About PursuePeaceBlog

I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, striving everyday to serve and honor Christ by serving my family.

To the Mother of the Boy at the Park

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Today at the park your son annoyed and frustrated me.

He begged me to play with him.

He threw sand at my children.

He hovered over our snack.

He dug in my purse.

He followed me to my car.

barefoot-3569057_1920He picked at every single fiber of my patience, while my son grappled to understand why he was behaving the way that he was.

This boy had a daycare provider who wouldn’t have noticed if he had crawled into my car, something he desperately wanted to do.

You see, this boy could sense that my children were loved, well cared for, and happy, and he was desperate for the same stability.

Despite the selfishness I had to shake off each time he approached me, I attempted to love him the best that I could–to show him a piece of the Jesus that he will search for until he finds.

I don’t know who you are. In fact the only thing I do know about you is that you’re this boy’s mother. I don’t know what kind of difficulties you’ve overcome or how many jobs you work or how hard it is for you to afford groceries, but I do know that your son needs you.

His desperation for my attention told me as much. You gave up the right to settle for a less than stellar lifestyle when you brought him into the world — his beautiful curly hair and deep brown eyes.child-817373_1920

You gave up the right to ignore him, to leave him in the care of someone who ignores him– he is yours, and he is perhaps the one perfect and marvelous thing that you have gotten right. You need to treat him like he is the greatest gift you will ever receive, because he is.

I know that perhaps your life has been hard. I know I may speak of things that I just don’t understand. The only thing about you that I do understand is that your son does not have everything he needs, and this is not okay with me. It is not okay with me that he is growing up in a place where he feels as though he lacks an unconditional love. The unconditional love he saw me offer my children while they played carefree at the park.

swing-846077_1920You see, no matter where you come from or the difficulties you face each day, everything your son needs from you is free. He needs your attention and your love. He needs to know that he is the most important thing in your life. He needs you to step forward and accept the incredible and unique task of raising a boy into a man. There is perhaps no greater calling.

I wish I knew you, and I wish I had the opportunity to help you, to show you some compassion. I do promise you that I’ll lift you up to God in prayer each time your son crosses my mind, which so far has been very frequently, and I will pray that someday you do meet someone that is able to help you rise above your circumstances and show your son how to rise above his.

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The Small Heart of a Big Sinner

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My toddler’s defiance is not about me. This is some of the best parenting advice I have ever received.

20180817_063923It is so difficult to avoid viewing my son’s misbehavior as an attack against me. When a child rebels, it is natural for a parent to feel offended, hurt, angry–and dare I say, inconvenienced. However, a child does not rebel to hurt his parents, he rebels because of his sinful nature. When I remember my son’s misbehavior is a product of his human sinfulness, instead of a personal attack on me, it is so much easier to keep my cool and discipline him appropriately.

This was something I had to remind myself of repeatedly yesterday. My three-year-old woke up with one goal in mind: do not listen to a single word mom says for the entire day.

He succeeded.20180817_064021

At 39 weeks pregnant, I did not want to spend my day punishing, disciplining, detaining, and bargaining with my son, but this is what he needed from me. He needs me to mold his heart and his character into the heart and character of a man of God– a man who recognizes and repents of his sinfulness, and rests comfortably in the forgiveness of his Savior.

Teaching him to respect our home is the beginning of how we will teach him to respect others, himself, and someday, his wife.

Making him clean up his mess is the beginning of how we will teach him to correct bigger wrongs in his life, to own up to his more destructive mistakes.

Setting him in timeout while he thinks about what he has done will prepare his heart for when he must sit before the Lord and repent.

20180810_143041Parenting is not about me. My son did not draw on the wall yesterday to make me mad. He did not throw rocks at his brother to emphasize my bad parenting skills. He did not destroy his bedroom to give me even more to do.

My son is a sinner. He did these things because he is a victim of the evils in this world, just as I am. Christ died for for my son’s defiance and refusal to stop arguing with his parents, just as He died for my quick anger, harsh tongue, and love of the world.

For a little while, God has entrusted me with his small heart, and I will not let my selfishness get in the way of this profoundly important task.

Enough is Enough

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I know the answer to all of my problems.

I know that the answer is Christ.

I know Jesus is the answer to my impatience.

I know Jesus is the answer to my anxiety.

I know Jesus is the answer to my love of gossip.

I know Jesus is the answer to my toddler’s attitude.

sunset-174276_1920I have shared these thoughts with friends of mine, and I have had a few reply, “It’s not that easy.”

Oh yes. It is.

It is that easy.

Jesus is the answer to the skyrocketing suicide rate in this country.

Jesus is the answer to the dangerous drug use among our teenagers.

Jesus is the answer to the gender dysphoria that so many suffer.

Jesus is the answer. Period.

Since God has blessed me with a faith that believes these statements without hesitation, I wonder then why I hesitate to develop my relationship with Him.

I wonder why I press snooze instead of getting up to read my Bible.

I wonder why I ask a friend to help me, long before I get on my knees.

I wonder why I trust my plan, my ideas, and my desires more than His.

I wonder why I turn on Netflix to find my peace after a long day with my children instead of spending time in the presence of a Savior who heals and restores all things.

Of course I know why I do or don’t do these things. I’m a lot like Paul when he says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Amen, Paul! I hear you loud and clear!tree-736875_1280

You see, I love the world more than Christ. And sure, I could just chalk it up to the idea that I’m only human, but that excuse just shouldn’t be enough for me.

Enough is enough.

I want everything the Bible has promised me.

I want peace. I want unwavering strength. I want freedom. I want every single one of my prayers answered because every single one of my desires aligns with the King of the Universe.

I want to throw away the things of this world, those things that lie to me and promise peace, and I want to grab hold of an everlasting, all-powerful, indescribable love and devotion for the One who made me.

This is the only answer for me, for you, for any of us.

More than Failure

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I wasn’t a very good mom yesterday.

I lost patience. I yelled. I bribed. I begged.

I wasn’t a very good mom.

Years ago, my vision for my life as a stay-at-home mom did not involve losing patience and yelling. When I dreamed of my years at home with my kids, I unrealistically imagined a woman who effortlessly poured life into her family each day, floating around the house with an angelic glow, as I spread Christ’s love like glitter. I never lost my patience, and I most certainly never yelled.

20180730_120402My visions of my future often display a more perfect, more put-together, more Christ-like woman than the authentic me–the me who feels like at least one wheel is always falling off, the me who is often scrambling, often frazzled, and literally never has any clue what she is going to feed her family at suppertime.

When I sat down with my Bible today, I read about Jephthah, the son of a harlot who was cast out of Israel. Years later, after living as an outcast, he was used in unimaginable ways by the Lord. God has a way of doing that–using the most imperfect people for His perfect plan.

As I read about Jephthah, I realized that like him, I am only human. I do not have an endless supply of patience, nor do I have an endless supply of flawless parenting strategies. Sometimes I just run out of ideas for how to make my toddler behave, and the irony is that my toddler never runs out of ideas for how to pick at my patience.

What bothered me about the way I behaved toward my children yesterday was that I was far from displaying to them the love of Christ. I was short with them. I ignored their requests to play. I begged them to be quiet so I could rest. Christ was no more in me yesterday than was Santa Claus.

I just simply failed. I failed my children, therefore failing my husband–but most of all– I failed God.

Wrong.

It is this guilt that Satan would like me to grab hold of and believe. It is this kind of guilt that I believe the mainstream media refers to as “mom guilt.”20180724_161607

God does not expect me to be a perfect mom, nor does my husband, nor do my kids. As I fought to maintain some level of humanness on a particularly long and tiresome day yesterday, God saw me. He saw me fight to remain calm while my toddler refused to nap. He saw me sigh in desperation as I pulled out nearly every snack from the pantry, just trying to find one that might appease my 18-month old. He saw me throw up my hands and walk away from two little boys who may as well have had their ears removed, due to their complete lack of listening skills.

God always sees me. He saw my desperation yesterday, my frustration, and my sin.

On these days, when I crawl into bed at night feeling like an utter failure, one word is on my heart: grace.

God extended an abundant amount of grace to me yesterday. He showered me with His love, despite my failures. It is this grace that allowed me to begin a new day today, with yesterday far from my mind. It is this grace that allows me to shower my children with love, despite their failures.

As a mom who strives to invite Christ into her home on a daily basis, I know that I can trust God to find a way in, even when I don’t feel like I “impressed” Him. Even on the most difficult days, I can trust that Jesus is still very much present within me. It may not have been quite as obvious to me yesterday, but Jesus has a way of getting around our guilt and our sin and shining out of us anyway.

20180629_142702It is an unbelievable weight off my shoulders when I realize the love of Christ undoes all my sin. In the many areas that I fall short as a mother, He fills the void. On the days I feel more like a tyrant than a mother, He offers me grace so that I may begin another day, and displays His love to my children anyway.

Yesterday I was tired, but Jesus was still my Savior, and His forgiveness is still mine to take. What an relief!

God does not command us to be Christ-like so we can feel guilty when we fail. Even on my best and brightest days, when I feel like my best self, when I feel like I conquered motherhood perfectly, I am still light years away from reflecting the perfection that is Jesus. And so I will view my failures yesterday as a blessing, for they humbled me and again reminded me of my inescapable need for the love and grace of my Savior.  

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An Unlikely Victory

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The gentle flutter within her was the reminder she needed that life would go on, even after this day. Her hand instinctively went to her abdomen, as if the small life within her held the strength she needed to keep moving, to keep walking.

nature-3244120_1920A smile wearied itself on her face, but not one of happiness, realizing then that she was a walking oxymoron–an equal blend of life and death. Her eyes flickered to what had been a shrub next to the cracked front step, the leaves dried and shriveled, but still clinging to the once strong branches. The vivid teal and red welcome mat was another blinding oxymoron.

She took one last deep breath, a vain attempt to steady herself, and walked across the threshold.

Her eyes instinctively searched for her brother. She knew he would be the voice of reason–the calm one– he was always the calm one. She had no desire to look into her mom’s eyes, or worse, her dad’s, but they were both rushing toward her now, desperate to hear what she had to tell them.

She continued looking at the floor as if the answers to their questions had fallen at her feet.

Breathe, Claire. Just breathe.

“Okay, guys. I really need you to back off a little and have a seat. I will tell you everything if you just give me some space,” she struggled to keep her voice from quivering.

When she did finally look up from the floor, her mom’s deep green eyes were imploring her so profoundly, Claire was sure she was staring through her, instead of at her.

That’s when her brother walked into the room.

“Claire! Did you find anything out?” he asked as he sat down next to their parents, taking his mom’s hand.

“Yes,” her gaze immediately hit the floor again. “It’s…not good news.”hallway-867226_1920

Her mom was already sobbing and her dad began to visibly tremble.

Now she was speaking like a computer program, like the information she received from the doctor had been programmed into her, so she could spout it off with the press of a button. It is stage 4. Inoperable. Begin first round of chemo early next week. Three rounds to start with. Probably more. Side effects would be very damaging. Hoping to stop the spread, to extend life, but unlikely it will ever go away.

Except for her mother’s hysterical sobs, a suffocating silence enveloped the room.

Claire felt the room begin to move, the ground heaved beneath her, and then her brother’s arms were around her, leading her decaying body to the couch.  

As Claire’s parents collected themselves in the kitchen, Grant sat with Claire, holding her hand, saying nothing.

“Claire, you need to tell mom and dad about the baby. What did the doctor say to do about the baby?”

She tried to speak, but nothing would come. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. This fact was the only one she could comprehend, the only one that currently mattered.

“Claire. I will support any decision you make. You know that.”

She did know that. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying.

After an hour of this oppressive silence, Claire’s parents finally came into the room. Her dad knelt in front of her, while her mom stood motionless behind him.

“Claire, we are going to fight this. We are going to trust God’s plan. This is not going to defeat you, do you understand me?” Claire found it ironic that her dad’s words were so confident, when his voice sounded like that of a little boy’s.flower-316437_1280

Claire raised her eyes to his. The words she said next came from a different atmosphere; they were heavy and felt strange inside her throat, “Dad. I am not going to do treatment. I am pregnant, and I am going to let this baby live. After I am gone, he will still be here. My baby.”

You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. After these words were out of Claire’s mouth, she finally had the power to answer this torturous voice within her. But the life inside me is not.

Claire hardly noticed her mother fall to the floor, or her dad begin to curse into the air as he crawled from the room.

Grant just sat there; his facial expression impossible to read.

The strength that flooded into Claire after she pronounced her decision left her feeling a strange sense calm, a peace she had never experienced.

Grant knelt down to help their mother into a chair, where she sat motionless for many minutes, no doubt wrestling with losing her daughter and becoming a grandmother in the same day.

“Grant,” Claire still didn’t recognize her own voice, “I need you to be behind me on this. I need you to tell me this is the right thing.”

That’s when the expression on his face changed, becoming one of unmistakable admiration, similar to the look he had when his little sister hit her first home run, but that was when life was simpler. 

“I have never been more proud of you in my life. We were raised to believe that life always defeats death, and I don’t think there is a better way to tell death to screw itself than to continue to allow that baby inside of you to grow,” tears were streaming down his face now, “and besides, I am gonna be the world’s coolest uncle!”

When Claire left her parents’ house that evening, neither of them had spoken to her. She didn’t know if they were angry, confused, or grief-stricken. Grant had begged her to stay, trying to convince her she shouldn’t be alone.

beach-1822598_1920What Grant hadn’t realized, however, is that Claire was not alone. Her child grew within her, and her Lord walked beside her. She did not know what the future held, and when she allowed her mind to think on it, it was nearly unbearable–fear viciously stopping her breath inside her chest. The only thing that Claire knew for sure is that she’d made the right decision–she had chosen life, when death threatened to consume every corner of her existence.

Now she knew that what she’d learned in church all these years was true: death never wins.

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God Shaped Priorities

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Every now and then something happens that makes you realize everything that has seemed so important to you– getting your child to sleep through the night, affording that unexpected car repair payment, going on one last vacation before school starts– really amounts to nothing at all.

20180730_174210Today when I heard of an 18-month old on life support, for an accident that could have easily taken place in my own home, all of my weak attempts at maintaining my priorities crumbled beneath me.

Heading into my last month of pregnancy, I have been rushing about the house day after day organizing and cleaning and preparing. My boys have played together well and have allowed me to complete most of my daily tasks with minimal whining. In fact, I have been organizing so much that last week my 3-year-old was quite proud of his own organizing skills when he rearranged his dinosaurs in the living room (I’m creating a monster).

I would not say that I have neglected my children, but I certainly have not put spending time with them at the top of my list. When you stay home with your kids day after day, it can be difficult to remember that your physical presence is not always enough. They need me to be engaged and emotionally present in their lives each day, not just spending time in the same house as them. Quality time is essential for a stay-at-home mom and it is easy to fall into a habit of viewing quantity time and quality time as the same thing.

However, today my priorities were once again set right when I listened to my 18-month-old squeal and giggle from the basement as he played “capsized boat” with his dad. My overwhelming gratefulness that my son was healthy when another mother, just like me, was simply begging the Lord that her’s might live, caused me to immediately put down my Windex, leaving a bathroom only half cleaned, and go hop on the imaginary sinking boat in my basement.20180615_150207

With life being so hectic and so demanding, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is those that matter to us. When God has granted us little ones to enjoy and shape into fully grown Christians, I imagine He anticipates that we will cherish every single second He allows us to raise them.

So tonight, put down the remote or your intense desire for some peace and quiet and go cuddle with your kids; let them stay up past their bedtime as they lie next to you; let them tell you their dreams as you both drift off to sleep.

The Thorn or the Antidote

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I want to know so badly what infirmity tormented Paul so much that he cried out to the Lord three times for mercy and healing. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul’s desperation can be plainly seen when he describes his pain as “a messenger of Satan.” When God responded to his cries for relief, he received an answer that would fail to satisfy. God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

With that, Paul’s attitude shifts dramatically as he explains, quite convincingly, that he takes pleasure in his infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses, so that “the power of Christ may rest upon” him.

spur-1818848_1920God’s answer was enough to fully satisfy Paul to embrace his pain and learn to think of it as nothing but a blessing from the Lord. He also describes it as the thing God uses to keep him humble. Dealing with multiple weaknesses myself, God has given me this same answer a number of times, and I never quite rejoice in it the way Paul does.

As we suffer, we want only one thing: God, please take this away. The longer our prayer goes unanswered, the more assured we become that God has turned away from us, that He no longer works for our good.

Of course, a true Christian knows this could not be further from the truth, but no matter how strong in faith we are, when our strength is tested by an infirmity, reproach, need, persecution, or distress, we begin to view God through the lens of our own pain, instead of the lens of truth. Deep within our hearts, we know that God is good, but our finite human capacity for understanding lacks the strength to grasp why a good God would allow us to suffer.

prayer-1308663_1920Paul was certainly able to grasp it, but 2 Corinthians 12:9 has always perplexed me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I understand the basic concept of this verse, but I cannot confidently say that I have seen it in action.

I began to focus on this verse in my quest for freedom from anxiety. Anxiety is no doubt my weakness, or the thorn within my flesh as Paul refers to it. The more I meditated on this verse, the more confused I became. How could God possibly be made strong in my weakness? In fact, the reality of my life demonstrated the exact opposite of this. When I experience moments of my most extreme anxiety, I feel further from God, and I definitely have never seen Him show up in a fury to display this “strength” He supposedly gains from my pain.

This is the way I felt toward this verse until God recently led me to read the story of Gideon in Judges 6-8. Now, I can finally say that I am beginning to understand why God left Paul’s cries for relief, and mine too, unanswered.20180727_131331

You see, Gideon is facing the Midianites with an army of 32,000; despite this being a significant number of men, Gideon is still outnumbered by the immense Midianite army. Then, God appears to Gideon and says, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me…” God then asks Gideon to decrease the size of his army not once, but twice, leaving him with just 300 men.

Wow. Um… What?

We know the outcome of this story, of course. The Israelites are victorious against the Midianites and all credit, for a time, is given to God, therefore strengthening the Israelites in faith. When I think of my anxiety, I am not sure how I would respond if God somehow asked me to make myself even weaker against its forces. Actually, I know exactly how I would respond: I would tell God to go find someone else to ask His outrageous requests.

However, after reading this powerful story of Gideon being made unimaginably weak so that God might get all the glory I am finally able to grasp what God means when he says that His strength is made perfect through my weakness, or my anxiety.

I do not combat my anxiety on my own. When I attempt to do this, I am left irrevocably helpless and discouraged. God walks with me each day, even on days I know my anxiety is going to come upon me with a vengeance. And it is at the end of these uniquely difficult days that I climb into my bed at night with praise upon my heart, because I know that it was God who sustained me. Despite feeling sickeningly weak throughout the day, I cannot argue that at the end of such a day, God is the one that saw me to the sunset.

Most days I do not face this paralyzing anxiety, and on these days, I do not climb into bed praising God. It is only on days that I was sure would defeat me do I become the most aware of God’s unwavering and unsurpassed love for me.

sky-2667455_1920This love is what makes the pain of my anxiety so worth it. Without God, it would be nothing but a thorn, but with God, it becomes a means to bring Him glory, which is really my whole purpose in life. I will continue to plead with the Lord to take away my anxiety, because I believe in His healing power. However, each time He responds to me the way He responded to Paul, I will recognize the transforming power God brings upon me because of my weakness, not in spite of my weakness.

Each and every day I am able to muster up enough strength to defeat my anxiety will be another day that God is glorified. You see, no matter what, I am victorious because He is my King.