us sleep, they helped us field problems, and they encouraged us! Then there was my husband. He stayed home the first couple weeks and he was INCREDIBLE! He made sure I ate, urged me to shower each day and take care of myself, made sure there was ice water within a hands reach, gave me three hour naps, and called the lactation consultant for a home visit when breastfeeding reduced me to tears. Yea those first few weeks were fuzzy eyed, basket filling, perfection despite the pain, uncertainty, and sleeplessness.

The first weeks turned into a month, my husband was back to work and the family had come and gone. I was alone with my new baby. I started to second guess every choice I made for her. The lack of sleep started to get to me. I worried about feeding my baby enough. I fretted about the house not being spotless and about dinner not being made. I began to feel like a failure. My husband encouraged me to get out of the house and meet other mamas, something I had talked about wanting to do before bringing our child home. I, of course, resented his suggestions, made excuses, and thought to myself that he didn’t understand how difficult it was to get the baby and her trunk full of necessities out of the house. But then one day I did it.

I got Hazel bundled up and we made it to a breastfeeding support group, mostly out of absolute desperation as I was really struggling, but out is out right? I entered the room full of mamas and babies, nervous that I would be met with judgmental stares or cold faces. To my surprise and fancy that wasn’t the case. These mommies were sweet, they were helpful, they had a familiar starry eyed look on their faces. The realization set in, we were in the trenches together, sore nipples, tear streaked faces, uncertainty, and foreign squishy bodies in all. We all needed the one thing that we also had the ability to provide each other: community.

Our need for breastfeeding support has mostly faded, but our need for our village has not. My time with these mamas and babies broke my fear, opened my heart, and gave me the encouragement I was so desperately seeking. These relationships, along with my relationship with Jesus have filled me up. Confidence has returned to this tired mama and the dark cloud of loneliness and isolation has drifted past. I know God put those difficult moments in my path to humble me.

Fast forward a month to my little family sitting in church. An announcement popped up for MOPS. In the past I would have dismissed it convincing myself I didn’t need it, that it was too expensive, that friendships in that group had already formed and there was no room for me…but now I have the willingness to be vulnerable and say, “yes!”

Every mama I meet is a potential friend. I am in the circle…we are all in the circle and the circle is motherhood. It is a knowing glance across the aisle at Target while trying to choose which gripe water/diaper/wipe/pacifier/baby food is the best, the willingness to share a diaper, the look of love and encouragement when I feed my baby in public, the heartwarming smile you flash when you hear my girl sing/scream during worship at church. You fill me up! I see you mama and I want your friendship!

Over the past few weeks I have repeatedly come across the story of Jesus feeding the masses with just five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:12-17). At the end of the meal there was enough left over food to fill 12 baskets! The massive crowd had been following Jesus for days, eager to learn from him and see his miracles. They were hungry and vulnerable. This story reminds me that God’s perfect love fills us completely to the point where it overflows so we can share that bounty with each other. He meets us where we are and has the power to change it all.

My prayer is that we approach this experience hungry, humble, and ready to be filled by the Holy Spirit. I am so excited and expectant on the ways God is going to reveal himself to us during our MOPS season this year. May our spirits be satisfied by God’s bounty and may we fill each other up until our baskets overflow mamas! The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t take much to fill a basket, just you being genuine YOU!

Adriane is a wife, mother, and part-time speech-language pathologist. She lives in Littleton, CO with her husband, infant daughter Hazel, and two crazy rescue dogs, Lucy and Solerno. Adriane a 5th generation Coloradoan from the Western Slope. She enjoys spending time with her large extended family, eating (vegetarian), and playing outside! This is Adriane’s first year in MOPS and she cannot wait to get to know more Christ-following mamas!

Finding Wonder In The Crumbs

I sit here this morning, drinking my lukewarm coffee and scarfing down an all-organic, sugar free, fat free pastry -- (just kidding, it’s a maple covered donut from King Soopers).  I am amidst the chaotic din that is my three children who are suddenly all whining and sobbing for my attention, and I survey the state of my house. And part of me dies a little bit. The floors that had been mopped three times (because I hadn’t mopped for a good three months so I’d better mop the HECK out of them when I do), the counters that had been cleared, the table & chairs that had been wiped down and the sink that had been dish-free last night – were all back to their usual state of disarray (and All The Crumbs) in just a matter of hours. That’s not even mentioning the disaster that is the living room and toy room.

 *sigh*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a neat freak AT ALL and I totally choose ANY OTHER THING besides cleaning, which is why my house looks like an episode of Hoaders meets Craftwars meets Kitchen Nightmares on a daily basis. And I generally don’t mind it because I know this season of life is fleeting (sob) and I totally am “going to miss these days”. These days are fun. (However I will most definitely NOT miss the epic meltdowns and incessant whining, thankyouverymuch.)

But some days are HARD. And on those days it's not easy to “enjoy every moment” (most inappropriately offered advice ever) when I feel like I’m in a constant state of chaos and mess, both in my mind and in my house. When my joy from simple accomplishments – like having a couple of clean, orderly rooms in the house for once…the only thing in my life that I could control at the moment – is so easily and instantaneously taken away from me by my three small wombfruit who now control basically every part of my life.

I’m not saying I don’t absolutely ADORE my terribly, messy kids, because obviously I want to eat their faces off every day because (most of the time) they are SO STINKIN CUTE and they are so clever and very kind and downright funny. I

genuinely love being around them and I love being their mom. But sometimes…just sometimes…I *do* want to lock them out in the backyard or even just run away for a little while because it’s just all too much. And that’s why we have GNOs and date nights and Target - THANK THE HEAVENS AND STARRY NIGHT FOR THOSE. (See how I just related it to the MOPS theme right there? Come on.)

But Mandy Arioto, who wrote chapter two “Stormy Nights” in the MOPS devotional, helped remind me that some of the most life-giving moments still happen in these everyday, mundane, even chaotic and messy moments. And she reminded us not to write them off as less significant than the big moments.

I love that. I totally do find life in the small stuff. And I want to give a few of those moments some proper recognition right now, in a similar Jimmy Fallon and Jen Hatmaker “Thank You Note” style…

   …I cherish you, first sip of hot coffee that has the exact amount of sweet creamer added.

   …I recognize you, the perfect chocolate zucchini muffin and best tasting soup I’ve made yet.

   …I see you and love you, YouTube video that just made me snort-laugh my coffee/wine.

   …I remember and treasure you, hilarious or awkward text conversation with a friend.

   …I appreciate you, the smell and warmth of a fresh load of laundry that was washed three times because I forgot about you twice.

   …I enjoy your touch on my body, husband – no, not that kind. The back massages I make you give me every Monday. Those are nice.

   …I do find wonder and immeasurable joy in you, my delightful little mongrels, even if you sometimes scream in my face or ignore me.

That was just fun, you guys. But it’s all true! It’s the little things.

I used to write a gratitude journal to help me see the positive in the every day moments (btw, you should all read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – AMAZING). I’m not sure why I stopped because it truly is life-giving to have written record of the goodness that’s right in front of me when I’m stuck in the “darkness” of the day.

Until this week I didn’t know what my 28-Day Challenge would be but now I think I do – to take five minutes every day and once again make note of the “light” in my life. Then I will tangibly see how the small bits of gratitude add up and become something bigger and better in me.

So just as a reminder to all of us when we’re not feeling especially joy-filled or full of life, I wanted to share a excerpt from a devotional that I read just the other day that I thought was so perfect:

“When the hospital bracelet has long been removed and the monotony of motherhood settles deep, we can forget. Forget the magic of toes the size of peas and the delight of folding sweet-smelling miniature clothes. We refocus instead on the dirt those toes leave behind–and the actual peas that have rolled away and fossilized– and the need for stain stick on those little clothes…again…. Life gets tedious; tedious is trying. If we’re not careful, the repetitive tasks that fill our days can drain our spirits. … The idea here is not to compare our days, but to realize that if we are too busy grumbling, or so focused on the next holiday or family visit, we won’t be able to serve and see God today in whatever numbing tasks lay before us. He’s there. And we are value to God right now, in the plainness of today. That means digging deep and doing what we do, “whatever you do…for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) …Even in the little things God can be big.”

- taken from the devotional, Always There: Reflections for Moms on God’s Presence (p31-33)

Ahh, that right there is some meat. Some good ol' bacon for the weary soul. An intentional reminder from God to notice Him and embrace our important – sometimes tedious – Kingdom role as moms.

Finally, in my favorite cousin’s wise words: “Take some time today, Laura, and find some wonder in the crumbs. Look at them. Examine them. Accept them. Hold them in your hand and listen to their whispers. "We are here, we are here, we are here!" I want you to find the wonder in the small crumbs in your life today.”

Because, let’s be honest, sometimes there are just those days when you have to laugh in the face of chaos.

Laura Hartgerink is a Midwest girl and work-from-home mom who runs her graphic design business while simultaneously wrangling her three young kids, Sonora (5.5), Grayson (3) and Violet (1.5). She has been married to her husband, Ryan, for 11 years and they love traveling and going on family adventures – whether it’s a hike in the mountains or a cross-country camping excursion. Most nights she likes to unwind by staying up late and binge watching her favorite shows on Hulu. She’s addicted to clearance sections and thrift stores. She is aware of her crazy and embraces her weird. It’s okay that you don’t know how to pronounce her last name.