I should have know this penny was special.

As I drove to meet a friend for lunch, I couldn’t help but reflect on our life stories and how they had crossed paths at such a difficult time in both of our lives.

My son was fighting brain cancer.

Her son was fighting leukemia.

Almost ten years have passed since the first time we sat together in my living room sharing our struggles……….our worries……….our new normal lives with each other.

We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve celebrated, and we’ve grieved.

Tyler is now in college.

Nick is now in Heaven.

I think in some ways it’s hard for both of us to move on from this place of mixed emotions,

but we’ve somehow done it.

Our friendship has definitely passed the test of answered versus unanswered prayers;

and as we paid for our meals, Kim spotted a penny!

Right by my feet!

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It’s moments like these that remind me that Nick really isn’t that far away………………..

 I like to think he’s smiling every time I pull out my phone in the most ridiculous of places.

Later that day, Kim texted me and said, “Nick is raining pennies today.”

And sent this photo:

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I smiled as I replied, “He sure is!!”

Less than an hour later, I walked to my own car and happened to glance down just in time to see this small brown coin balanced sideways in the crack of the pavement in front of me.

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It definitely was a special day!

I always wonder what people are thinking when they see me pull out my phone to photograph my feet.

I really wonder what they think when I bend down, pick up a penny, and stand to examine it closely.

I’m always looking for messages…………….and this penny definitely brought a big smile to my face.

1995

 

There it was, imprinted on the coin in my hand…………….the very year Nick entered this world and became my only brown-eyed baby boy.

The year Nick became my son.

This penny was the one I knew I had to use for my quickly-approaching surprise date with Tim,

because sometimes someone shares an idea on your Facebook page that sounds too fun to pass up!

Recently, one of my friends had shared the idea of a “penny date” with me.

(Thank you, Katelyn!)

Basically, you ask your date to pick a number between ten and twenty.

Starting at that point, you flip your penny at each new intersection, turning left or right depending on whether your penny lands on heads or tails.

When you finally reach the last intersection and the last flip of the coin,

you’ve reached your surprise date destination.

Yesterday, Tim and I flew to Washington, D.C.

Tim is attending a conference and asked me to come along, so this seemed like a perfect time to pull out my special penny and see what happened!

Tim was up for the adventure, so he picked his number and off we went!

Thirteen coin flips awaited us.

One flip for each year of Nick’s life, and I’m not even sure if Tim had thought of that when he picked his number………..but it made me smile even more.

This was definitely Nick’s journey for us to take.

I could feel it from the very beginning!

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Along the way we passed some beautiful buildings……

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but we realized we were definitely moving further and further away from the touristy part of D.C. with every flip of the coin.

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About halfway into our walk we saw two police cars fly by, followed by an ambulance…………later we learned from a friend’s son who lives in D.C. that we were very near the location of a stabbing in broad daylight of a boy who would not give a cigarette to a man sitting on the edge of the road.  He sent me this photograph taken by one of his friends.

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Who knew the flipping of a coin could lead us away from something so terrifying?

With just a few different turns, we would have been right there at that very moment.

 I’m thinking about that young man today and wondering how he’s doing.

How do you go back to a normal life after being attacked in broad daylight or even in the dark?

This world……………….Please whisper a prayer for that boy and that man.

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Tim and I continued our journey after seeing the emergency vehicles.

We had no idea where they were headed or we may have turned around.

In just a few more turns, though, we happened upon this sight!

The Watermelon House!

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What an unexpected thing to see in our nation’s capitol!?!?

I felt like Nick thought this was an important landmark we might have missed on our own!

We were nearing the end of our thirteen flips,

and there was definitely nothing in sight that looked like a great location for a date.

As we turned the last corner, our final penny flip brought us to an old neighborhood skate park filled with skaters…………………….

Not exactly the ideal place for a middle-aged couple to choose as a date location,

but look what was painted on the side of the main skate park ramp!

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We both had to be photographed here!

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Of course!!!

Nick had led us to the very place in D.C. that would make us both smile!!!

As we headed back toward the traditional spots for D.C. tourists, we passed this building.

Can you read what it says above the windows??

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“TO THE GLORY OF GOD”

Could a penny date be more perfect?  I don’t think so!

God definitely gets all the glory for this fun afternoon!

We ended our evening with a look at the Washington Monument……………..

Majestic as it is, it meant so much less to both of us than the Watermelon House or the Paradise Skate Park did on this particular day.

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As October ends and November begins,

we’re both fully aware that this is the month Nick physically left our family’s presence seven years ago.

Even though we believe with all of our hearts that Nick is in Heaven,

we always enter this next month with a feeling of sadness.

Grief doesn’t disappear just because time marches on.

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Today, I’m so thankful for this penny date with Tim yesterday.

I’ll hold on to it forever as a reminder that God really does walk every step of life with us,

and every step leads us closer to paradise…………….

closer to rest for our souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.

He walks with you, too.

Today, stand at the crossroads and look.

Ask where the good way is…………..

and walk in it.

Find rest for your soul.

It is there……………………..

just around the corner!

The sermon ended, and I could feel my heart racing.

A lump swelled in my throat and tears filled my eyes.

I leaned over and warned my husband,

“Just so you know, I may go forward. I have something I have to say.”

The invitation song was about to begin when our minister,  not knowing I needed Tim right there beside me, asked the elders to come stand with him……………..

in case someone needed prayer.

Tim left our pew.

He joined the other elders across the front of our sanctuary, leaving me alone with my racing heart.

As the song began, I felt the near-panic welling up inside me.

I turned to a dear friend standing on my left and said,

“I really need to say something.”

She hugged me as I began to cry, and she knew what I was battling…………

she had heard the sermon too.

I could no longer fight the urge to stay where I was,

and I stepped out into the aisle.

Once I was out, there was no turning back.

I had to either leave the service or move forward,

so I did what any wife would do in that moment.

I walked straight to my husband.  He knew my struggle.

He knew exactly why my heart was pounding,

and I as approached him he held out his arms.

Deep inside, I believe his heart was pounding too.

Hearing a sermon about God and the power of prayer isn’t easy when you live a life filled with unanswered ones.

I whispered in Tim’s ear exactly how I was feeling, then he did what he would have done for any hurting church member in that moment………

He prayed for me.

I felt peace wash over me and rather than asking for a chance to speak,

I returned to my seat.

I found myself continuing to wrestle with so many different emotions, and in some ways I was sure I had grieved the Holy Spirit by remaining silent.

I knew so many people in that sanctuary also live lives of unanswered prayers, and I wanted so much to say,

“James 5:14-15 makes no sense to me, and it’s verses just like these that make me understand why people walk away from church and God.”

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.”

I wanted to say so much about how we had prayed with deep faith for Nick’s healing and how the elders had anointed him with oil not once but twice.

I wanted to say that if prayer has to be fervent, ours was.

I wanted to say that if fasting is required, we fasted.

I wanted to say that if prayer has to be offered by someone free from sin in order for God to hear and answer,

then who in the world will ever have a prayer answered, because haven’t we all sinned???

It wasn’t the sermon that pushed me to this point of desperation,

it was the Bible.

It wasn’t the minister who left me feeling bewildered yesterday,

it was God.

How in the world do I keep stepping forward in faith when my faith wasn’t even enough to save my very own child from cancer??

How much more earnest could prayers be than those of a mom in the middle of the night as her child lay sick and suffering?

Believe me, I spent many nights walking the floors of our house pouring out my soul to the Creator of the Universe,

bargaining,

making promises,

begging,

bawling,

reading His own Words right back to Him,

trusting and believing in the power of prayer.

Until the very last minute, I knew God could do the impossible…………………….

I knew God had the power to heal my son……………….

and then Nick stopped breathing………………

and I was forced up against a wall that pinned me tight.

Immediately, I felt as if the devil began taunting me with questions like,

“What are you going to do with Him now?”

“Where was God when you needed Him?”

And since that moment almost seven years ago,

I have walked the fine line of deep faith and wavering belief.

I have juggled all that God is with all that God hasn’t been.

I have watched people I love become disillusioned with His power,

and I have found myself shaking my fist one day and raising my hand in praise on another.

I love God,

but I also don’t understand Him.

And yesterday, I wanted my whole church family to know that no matter how disappointing life can be I still believe it would be worse to walk without Him.

I live a life mixed with so much hope and so much disappointment.

Every single day, I walk a road paved with both overwhelming joy and overwhelming sorrow.

I trust God, but I don’t always understand the Bible.

I have done a lot of research on James 5:14-15.

I prayed so hard this morning that God would lead me to exactly what I needed to hear and know.

I chose not to speak yesterday, but I can’t be quiet today.

I can’t be quiet because I found something that helped me find some peace, and I want others who feel defeated by unanswered prayers to feel peace too.

James asks, “Is anyone among you sick?”

I read this morning that “all Greek lexicons agree that its primary meaning is “to be weak, feeble, or impotent.” It is most often used that way in the epistles. In Romans 4:19,14:1-2, 21 it is used of being weak in faith. In 1 Corinthians 8:9, 11-12 it is used of spiritual weakness. In Romans 5:6 it is used to refer to the spiritual impotence of the unsaved. In 2 Corinthians 11:21 it is used to refer to the weakness of personality.”

http://www.gty.org/resources/positions/P09/when-the-healing-doesnt-come

As I read on, I realized that yesterday, I was the one who was weak.

I was the one who was feeble.

And even though I was struggling with the words of James, I did exactly what he said to do.

I went to an elder for prayer.

And somehow this grieving mom was “raised back up.”

When Nick was sick, I wanted so badly to believe that there was something I could do to save Nick.

I wanted a verse that said,

“Do this or that, and your prayers will be answered.”

But what if God is so much more interested in our spiritual wellness than He is in our physical?

What if we could reach a place where like Paul we could honestly say,

“To live is Christ.  To die is gain.”

Phil. 1:21

I have so much more to say, but for today I’ll say this:

If you’re walking a road that seems to be filled with unanswered prayers,

tell God how you feel.

Ask Him to lead you to the right words, the right people, the right places.

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I will never understand Nick’s death.

Ever.

But I do believe with all my heart and soul that I will see him again one day………..and my faith will become sight.

For today, that is enough to know and believe.

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But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,

where moths and vermin do not destroy,

and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matt. 6:20

 

We didn’t see him coming as we moved down the interstate at full speed.

Suddenly, without warning, the nocturnal creature appeared in our headlights, attempting to run from one side of the road to the other.

With no time to even swerve,

our car took the life of a very large raccoon………….

causing all of us to gasp at the sound of the impact.

It wasn’t until we got home that we realized our car had paid the price for this split-second in time on our journey.

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Life is so much like this.

We sail along from this appointment to that.

We celebrate victories and endure defeats.

We visit doctors.

We spend time with family and friends.

But sometimes in the midst of these seemingly ordinary moments,

a raccoon appears.

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An unexpected announcement at work changes everything about our career path.

An injury during a game pulls us off the field and onto the bench.

Test results return and our tomorrows are suddenly filled with more doctors, more tests……….

anxiety, fear, fatigue.

News is shared about a relative or a friend and we want to wave a wand and make all things better but all we can do is reach for Heaven and ask, “Why?”

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I’m feeling the impact of several things today……………

one of which is a raccoon’s lasting impression on my vehicle.

We can fix our car, thank goodness.

But everything isn’t this easy.

If only every part of life had a “repairman” as good as Ronnie Estep.

I don’t know about you, but I need a repairman today.

I need some things fixed that require more than popping things back into place,

doing a little welding,

and adding a little paint.

I’m thankful for a God who promises to never leave me.

I’m thankful that no matter how confusing or complicated or exhausting life gets,

no matter how hard we get hit,

He isn’t overwhelmed.

God sees the raccoon coming.

He knows how much damage will be done,

and He already has a plan………………

before we even visit the auto body shop.

I need to remind myself today that there are no raccoons too big for God to handle.

Like a repairman for my soul,

He longs to help me…………………if I’ll just come to Him.

And wait.

If I’ll just let Him see what I really look like when life hits me hard.

Every dent

Every scratch.

He cares about them all.

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He holds the whole world in His hands.

Who am I to not let Him hold me?

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Isaiah 30:18

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;

therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

For the LORD is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for him!

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When God Is Silent

October 20th, 2015

 

My chronological Bible takes several days to share the history of mankind during the 400 years of what seemed to be spiritual silence between the Old and New Testaments.

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As I was reading about some of the things that were going on politically,

I was also drawn to what was going on spiritually.

The Jews struggled during this time of silence.

They were well aware of the prophecies that had been passed down through the generations………….

a Messiah would one day come.

But as the years passed and turmoil filled the land,

the idea of “hope” began to blur with the reality of the hopelessness surrounding them.

The temple was lost during the exile…………….and the role of the priest slowly began to fade.

In order to survive, the Jews turned to the building of synagogues and the use of rabbis to lead the way.

Doing the best they could during this time,

they substituted their old ways of worshiping God with times of singing, prayer, and discussions of His law.

Something happened, though, when men took God’s design into their own hands.

Differing interpretations began to surface.

Differing views of who was “right” and who was “wrong” began to dominate this era.

God was silent.

And man began to talk more and more.

By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, even the Jews were divided into all sort of different groups with different philosophies.

It’s really no different today.

The Bible was written and then God seemed to slip away to a certain degree,

lifting His hand a bit from the ins and outs of our day-to-day business….

no longer showing up in burning bushes or angelic appearances.

We know the prophecies of a second return of Jesus.

We know that the Holy Spirit was sent to be with us until this time,

dwelling in each of us………..

human temples for a Holy God.

But the silence can get the best of us at times.

It can get the best of me anyway.

I love days when I can feel God in a mighty way.

I love being fully aware of His presence in my life and in the lives of my family and friends.

But sometimes, He seems so far away.

He seems so quiet.

And if I’m really honest, I have to admit that I’m no different than the Jews several thousand years ago when I don’t know what to do with His lack of words.

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When God is silent,

it’s so easy for me to fill the air………..

with my own words,

my own reasoning,

my own way of worshiping.

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What if I could remember even when I’m all alone in the silence of a moment that God is with me?

Emmanuel.

What if I could grasp the beauty of being called a temple of the living God?

What would change about today if I didn’t think I needed to hear from God as much as I needed to be with Him?

Right here.

Right now.

Just being.

Last night in my graduate class, my professor said,

“People with empty places try to fill them up with people or things.”

What if I could wrap my mind around the fullness that comes from having Jesus inside of me?

What would I not need today?

Last night, I drove several hours in my car all alone.

I started with the radio on; but as I was listening, I remembered our Sunday school lesson yesterday and the verse

Psalm 46:10,

“Be still and know that I am God.”

I remembered Beth Moore saying,

“If we cannot be still, we cannot know God.”

I turned my radio off.

Silence filled my car, but it took a long, long time for silence to fill my mind.

It took a lot of miles for me to settle down enough to really listen…………..

to the beauty of silence.

And that’s when it hit me.

When God is silent,

He is still there……………

powerfully, beautifully, perfectly present.

The fall colors covering the hills all around me seemed to grow in beauty as the thoughts dancing through my mind seemed to fade into the quietness of the journey.

When I heard nothing, I could see more.

I wonder if God is silent sometimes so we will really see Him?

I wonder if He steps back so we will step forward?

I wonder if He hides so we will seek?

I wonder if the pursuit of Him is what causes us to grow?

When God is silent,

He is still so visible.

Today, I want to be quiet and open my eyes to His presence all around me.

Emmanuel.

God is with us.

Like a friend who is willing to sit with us……………….

with no need for words……….

God longs to be with me and you.

I want to find beauty in His times of silence.

I want to see Him today.

“The LORD your God is in your midst,

A victorious warrior.

He will exult over you with joy,

He will be quiet in His love,

He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Zeph. 3:17

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Why We Have To Talk About Sex

October 9th, 2015

 

It was dark when Olivia and I pulled into the driveway after church one evening several years ago.

I remember it like it was yesterday, though, because the car became more than a vehicle in that moment.

Suddenly, it was transformed into the perfect place for a powerful and very unexpected conversation.

As I put the car in park, I noticed Olivia was very quiet.

She didn’t reach for the door to head inside.

She looked straight ahead; and as I reached for my purse, I heard her say in a very timid voice,

“I need to tell you something.”

I could hear the shakiness in her voice and fear ran right through me.

We sat in silence for a few minutes as all kinds of horrible thoughts raced through my mind.

“Is it about you?” I nervously asked.

“No,” she whispered under her breath, and I felt overwhelming relief flow through my entire body.

Looking back, I realize how selfish this feeling of relief was.
No news that causes Olivia to cry should make me feel any less anxious.

Leaving out that moment in our conversation, though, would paint a picture that takes away the very reason I’m writing this post today.

Olivia tried to talk, but as she began to speak she burst into tears.

Finally, she got it out.

One of her friends had had sex.

Sad, angry, scared…………..she released every kind of emotion from the passenger seat of the car.

The truth is, Olivia had just started a serious relationship with a boy several months before; and she knew this was a line she was committed to not crossing.

At the same time, she knew it was a line that could be so easy to dance right across…………..

when two people felt like they were in love………………

and it was scary……………….

so we talked and we talked.

We talked about regrets and forgiveness and grace.

We talked about how boundaries have to be set in advance if this is a direction a person chooses not to go before marriage.

I’ve spent a lot of time with other girls before and after that evening in the car with Olivia.

From middle-school-aged girls to college-aged-girls to young adult women,

the conversation is always the same.

Where do we draw the line?

What is okay and what is not okay?

Everyone else is doing it.

I want him to love me.

I don’t want him to break up with me.

The list goes on and on, and the heart-wrenching stories keep piling up.

Sex.

Three little letters that can turn a world upside down in just a few minutes.

Believe me, I’m far from perfect.

I was young once too; and while I stood up to some pressure along the way, I caved to some too.

Somehow, I kept the “one thing” sacred while sacrificing a few other things along the way.

I’ll just say this, dancing way too close to the boundary line leaves its own kind of scars.

I stood at a soccer game last night with a dear friend of mine,

and we talked about homecoming weekend and our girls.

We talked about their boyfriends, and we talked about the three-letter word that we know every single young adult faces day in and day out in a world that screams,

“Be happy.  Do what you want.”

Our hearts ache for our kids, because it’s a lonely road to travel when you decide that being happy doesn’t always mean doing what you want.

Late last night, Olivia and I had a chance to talk about this little but oh-so-powerful word again.

This word the world throws around so carelessly while God longs for us to cradle so delicately.

I shared a book with Olivia that I’m reading right now.

I really want her and her boyfriend to read it too.

Honestly, I think every human being should read it.

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We talked about the difference between love and sex.

We talked about three points the author makes:

sex is sacred

sex is serious

sex is an awesome responsibility

I read some powerful sentences from the book out loud to her:

“If you stay sexually pure, then you can expect to have better sex in your marriage.”

“If you stay sexually pure, then you can expect the possibility of divorce to go down by 50 percent.”

“If you stay sexually pure, then you can expect your relationship to last.”

“If you stay sexually pure, then you can expect to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.”

“If you stay sexually pure and accept someone as a potential mate who lives by the same values, then you can expect that when you marry, each of you will remain faithful to the other.”

I showed her some illustrations that really spoke to me:

God’s plan for building a relationship:

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Hollywood’s plan for building a relationship:

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I showed her these formulas:

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We don’t have to watch very many movies to realize the bedroom is a normal part of the dating process to many…..

and we all know our kids watch plenty of movies.

So why aren’t we balancing out this message with our own?

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I’ve wrestled with whether or not to share my thoughts on the subject of sex for a long, long time.

The world can so quickly call you judgmental if you have an opinion that contradicts their’s.

I wasn’t sure if my blog was the place for such a conversation, but lately I’ve been burdened by some heavy conversations with precious girls who have crossed the line or been very tempted to.

I’ve heard so many stories of regret and guilt and shame, and I just can’t be quiet any more.

I’ve looked into the eyes of thirteen-year-old girls who’ve only heard the world’s opinion on the matter, and my heart breaks as I listen to them talk…………..

because I know where their road is leading if someone doesn’t speak up.

So I’m speaking today about sex, because homecoming is tomorrow in our little town and girls and boys will be hopping into cars and heading out on dates dressed like princes and princesses and deserving to be treated like them too.

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Here’s what I have to say:

If you’ve already crossed the line, consider stepping back over to the other side.

God longs to restore and make all things new.

That’s His specialty.

Save yourself from this point on for the day you walk down the aisle.

Make pleasing Him your first priority and the pressure you feel on this planet will begin to fade away, because His love has no strings attached, no pressure, no expectations.

His love is free and unconditional.

If you’ve walked close to the line but haven’t crossed it yet, beware.

The point of no return can catch you by surprise.

Choose to dance far from the line so that on the day you say, “I do,”

you’ll have some room reserved on both sides of the dance floor just for that moment.

Find accountability partners for times when you feel weak or just need to be reminded of how happy you will be if you stay strong.

Luke and Olivia have close friends in their late twenties who are already married and have walked the road of dating ahead of them.

They text them often for encouragement and support.

Thank you, Josh and Katelyn, there are some things parents just can’t do.

If the line hasn’t even entered your mind or your child’s mind,

know it will one day and plan ahead.

Make decisions now that will protect your tomorrows.

Who will you date?

Where will you go?

What will your boundaries be?

These are things you need to consider now even if you’re in middle school.

Talk to someone if you’re struggling.

Don’t let shame keep you in a cycle that can easily be broken.

Don’t let regret keep you from feeling worthy of God’s love.

We’ve all made mistakes.

We’ve all done things we wish we could take back.

And there’s always good news!

God promises to cast our sin as far as the east is from the west.

He says that in Him we are a new creation.

Brides wear white because it symbolizes purity.

Determine today that you will wear white on that special day……………

no matter what you did yesterday.

I’ve had Olivia imagine her wedding day…………….

and how it will feel when the man she is about to marry watches her walk down the aisle as she holds onto Tim’s arm.

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I want her to understand the power she has right this minute.

The power to wait.

The power to choose.

The power to save herself for him and him alone.

I also want her to understand how wonderful it will feel if she chooses a man who has waited for her too.

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The world wants teens to believe that people aren’t waiting.

I don’t believe this is true.

I believe there are plenty of teens and young adults longing for lives where love comes first and sex comes later………………

I still believe true love waits.

If you’re reading this and don’t know where to go from here because the pressure of this life has taken you down a road you wish you weren’t on,

please don’t feel any less worthy of God’s love.

He needs your story.

He needs your voice.

Share your struggles with someone and find friends who will help you find your way to a road that brings you peace.

Let God use your past to help others who walk behind you.

The beauty of the new you will outshine any memories you wish you could erase.

God has a special plan and purpose just for you.

Let Him be your first love…………….and watch everything else fall beautifully into place in His time.

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I’ve never had so much hesitation about pushing the “publish” button on a post, because the last thing I want to do is cause anyone to feel shame.

We’ve all made mistakes; and believe me, I’ve made my fair share.

As a teen and as an adult, I have so many regrets.

My only purpose is to open the door for conversations between boys and girls and moms and dads and youth ministers and youth groups.

The world isn’t being quiet about their views on the topic of sex, and I don’t think we can be quiet either.

When Olivia said she had something to tell me several years ago and I was relieved that it wasn’t about her, God convicted me in that moment.

It has taken me this long to muster the courage to speak up……………….

and I’m still afraid.

Posting this with every ounce of love I have in my body.

Flee from sexual immorality………. do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

 I Cor. 6:18-20

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalms 51:10

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 

I Timothy 4:12

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 

I Peter 1:15-16

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 

Revelation 22:14

If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

II Timothy 2:21

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Reflections on Motherhood

October 8th, 2015

 

I remember holding Erich in my arms for the very first time.

I couldn’t believe this little bundle of life had somehow been entrusted to my care.

I had no training except for a few babysitting jobs in high school,

but none of those jobs had involved a brand new baby.

I’ll never forget visiting my mom when Erich was just six weeks old.

As we bathed him, she gently leaned his head back and to my horror there were little lines of dirt all through the wrinkles of his neck.

I had never thought to check this hidden place.

Who knew a newborn could create and store little rolls of dirt when I had bathed him every single day of his tiny life?

Motherhood has been a lot like this one moment for me ever since.

Me………..

stumbling along.

Missing things.

Learning as I go.

I’ve been a mom now for almost three decades, and I’m still amazed at what I do not know.

I’ve thought a lot about motherhood this fall as the leaves begin to float from trees in our yard.

I guess it’s really hitting me hard that my last child has begun her own descent from the safety of our branches.

A new season is coming at the Nischan house.

A season of bare branches.

A season of leaves all fallen and figuring out a way to make it on their own.

I wish someone would have told me when the branches were full just how quickly the seasons change.

Actually, my mom did.

I remember when Erich started kindergarten.

She said, “Once they start school, time will just fly right by.”

But there’s something about the day in and day out process of packing lunches,

and picking out clothes,

and doing science fair projects,

and making leaf collections,

and doing laundry and dishes,

and keeping the floors somewhat clean,

that tricks you into thinking this chapter of life will never end.

Last night, as Olivia folded her own laundry and carried it upstairs, I watched a woman walk by.

There is no doubt………….

my little girl has grown up.

And in spite of all I did not know about being a mom,

I’ve somehow helped raise another child.

So, for all moms who read this and feel inadequate,

incapable,

unprepared,

worried,

scared,

unqualified,

or simply tired,

take heart today.

God has a way of taking all of our “not enough” and turning it into “enough” when we place our kids in His hands.

I’ve messed up many times, and I’m sure I will time and time again.

I’ve said too much or not enough.

I’ve stepped in when I should have stepped out.

I’ve forgotten things, misplaced things, lost things, and even ignored things that were incredibly important.

I’ve tried to prevent struggles that God longed to use as teachable moments.

I’ve overprotected.

I’ve fought battles that weren’t mine to fight.

I’ve done a lot of things that have probably made life more complicated for my kids when what I really wanted was for their lives to be easier.

And it’s taken me all these years to figure out that my job really is more about loving than being.

When I held Erich in my arms, love swelled inside of me.

But so did the thoughts of all the things I needed to “be”, and I lived my mommy years trying to

be perfect

be present

be patient

be purposeful

and be positive……………………….

the problem is,

I fell short over and over and over again so I ended up spending many days

 being sad,

or regretful,

or frustrated,

or disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my years of raising kids.

I cherish so many memories.

But if I could do it over again,

I would “be” less and “love” more.

I would relax.

I would soak up every second.

I would curl up in a chair and read more books with my kids.

I would leave the Legos spread out over the floor all day long…………..

Even if it meant experiencing the pain of the sharp plastic digging into the sole of my foot………….more than once.

I would make more Playdoh and be okay with making less money.

But most of all, I would listen to the world less and listen to God more.

There’s a lot of pressure out there to have the right clothes, the right shoes, the right car…………….

but I have found that my kids are happiest when they have the right attitude and the right perspective.

If you’re a mom,

I’m praying for you today as you navigate the waters of motherhood.

I hope you’ll take time to rest your paddle across your boat and just enjoy the ride.

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Stop feeling the need to “be”.

And simply embrace the opportunity to “love”.

Yes, there’ll be moments when you realize you missed something as obvious as lines of dirt on a newborn’s neck, but with enough love you’ll never miss what’s most important………………and that’s your child’s heart.

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I never thought I would struggle with the thought of an empty nest.

I love watching my kids explore the world.

I smile when I know they’re risking it all to pursue their dreams.

I’m a believer in a great, big life for each of our children, and

I admire their deep passions and brave souls.

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But this last bird, 

this last winged creature within my home,

has done a number on my mommy heart.

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I’m not sure if it’s because we scooped her up and added her to our nest by choice

or

because she’s our only little female chick

or

 because she was the last egg hatched, the last ball of feathered fluff entrusted to us for a season,

or

maybe it’s all of those things mixed together……………

whatever the case,

I’ve been a different kind of mommy bird to this little birdie.

I’ve been the kind who anticipates the next need and already has a solution.

I’ve been the kind who flies so closely “beside”, “behind”, and “in front of”

 this poor little chick that she has to swoop above or below me just to catch a view of the big world outside our home.

Lately, my ability to fix and solve and explain life has fallen short, though.

Some things even a mommy bird can’t make all better.

And just like every other struggle this world throws our way,

God has used this feeling of helplessness to prepare me for the very thing I’ve  been trying to avoid.

Letting go.

Releasing.

Freeing.

These words have frightened me for so long,

because this world is so cruel and my nest is so safe.

Wouldn’t it be better to just stay tucked here under my wing?

Thoughts of her emptying her closet and packing her bags have gotten the best of me so many times.

Vacant drawers.

Silent walls.

An always-made bed.

Everything about these things has made me see “an end” to such a huge part of who I am.

Over the past couple of months, though, the water of our lives has begun to warm up…………….

to a place of boiling.

And when things boil, they can make a mess if something doesn’t give.

So I’m turning over a new leaf in this chapter of motherhood.

I’ve clipped my own wings a bit in order for her to feel the very real and needed protection of His.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:4

I’d love to say it’s been easy.

I’d love to say it’s been painless.

But I can’t.

I can say this, though:

It’s been for me the very thing she has needed.

Freedom!

I’m stepping away from her life in places many moms probably stepped up away long before me.

(I’ll use grief as my excuse……………….

because there’s something about loss that makes you hold on tight to everything else within arm’s reach.

And boy, have I held on tight!)

I’m finally realizing that what I once saw as an end she has so wisely been seeing as a beginning.

A beginning of her own journey to independence……………

Cooking

Cleaning

Laundry

Trusting in God with her own kind of faith

She has needed me to step away so all of these things could become her very own.

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Oh, I’m still here………….

“in the wings” as they ironically say,

ready to help if needed;

but I’m no longer the fixer of all things broken,

the healer of all things hurting,

the doer of all deeds waiting to be done.

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And, man, this is hard for me.

So very hard.

It’s strangely wonderful too!

The joy I feel from the release has overshadowed any sadness I thought might come my way.

 I’m realizing more and more every day that in order for my last little chick to fly high she must first learn how to fly alone.

I’ve talked to several friends who have “flown this way” before me……..

even my own mom who did this very thing with me years ago.

I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer, too;

and I’m so thankful for a God who says,

“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:31

This quickly-approaching empty nest doesn’t scare me as much as it used to.

It’s really not the end.

It’s the beginning of a whole new world.

For her………………..and for me.

I’ve got about ten more months to watch her fly within my wing’s reach and then…………………

God longs for us both to soar.

I want to be ready.

And I want her to be ready too.

I love you, Olivia Faith-Pallavi Nischan.

Thank you for showing me the beauty of new beginnings when I was only able to see the end.

(Photos by Katelyn Fawcett – Olivia’s Mentor and Friend  Thank you!!)