Will You Stay Five Forever?

“Will you stay five forever?”

“Ummm…sure. But on my happy birthday I will turn six. How can I stay five?” His brown eyes squinted shut as he giggled in my lap.

I never understood mothers who wished their children would stay small. Watching them grow and learn new things at each stage of life has been enjoyable and rewarding. I’ve never wanted time to slow down. In fact, there were a few seasons I wanted to fast forward through. When the grocery store grannies would stop me with my cartful of children to tell me “the years fly by” and to “treasure them while they are young”, I would smile and nod, but walk away rolling my eyes in disagreement.

I’m not rolling my eyes anymore.

If freezing time were an option, I would pay money to stop Lincoln right now. Five is absolutely my favorite year for him, though I cannot give you a specific reason. More like a bunch of little things wrapped up in 365 days.

For starters, he still adores his mommy and thinks daddy can fix anything. Everything he learns at school is the coolest thing and his teacher is the smartest person on the planet.

Five is when I started to see his talents and abilities emerge. He’s always been a curious kid but watching his creativity bloom has been wonderful. He can’t remember to put dirty clothes in the hamper, but can recall the details of any story you tell him.

At Christmastime he is the poster child for excitement. And he cries huge tears when his little brother kills an insect outside. He is hands down the funniest of all our children, and he doesn’t even try. His wit and humor come naturally and he makes us laugh every single day.

But maybe one of the reasons I want him to stay five is because my father died the year he was born. Every birthday is another year further away from the time I had with my dad. Sometimes when I look at his face, my heart feels both joy and sorrow.

The reality is, I cannot freeze or rewind time. Neither can you. The years will keep coming and we must learn to embrace the changes as they come.

I’m trying to be more intentional about enjoying every part of the journey. Even in the moments that are hard, crazy and exhausting. When there’s puke in the car seat, the bathtub is overflowing and a bowlful of spaghetti gets dropped on the floor. Instead of wishing the hard days away, we can choose to remember them and appreciate the great days even more.

The years really did go quickly for my little man. I blinked and he was walking. Then making up jokes. Now he’s building Lego sets and learning to read.

Soon he’ll be driving away, starting a career, and falling in love. And I’ll be the granny in the store telling young mothers “the years really do fly by”.


Should We Pray Louder Mom?

My daughter and I were saying prayers at bedtime. She wasn’t feeling well so we asked God to help her feel better. Seconds later she informed me her belly still hurt followed by, “Maybe He didn’t hear us. Should we pray louder mom?”

I assured her we did not need to pray louder. Whether it’s, a shout, song, or whisper, God hears us every time we pray.

A few years ago I wouldn’t have said this. We had prayed nonstop for daddy to be healed. For the cancer to leave and stay gone. The weeks following his burial I felt more than sadness. I was angry. I was disappointed in God and told him on a regular basis. My feelings were hurt because I had seen Him answer the prayers of others, but didn’t answer mine.

My son Lincoln was born four months after my father died. So in addition to the normal sleep deprivation and exhaustion new mothers face, I found myself trying to sort through the blender of emotions grief brings. Those 3 a.m. feedings were beyond difficult. I would rock him, his head resting under my chin, and my tears would fall on his cheeks. I would talk to him about PawPaw and the great man he was. Then I would pray and ask for one thing:

I asked God to make Lincoln like my daddy.

Lincoln is witty and charming without even trying. His favorite place is anywhere outside and he loves creating. He steals the screwdriver out of the junk drawer on a weekly basis and is always trying to figure out how things work. Lincoln likes everybody, and everybody likes him. 

If you knew my father, you know this means God heard my prayer.

It’s easy to only see unanswered prayers. This never ends well. Discouragement starts to take root, my attitude heads south and I turn into a rotten person. When this happens I try to remember all the times God has answered. I have to be intentional and consistent.

There are days I miss my daddy and my grief tries to turn into bitterness. Days I pray for big needs and things get worse. On those days, I grab Lincoln up in my arms. His deep brown eyes, full of curiosity and mischief. A gentle reminder…God heard me.


The War on Anxiety

You are in a war. Whether you want it or not, it’s happening. Anxiety and fear have declared war on you and your family. Thankfully, we are not fighting this war without weapons. God has given us countless people and stories in the Bible to equip and guide us through this battle.

In 2 Chronicles 20 we learn a war has been declared on Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. Messengers told him the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites were already on their way and that Jehoshaphat was alarmed by the news. There are great lessons we can learn from Jehoshaphat’s response.

We must seek the Lord

The first part of verse three says the king was afraid, and with good reason. Three mighty armies were marching toward him. But the second half says he “sought the Lord for guidance”. He also gave orders that everyone in Judah observe a fast. 

When the community of Judah gathered, the Spirit of the Lord came upon a man named Jahaziel and this was the message he gave: “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15 NLT)

When fear and anxiety invade your life, what is your response? Friends, we must learn to seek the Lord. We combat the lies of fear and anxiety with the truth of God’s word. Spending time reading the Bible, praying and possibly fasting is where we receive guidance and wisdom. 

We are powerless against anxiety.

In verse 12 Jehoshaphat prays, “O Lord, our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” When anxiety attacks your mind and heart, it can be tempting to try to fix it alone. Admitting we are powerless gives God all the control. 

But relinquishing control and admitting you are powerless is easier said than done. I found this to be true a few years ago when my husband battled situational anxiety. I was just certain my encouragement and logic could pull him out of such a dark place. I quickly learned fear doesn’t listen to reason or logic, and my encouragement often fell on deaf ears. In desperation I looked up to heaven and prayed something similar to Jehoshaphat. “God, I can’t do this. But I know you can. Help me trust your plan and timing as you help my husband.”

Prayer and fasting doesn’t stop the war, it changes the outcome. 

The armies did not stop marching after Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah sought the Lord, and the war did not stop when the fast was over. Likewise, anxiety is not going to stop coming just because you prayed and fasted. 

Even though King Jehoshaphat did everything “right”, the armies continued to advance. Verse 16 says, “Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel.” There may be times you seek the Lord, and do all the “right” things. And your anxiety remains the same, or even gets worse. Don’t underestimate the power of the Lord and His work on your behalf.

The morning of the battle the king sent singers ahead of the army.  Verse 22 tells us, “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.” The enemies killed each other before Judah’s army even got there!

“So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.” 2 Chronicles 20:24

There is so much to love about this story. A humble king willing to admit he is powerless against mighty armies. An entire community coming together to seek the Lord and fast. Singers praising the Lord in front of the army. But my favorite verse in this whole story is verse 30. “So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for the Lord had given him rest on every side.”

Friend, the Lord wants your heart to be at peace. He wants to give you “rest on every side.” If you are battling fear or anxiety, take some time and seek the Lord. My prayer is for you to hear His voice reminding you, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. The battle isn’t yours, it’s mine.”

You Are. You Have. You Will.

You are smart. You have a voice. You will fulfill the purposes of the Lord.”

This is the phrase I speak over Jack every night as I sit by the bed rubbing his head. I started repeating this mantra at 15 months, around the time his delays became obvious.

Most nights I say it with boldness. My heart is full of expectancy and I believe every word. Some nights I say it through tears and doubt. I’ve decided no matter how the day went, or how I’m feeling, I will say it.

The other night I was putting my sweet boy to bed and felt the Lord nudging my heart: “Speak these things over yourself too.

It felt weird at first. Almost like stealing. This is Jack’s phrase, not mine. He needs it more than I do. Or so I thought. When I stopped to think of each part of Jack’s mantra, I realized it does apply to me. Dare I say, it also applies to you?

You are smart

Even though I’m an educator, Jack’s autism diagnosis felt overwhelming. The magnitude of information and decisions regarding his therapy and education made me feel I was not prepared. But I know my children and I know myself. I’m smart when I trust the instincts God created in me.

You don’t have to raise a child with special needs to feel overwhelmed. Maybe you have willingly stepped out into something new or have been thrown into a situation. Either way, the lies will come. They will whisper you aren’t smart enough or talented enough. You will start to see others as more qualified and before you know it the lies begin to take root. If this sounds familiar, pull those weeds out and replace them with the truth of God’s word.

You have a voice

When I became a mother, many things immediately changed: my schedule, my sleep, my heart. Other changes moved in slowly and quietly. A few years into motherhood I realized I was losing my voice. Not my real voice of course. The kids will tell you my vocal cords still work just fine. I mean the other voice. You know the one. The pre-mom voice. I felt like a part of my personality went on the top shelf. I knew how to be a wife and mother but forgot how to just be me. It took time, but I’ve pushed through to find my voice again.

Whether you are parenting small children like me, recently found yourself in an empty nest, or are in a season of waiting, take the time to find your voice. 

You will fulfill the purposes of the Lord

When Jack and his twin sister were born, I had a goal in sight. Knowing the first few years would be the most demanding physically, I braced for impact and told myself when they turned three, I would have more time to work on my dreams and goals. So much for that. The twins are now four and I am exhausted every day. Jack is growing towards independence but still needs a lot of support. Not only am I letting go of what I thought Jack’s future would look like, but I am also letting go of what I thought my future would be.

Don’t start feeling sorry for me, this isn’t a pity party. It’s a lesson. It took me time to learn, but I think I’ve got it now.

What if I let go of what I thought my life was going to look like and also live a wonderful, happy life as an autism mama?

The pain I have experienced in my life isn’t hindering the plan, it IS the plan. Now that I’m switching my lens, I can see Jack’s diagnosis isn’t delaying my purpose. It’s fueling it.

Perhaps your life is not what you planned, or even remotely considered. Whatever you are facing today, try changing your focus. Start seeing yourself as adequate, find your voice, and live out your purpose. I give you full permission to borrow Jack’s mantra.