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  • Be Still and Know...

    “‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.'” Psalm 46:10-11 I come in like a frazzled mess on Saturday morning - smile forced, fists clenched. “Are you okay?” my husband asks, eyebrows raised. “Yes,” I hear my lips respond. But in my heart and mind and body, a “no” resounds. I have run myself ragged on the hamster wheel of my week, refusing to rest. I am overstimulated and exhausted, but I don’t even remember how to stop: the act of stepping off the treadmill of life feels foreign, intimidating, and uncomfortable. And although I hate to admit it, this is not an isolated event but rather a pattern I have noticed in myself throughout motherhood. Many days, I become “machine mom" - I am simultaneously listening to a podcast, making dinner, answering a text, watching one of my kids do something “amazing,” and getting somebody else a drink. Mom’s are great at multitasking, right? 😉 But in my flurry of “productivity,” I hardly look my children in the eyes. I swirl around them, but I do not truly see them. And on top of that, I hardly acknowledge Jesus or sit with Him. And although I try to convince myself that I am “getting things done,” in reality I am feigning control - idolizing myself as the god of my life and ignoring my innate need to stop and be still. I’m a tornado of to-do lists, but I am not a peaceful presence. This is a constant struggle, my addiction to activity. Instead of being still, I want to FILL. I want to fill the silence, fill my schedule, fill my stomach. It’s much easier to fill than to be still. And as I’m speeding around - leaving the stench of self in my wake instead of the aroma of Christ - I begin to forget: I forget who He is. I forget who I am. I forget that He is in control. I forget that He holds me. And the result? Fear. Fear that I will not get it all done. Fear of man. Fear of the future. Fear for my children and my family. The absence of stillness leaves me scurrying around, scared. I am a frenzied mess of fear and forgetfulness, filling my life with too many things. In my flesh, I want to go fast, get it all done and forgo His help. But the need for speed will never lead me to where I need to be: my knees. And so on this particular Saturday, I go on a walk at a nearby lake and force myself to sit down. It’s almost too much to bear - I cannot stand the silence. I get back up, pacing nervously…and then I try again - back to the bench - and I stay, I linger. I let myself be seen by God. And when I still, the dust of my soul settles. God slows me and shows me what I need to know. He speaks and steadies me. He strengthens me and helps make sense out of my life. He saves me from myself. Why do I resist so stubbornly when I find all that I need when I still myself with Him? Jesus reminds me what I keep forgetting, these truths echoing loud in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7). And from His own lips: “‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (v. 6). He helps me remember the Truth: He’s both omnipotent and intimate. He’s there - enthroned - and here - encircling me; over it all and within my very being. He is all-powerful and my “ever present” help. He has all authority AND He’s my Abba Father. What more do I need? What have I been running around for all this time, anyways? We must learn this skill of being still for the sake of ourselves and our marriages and our children. It will go against our wills and our world, but it is worth the fight because the stillness is where Jesus meets us. There is no substitute for being still - it might just be the most important thing we ever do. It’s the upside down way of the Kingdom: the filling comes in the stilling. We are only fully satisfied when we choose to abide. And so I stay on that bench by the lake, the longest I’ve sat down all week. The cotton swirls around me, the water stirs, the reeds sway, but I am still - He is reigning on high and within my heart, and all is well.

  • Live Within Your Limits (Psalm 16)

    “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing…Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:2, 5-8 My youngest, Kinley (2 years old), has recently discovered her ability to climb out of her crib (oh, joy! 🙈). After putting her down for her nap or bedtime, we hear her crib creaking and hitting the wall as she thrusts herself up and over the side of it and sneaks to her door. She’ll peer out at us, thrilled by the “freedom” she is experiencing - alone in her room, unbound by crib bars. She feels “free” and like a “big girl” but in reality she is overtired, pushing against boundaries, and forcing her way out of the safe place prepared for her. I have found myself in a similar situation many times over the course of the past five years - butting up against the “boundary lines” God has placed around me in motherhood. Psalm 16 describes “boundary lines” related to God’s allocation of land to Israel, but boundaries as we experience them may concern a variety of things: finances, time, capacity, marriage, health, work, location, family needs, and seasons, among other things. We may find that we are limited in certain areas because of our specific life circumstances - these are the boundaries around us. Sometimes, I refuse to live within my boundaries - this has looked like over-scheduling myself or my children; wondering if I should be doing what I see another mom doing; ignoring my body’s need for rest; looking at my neighbor’s house and trying to convince my husband we should move two doors down (yes, I actually did this recently. No, we didn’t move 🤪). I’ve found myself looking over to the other side of the fence to see the grass looking greener on the other side, wondering why I am confined to my plot of land. When I am trying to push past the boundaries of my season, Psalm 16 brings me back to what is good and right and true: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Psalm 16:5). It can feel easy to fixate on the boundaries around my life and grow in frustration towards them: Why can’t I do that in this season? Why don’t I have freedom in this area of my life? Why does she get to experience that now and I don’t? I fall so easily into the pit of comparison and the deception of discontentment, letting my mind and heart wander outside of the space God has assigned to me. What is actually true about boundaries: they are a blessing. God is not punishing you, but rather preserving good for you. God has lovingly given you these specific limits in this season for a reason. He did not accidentally allocate “your” land to the mom on the other side of the fence. He is not randomly restricting you or overlooking your life. Rather, he has assigned you to a specific space out of love and care for you, and accepting your limitations will allow you to enjoy your land. What if our boundaries are what bring us back to Jesus - binding us to the vine, and bringing us to our knees? What if we stopped despising our boundaries and started delighting in them? What if we refused to compare and started declaring: “Apart from You, I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2)? May God give us the ability to see our boundaries as they are (a blessing!) and yield to them. May we continually fight to see the beauty within our boundaries. And may we live within our limits, trusting that God has so lovingly gifted us with a specific space in this season of life for a reason.

  • Summer in the Psalms - Psalm 1 🌴

    Many seasons in motherhood, it has felt difficult to pick up a Bible. Sometimes, it has felt almost impossible - have you been there before? Sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, pressed for time, and in need of a shower (which describes the majority of the last five years of my life 😂). In these times, I have reached for the psalms. They have brought me comfort, peace and hope. They have given me a firm place to stand in the midst of chaos and weakness, and have taught me to delight in God’s Word. The psalms have reminded me of God’s promises so that I won’t forget them (mom brain is real). They have tethered me to Jesus as I have struggled through the little years. I am grateful to God for the psalms, and this summer, I’ll share some thoughts on those that have impacted me deeply in the midst of motherhood. It was a chilly morning in February a few years back when my mother in law called us crying. A tornado had ripped through her neighborhood in North Carolina - damaging her home and leveling others to the ground. Lives were lost and the landscape of the neighborhood was transformed as the enormous pine trees that had once provided shade and beauty were toppled by the tornado. However, the force of the tornado was no rival for the palm trees - they remained standing strong, and continued to flourish despite the powerful storm they had faced. We saw it with our own eyes in March when we visited! This is what Psalm 1 is all about : how can we be like the palm trees rather than the pines? How can we remain steadfast despite the raging storms and struggles of life and motherhood? Psalm 1 describes the “righteous” - those whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditate on his law day and night” (v. 2) - and the psalmist calls them “blessed.” They are compared to a palm tree: “which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers!” The palm trees mentioned here would have been planted by a source of water because the land did not receive adequate rainfall - proximity to a river or stream was vital, allowing them to thrive. The righteous dwell in the Word - meditating on it “day and night” - and they “delight” in the Word. They don’t just know the Word of God, but they rejoice over it and receive it and realize their desperate need for it. Their roots are dug deep in the Word. And this is the promise of God for the righteous: they will be sustained and satisfied as they root themselves in proximity to Him, just as the palm trees are sustained by their source. The righteous will flourish and bear good fruit, even in desert-like conditions! On the other hand, the wicked “are like chaff that the wind blows away” (v. 4) and they will come to destruction (v. 6). They will be like the pine trees - fragile and forgotten as the tornado whisked them away. Their shallow roots will fail them and the storms of life will shake them. It’s no accident that the Psalms begin here - reminding us to anchor ourselves in God and His Word alone. May this be the summer where we become more like the palm trees - planting ourselves as close to Jesus and His Word as possible so that we can THRIVE and flourish in the ways that God desires for us.

  • Connection > Direction

    I so often come to Jesus asking Him for directions, as if He is a GPS. Which way should I go? What is the next step? I desire control: detailed answers and a final destination laid out for me. A five to ten year plan would be ideal. Oh, and no wandering in the wilderness, please. 😉 In my desperation for direction, I am missing out on what God desires most for me: connection with Him. He is not a GPS - He IS the Way. He says, “Follow me,” and does not provide a map but rather His very self. He leads with His Voice, usually only providing the step immediately in front of me. Jesus is more concerned with my spiritual formation than a particular destination. He is more concerned that I’m in tune with Him rather than on time. How I long to go on ahead of the Spirit - to get a sneak peek at what awaits me in seasons to come. I want to know the exact timeline and specific route so that I can feel prepared for what lies ahead (AKA be in control 😂). My mind mulls over every possible way He could take me, every potential roadblock or pitstop. I want to move, speed up, and look ahead(and the enemy is egging me on - encouraging me to go faster and causing me to question at every turn: Is this really going to get you where you need to go?). Jesus wants me to slow down, breathe and listen. He wants me to remain in Him, and He will reroute me if needed. I want to arrive, He wants me to abide. May we trust Jesus to be our Guide - because where He guides, He will provide. He will supply the grace we need as we let Him lead and follow Him one step at a time. May we trust that He will tell us all that we need to know as we journey with Him.

  • Are you seeing mud, or stars?

    Does anyone else have kids who whine, or is it just me? 😂 Whining is the worst. It is annoying, unbecoming and unattractive. I could complain about my whiny kids all day, and yet…am I really so different from them? More often than I’d like to admit, I’m no different from the Israelites in the wilderness - mumbling and muttering, griping and grumbling. It was the one thing they were good at. They always saw what they did NOT have, what God was NOT doing - faithfully forgetting His faithfulness even as he provided exactly what they needed for each day (MANNA!🙌🏻). Most of the time, they were looking at the mud, and so often it’s my default to do the same. (Like last Saturday as I angrily finished housework with this monologue running through my mind: “I’m always the one who does EVERYTHING around here.” 🙈 Sound familiar?) In the midst of motherhood, it can feel hard to contend for contentment. I find myself lamenting my “lack” and neglecting the gifts that surround me. I see God as withholding something good from me rather than taking the time to behold Him and all that He has done and is doing. I compare or complain rather than focusing on God’s provision. It would be easy to talk about the “mud” of motherhood all day long: the messes, the dirty diapers, the sacrifices, the lack of sleep, the discipline struggles, the mundane days. And it’s okay to acknowledge the mud - to admit that this is hard. But we do not give the mud the authority to determine our gaze, ripping our eyes away from the stars. We do not focus on the mud, because when we do so we refuse God’s gifts in each season. What if we were women who saw the stars? What if we counted them each day, naming them out loud to our children? What if our children only heard grateful words from our lips, and complaining was foreign to our tongues? What if we gathered the “manna” that God wants to give us each day with open arms rather than rejecting it? This could change everything: the atmospheres of our homes, our perspectives, our marriages, our friendships, our churches, our joy, and the way we represent Jesus to the world. We of all people should be the most “glass half-full” kind of people because “our cups overflow” (Psalm 23:5). It’s up to us: Our motherhood can be fueled by manna and stars, or bogged down in the mud. I could see my home as a prison - nap trapped, drowning in laundry, constant cries from the mouths of my hungry children. OR I could see it as a palace, because King Jesus is there with me. I could usher my children into His presence - counting the stars, pointing out the manna, and modeling gratitude at every turn. May our eyes always find the stars - and may we count them, name them, and claim all that God IS doing as we run the marathon of motherhood.

  • Go to the Throne Before Your Phone

    (....and before anything else ) I heard this quip from my aunt Kari back in high school and it has stuck with me all these years (because I have found it to be deeply convicting). The phrase originated with a phone with a cord in mind, as she would be tempted to call a friend before spending time with the Lord or before going to God with a question or need. How the temptations and distractions have multiplied since then! Here we live in this world of technology with endless resources at our fingertips - friends, experts, influencers, family, mentors, the nurse line…. the list goes on and on. And all the while, as we research and scroll and worry and send messages, the Voice that truly matters has become our last resort. Consulting Jesus lies at the bottom of a long to-do list as we navigate the small and large decisions we face daily. And usually (I’ll speak for myself) when I do turn to prayer, it looks like presenting a laundry list of requests and does not include listening for a response. It’s a one-sided conversation, a monologue performed by me 😉 And so, I’m asking Jesus to remind me to consult Him first in all things (and to help me to do this! I need His help to divert from my default and come to Him instead). After all, He is the One who knows me and my children better than anyone else. He has all wisdom and insight into my marriage, my friendships, my wants and needs, and my heart. As we go about our days and find ourselves in need of help of any kind, may we be found first on our knees before the God who speaks, trusting His voice above any other.

  • What Are You Reaching For?

    Where did I put it? I rushed out the door to my waiting (wailing) kids after looking for my phone charger for the third time. I knew I had picked it up intending to bring it in the car with me…but what had I done with it? I had 22% battery remaining, and I hoped it would be enough to get me where I needed to go. I had snacks for the kids so I figured everything would probably be okay. I sped to my two Facebook marketplace pickups, cautiously eyeing my phone battery as it gave me the 20% heads up and then the dreaded 10% warning. I was distracted, worried about losing access to my Google maps if my phone died because I’m directionally challenged. I hastily flew past a few turns, sped through a few yellowish (red) lights, and shushed my kids to no end because I felt overwhelmed by the rain pelting the windshield. Finally, we arrived at our last destination, the community center play place, with 3% phone battery left. The kids were ecstatic. I was exhausted. I began climbing with them when I felt something bulging in my pocket: my phone charger. I couldn’t believe it! It had been there the whole time - easily accessible and glaringly obvious. It was the thing that would’ve made all the difference in my mood, my pace of life, my mindset, my sense of peace, my focus. It would’ve changed everything. And it struck me: isn’t that how I live my life? If I am the phone (with a rapidly draining battery) and I have this power cord in my pocket (the Word & prayer) and it will help me connect me to the power source (Jesus: the Sustainer, Satisfier, Savior, Supplier of every need)...why do I not reach for it? It’s RIGHT THERE: in my pocket, on my coffee table, next to my bed…and yet, I remain searching and stressed, existing as if I don’t have a way to connect to the Source of all things. Instead of reaching for His Word and His hand, I am frantically reaching for a snack, social media, a podcast - ANYTHING to distract me and fill me and numb me and direct me…when the answer has been right there all along. I’ve been convicted this month: the Word and prayer are my lifelines. They are what will tether me to Jesus and allow me to hear from Him. So, why do I always resist? Why do I always forget? Why am I always reaching for that which will never fill me? After the play place, I reached into my pocket and pulled out that cord, plugging it into the place where it was meant to be the whole time: the power outlet. And the phone comes to life again - like me when I’m connected to Jesus.

  • Our Forever Shepherd

    “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd…” Revelation 7:17 Easter morning found me sighing as I discovered a stain on my “nice” coat on our way to church. We were barely healthy after a bout of strep that kept us homebound for the week, watching the flurries swirl outside on the first week of “spring” (which we all know is still basically winter in Minnesota ☃️). As the day continued, my girls ripped their brand new tights, I spilled tea all over my dress, and there was snow half-covering the muddy paths as I walked in the afternoon. Easter grass graced our entire living room floor, and we ran out of milk 😂. Even as we declare “He is risen,” we experience the tension between Easter Sunday and eternity where the truth of Jesus’ victory does not always feel tangible. We exist in this gap: the now but not yet. Jesus is risen, yet life is not always all that we imagine it will be. These days with little children can feel long and isolating. We sometimes have to walk through seasons in the valley of the shadow of death. We experience brokenness in our motherhood journeys from sick kids to chronic pain, marital strife and expectations gone unmet. The land of “now but not yet” can feel like a difficult pasture to dwell in as we await our future hope: Jesus’ return. We read in Revelation about the “yet” that lies just beyond us. John shares his beautiful vision of a great multitude in heaven “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). They are face down before the throne, worshiping day and night, and this is the promise that is theirs forever: “...he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:15-17). Those who trust in the Lamb are forever sheltered, safe, satisfied, sustained, seen, and shepherded. I hear echoes of Psalm 23 in this passage as God’s people are cared for in every way possible and given the presence of the Lamb, their Good Shepherd, forever. This Good Shepherd came as a sheep (making himself like us), suffered like a Lamb (the weakest of the flock) - and rose again victorious. Jesus fulfilled the divine role described throughout Scripture, and He has become our Forever Shepherd. But how do we respond to this as we mother in the now but not yet? As we live victorious in one sense, anticipating all that is to come, and yet struggling along as sheep trying to shepherd our young in the brokenness of this world? 1. We grieve what is not, admitting that this journey is difficult. Our current reality does not align with this passage in Revelation 7. We must acknowledge the brokenness that we experience, accepting that this life will not meet all of our expectations and hopes. Otherwise, we will be driven to frustration and bitterness. We present our disappointment to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who cares for us. (I often forget that Jesus Himself told us we would have trouble in this world! See John 16:33.) And as our children grow and we process the brokenness of the world with them, we remind them, “This is not how things were meant to be; the Good Shepherd will make all things right in the end!” 2. We find the good in the here and now. In the “not yet,” there is still much to be grateful for. We are called to be people of JOY and gratitude, not grumbling (Philippians 4:4). Paul encourages us to be people “overflowing with thankfulness” in Colossians 2:7. We must learn from our children the art of rejoicing - I find that they are gifted at finding joy in the littlest of things as they discover the beauty of this world that we have sometimes grown numb to. The Good Shepherd died to give us “life to the full” - and though this does involve sorrow in the here and now, it also includes great joy (John 10:10). 3. We trust the Forever Shepherd instead of ourselves. This verse struck me a few weeks ago: “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves…they are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd” (Psalm 49:13-14). The temptation to trust ourselves is real: to rely on our own knowledge, productivity and abilities in every area of life. To trust that we know what is best for our children. But we must trust Jesus instead, allowing Him to shepherd us and our children and clinging to Him at all costs. We must let ourselves be led and cared for by Him instead of living in self-sufficiency. Dependence on Jesus is our response to living in the now but not yet. We let the disappointments and depression and decisions and doubt drive us to our knees at the throne of the Lamb, our Good Shepherd who reigns forever. We have this opportunity as moms to represent an ever so blurry image of the Good Shepherd to our children (and we must follow Him as closely as possible so that we can represent Him well). As we lean into Him, may we lead our children with gentleness just as He leads us and carries our children close to His heart. May we pursue our children persistently and lovingly, just as the Good Shepherd chases us down. May we follow the Good Shepherd’s voice and teach our children to listen to His voice as well - through the Word and the whispers of His Spirit. May we lay ourselves down for them, hour after hour, making sacrifices in a manner worthy of the Good Shepherd and His immense sacrifice. And through all these things, by His grace, may we give our children a glimpse of the Good Shepherd through our mothering. Finally, may we (and our children!) one day be found among the multitudes of those worshiping the Lamb that we might rest in the perfect care of our Forever Shepherd. I pray along with David: Lord, “be [our] shepherd and carry [us] forever” (Psalm 28:8-9)!

  • The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). There’s a couple in our community who lost their precious baby girl when she was only weeks old. They knew this was likely; their daughter’s rare heart condition was discovered in utero, and the odds were against her. These parents prayed and consulted medical professionals and ultimately decided that the mom would have a C-section in the children’s hospital in order to give their daughter her best shot at life. If anything went wrong with the C-section, the mom would have to be wheeled to another area of the hospital to be operated on - there was a chance she could die. She felt God’s peace about this, believing that this was the way He wanted things to be done. This mom risked her life in exchange for the slight possibility that her baby might live. I am reminded of the Good Shepherd as I consider this couple’s story: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, sent Himself on our behalf. He gave up everything sacrificially and willingly: Jesus declares in John 10:18, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” He did not forsake His flock but rather protected them, paying the highest cost in order to do so. W. Phillip Keller puts it this way in A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23: “The laid-down life, the poured-out blood were the supreme symbols of total selflessness. This was love. This was God. This was divinity in action, delivering men from their own utter selfishness, their own stupidity, their own suicidal instincts as lost sheep unable to help themselves” (98-99). On a much smaller scale, we know what it is to sacrifice in motherhood. Many of us have shared our bodies for a time, carrying and sustaining life within our wombs. We have shed blood, sweat, and tears - literally. We have been denied sleep, offered our time on the altar, and given up dreams for the sake of our children. We have forgone indulgences, but also necessities, because we love these little ones that the Father has entrusted to our care. And I would like to tell you that I make all of these sacrifices willingly, lovingly, and humbly (just as Jesus did, although my sacrifices are microscopic compared to His). But many times, I struggle to sacrifice well. I swallow the sacrifices of my season begrudgingly, with grumbling and bitterness bubbling to the surface of my heart. The sacrifices of motherhood present us with an opportunity: we can become bitter moms or better ones. We can be sucked into selfishness or to lean into the sufficiency of the Good Shepherd as we make the sacrifices required of us. And however big or small our sacrifices are, they offer us an opportunity to mirror the sacrifice of the Good Shepherd to our children, laying down our lives for them. It’s like Justin Whitmel Earley puts it in Habits of the Household (currently one of my favorite parenting books): “ Jesus took the pain so that we don’t have to, so we take the pain so our children don’t have to. The story of the gospel is not just our greatest hope in life and death, it is also the best paradigm for parenting. We don’t sacrifice our kids’ formation so that we can have an easier life. We sacrifice the ease of our life so that our kids can have biblical formation” (98). (this quote was in the context of a screen time conversation: are we willing to minimize screen time in our homes, even though it will cost us time, energy, breaks, etc.?) I so often feel frustrated with the sacrifices required of me because I am selfish and I don’t want to “take the pain” for my kids. In the cravings of my flesh, I want my life and motherhood journey to be as easy as possible. But we must look at the Good Shepherd and remind ourselves: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus is calling us to lay down ourselves for these little “friends” that He has placed in our homes. He is calling us to lay down our comfort and desires out of love, sacrificing ourselves to disciple our children and point them to Jesus (and in the process, we will be formed and into His image and come to know Him more as well). Preceding John 10:11 (“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”) comes this beautiful gem of a verse: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus’ sacrifice was an undeserved exchange: His life traded for ours, so that we could experience life TO THE FULL. May the Good Shepherd’s sacrifice not be wasted on us: may we remember all that He gave on our behalf, and may this move us to make the sacrifices of motherhood in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). And may you experience the life abundant that Jesus wants to give you this week!

  • The Good Shepherd Leads by His Voice

    “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5 Pink eye was circulating our house a couple of weeks ago (that was after the colds and before the stomach bug 😂), and Eden woke one night screaming because her eye was stuck shut. Blake rushed into the pitch black room to calm her: “Eden, it’s okay honey.” And immediately, she was quiet and comforted. Even though she couldn’t see Blake, the sound of his voice changed everything instantly. And so it is with our Good Shepherd: we know He is near because He speaks to us. He leads us by his voice, calling each of us by name. (I imagine Him calling each of us by a nickname, the one He has chosen especially for us.) And once He has called us to Himself, He goes before us, leading the way with His voice so that we know where to go next. But here’s the question: Do we know His voice when we hear it? Are we able to differentiate between His voice and that of a stranger? We learn His voice first by learning His Word - His beautiful, powerful, precious Word. It is full of wisdom (Matthew 7:24) and it is the weapon we have been given to fight with (the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17). It is sweet like honey on our lips (Psalm 119:103), a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). It is Truth - alive and active and everlasting (John 17:17, Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 40:8). But…if I’m honest…there have been many seasons in motherhood where it has felt so hard to open the Word: when I’m sleep deprived or overwhelmed at all there is to do. When I’m wrestling with the sacrifices required by motherhood or frustrated that I can’t just sit down and read when I want to. And yet…we must fight against this, pressing on and increasing our intake of God’s Word however we are able to in our current season of motherhood (this will definitely take creativity, intentionality and perseverance!). We need his Word, the voice of the Good Shepherd, ESPECIALLY as we run the marathon of motherhood. We need His guidance, comfort and wisdom. We need to be reminded of His promises and Truth. We need to keep growing in His Word because it will never return void: it will produce good fruit in us and through us (Isaiah 55:11). (find practical ideas for turning to the Word in motherhood here) The Good Shepherd also speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, who whispers Truth to us and provides guidance. He is our Comforter and our Advocate, and He reminds us of the words of Jesus (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13). His voice will never contradict the Word of God. It will never condemn us, but will convict us and lead us back to our Good Shepherd and the flock so that we can live in shalom and safety once more. As we know our Good Shepherd longer and spend more time with Him, His voice will become clearer to us. I admire how one of my sweet mom friends leads her two young children - when they are upset or acting out, she draws them near, takes them away from others present, and whispers to them. She whispers tender words of comfort and reminds them of Truth. This reminds me of how God desires to speak to us - He longs to draw us close, intimately address our specific situations and needs, and remind us of who we are and who He is. The problem is…our world is ever growing more noisy, with voices bombarding us from every direction. There is no lack of “strangers” to follow. And John 10:5 reminds us: we must “run away” from a stranger’s voice, from any voice that is not that of the Good Shepherd! We must tune them out and turn away, trusting in the voice of the Good Shepherd instead. This might look like distancing yourself from social media for a season, or shutting off the show that isn’t benefiting your thought life. This might mean taking a break from your favorite podcasts for a week and listening to God in silence instead (this is my action step! 🙈). This might mean cutting out something in your schedule (even if it is something “good”) so that you have margin to read the Word of God daily. We must habitually make space for time in the Word and silence so that we can listen to Jesus. Only then will we become so intimately familiar with the voice of the Good Shepherd that we flee at the sound of any other voice. As we model this for our children, may they come to see the worth of the Word and the whispers of the Good Shepherd. May we teach them what the Good Shepherd’s voice sounds like so that they can know when to lean in and listen, and when to turn and flee from a stranger’s voice. I’m praying that as you spend time with Jesus this week, you would hear His voice leading you clearly as you run the marathon of motherhood.

  • The Loving Pursuit of the Good Shepherd

    “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4 Bedtime is when everything can unravel in our home. I am (beyond) done. I have poured out all my reserves, my kids are stalling, and I am counting the minutes until I can take a shower because it’s been too many days (but I won’t disclose how many 😂). And time after time I come to the Father after that blessed shower, after I have snapped at the kids during the bedtime routine, and I just need my Good Shepherd to find me. I just need Him to pursue me and pour out His love on me - to remind me who He is and who I am. And he does - again and again and again (because motherhood is hard….again and again and again). This Good Shepherd finds us, his sheep. He is motivated by Love - there is nothing in this for Him. He pursues us wholeheartedly and is committed to protecting us - his vulnerable, messy, sinful sheep. Shepherding is sourced in love: In A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, Keller describes the motivation of the Good Shepherd this way: “All the care, all the work, all the alert watchfulness, all the skill, all the concern, all the self-sacrifice are born of His love - the love of One who loves His sheep, loves His work, loves His role as a Shepherd” (118). Despite our own weaknesses and neediness, the Good Shepherd does everything possible to take care of us and provide an abundance for us, His sheep. The Good Shepherd works not for personal benefit but rather endures many inconveniences on behalf of his sheep. His sole desire is to protect them, nourish them, and see them flourish and thrive. “All the care…work…alert watchfulness…skill…concern…self-sacrifice…” Does this not sound exactly like motherhood to you? 😂 And in the midst of all that we do and endure for our children it is unbelievably difficult to maintain sight of the grander picture and give continually to our kids out of a place of love. (ESPECIALLY, I would add, in survival-mode seasons or after a rough night of sleep 😴). My tendencies: grumbling, frustration, excessive sighing and selfishness. I am so insufficient in this shepherding business. I need my Good Shepherd to give me a heart of flesh instead of stone (Ezekiel 36:26) - because my heart can harden so quickly when my little lambs are seemingly so needy. I need Him to sustain me by His Spirit and give me what I need for each day (manna) so that I can love my kids. I need Him to remind me of the greater purpose of motherhood, which often feels messy and mundane. I need Him to give me love for this assignment of motherhood so that I take up the task with excitement and gratitude and awe rather than grumbling. And thank goodness He does - He meets us in our lack and finds us in our lostness and supplies for our needs so that we can give our kids just a glimpse of His Greater Love. Shepherding is active, not passive: You can find the shepherd in Luke 15 pacing the pastures, counting the sheep, watching for predators. At all times. I’m imagining this shepherd scarcely sleeping - he is vigilant and watchful. He “goes after” the sheep that is lost “until he finds it.” He is a persistent pursuer, concerned with protecting his sheep from dangers (and from themselves and their own folly). And this is how God, our Good Shepherd, pursues us and our children: with a concern for our wellbeing and a desire to be reunited with us and to restore us to the flock; with urgency and deep concern that motivates him to search for hours “until he finds [us].” How can we pursue our children like our Good Shepherd? We “go after” our sheep through prayer: we intercede for them day and night. We pray for protection over them from the enemy, encircling them in our prayers. We pray for wisdom and discernment to know how to pursue them - to receive insight into their love languages and relational needs so that we can love them how they need to be loved. We pray for their hearts to be soft and receptive towards the things of God. We pray that they would see and know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We play offense and defense through our prayers. We also pursue our children “until we find them:” we pursue them through a thousand intentional interactions and conversations. We pursue them even when it feels like we aren’t getting through to them - over years and years of reaching out over and over again. We press on through exhaustion and discouragement and rejection. We persevere. We continue to count our sheep and go after the one who is in a place of lostness or neediness, and we take the initiative to go to them just as our Good Shepherd came to us. This week, may the Good Shepherd show you how He is pursuing you through His love in a myriad of ways that you might have a renewed vision for your assignment of motherhood and energy to extend His pursuing love to your little ones.

  • The Gentleness of the Good Shepherd

    “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11). “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart….” My youngest daughter, Kinley, is extremely maternal - she frequently scoops her babies into her arms and walks around the house shushing them and cuddling them. She will sit silently and hold them for minutes at a time, focused on the task of caring for her little ones. The Good Shepherd is like this - He has a special place for the lambs - “close to his heart.” He is a tender-hearted Shepherd, and the littlest ones are precious to him. He is focused on their well-being, caring for them in such a way that they will thrive. This gentle nature of our Good Shepherd encourages me: I can entrust my kids into His care. He holds them, He knows them, He made them. He alone is aware of all of their needs before they even ask. May we release the responsibility of carrying all of the needs and wants of our children on our shoulders - the Good Shepherd carries our kids close to his heart and He will provide for them. We can also draw our children close to our hearts as the Good Shepherd does - listening to them, creating distraction-free spaces where we can learn how they are really doing. I imagine this kind of “gathering” and “carrying close” will look different for each child and will change with age, but I believe they will always need this kind of attentive care from us. One of my daughters said to me last week, “I feel like you aren’t spending enough time with me” - ouch!!! 😭 That hurt to hear - but after taking her on a date on Saturday I feel that I was able to draw her close, and I pray it made her feel cared for and seen! 🙏🏻💕 “…He gently leads those that have young” The Good Shepherd leads us….gently. US - the mothers, “those that have young” - He is gentle with us, not harsh or critical. Do you believe that? He looks at you with eyes full of grace and compassion. He has a special concern for you, and knows you need to be led gently on this marathon of motherhood. What a relief, what a gift, that our Good Shepherd would lead us with such tenderness at a pace we can manage. And not only is He gentle, but He leads us. He will never leave us behind - He will always lead us. We don’t have to know the way because He knows the way (and He IS The Way). A shepherd uses his staff to guide his sheep - Keller lays it out like this in A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23: “Again and again, I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it to actually beat the beast. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side, and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.” (86). The Good Shepherd guides us by His Spirit, lovingly and clearly providing direction to ensure that we go the way we are supposed to. The Spirit is our Comforter, our Wonderful Counselor, our Advocate - gently leading us through this life and along our journeys of motherhood. The nature of our Good Shepherd reminds me to lead my children gently - not with harshness or pride, not with anger or intimidation. We must allow ourselves to be led by the Good Shepherd that we might lead with a spirit of gentleness. I have found that the measure of grace I have for myself is often the measure of grace I will extend to my children - am I being gracious and gentle with myself in this season? Am I receiving the grace of God that I might extend it to my kids? We can be gracious with our kids because God has been gracious to us. We can draw our kids close because we have been held by God Himself. We cannot expect too much from these little lambs or drive them too hard, but rather we can offer to them what we have received from God - this gentle care coupled with leadership and guidance. I’m so thankful that our Good Shepherd is gentle and compassionate with us. May our mothering reflect this gracious and careful leadership that we might lead our lambs straight into His arms.

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