Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI saw this painting by one of my favorite artists, Clare Elsaesser, and my sweet husband gifted it to me for my birthday. Last week, I was reading Sara Hagerty’s new book Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. I remembered the painting that was in a box in our bedroom waiting for my birthday. Written in tiny font at the bottom of the painting is its title, Hidden. It seems this is a message God keeps whispering to me.

Even in these days where I feel buried beneath laundry and crushed Goldfish crackers, therapy evaluations and helping children learn how to self-regulate, He sees me. He hears my desperate prayers. He knows my every weakness. In Unseen Sara writes, “We haven’t been hidden by God to suffer or to be punished; we’ve been wooed into hiding to meet with the God who turns vulnerability into communion.”

These days aren’t the ones that win awards or earn promotions. These are the hidden days. The ones where my best work is done on my knees. I sent a friend a page from Unseen with this quote, “Nate and I found that the first, best tending to the hearts of our children was done in secret with God. So we prayed.” This morning, Matt gave me the best gift you can give a mom with a house full of littles. He took the kids to Panera for breakfast while I got to sip my coffee, read my Bible and pray in a quiet house. What a gift. I carried my mug from room to room praying over these spaces and these lives God has entrusted me with and thanking Him for this gift of life.



It’s early in the morning on my 31st birthday. My big girl woke me up needing some water and a hug. She’s back asleep now, but I’m awake. Lying here with the fan whirling and the sound of Peach’s noise machine crashing waves over the baby monitor. A few weeks ago I texted a sweet friend who is almost a decade younger, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m loving my 30s.” Of course, now I’m telling all my someones. 

At dinner last night over barbecue shrimp and crabmeat and heirloom tomatoes and the most delicious redfish of my life, Matt and I talked about many things. But one of them was how I feel like I know what my thing is now, the thing God has me here to do. I don’t have the words to write it succinctly right now, but I can feel it every day. It happens at my dining room table with a white plastic notebook and my Bible. It’s a hundred sticky notes with verses that I’m praying for myself, my husband, my girls, my Ethiopian, my friends, perfect strangers who are no longer strangers because their names have crossed my lips countless times. 

It’s me and my Bible cracked and God’s Word alive. It’s most days with tears because I can’t ever get over the awe that the God who spoke and stars glittered the sky cares about a girl like me. It’s the texts and the names beside verses and the joy I feel when the Holy Spirit gives me a verse to pray for someone. Is there anything more humbling and more honorable than to be able to pray for someone? I’m finding it my life’s greatest joy. 

Dear 20s, you might have had the great metabolism and no wrinkles or gray hair. But I wouldn’t go back for anything. To be awakened early in the morning by the child who daily shows me God’s faithfulness is the richest kind of blessing. To remember how He used dark days to drive me to my knees and begin a journey of prayer is my weapon against fear. To know the love of a God who speaks to me every day through His Word is the honor of my life. And to break and pour and share that love with others is my purpose. Here’s to 31 and all the messy beautiful ahead. 

A Five Fish Kind of Birthday

A Five Fish Kind of Birthday

As our final week of homework for Visual Storytelling, Molly Flanagan’s photography class I took through The Define School, we were asked to tell a story in pictures. I was hoping for perfect natural light and lots of time to prepare and practice. Instead, I got rain and clouds and a busy week celebrating our oldest turning five. But I’m still glad to capture this chapter of life and the craziness we call dinner time. Tonight, we had my favorite kind of celebration–the kind where the kitchen looks like a bomb went off thanks to my little sous chefs and the five of us gather around our kitchen table while we tell knock knock jokes and enjoy the birthday girl’s favorite fish tacos. Lydia, our story wouldn’t be the same without you. Your laugh, your compassion, and your love of life are written all over this messy, beautiful story we call family. Happy birthday, sweet girl!



Happy Birthday, Lottie!

Happy Birthday, Lottie!

Charlotte Anne, my little firecracker. No one wears me out like you do or makes me laugh like you do. Your crazy blonde curls and those mischievous blue eyes. The way you tilt your head when you ask a question and all the hilarious things you say to us.

In the past year, I’ve found you sitting on top of the table “reading” Charlotte’s Web, in the pantry gnawing on raw sweet potatoes, at the table for Easter eating the blue egg dye tablet and feeding the dogs handfuls of not-so-cheap organic raisins.

You are equal parts fiercely independent and faithfully clingy to Momma, Daddy and Sissy. You tell us all the time, “I got it.” But you love to sit in our laps, and you usually fall asleep snuggled right next to your big sis.

You came into the world with a bang, and you’ve been messing up my plan ever since in the best possible way. You keep me on my toes, and I’m pretty sure you had something to do with that new patch of gray hair I found the other day. But you make me smile like crazy. You make me dance in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store. You make me laugh until tears are rolling down my cheeks. You make me wonder how I ever lived without you.

When you were just a few months old, your daddy started praying you would be like Queen Esther. That was a scary prayer for me to hear because Esther was willing to risk her life to save God’s people. But I see now God laid that prayer on his heart knowing He had given you a feisty, sweet personality to fit the calling. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” It’s still a scary prayer, but it’s one I pray for you every day just like your daddy–that you will be like Esther, willing to risk everything to love God’s people.

To the moon and back, happy birthday my Lottie Dot!


To 30 weeks and 30 years and apple cake…

To 30 weeks and 30 years and apple cake…

photo (61)I had two very stable, rational days, and then yesterday happened. I would love to tell you I lost it and burst into tears over something meaningful, but, no, it was over a lost package. Mom ordered me a new diaper bag a few weeks back. It was supposed to be delivered last Friday. Then, it changed to Saturday. Saturday the expected delivery date said N/A. I called FedEx SmartPost, and they placed a trace on the package and located it in Southaven, MS. The new arrival date was Wednesday, September 17th. Yesterday, I checked the tracking again, and it said it was delivered Tuesday. No, no. I think there’s been an error.

I called FedEx SmartPost again, and they said I would need to talk to my local post office since they handle the final delivery for SmartPost. So, on the way to Bible study I called the post office, and they put me through to my postman who assured me he had delivered the package to my door. I held back my tears and managed not to lose it on the phone, but I kindly told him I had been home all afternoon, and it had not been delivered. He told me he would “check the cove on his route that afternoon.” By the time I got up to my girls in Bible study, I was a mess–the stereotypical very-pregnant woman who has lost it over nothing at all. About that time, Jess slides over a warm apple cake she made me for my upcoming birthday. She made this cake for Bunco last fall, and I have raved about it ever since. Then, I was crying because I was thinking, “I don’t deserve these people, Lord! They are too good to me, too good to crazy, irrational, basket-case me.”

I looked around the cove once we got home from Bible study and saw a package on our next door neighbors. I was pretty sure I saw the Zulily logo on the side, but I had two cranky-needing-lunch-and-naps kids so I took them in and figured I would let the mailman find it. 1. Because I wasn’t sure it was legal to go take something off someone else’s front door step. And 2. Because I wanted the postman to know I was right and he was wrong, and he did not in fact deliver it to my door.

I got the girls lunch, put them down for rest time, got myself a big ole piece of apple cake and turned on Parenthood. A couple months ago I started watching Parenthood during the girls’ rest time. Word to the wise: do NOT start Parenthood when you are pregnant. I realized immediately that this was going to be the episode where Zoe decides to keep her baby and Joel and Julia leave the hospital empty-handed and brokenhearted. Yesterday would have been a good day to buy stock in Kleenex. Of course, we don’t have Kleenex around here, so I was stuck with toilet paper and texted my bestie with every crying emoji while I watched.

After all that crying, I felt much better, but I have decided I need a maternity shirt that says, “Fragile! Handle with Care!” to wear for the next nine weeks. (Make that nine months because you know I’ll be a mess after baby too.)

Around 4 PM, I realized the mail had already been delivered and the postman had not remembered to look. So, in my pajama pants I trekked over to the neighbors’ house, knocked on their door two times, and then took the package and ran. I now have my diaper bag, and, hopefully, I didn’t commit a crime.

Today I hit 30 weeks and tomorrow 30 years. Sometime in January, Jess told me she had a feeling something big was going to happen around my 30th birthday. Her own 30th had brought with it news of a precious baby waiting for her. When I looked on the calendar and realized I would hit both milestones within 24 hours of each other, I smiled and thought of her words and her prayers. For surely this baby kicking and squirming and using my bladder as a squeeze toy is a dream I wasn’t even brave enough to dream, a prayer I didn’t have the courage to vocalize.

This past year has been the best and the hardest of my life. It has been this beautiful, messy swirl of moments I never want to forget like Charlotte’s first birthday, eating Lou Malnati’s with Matt in Chicago, crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles, that beautiful plus sign, and watching Lydia read for the first time. It’s also been a year where I have had to confront my issues with perfectionism and control like never before. This morning in my Bible study book Children of the Day these words burrowed into me, “You’ll never find a perfect perfectionist.” I also need a shirt with that on it. I’m realizing I will battle these things for the rest of my life, but I’m surrounded by a village that pushes me and sharpens me, encourages me and kicks me in the butt. And that is a pretty special gift.

Here’s to 30 weeks and 30 years, apple cake and best friends, great memories and hard lessons, emotional days and knowing I’m not alone.

Four, A Letter to Lydia

Four, A Letter to Lydia

IMG_0500Lydia, I can’t believe you are four today. I know I’ve said that every year, but every year it’s true. Four seems like a new chapter, one I can’t wait to open with you. Lydia, you are compassionate, inquisitive, sensitive and full of joy.

A couple months ago I was mopping in the kitchen. You came to me distraught, begging me not to clean underneath your blue table because there was a family of ants living there and you didn’t want me to hurt them. I smiled so big at your compassionate heart, but later I did have to relocate the ant family back outdoors. Lydi, I pray you always care for the forgotten, the small and the overlooked. Seek those people out for they have something special to share with the world and with you. And they often make the very best friends.

You are always asking questions, a million questions a day it feels like. (Confession: sometimes in the car I have to tell you we are going to have some music time because I can’t keep up with all your questions.) But I love your questions. I love the way you discover the world and how you ask me what certain words mean. I love how you want to know what everything says. I can’t wait to see your face when you read a paragraph for the first time because I imagine fireworks going off inside your head. You love books, just like your momma and daddy, and when we come to check on you before we go to bed we always find surrounded by books. You will “read” stories you’ve memorized to your babies and animals in bed by the light of the stars sprinkling your ceiling until at last you fall asleep sprawled out across your covers. Don’t ever stop asking questions (except when Momma and Daddy tell you we need a little quiet time in the car.) Read everything you can get your hands on. Read biographies and fiction, cookbooks and news, bestsellers and indie books. Read authors who disagree with you. Read authors who lived in a different time than you. Every single person has a story. You have a story too. And every story is a part of God’s Big Story.

This past winter we were watching the Olympics, and they featured the story of an Olympian who was also a mom. She had left the world of competition after the last Olympics but then suffered a miscarriage that made her rethink her leaving. As she talked about her miscarriage, she started crying. You were snuggled up beside me on the couch, and you asked why she was crying. I told you she had a baby in heaven just like we have two babies in heaven. You asked me what our babies’ names were, and I told you we never named our babies, but we thought the first baby was a girl and the second baby was a boy. You got quiet for a few minutes and then said, “Momma, can I name the babies?” I said yes, and you thought for another couple minutes and said, “Hannah and Hampton, that’s what I want to name our babies.” The Hannah was a surprise because you had never mentioned anyone named Hannah before. Hampton I knew came because you love Hampton Bruce and his mom and dad. I shared the story with Hampton’s mom Heather and she said maybe you were on to something because Hampton means “home.” Then I looked up Hannah and it means “grace.” Though God took our babies to their eternal home, He showed us much grace during that season, grace that has made me parent you and your sister differently than I would have otherwise. Of course, I want to protect you from pain. My heart shatters at the thought of your heart broken. But I know pain is a part of this world, and I know firsthand God can reveal Himself to You in a special way when you go through pain. Don’t shy away from loving people because your heart might get broken. Loving people is messy stuff, but it’s the only thing worth doing.

Your sensitive spirit allows you to sense when others are hurting. There were a handful of days this past year that you came up to me out of the blue, wrapped your arms around me and whispered in my ear, “I miss EEOO too.” I cried every time because I couldn’t figure out how you knew when my heart was heavy. But really I do know. Your sensitivity is a gift from God. I pray you will use that gift to look out for those hurting. I pray you will use your words to encourage others and let them know they aren’t alone.

Lydia, maybe more than anything else about you, what I love most is your joy. You make a declaration almost every day that, “This is the BEST DAY EVER!” In your world, every day gets a little more fun. You squeal when we pull into our cul-de-sac and you see new lilies opening up. You jump up and down when you hear the garage door opening and Daddy is home. And I’ll never forget your reaction when Daddy brought you and Charlotte into the ultrasound room and you saw your new baby on the screen. You see the gifts all around you, and I know God must smile when He sees you enjoy them. Because I certainly do. Treasure those gifts, Lydia, those small moments, those little things. Gratitude and contentment will fill you with so much joy.

Lydia, we have big adventures awaiting us this year–our first year of homeschooling, a new baby, sharing a room with Sissy. Our anthem for this year is, “We can do hard things.” We can and we will do hard things, Lydia. We will make lots of mistakes, we will have bad days, and we will want to give up. But we won’t. For in doing hard things, we get to see God do what only He can. And that’s where the real adventure awaits.

I love you, Lydia Marie. These four years have been incredibly special, but I know the best is yet to come. To the moon and back…and back again.



A Letter to Sutton

A Letter to Sutton

Dear Sutton,

Today you took your first breath, and you met you first hero. Of course, you already know her because she has carried you for nine months–your mom. I have known your mom for two decades, but to know her now is to know a hero. A warrior. Sutton, most moms would have given up before now. Having been through a fraction of the pain and loss your mom has, they would have surrendered to the fear. But not your mom. She’s a hero. A warrior.

She continues to put her heart out there, a heart that has been gingerly pieced back together, pieces that are held together with a special brand of Scotch tape. She is a wounded warrior, but I think those are the bravest of all. For they know not to take victory for granted. They have seen the other side but choose to fight another day anyway. She is a hero, and now that you’ve looked into her eyes I know you’ve seen it too. Sutton, you are a miracle, but you’re a miracle in the arms of a hero. A woman who would not give up believing, praying and begging the Lord to give her a child to hold. He has heard her cry, and as He was through every loss and every dark day, He is faithful.

Sutton, you and your big sister are so blessed. For every day you get to do life with a warrior. She isn’t perfect. No mommy is. But she is brave. The bravest kind of mom I know. And if you watch her she will show you how to be a warrior. How to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. How to believe and hope when your heart is smashed. How to hold on to the Faithful One during the darkest of days. How to be brave.

If you’re holding on today to a desperate prayer, don’t give up. You aren’t alone. And God is always faithful. In the dark days where hope seems far away and on days like today–when a million prayers are answered in the single sound of a baby’s first cry. Happy birthday, Sutton. I pray you’ll be a brave warrior who dares to believe that with God nothing is impossible. Just like your mom.