it is well.

Motherhood is sanctifying.

In the midnight hour on July 31, I had the privilege of being in the delivery room with one of my best friends, Keely. Over the last three years, I’ve walked with her through three miscarriages. Countless prayers had gotten us to that moment.

Lord, please, let her hold her baby.

Finally
her water broke
her labor began
and
there we were
at last
this momma would hold her baby.

While up until that moment in time she had yet to meet one of her babies, Keely had already experienced sanctification through motherhood. Your lack of control hits you within moments after learning about a pregnancy, and for many of us, it brings us to a place of utter dependence on the Lord. Through Keely’s pregnancy loss, God had changed her. In a time when she easily could have run away from God, she ran to Him. She chose faith and trust. Her journey brought us to this sweet moment during her labor that I will never forget.

I had stepped in at Keely’s side to give her husband Kyle a break as they prepared for a long night ahead of labor. While we laughed and danced in the waiting at first, contractions had started picking up. The mood in the room had changed but we were still at the point in labor where we could talk for the few minutes between contractions. I pulled up her premade labor playlist and the first worship song came on: It is well.

Keely shared how this song had carried her through her miscarriages. We took a moment, even in the midst of her labor and excitement, to grieve the loss of the three babies that she would never hold in this lifetime. As painful as labor is, she grieved that she wasn’t able to experience the pain of childbearing with her first three. We imagined what it would be like to hold her babies in heaven. We imagined how proud they were of their momma in this moment, having chosen to place her faith in the Lord and trust Him in the unknown.

Through tears, we listened to the words of the song as her next contraction came on. “Even through it all,” Keely whispered. “It is well.”

 

P E A C E . I N . P R O C E S S .

Motherhood is sanctifying.

Here’s what I mean. Sanctification is this process that the Bible refers to as the time between salvation (justification) and the moment when we are restored to new life in Christ for eternity (glorification). Sanctification is the in-between, it’s the process of being made holy. While we are a new creation in Christ at salvation because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17), the Lord still has a lot of work to do on our sinful hearts and flesh. And this doesn’t happen overnight. For most of us it’s a painful, long process of being made holy.

The hope of sanctification is that the longer we walk with Christ, the more we should look like Him. I have learned that God is much more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. Along the way we think we want happiness but really, our deepest desire is peace. Sanctification is the smoothing off of our rough edges and letting the desires of our heart become God’s will for our lives. It’s the pruning of dead branches, so that we can bear more fruit, and fruit that will last. It’s finding peace in our circumstances of this life, knowing that our hope rests in a Good Father who will come and redeem all the brokenness, guilt, and shame we feel and restore all of creation to perfection. Sanctification is the painful process of letting go—and letting God.

I wish I could say that things have been all rainbows and butterflies since the moment when Keely finally held her daughter, Emmaline Grace. But the next trial we will face in this life is always right around the corner. In baby Emmaline’s first month of life, Keely’s had to deal with the challenges of having a newborn and learning to nurse in the midst of Emmaline having a benign tumor on her gum and undergoing surgery at 4 weeks old. God is not done with Keely’s story yet, and neither is He done with ours.

 

I T . I S . W E L L .

Motherhood is sanctifying.

A few weeks ago, I had my own sanctifying motherhood moment. Caught between the demands of work, ministry, and our busy lives, I realized that I was not giving my daughter Lydia the attention that she deserves. In the middle of transitioning her from a morning nap ready to rush her to my parent’s house so I could get more work done, the voice of mom-guilt came in my head, accusing me of being a bad mom.

I stopped. I looked at Lydia and asked her, “Do you think I’m a bad mom?” Knowing that Lydia couldn’t answer that question, I broke down into tears. My 15-month-old daughter ran into my arms and hugged me. I picked her up and my little girl didn’t stop hugging me back for several minutes as we walked up and down the hallway. She continued hugging me until my tears finally quieted. She didn’t need to have words in that moment, she communicated everything that I needed. The Lord reminded me through my daughter that I was doing my best, and that Lydia loved me not based on “how I did as a mom that day.” She loved me because I am her momma. The same is true with God. He doesn’t love me based on “how I did as a Christian that day.” He loves me because I am His daughter.

The Lord used Lydia to encourage me to find peace in the process.

This life that my toddler and I live together isn’t going to be easy. I hear from other mommas that it only gets harder. I’m going to be an imperfect mom, and Lydia is an imperfect child. We are going to hurt each other. We are going to let each other down. We are going to have moments where we say, “I’m sorry” and ask each other for forgiveness. Yet through every trial, every mistake, every burst of anger, every moment we can’t control, and even the most joyful moments that we can’t slow down—through it all—we are being sanctified.

When I say that motherhood is sanctifying, what I mean is that motherhood brings out all the ways we fall short on our own efforts. Motherhood brings out our flaws and imperfections whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Yet God uses motherhood to refine us, to make us more dependent on Christ, and to therefore become more like Him as we choose to place our trust in Him.

It is sanctification that brings us to a place where we can say, no matter my circumstances, I have peace. God is good. He will redeem.

Through it all — it is well.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

baby two.

As I write, I’m sitting and looking out a window of our guest house on Table Rock Lake. To the west, I see a beautiful sunset, colors of pink, orange, yellow and blue painted across the sky, shadowing the Ozark Mountains. One glance to the east, and I see rain pouring onto the lake from a distance.

Such is life.

With one look you see the beautiful blessings that God provides, and in the next glance you see the brokenness of the world we live in.

I feel this tension every day, and especially in this moment as I sit down to write and process the fact that I am 14 weeks pregnant with my second child. I see the sunset. 14 weeks. Out of the first trimester. Out of the higher risk for miscarriage. Into the second trimester, just six weeks away from finding out the gender of our baby, and just 26 weeks away from meeting him or her face to face.

The next glance.

Since arriving at Young Life Camp three weeks ago for our summer assignment, two friends from my church community back home have lost babies through miscarriage. I see the rain. I feel the brokenness. I wish I could stop their storms. I wish I could trade places with them some days just to take away their hurt, their grief, their fear.

but
here
I
am

experiencing the beautiful sunset and merely glancing at the storm from a distance.

To be honest, I didn’t want to write this. I fought guilt in posting a photo of pregnancy. These two friends with recent losses aren’t the only ones I’m walking life with experiencing pregnancy loss or infertility. There are many more. The last thing I want is to be a trigger for others pain and grief. It makes me want to run and hide and pretend that I’m not experiencing the incredible blessing of having a second child that will be only 19 months apart from our first.

It’s hard to admit that I inflict shame on myself for experiencing this blessing when I have absolutely no control over my circumstances or those of others when it comes to fertility. But what I do know is this: In the midst of the broken world we live in, I have a God who redeems.

I have a God who sees the beginning and the end.
I have a God who is writing my story and their stories perfectly for His good and His glory.
While it may not seem good right now, I have a God that will see it through in His perfect timing.
He will calm their storms and bring them to the shelter of His presence and His peace.
He will redeem the hurt, the pain, the fear, and the grief, and they will rise redeemed.

With eyes wide open to the blessings of my circumstances, here’s my story.

 

F I N D I N G . O U T .

Kevin and I have always dreamed of having kids close in age. I grew up with three siblings within four years of each other, including having a twin. I have wonderful memories of childhood and still love how close the four of us are to this day. Around the time that Lydia was 9 months old, I remember feeling disappointed that I wasn’t pregnant yet, but also wanting to trust my body and trust God’s timing. I remember taking a pregnancy test, that was negative, right before I got the stomach flu. It was the first time I experienced disappointment from a pregnancy test, and I realized that it was time to start praying intentionally for God to provide another child. However, I lowered my expectations and set my mind on the present season.

A few weeks later, around the time that Lydia was 10 months old and shortly after my best friend Keely’s gender reveal party, I had a dream. In the dream, I was having a conversation with Keely and said, “You’re pregnant with a girl… I’m also pregnant with a girl!” I told Keely about it the next morning at church but shook it off as just a dream, again masking my hopes that it was reality.

About five days later and a few days after my missed period, I had another dream that I was pregnant. The next morning, I asked Kevin to pick up a pregnancy test at the store simply for “peace of mind.” When he got excited, I quickly quieted his emotions because I told him that I didn’t want him to feel let down if we weren’t pregnant, insisting that I didn’t “feel” pregnant.

The busy day began and turned out to be quite chaotic. Lydia was biting me while nursing throughout the day and having quite a few toddler moments. Even during happy hour with a few friends, I made a joke about it being my last drink but continuing to doubt that I was actually pregnant. “My cycle has been off since breastfeeding….” I claimed, among other excuses. That night I had yet another rough feeding attempt before putting Lydia to sleep and actually had to pump after. (PS, I found out later that hormones could change the taste of breastmilk for her? I’m going with that, or else, a strange coincidence that it was all on this day.) Finally, after a long day, I sat down to pump. As I was pumping, I felt a wave of nausea and extreme thirst. And that’s when it hit me. Oh my God, I feel pregnant.

Taking the pregnancy test was no longer casual after that because I knew in that moment that I was pregnant. After cleaning up my pumping supplies and confirming that Lydia was sound asleep, I grabbed the pregnancy test and started shaking as I took it, my mind racing as the pieces of how I felt the last few days were coming together. I left the test in the bathroom and after a minute or two, insisted that Kevin go in to grab the test and confirm. Around 9pm that Friday evening, I saw the look on Kevin’s face as he read it out loud and smiled. “You’re pregnant.”

Immediately we embraced in joy and excitement and—me being me—I quickly downloaded my old pregnancy app and pulled up my calendar to calculate our due date and plan out the next 9 months of our life.

 

F I R S T . T R I M E S T E R .

About one week into finding out I was pregnant, I got the stomach flu, really bad. I look back now and laugh that I thought it was pregnancy symptoms at first, so I tried to push through my work day. I remember the relief I felt when I realized I was sick and that this pregnancy shouldn’t feel that miserable all the time! Those few days forced me to slow down and just remember my dependence on the Lord throughout this chaotic season. I wrote more about what those two months looked like in my recent two entries, “finished.” and “work ahead.”

About a month later, I had my first doctor’s appointment. After my sonogram, they pushed my due date one week later to December 13. My cycle was indeed off since I was still breastfeeding. It was a small reminder that regardless of Kevin and my attempts at “trying” to get pregnant, I ovulated a week later than normal, and we happened to get lucky. The timing made it feel even less of something we could have controlled and made me even more grateful for the way God orchestrated it all. Truly it was He that created this little life and spoke his or her name into existence.

It didn’t take long for me to start showing way earlier this time around. My stretched out skin and belly button quickly popped back out, and around 7 weeks, I realized that I needed to start telling friends before they could look at me and see for themselves! Nausea and aversions were in full swing, so I slowly starting weaning Lydia in hopes that would help. Lydia was fully weaned around the time I was 10 weeks pregnant, and nausea ceased shortly after that. I was also wrapping up my Master’s degree at that time, leaving behind a lot of stress that I’m sure wasn’t helping. It was a tough few months not feeling well and working really hard with a lot of late nights. I had little time to process the fact that I was pregnant and merely just trying to survive!

 

R E A D Y . F O R . T W O .

We publicly announced our pregnancy right before leaving for our month-long summer camp assignment for Young Life. Being at camp has allowed me time to rest and time to spend one-on-one time with Lydia in this sweet season before Baby #2 comes. It has allowed me time to process the previous two months as well as physically, emotionally, and spiritually recover.

As I hit the 14-week milestone and am headed into our final week away from home, I feel peace and a readiness to look forward to December and begin making preparations. I’ve started to process the fact that I am going to love another tiny human as much as I love Lydia. That he or she will be like Lydia… but different. Their own person.

Sometimes I get scared. Will I really love baby two as much as I love my first? It seems hard to fathom. I also have feared: will God provide the finances for us to support a family of four on a ministry salary? Will we be able to afford sending them both to college? In all these fears, He has comforted us and provided people to speak truth and encouragement to us.

Still, I am scared. Aren’t we all scared for the unknown? Will I be able to do it all? Will I be able to be a working momma of two? Will I be able to care for a newborn while having a toddler? Will God really provide the finances? Will our marriage continue to strengthen as life only seems to get more messy?

In the midst of the unknowns and the fears, I am thankful for a God who sustains me through it all and gives me peace, assurance, and confidence. He hasn’t failed me yet, and I choose to trust in His promise, that He never, ever will.

Baby two, we’re ready for you.

life & death.

The devastating news from my best friend came in the form of a text message: We lost baby G. No heartbeat.

A quick phone call and a few minutes later, I left my 3-week-old baby at home with my husband and a house full of guests. Along with two other close friends in our community, we were on our way to the pregnancy clinic to meet our friend Keely. We walked into the clinic room only to see her, tissues in hand, staring down at sonogram photos of her unborn baby in her lap.

What was a routine check-up for peace of mind after mild cramping turned into her worst nightmare: not her first, not her second, but her third miscarriage.

After embracing, tears, and questioning, Keely handed me the sonogram photos of her baby. In those photos I saw my own daughter, Lydia. How many times had I looked at the same sonogram photos with hopes of meeting her, wonders of holding her, and dreams about what she would be like?

For my friend Keely, I had no words.

 

V I S I O N S .

I felt darkness for a few days. Postpartum emotions surely weren’t helping. I grieved for Keely and her husband Kyle and the loss of their baby.

I questioned God of suffering, why them?
I also questioned the Lord of blessings, why me?

Why was I chosen for a healthy, easy pregnancy and a beautiful, healthy baby?

Not to mention, my mind started playing tricks on me. Fears of loosing Lydia increased.

I started having visions…
visions that my sweet and gentle dog would attack her when I wasn’t looking…
visions that I would drop her or that she would fall off her changing table…
visions that I would go to look in her crib or her car seat and she would be dead…

Back-to-back nights, I woke up in the middle of the night to feed Lydia alone, surrounded by darkness, continuing to wrestle with God and try to process my friend’s reality.

As a new mom, her loss affected me even deeper. I couldn’t articulate it in words until, finally, the true distress came to me in prayer:

Lord, can I trust You to keep Lydia safe? You – who allows babies to die?

 

E V E N . I F .

I stared at this question, written clearly in my journal. This doubt in God and lack of control fueled my anxiety. Not only was I grieving on behalf of my friend, but it suddenly became all too real that I could lose Lydia in an instant.

God, who is a good Father, ultimately allows the unthinkable to happen.

While I had processed a potential loss in pregnancy, I’ve now met Lydia and fallen in love with who she is. The thought of losing her scares the hell out of me. The thought that God could allow that to happen scares me even more.

However, once I confessed my fears, I was able to combat those fears with Truth and experience healing and clarity.

Yes, but God is still worth trusting, because He has proven Himself faithful too many times. He has the power to redeem even the darkest of circumstances.
Yes, but God is still worth trusting, because my hope is not in this temporary world. My hope is in Jesus and in eternal life with Him.
Yes, but God is still worth trusting, because quite frankly there is no better way.

Ultimately, I am choosing to trust a God with my own baby’s life that lets babies die. But God is still worth trusting even if _________ (fill in the blank – my worst nightmare).

While I will always take precautions to keep Lydia safe and control what I can control, ultimately, those fears will still come and much is out of my control. Yet I surrendered the visions, in the name of Jesus, they have no power over me. Lydia’s life is in the God’s hands. Her days are numbered perfectly and every day is a gift. I choose to trust Him and to let go of control, even if He doesn’t give me what I want.

Peace followed.

 

L I F E . I N . D E A T H .

I had a mom-friend recently recommend that I do a Scripture reading plan from my phone, one that I can access while breastfeeding or holding my new baby. The Lord led me to a She Reads Truth study called “The Miracles of Jesus.” A few days ago, I happened to finish the two-week study with a devotional that highlighted the times Jesus performed miracles by raising someone from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26, Luke 7:11-17, John 11:17-44). Again I thought about my friend Keely. Why couldn’t Jesus save her baby from death? What’s the point of showing us miracles like these when we are faced with the reality that too many times, Jesus chooses not to save those we love from death?

Then the devotional ended like this:

Jesus knew the temptation we face with miracles is to desire the gift more than the Giver (John 6:26-27)…The Gospel accounts of Jesus conquering death seem like the ultimate of all miracles. But really, they were only a short-term (and yes, miraculous) solution to a long-term problem. The only source of real and lasting hope is not a miracle, but the Messiah.

God is a lot more concerned with our spiritual health than our physical health because He knows that our spiritual health is much more important. Our physical state is temporary, but our spiritual health is where we find true joy and satisfaction for eternity. Jesus Himself is more glorious than any miracle and any answer to prayer. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25)

He is still worth trusting, even if our current anxieties come to be and even if He doesn’t give us what we want.

Ultimately
He Himself conquered death on the cross
raised to life
so that we may experience life to the fullest
even in the face of death.

The depth and joy of knowing Jesus is far better than any accomplishment or any earthly blessing. Jesus is our hope for truly living our best life.