freeing yourself from picture perfect motherhood in an Instagram world

I love being a mom. I love it. I love seeing my friends post on Instagram their joys of motherhood: The baby snuggles, the matching outfits, the days at the zoo, the budget friendly design spaces, and even the messes too. All the little moments they deem “Instagram worthy”.

As much as I enjoy it, there have been times when I have taken a step back from social media for various reasons. At times because I thought it was distracting me, overwhelming me, or I was just too busy.

But through my own journey in this digital age, I have never wanted to be quick to condemn social media just because it sometimes brings out something in me that I don’t like.

I never ever want to miss that there is something to be celebrated about what can sometimes appear to be picture perfect motherhood.

For there is an element of God’s common grace in joyful social media posts.

That mothers around the world find facets of enjoyment in being a mother is a beautiful thing.  Whether it is in a silly face, the first day of school, figuring out how to double French braid or sharing that special thing she did with her kids – that is something to rejoice in.

James 1:17 says:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

It is the mark of an others focused person to affirm and embrace not only the fullness of motherhood that God has given you, but the fullness He has also given other mothers.

But there is an emptiness we can feel in motherhood too. I know I have felt it at times. Especially in this digital age where pictures are often staged and perceptions can be skewed. And there is just no way around how images or posts can often make us feel. Because while motherhood is full, it can also be empty.

When all you see is picture perfect, and you are struggling with something, sometimes the easiest thing is to try to bury those feelings or harbor bitterness towards those who have what you don’t.

But what if instead of wallowing in our own emptiness or begrudging others for the good gifts God has given them, what if we stared our emptiness in the face?

What is your emptiness? What is the thing that hurts?

Maybe it’s seeing the mom snuggling her baby which only reminds you of the babies you have lost. Maybe it’s the home you will never have or the toys or baby gear you cannot afford. Or maybe it’s the family vacations that “get you,” or the household orderliness. Or maybe it’s all the things you feel you cannot be. You don’t want to feel this way, but you do. So what do you do?

Do you run away? Do you lash out? Do you stuff it down? Do you miss out on rejoicing with someone else?

As mothers in Christ we must do one thing. We must face it. We must face our empty. We must face the darkness in us.

For it is in our weakness – our emptiness – our nothingness – that God changes us so that He can use us for His purposes.

It is in the moments of the “have nots” that we rediscover all that we have in Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Cor 12:19

But how can we find the strength to do this? And this is what I have found to be so very helpful: We can embrace the darkness because Christ already did it for us. He suffered for us. He went to the cross for us.

And because of that, we are children of light who do not have to dwell in the darkness. We don’t have to be slaves to our selfish desires or our feelings.

Galatians 5:1 says that Christ has set us free.

While we still struggle with our sinful nature, we do not have to be enslaved to it because our darkness is overshadowed by His glory. We are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” As we focus on Christ and His Word instead of ourselves, He does a work in our hearts, making us more like Him. He sheds His light in the dark parts of us and gives us a joy in Him and a genuine love for others.

Sometimes I wonder how Mary was able to stand at the cross. How was she able to stare the darkness in the face as she watched her Son die? Maybe because she knew He was going to conquer it. Maybe because she remembered what the angel Gabriel had spoken and what the prophets had said. Maybe she believed in the darkness that He was going to make it all better.

And so we stand as mothers who are in Christ. We thank God for our joys in light of His grace and we face our darkness knowing God is molding us and shaping us in the light of His glory. For now we see dimly, but soon we shall see face to face.

“For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

Because it is there He wants to meet us. It is that place He is touching and wants to heal. It is His strength He is offering. There in the darkness, we find Him, where we never thought we would. And we realize that social media, or whatever it is, is just another tool God is using to change us. For we are far from picture perfect mothers and we should never try to fit that label. For Christ has set us free, and we are free indeed.

The Gift in the Goodbye


I lay awake in bed last night thinking about how my oldest just lost her first tooth. I was thinking about it because I hadn’t been thinking about it. I’d barely given it a passing thought when it started wiggling a few weeks back. Things had been busy. I was excited for her though and thought, “How is she old enough for this?” That was all.

But then yesterday, I enjoyed the toothless grin of my five-year-old going on (ever so quickly) six-years-old. And when I lay down to sleep, I thought about that little tooth.

She had been so cranky when it was cutting through when she was just a few months old. But the thing was, I was new at mothering and had no idea that was what was going on. She was fussy. Constantly. I tried everything. One day I put her in the sling and walked four miles in the neighborhood just to keep her from crying. It worked for her but failed to stop my own tears. Then, at just four months, she woke up with a tooth.

Oh. Well that makes sense. My newborn was now an infant. A new stage. And we had made it there together.

Each new stage of motherhood is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a struggle and yet it arrives either way. And each new stage is a bidding of farewell to something else. In this is both the sorrow and the joy. But each new stage is a gift that couldn’t be received without saying goodbye.

As sentimental as motherhood can be, our children need us to cherish them as they are now as much as we did with their chubby baby cheeks.

And we must not believe that we’ve truly lost something in this. For the love we poured into them then has brought them to this place today.

That happy toothless grin was wrought by both our tears.

But we also must not try to stuff down the pangs of sadness that come with the passing of each stage. There is a deep pain that comes with motherhood that no matter how hard we try we cannot get around. It is part of it. And the embracing of it allows us to experience a deep joy and believe that God is doing something.

Rachel must have felt sorrow as she was slipping out of this life just as her little boy Benjamin was born. We know Jochebed must have felt it when she pushed Moses out into the bulrushes. Out of her control. Out of her hands. Hannah felt it when she let go of her little boy’s hand as she gave him to Eli the priest. Or Mary, we know how that sword pierced her heart from the very beginning unto the end.

Even though our lives differ greatly from these women, surely God gave their stories to help us.

This world. Oh this broken world where we are not even promised tomorrow with our children.

And then the tiny pangs as we watch them grow up right before our eyes. Their babyhood slipping away. So many goodbyes.

But in order for God to use us and them, we must seek the joy in the sorrow. They are intricately interwoven. But joy must win. And it can win because the God we trust made all things right when He let His own Son go. He gave us the most precious Gift in the greatest of all goodbyes. We cannot even identify with the pain the Father felt in turning His back on his Son. But Mary, she was a mother. We can close our eyes and imagine her pain even if we cannot know its fullness.

And we remember how God took care of Rachel’s boys ~ Joseph and Benjamin. God never left them alone. When Jochebed trusted God with her baby in the basket, a nation was brought out of slavery. God used Samuel to bring great repentance to His people and victory over enemies. But what if they hadn’t let go? And that is just the amazing thing. We don’t have to just let go. For Rachel, Jochebed, Hannah, and Mary, they didn’t just let go, they gave them to God in their letting go.

And that is what we must do. As we say goodbye and we feel the pangs of years slipping away, we give our children to God. We give our tears to Him. We are holding on as we let go. We trust the One who created us and our children in the first place.

As mothers who have put their hope in Christ we have a joy in each passing season because we have a Savior.

We don’t know how God will use our children. They may live a quiet life. They may lead a hard life. They may be in the shadows. They may be in the spotlight.

But one thing for sure, we can trust that all the tiny goodbyes along the way are preparing our children for the life God has for them. God uses our tears and trust to build their futures. I don’t know how it all works but that is the amazing thing about God.

The God who spoke the world into existence knows the number of our days. He is growing us up just as He grows them. And He is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory where there are no goodbyes. No more sorrow. No more death. And that is what makes the joy so very great ~ our hope is in Him. And He is the One who can enable us to cherish the gift in every goodbye.

~

Ephesians 3:14-21 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen

Dream Big, My Darling Daughters

img_0381-1

It was Saturday morning and I turned on the Disney channel for my girls to watch Doc McStuffins while I cleaned the kitchen after our slow and sticky breakfast.

I tuned out the noise of their show, until a Disney commercial drew me back in and I leaned over the sink to get the TV in my line of sight.

My little girls were glued as Disney princesses began to dance across the screen and the narrator opened with,

“For every girl who dreams big, there is a princess to show her it’s possible…”

Then the catchy, motivating, inspiring music came on,

You could be the hero

You could get the gold

Breaking all the records they thought, never could be broke

As the song continued, little girls did brave things on the screen: splashing into a lake from a rope swing, hitting the bullseye with a bow & arrow, and diving off the diving board to name just a few.

The music continued,

Do it for your people

Do it for your pride

How you ever gonna know if you never even try?

Do it for your country

Do it for your name

 

Besides the catchy and inspiring tune, there was a lot to like about the message of the commercial. Be strong. Be brave. Try even if it means you fail. Do something for your people. Your country. Your family.

But then the next part is what really hit me.

‘Cause there’s gonna be a day

When your standing in the hall of fame

And the world’s gonna know your name

‘Cause you burn with the brightest flame

And the world’s gonna know your name

And you’ll be on the walls of the hall of fame

I watched my little girls’ faces as the song came to a close, Pocahontas staring off in to the distance, rose petals swirling.

I began to think about what I would say to them. How I would point to the good while denying the message of self-glory that permeated the song?

And that was it – the self-glory – that was what caused an ache deep inside me somewhere.

I want my girls to be strong. I want them to be bold. I don’t want them to be afraid of failure.

But I never, ever want them to believe that their greatest accomplishments are the ones they see in this life. That being famous, popular, or taking the gold is where true happiness is found.

I won’t be sad if they are successful materially or socially in this life. I wan’t them to do what they enjoy and love. But I pray that whatever shoots they grow here in this world, their roots in God’s kingdom are at least twice as deep.

This is where the invisible line is drawn.

Between the girls who grow up to believe that this life holds true happiness and the girls who know that this world is just the shadow.

This of course is the message of God’s kingdom versus the message of the world.

The world says, “Let the world know your name!”

Jesus says, “The meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).”

The world says, “Be first!”

Jesus says, “The last shall be first and the first last (Matthew 20:16).”

It doesn’t make sense, but it is the gospel.

We bring nothing. He offers everything (2 Kings 5:13-14).

He was born in a manger not a palace. He suffered on a cross instead of bringing a political and military victory. A crown of thorns instead of gold. Buried in another’s  tomb instead of the royal burial He deserved.

He said His way is narrow and not broad (Matthew 7:14).

It is all just so paradoxical.

That living for His glory not our own is what it actually means to invest in the Kingdom.

It all matters so much. The things nobody sees but that are done in the name of Jesus.

The young woman serving on the mission field. The single mom trusting God with her future. The seminary wife living on a tight budget. The mother rocking her baby in the solitude of the night. The daughter caring for an ailing parent. The mom pleading to God on behalf of her wayward child. The woman who serves faithfully week in and week out in her church.

Some of the greatest acts of valor may never be known in this life. But there are women all over the world investing in a kingdom that cannot be seen. Because they love Christ, they have given all they have. They have broken the vial of costly perfume and poured it out on the head of their Savior because they love Him (Mark 14:3).

img_0385-1That is what I want my dear girls to know. That their greatest acts aren’t done in their own strength for their own glory, but for Him. And in those moments, and in this land of the dying, they will find a happiness that cannot be rivaled. It is better than if the whole world were applauding them.

Cause there will be a day, when we are all standing in the true hall of fame. And Jesus will be there – the brightest flame – and we will wonder why we ever wanted to live for our own names. We will forget ourselves and we will thank God for every act of grace He gave us on earth to see beyond the temporal.

So dream big, my darling daughters, because if you are His, He has made it possible. Because you belong to a royal kingdom. And in that kingdom is where the true and happy daughters dwell. And all their dreams come true because they find their beginning and ending in Him.

the lady in the green dress and me

I don’t remember exactly how old I was. Maybe nine or ten years old. It was the night of our Christmas musical at church. One of my favorite times of the year.

I was giddy with nervous excitement and as my friends and I gathered in the hall before going on stage to perform, our voices must have gotten a little too boisterous.

Then, SHE came around the corner, clad in a vibrant green dress, her eyes and face as stern as can be.

She got right in my face and let me know just how loud I was being and how much I needed to close my mouth.

Then she was gone.

The tears welled up. I had been so excited. I hadn’t meant to be loud. It had just happened.

I swallowed the tears and in that moment I made a vow. One day when I was grown up, I would never, never, forget what it was like to be a child.

I would never be like that.

It’s been years now since that night in the hallway. Truth be told, I had forgotten all about it.

I grew up. Matured. At least I like to think so.

I have three little hearts under my care now. Day in and day out.

“Use inside voices.” “Don’t run too fast.” “Watch your step.” “Listen to mommy.”

My world is filled with words and phrases of admonition, caution, and instruction.

We were in Chickfila last week and I was wrangling my own crew and I heard her voice again.

No, not the lady in the green dress.

But that same harsh voice, “Get back here, NOW!”

I think the whole restaurant turned to stare at this moment going down with the little disobedient child in tow.

I looked away and my heart shuttered. No, not in condemnation of her, but of myself. That tone, I recognized it. Not just with the lady in the green dress. But me. Not just in a way I may have used before but the echoes of my heart I have heard far too often.

Those moments when as a mother I have been pushed beyond my own capacity and patience.

Those instances when I thought I was handling the situation just right, but oh boy, was I making it worse.

As I watched that little girl in Chickfila, I remembered. I remembered that defeated little girl in the hallway so many years before.

That little girl who vowed to never forget what it was like to see the world as a child. To mess up quite by accident or to willfully disobey. 

There’s no denying it, being a mother is hard. It rattles my self-sufficiency. It exposes my self-centeredness. It takes all of me and then some more.

But I never want to forget that the work I do is much more significant than I usually think it is.

I work with little hearts every day. Precious hearts. Sinful hearts. Sensitive and immature hearts.

My voice resonates. It means something. At least it should.

I am called to speak with authority. To demand obedience (Proverbs 19:18). To teach and train. But I also am called to not provoke to anger (Col 3:21). To set an example, as an overseer shepherds his flock (1 Peter 5:3).

It doesn’t mean I will be perfect or that my children’s spiritual state depends on me. Or that I should speak in a sing-song or baby voice.

But I am nurturing souls. And I don’t want to forget that. My words echo beyond the confines of the kitchen, or the nursery, to the chambers of tiny hearts and minds.

I have been studying the books of Matthew and Mark this fall and I am amazed at how Jesus deals with his disciples.

So often, they just didn’t get it.

But He had compassion on them. He used parables to explain things. He went beyond the external circumstances straight to their hearts. He didn’t ignore sin (quite the opposite) or sugarcoat the truth, but He loved and cared for their souls.

And when I think of how the Lord has dealt with me, I am overwhelmed. I can say Isaiah 40:11 has been true in my own life.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

I know I will have hard days with my kids in the future as their sin natures get tangled up in mine.

But I have something that they yet do not have. His tender grace met me. He sought me, His voice of grace came to me through His Word when I was going the other way.

I pray, that as I interact with my children, that, THAT, is what I will never forget. Because the lady in the green dress is not the problem. I am. And I will fail. But His grace is sufficient and it is greater.  

And I pray that God will give me the grace to use my voice to build up and not tear down. To speak with wisdom and kindness. To call out sin and be stern when I need to be. But to always remember His grace in all my moments of my failing as well as theirs. And that one day, they will hear His voice louder than all the rest.

homeschooling little ones from the kitchen table

This blog is a place where I mainly love to just write. 

But as I am homeschooling this year, I thought it also might be a great place to share some of what we are doing from time to time.

I’ve received some emails recently asking me what curriculum I chose for the girls this year, if I am involved in any homeschool groups, and what I am doing with little Charles while I teach my girls.

IMG_3519.JPG

CURRICULUM:

While my children are young, I want to keep things as simple as possible. The day will come too soon when they will have lots of formal instruction every day. But I want to keep kindergarten at home as fun as it can be. My focus has been on two main things: getting a good start in math and teaching AudreyKate (who is in kindergarten) to read.

I am using Saxon Math this year. I like it for a couple reasons. It is mainly what my mom used with us growing up so I’m familiar with it and it is very straightforward. I also chose it because the daily calendar is incorporated in to each lesson when you use Saxon’s Meeting Book.

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

We live in a 1200 sq foot house, and I homeschool from our kitchen table (or the backyard), so I don’t have a lot of room for posters or a morning meeting corner. Everything I use, I need to be able to put away when school is over. The meeting book covers all the basics I would teach if I were teaching in a classroom (date, days of the week, counting, weather, etc), without all the cuteness. But I do have this cute old fashioned slider calendar I like to use with the girls to keep track of the date.

The other main curriculum I am using this year is Logic of English. I did a lot of research before I ordered this series (I watched almost all these videos!) because I wanted to make sure it would really work for us. At the end of the day, I went with it because I love the phonogram approach. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that I struggled to learn to read as a child. Among other things, when my mom began teaching me phonograms, I think that really helped things click for this literal learner.  I went from not being able to read at all, to reading Little House in the Big Woods!

This curriculum has been a lot of fun for us and I really like the instruction for teaching cursive writing. I am teaching AudreyKate cursive first because a). I really want her to be able write in cursive for the rest of her life, and b). because cursive requires less fine motor control than print.

IMG_2573.JPGThis year, I am also teaching a little phonogram/handwriting class at my home with one of AudreyKate’s friends. I pack a lot into our two hours of class each week, but it is such a fun time and the girls do a lot of games and multi-sensory activities as they focus on their phonograms and cursive writing.

In terms of Evangeline, I am using a lot of preschool books I have had for a while and used off and on with the girls (I will link some at the bottom). My amazing mother-in-law also does preschool once a week with Evangeline over FaceTime. They work on her letters and read lots of books. I just love that Lulu makes time to do this with Evie and it helps me immensely as I always use this time to work with AudreyKate.

Grant does Bible with the kids every evening. I know I could do this first thing in the morning, but between unloading the dishwasher and getting everyone breakfast, I usually want to get started on AK’s seat work first thing. But I love that no matter how late or tired Grant is, he always reads to them and explains the Bible lesson so well. Right now he is going through The New Children’s Bible by Anne DeVries. 

EXTRACURRICULAR

IMG_2282.JPGOne of the recurring questions I’ve been asked is if we are doing Classical Conversations this year. I ALMOST did, but in the end I decided not to for a couple reasons.

{I will say that everyone I know who does CC loves it (you know who you are ~ Amy Grimme and Mel Reedus to name a couple!) and the program seems amazing!}

However for this school year, I wanted to have the complete flexibility homeschooling provides. The nature of Grant’s schedule and PhD work means that sometimes we travel during the school year ~ so I didn’t want a Friday morning commitment each week (our CC is on Fridays). And I only do school 4 days a week right now ~ so Friday is our off day that I use to play catch-up, do housework, or do something fun with the kids.

IMG_4290.JPGAudreyKate is taking an art class this year at a local art studio run by two artists. This is one morning each week. I love this because it gives AK time to learn and do something she absolutely loves (with an incredibly talented artist) and it gives me focused time with the younger two.

We also have the girls in ballet this fall. They both really look forward to it each week, especially Evangeline!

And lastly, we have our Bible program at our church every Wednesday night, so all those things fill  up their little preschool/kindergarten week very quickly!

CHARLES

IMG_4291.JPGOkay, lastly, I received a couple questions asking what I do with Charles when I’m trying to do school with the girls.

I know I could probably do school in the afternoons while he is napping, but I really am one of those people that likes to get it done in the morning. The girls still have a rest time every afternoon and I use that time for a lot of different things and I typically don’t like to cut into that.

Little brother often plays in his room (we have a baby gate so he stays put with all baby safe things). Many mornings Evangeline will play with him and I can hear everything going on from right outside his door.

Charles also has his “reading time” most mornings in his crib. Some of his favorite books are Cowboy Small ( we ABSOLUTELY adore this book), The Little Train (another favorite by Lois Lenski), Dada (this one is just fun), Mighty Dads (a new favorite for us), and The Magic Bunny (my mom gave this to us when Charles was born and it is the sweetest). Those are just a few of his favorites right now but maybe I will share some more soon.

And Charles will often just join us while we are working on school. I bring some of his toys and he is typically content to mosey around with a train in hand, watching us work.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

I think one of the biggest things that has helped me this year is keeping things SIMPLE curriculum wise so that I have plenty of margin to read to my girls and make sure they have time to create and play (along with the things I want to do for my own  spiritual growth). I want to have lots of time for discovery in the backyard, trips to the library, and snuggling on the couch. And also because everyone is so little, I need to be able to get all of our “seat work” done in a doable amount of time. If preschool and kindergarten are overwhelming, than I figure I am probably trying to do too much.

I’ve gotten a lot of great book ideas from The Read Aloud Revival podcast as well as from literature lists from my student teaching days (I have more resources than I know what to do with). I also just ordered this book and am excited to get started on it.

There are so many great resources available for homeschooling, this is just how we are going about it this year. When AudreyKate started reading Dick & Jane to me a few weeks ago (on her own initiative!), I felt really encouraged that at least some of what we are doing is working.

I am going to link some of the other resources I use below and I would LOVE to hear any suggestion you have and please let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this now and again.

from my heart to yours,

GraceAnna

 

Preschool

Usborne Wipe-Clean 1,2,3

Usborne Wipe-Clean First Letters

Preschool practice

Kindergarten

What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know (we read this on the couch right after lunch, before rest time)

Cursive Practice

Doodling Dragons (part of our Logic of English curriculum. I also use this for my phonogram class)

Student Whiteboard (I use this for EVERYTHING!)

Pointers (these are great for guided reading) I also use these lighted pointers but they have button batteries so I keep them out of reach except when I am using them with the girls.

This is my home, this is my school

As many of you know, my brothers and I were homeschooled our entire growing up years. There’s so much I love about schooling at home ~ not just the memories I have of discovery and learning through the world as our schoolroom, but the ways in which I feel like it cultivated a love of learning in my own heart.

My husband, Grant was in public education his whole life and yet the home was still the center of education. His mom (and dad) were involved in his education every step of the way and were wholly invested in not only helping him learn, but raising him to be a young man of character.

My love for learning, led me to study Early Childhood Education at Clemson. And there is much I love about teaching my own children as we embark on our own education journey.

I have received some emails asking me what we are doing this year for education with our children. I thought it would be easy to compile some of those questions and answer them from here.

But before I do that, I wanted to share the sweetest book my mom gave me when I was home in S.C. last week. I have a special place in my heart for children’s books. I think this is in part to my own journey as a student, and then a teacher. It takes a unique talent to create a story which engages children while also speaking to the hearts of adults.

Children are future adults! So if a children’s book doesn’t stir my heart as I read it to my kids, it never makes it on my favorites list.

But in my opinion, this book does everything a good children’s book should!

For those of you who belong to the early pioneering days of homeschooling, my guess is you will really identify with this book. And of course, for all the current homeschooling mothers, if you’re anything like me, you will for sure wonder if someone took sketches of your own life and plastered them on the pages.

But I think all those who strive to make the home the center of education in the life of their children will love it as well.

The pages of this gem (written by a now grown-up homeschooler, Jonathan Bean), rang true to my memories of homeschooling. Whether it was my dad drilling multiplication facts into my head or my mom somehow managing to run our home and educate us at the same time.

And it also speaks to me now ~ as this year I attempt teaching my little ones at home at our kitchen table and backyard.

Here are some of my favorite pages of the book. I could have shared every one, but I promise I didn’t! I snapped these pics on a gloomy day, so they are a little dark, but I have a feeling you may not be able to resist getting your own copy.

This Is My Home, This Is My School

 

I hope this made you smile this morning, as you get started on your day with little ones! And I look forward to sharing what we are doing in homeschooling this year in my next post!

Unseen Footprints 

I sat across from Grant at a corner booth in a steak restaurant in Singapore.

He had been my husband six months, but we’d already been separated for two. It had been hard. Not just because we were newly married and living on opposite sides of the world, but because of the fear in my heart.

And now, we were together for just a couple days. This South Carolina girl had boarded a plane and flown to the other side of the world, flagged a taxi at the airport, and arrived at a hotel to wait for my husband to dock and meet me. My feet had been so swollen from the over 24-hour journey, I had to retrieve flip-flops from my bag at the airport.

I was already doing things I never imagined I would. And now, I had two full days with him before he had to get back on that navy ship and sail back into the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

I held his hand as my steak sat going cold, “Grant, I just can’t. I can’t. I love you too much to let you go back.”

I was new at this marriage thing and this Marine Corps thing and I loved him so much. We had only been together all of 23 days during our long-distance dating and engagement. We didn’t have time like most couples do. And now, this is what our marriage was like. Deployment. We knew it was coming and we had decided to get married anyway. And it was worth it. But the ache was deep.

I loved him but I couldn’t keep him. I had to let him go. Again. I couldn’t control what happened out there in that ocean. Nothing should happen but anything could happen. The Navy and Marines would sail and be ready in case of a national disaster.

Please, Lord, no disasters.

As the tears streamed down my face, Grant squeezed my hand. “GraceAnna, you have to give me to the Lord. You have to trust Him. You have to love Him more than you love me.”

That, of course, had been the theme of our relationship from the beginning. Grant had told me just a few weeks into our dating relationship that he held me with an open hand to God.

I didn’t like that, exactly. It didn’t feel secure. I wanted to be held clenched in his fist, close to his heart. Not open and laid bare.

But I found that as soon as I held Grant too close, even then, my world began to spin. Those had been uncertain days when we had first started dating. I was putting my heart out there to a Marine who I had exchanged a brief “hello” with in high school. And we were dating from different sides of the world.

It was a strange thing, the more I handed my heart to the Lord, the stronger I felt.

I didn’t know that the hard lessons I was learning in those early days and in that steak restaurant in Singapore would be the ones I would keep going back to over and over again.

I wanted it to be over. I wanted Grant back. I wanted to have a home. I wanted security.

In Psalm 131, David tells the story of a child’s first great sorrow in life. He is denied what he so desperately longs for, his mother’s milk. His mother has been his solace and comfort from his first breath, and now she denies him the very thing that has made him feel secure and loved.

As a mom who has weaned three babies, I know this battle. My son, especially, I struggled with weaning him. He didn’t like it and neither did I.

The process felt cruel even though I knew it was exactly what he needed.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. (131:2)

There is sorrow until the child quits fighting, and instead of being angry, buries his head in his mother’s chest in sweet relief.

The child finds his comfort when he quits fighting for what he thinks he needs.

And there is a contentment there, when the fight is over, and the child trusts his mother and realizes he is weaned on her but is not weaned from her.

What lessons I have learned from this child. So often, I want to cling tightly to what I think I need or can hold on to. I want to hold so tightly to my husband. I want to protect my children. I want to order my life in the way I think it should go. I want to shield those I love from every heartache.

When I cling so tightly in my own strength, my soul is not at rest. I am full of fear. I feel the vast ocean showing me all the things that are out of my control.

But when I quit fighting, and look to Him, I find that He is right there with me in the storm.

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters, yet your footprints were unseen. Yet you lead your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalm 77:10).”

God didn’t lead the children through green pastures to get to green pastures. He led them through the Red Sea. There were things they wanted to go around, yet He led them through them showing them every step of the way that He was there. In the day, there was the cloud, and in the night there was the fire. He was there. Always there.

And God often leads his people this way. The waters in Scripture often refer to uncertainty, chaos, and death. I can hardly imagine what Jocabed felt when she placed her darling boy into the waters in only a wicker basket. God saved her boy but she had to give him up to the waters.

Job, didn’t understand the trials God was bringing Him through but said in faith, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I will come forth as gold (job 23:10).

There are times when we feel like God is withholding something good from us, like a child feels when his mother is weaning him, but when we trust Him, we understand that He is holding us and caring for us all the way.

He is faithfully leading us like a shepherd leads his flock. And He will bring us through.

This past month and a half, I have felt some of the deepest painI have ever known as my sweet and precious niece went home to be with the Lord.

A song that has brought me much comfort and was played in church the Sunday she went to be with Jesus says this:

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.

C.H. Spurgeon in a sermon he gave on happiness said this, “The Christian trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour and believes that all is well.”

All is well. Not because the waters aren’t there, but because He is there in the midst of them.

I wasn’t very good at bidding farewell to Grant that day when he set sail. And that was just the beginning.

But I know this. No matter what, God never leaves His children alone. There is no night too dark, no valley too deep, and no mountain too high. He is there. He will bring us through.

And in this my heart finds peace.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Ps 131:3