Faith, Hope, and Infertility

By Lindsey Racz

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Just under three years ago, I wrote a very personal post on a different blog about my behind the scenes struggle with infertility. At that point, I hadn’t yet shared the struggle with many at all. Writing that post and publicly declaring our infertile status provided more healing than I knew it would. So many people’s comments—both friends and strangers—poured in to say, "us too." Suddenly, although still hurting deeply, I didn’t feel so alone.

Today, 8 months pregnant with our SECOND child since that post was written, I share the original post along with HOPE. To my friends struggling with infertility, I say this: miracles are possible. I don’t know what your story will look like, but here’s where ours began.

Our Behind the Scenes Struggle with Infertility (published 09-2016)

Many of our friends know our story and have been rooting for us. Matt and I love the Lord with all of our hearts and desire to serve Him with our lives. We were both foolish in our youth and squandered blessings in different ways. Each of us survived the shattered dream of a divorce and lived as single parents for a season. And then, in a beautiful swoop of restoration, the Lord introduced us to one another. By this time, we had each grown in our faith and we knew that if we were going to do life together, it was going to be God’s way.  We had a beautiful courtship; one full of purity and hope. Yes, folks, we did save sex for marriage. Gasp. I remember one friend who said “Why are you waiting? I mean, you each have a child already so the cat’s kind of out of the bag!”  But we knew the Lord could restore our purity if we walked in obedience with Him, and again, this whole marriage thing was going to happen His way if it was going to happen at all.  We had a beautiful wedding complete with burlap and white lights strung from high hopes.

We each had a dream on our heart to grow our family. I brought a girl to our marriage. Matt brought a boy. But honestly, I pictured us having at least 2-3 more children together as being a mom is the greatest joy of my life. I came from a broken family and believe I’ve lived most of my life trying to put a family back together—right or wrong, this was our hope.  We were so excited and began trying from month one! Six months went by with no pregnancy. Each month I had a reason to think I was pregnant and in this time frame, I probably went through at least a hundred pregnancy tests. I had a growing sense that something was wrong, but I was calmly assured that these things take time.

After a year of deep hope for that little pink plus sign to show up but instead of ending in a puddle of tears, we decided to seek medical help.  We saw a primary care physician who ran an analysis. We waited to hear back hoping this would give us a clue to what we needed to do next. But the doctor called me a week later—in the middle of my work day—and spoke very matter-of-factly: “You two will probably not have children together. Have you thought about adoption?”

…. “what?”

This is not the kind of news you deliver to a woman at 3 PM on a Tuesday afternoon when she’s getting ready to sit down with her next client. But, there it was.  I responded in some robotic way and set the phone down and shut my office door and sobbed harder than I ever have.

I asked God if this was punishment for being divorced. If this was because of all the mistakes I’ve made. If He was testing me. I cried out to Him.  He was silent.

I went home to tell Matt the news (that the doctor should have called us into his office to share with both of us). I tried to maintain composure, but it was not a pretty night.  For several months after that, I cried daily and tried to imagine never having a child with my husband. Not a big deal, right? We both have a child. So what if we don’t have one together. We share these children with ex-spouses, which wasn’t exactly the original plan, but they are healthy and we are raising them together. It’s fine.

Except for that, it’s not. I can’t let this dream go. My heart aches to grow a family with my husband. To experience him holding my hand in childbirth. To see his gentle-giant hands pick up a tiny life that we’ve created together. To have this bond with one another that is part of God’s purpose for marriage.

We began looking for a second opinion. We met with a fertility specialist who put us on supplements. We tested again three months later, but the outlook was even bleaker. I cried some more. I read a 300-page book on conception and changed each of our diets in drastic ways for six months.

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Twenty-one. That’s the number of months we’ve been married– which isn’t long at all unless you’ve been hoping and praying and trying and crying out to God every month for 21 months to please have mercy on you and bless you with a life you know you don’t deserve.  In that case, 21 months feels like an eternity. We recently went to another specialist who gave a little more hope but stated a surgery would be necessary. Thankfully, this specialist found a problem area that others weren’t able to locate. And here we are. After much prayer, our surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. Neither of us knows the outcome. Matt has been brave and strong as an oak (he’s the one who has to go under the knife!) while I’ve just been an emotional wreck.

I haven’t been myself for at least the last year and a half. This is why. Struggling with infertility was never part of my formula. It took me by surprise and came at a time when I thought I was leaving the worst of my heartache behind. Matt and I are a stronger couple for it. In our first two years of marriage, we’ve survived the dynamics of a blended family along with this monthly roller coaster of emotion. We hit our knees in prayer each night and take it one day at a time. It’s hard to count it all as joy, and yet I’m thankful for a new understanding of what it feels like to face infertility. It gives me another “specialty area” in my counseling ministry; compassion that is only birthed from experience. But most of all, when and if God decides to give us another child, the glory will be all the more to Him because HE IS ABLE even when doctors say “not possible.”  That is the God we serve.

And although I know what I desperately want, I will continually declare that thy will be done.


He is Risen, A Special Easter Message

By Brittany Rust

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The two women didn't expect to find the stone pulled away, two angels before them, and certainly not the resurrected Jesus on this very early morning. No—they expected to find the body of a man they loved very deeply lying in a tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, were amazed at what they saw when they arrived on the scene. The tomb stone had been rolled away by one heavenly angel while another was in the tomb.

The two women hurried into the tomb looking for Jesus, but all they found were the outer garments he had been buried in. This, a symbol that Jesus had left his earthly boundaries behind and was now risen [as he proclaimed he would]. The angel proceeded to speak some of the most powerful words ever uttered,

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”

Jesus, the man they knew as the Son of God now gone from his grave. A declaration not only to them and the Roman guards that stood by speechless, but to all that he was indeed God, resurrected from death. This...this was the very moment that changed everything for humanity.

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This weekend we celebrate what has become Easter, but more than any Easter basket or Sunday lunch with the family, we highlight this event. Easter weekend is all about him and what he did. Jesus didn't have to wrap himself in flesh and come to Earth, but he did. He didn't have to live in obscurity for 30 years, but he did. He didn't have to carry each of our sins and take our punishment of death at calvary, but he did.

Jesus did--for you and for me! He temporarily gave up the beauty of heaven to carry the sins of men from Earth, into death, and free us all victoriously back into Heaven. Now we get this incredible gift of grace, salvation, and eternal security with the Father if we put our faith in him. There is no greater gift or love you could ever receive than this.

When you wake up Sunday morning, you don't have to worry about the fate of Christ and carry any mourning. You get to wake up with eager anticipation that Jesus is alive and reigns victoriously, on Earth, in Heaven, and in your life. That is the hope you have and I pray you'll carry it like a flag you wave proudly in the streets of victory.

I encourage you to take time this Holy week to reflect on his final days. To pour through Scripture with your husband and kids about his life, death, and resurrection. To pray and give thanks for salvation. Easter eggs and family dinners are fun but they aren’t what this holiday is about—it’s all about Jesus!


Living in the Present

By CarrieBeth Sherwood

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There are lots of negative aspects of social media, I admit. But ever since Instagram became popular (2012, 2013?), I have found the online community of Christian women to be life-changing for me.

At any given time, you would find about 150 screenshots on my phone of inspiring posts that I don't want to forget. Now, of course, my main direction and instruction is found in the Bible; in studying God's precious word. But I feel like God has put social media in my life so that I can have access to wisdom from women who are going before me, and pointing me and others to Jesus.

There have been times in the past when I was drowning in babies, work, and responsibilities and I didn't have many opportunities to be with other women. I could have felt so alone in those times. However, social media allowed me to feel connected and spurred on, even in those seasons.

My most recent inspiration came from Jess Connolly; she lives in Charleston, South Carolina where she is a mom, author, artist, and pastor's wife. She recently posted:

"I almost made a huge mistake. I've had this idea that I'd pick a date on the calendar that would feel 'normal' and I'd count down to that day...here's the truth for me and for you.

ABUNDANCE IS HERE. Joy is a promise from our Father in the busy, broken, beautiful, easy, boring, stressful-ALL THE DAYS. Abundance is here. This is it. This is life. Now is where I get to worship, to love, to rest, to talk to Him, to laugh, to trust, to smile. Abundance is here."

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This spoke to my soul because I feel like I LIVE in the in between. I have had three different jobs in the past five years and am even looking to transition to a new job in the near-ish future. I am 8 1/2 months pregnant and patiently waiting for our new baby to arrive. We have lived in 6 different houses in the last 6 or 7 years. There is always something I am looking towards where I can finally settle in and just BE. But this post inspired me to do what Jess says and worship now. Right here. Love now. Be with Jesus.

The Bible says that the enemy's plan is to "steal and kill and destroy" but Jesus came so that we may "have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) It would thrill Satan for us to put our worship on hold until we "arrive."

But there is no ARRIVING until we get to heaven. Until then, my lifelong goal is going to be to live in the middle, worshiping and serving and being until I see Him face to face.


It's Okay to Say No

By Becky Beresford

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Occasionally NO can be my best friend, but most of the time I hate it. I hate when their tears start streaming. I hate when they stomp their feet and slam their doors. I hate being called mean, when my heart beats tenderly for them. I’m their mama and they are my babies, and I never want to do anything that will hurt them. And yet, sometimes I need to say NO. Even if they don’t understand why, it needs to be done because preventing future pain is more important than avoiding negative reactions. But trust me, mama friend. I still hate it.

Truth be told, this has been going on for a long time; long before I was gifted with my boys. I’ve always liked to be liked. A lot. My life has been filled with the desire to please people at all costs in order to earn their love. When others dislike me, I wrestle with that reality until something inside of me breaks. Letting people down and disappointing others makes me feel like I am failing at kindness. I start to think that in order to show my care, I need to satisfy their happiness quota. I need to let them have whatever they want, whatever makes them smile and say thank you. But being a mama doesn’t work that way. Being a parent or friend or woman doesn’t work that way. And being a follower of Jesus doesn’t work that way either.

Why God Withholds

Believe it or not, God doesn’t give us everything we want. I know, it’s a real shocker. But could we just close our eyes for a minute and imagine what our lives would look like if everything we prayed for happened instantaneously?  If everything we desired was delivered to us on a shiny plate from heaven?  How different would our worlds be?  How different would we be?  Because I’m going to say something bold right now…something that will need to be repeated in my own mind over and over, especially when my prayers seem to go unanswered.

There is beauty in the withholding.  

There is purpose and passion behind God’s ways, and it’s not that He is harsh or wants to see us sad or lacking. On the contrary—God only wants abundance for His children. But if withholding something good is the only way to bring about His ultimate BEST, then He will ask us to trust Him through the process. He will ask us to trust Him as He says NO or maybe or not yet.

Jesus Prays for the Cup to Pass

Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t like me in the crowd-pleasing department. He often stepped away when people wanted to praise Him and make Him an earthly king. Instead of being consumed with others’ opinions, He fixed His eyes on the goodness of His Father, trusting in His greater plan. But there was a moment when Jesus wished circumstances could have changed. As the final hours of His life dwindled, He entered the Garden of Gethsemane filled with intense sorrow. From the depths of His heart He pleaded with His Father. Face to the ground, Jesus prayed,

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
— Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
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Close your eyes again, Dear Reader. Imagine this pivotal scene. Either answer given would change the course of humanity. Jesus is raw and real and brings His request before the Most High, not as a servant but as a son. His ONLY Son. And yet, the Father knew. He saw the dawning victory and coming glory. He saw the powers of darkness biting at the bit, ready to destroy the Light of the world. But knew He had to say NO. Even though it would break both of their hearts, He knew He had to send His own child to the Cross. He had to refuse the request of His Son in order to usher in what was BEST: Forgiveness. Freedom. Restoration. Redemption. It was the ultimate act of love, and it was ushered in by a holy NO. He denied His own child for the sake of relationship. God said NO to Jesus so He could say YES to us. And it was the most beautiful display of devotion this world has ever seen.

A Sacred No

Some NO’s are sacred. Some refusals are needed. They may not be easy, but they have the ability to bring about greater and grander things. 

Remember that mama and make sure you stand tall. If our Creator recognizes the importance of withholding, it’s okay if we do too. We are not being cruel when we choose to say NO. We shouldn’t feel guilty or paint ourselves as unkind. Instead, we are doing what we are called to do. We are nurturing and guiding and discerning and protecting. We are building our children’s trust as we place our faith in the Father.

 He is incredibly good. He is abundant in love. May ALL of our answers lead right back to Him.


Relying on the Fruits of the Spirit

By Brittany Rust

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It had been a long day before 3PM even hit. Roman woke up on the wrong side of the bed and my full time job that afternoon seemed to be keeping him from spiraling into one long temper tantrum. I wasn’t doing to well at it, though, and after an hour, I snapped. Reactively, and with frustration on my face, I yelled at my toddler to just stop.

You probably guessed it; the outburst didn’t help. Crocodile tears welled up in his already puffy eyes and my mama heart was overwhelmed with guilt.

In that moment, I became very aware that I was trying to mother from my own strength. And often did. I kept trying to muster up patience and gentleness only to fail. I was longing for the fruits of the Spirit and wondered why they weren’t bearing in those moments.

Known by Your Fruit

Matthew 12 says this about our words and actions,

For a tree is known by its fruit...For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

The fruit of my speech wasn’t good. In fact, it was pretty rotten. I craved the fruits of the Spirit to produce good fruit but rather I noticed the works of the flesh responding to my son rather than the former. I was desperate to be the Spirit-filled and grace-filled mom Roman needs and deserves but I was burnt out, depleted, and at the end of myself; venturing to believe in my moments of weakness that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom.

Have you ever felt this way, friend? Been in this same hole of depletion and feeling like you’re at the end of your rope?

I knew I needed to look inward and examine the condition of my soul so I turned to Galatians 5:16-26—let’s go there together:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The Fruits of the Spirit

I had been spinning my wheels trying to produce good fruit in my life. I had been relying on my own (very limited) strength to be gentle and patient and loving towards my strong-willed toddler. Which is exactly why I was failing. My source was myself—my flesh—and no good fruit can produce from such a source. I needed to recalibrate and reconnect to the Vine (John 15).

What I’m learning about the fruits of the Spirit is that you can’t muster them up. Wanting them with good intentions isn’t enough either. The honest truth: you can’t access them.

The fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control—are only produced by the Holy Spirit.

In my She Reads Truth bible there is a devotional on this passage and one sentence completely shifted my pursuit of this good fruit: ONLY by abiding in Him, resting in His goodness and trusting Him to do that hard work of redemption on our behalf can we bear fruit.

Do you long for the good fruit of the Spirit to produce in your life?

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1. Abide in Him (John 15).
2. Rest in His goodness.
3. Trust Him to do the hard work.


I’ve noticed such a difference in my response to frustration since I’ve stopped trying to produce these qualities on my own and instead, have connected to Him. Such wonderful freedom is found when you let go and simply connect with Jesus. Connect with the Vine. John 15 says that when you abide in Jesus he will abide in you.

Here’s how it works:

You abide (remain) in Jesus and he will abide (remain) in you.

The Father is the Gardner and He will go to work cleansing you.

And the Holy Spirit will produce good fruit in your life you can’t produce on your own.

“Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

Mama, if you’re feeling weary and struggling to respond to your child like you want to, perhaps it’s time to recalibrate. To stop mothering from your own strength. And to attach yourself to the Vine.

Abide in Jesus and he will abide in you. Connect with Him often, rest in knowing He is good, and trust Him to do what you can’t—produce good fruit in your life.


Looking Up

By Joy O’Neal

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Happy first week of Spring! The irony of this publication and its content falling on the first week of Spring makes my heart sing. If you are like me, then your heart is desperate for a seasonal change. This beach bums heart currently feels semi stuck in an eternal Narnia over here in Colorado Springs. Although true in my physical surroundings I am also currently experiencing a bit of a spiritual Narnia of stagnant faith. So today, I’d like to take a moment to share with you on the topic of looking up.

As a planner, I am the queen of wanting a glimpse at God’s bigger picture. According to StrenthFinders, I am an activator, which means getting things going is my specialty. What’s next? and What are we waiting on? are just a few of the questions I battle with daily.  Although great qualities in certain arenas, spiritually these questions can cause frustration.  Even as my flesh continually battles for the reigns my God brings gentle reminders inside of the mundane that beckon me to release my grip and once again look up to Him.

Many years ago, while helping facilitate a weekend beach retreat for women, I shared about an eye opening practice that transformed my heart around looking up. During this retreat I had a very short speaking opportunity so I asked the women to engage in an experiment throughout the day. Their instructions were simple! Each time they entered a new establishment they were to look up. For me, this experiment was shocking! I realized that out of almost every establishment that I frequently visited I had NEVER seen the ceiling. My Spirit shifted around this simple practice and once again a deep impression by the One who loves us most was written on the walls of my heart. Just as I had experienced, many of the women came to me with similar shock realizing they had in fact never looked up inside of these various establishments that they had visited more times than they could count. 

If you are like me and currently in a stagnant season then you too have possibly forgotten the power that hides inside of simply shifting our eyes upward. As moms are days require us to repeatedly keep our eyes directly on each passing step. Making sure our little ones don’t fall down the stairs, the piling laundry gets washed, that project gets done and the biggest one of all--WHAT’S FOR DINNER (which I fully think should be a forbidden question). They cause us to keep a fixed focus.

Aside from writing and playing mom to my tribe I am also a preschool teacher to the worlds cutest class. Each week my partner teachers and I rotate on teaching Bible to the precious souls we are blessed with. This week was my turn to lead chapel and by no coincidence the Bible story just happens to be my most favorite of all! Doesn’t our God love us so well?

John 3: Jesus Teaches Nicodemus.

Sitting low to the floor with twenty something preschoolers looking up at me, I was reminded how the story of Nicodemus became my favorite. As I shared with you earlier, I am full of questions. I love learning and will be the first to raise my hand. During a hard season in my life I was plagued with questions. Because of my personal pain, I questioned everything. Why did this happen? God, where are You? How did I miss the mark? Did I hear You wrong? These are just a few of the questions I asked daily.  

This is when Nicodemus and I became best friends. I found Nicodemus tiptoeing through the dark night towards Jesus with his questions. I know theologically Nicodemus was keeping quiet and unseen by coming to Jesus in the night but I like to also believe that he couldn’t sleep without getting his questions answered. Just as the answers Jesus gave Nicodemus that night, I too have wrestled with the confusing answers I’ve received during each season of questioning.

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Only when I take my eyes off each step and shift them upward do I start to see the true answer. I can’t image the level of confusion Nicodemus felt as Jesus told him about rebirth. For Nicodemus, the words of Jesus must have seemed like a sci-fi movie scene. Reading through the text of John 3 I wondered how Nicodemus must’ve felt when he heard that Jesus had been crucified. Possibly Nicodemus felt the same way we do when we feel a dream or promise that God has given us has died.  I imagine Nicodemus full of questions again. But where we find Nicodemus next in scripture is the exact reason I share this story with you.

John 19:38-42: The Burial of Jesus

Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to prepare and bury the body of Jesus. I have to believe that Nicodemus was once again full of questions as he wrapped and anointed the lifeless flesh of Jesus. What was right in front of him didn’t look like eternal life. It didn’t look like the answers Jesus’ had previously given him. Nicodemus’ fixed focus looked like death. Oh, but if Nicodemus could’ve looked up into the heavens and seen the war that was being won for eternity in those exact moments!

Mamas, I know--BELIEVE me, I KNOW--that each day requires us to keep a fixed focus on the task ahead, but can I challenge you to look up? There is a battle being won over your dreams and family too! Trust Him with your questions and trust Him in His answers. And while you are at it, see if you’ve ever noticed the ceiling in Target!


The Danger of DIY Motherhood

By Lindsay Dryer

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Pinterest Fail

Oh, Pinterest. It’s amazing how I can both love and loathe something all at the same time. Pinterest always comes through for me when I’m looking for a quick and easy recipe, nail color inspiration before my next mani, or ideas on how to style my new shirt. Usually somewhere along my search, I see something cute that catches my eye — some kind of DIY project that looks so easy my kids could do it — and I think, “Oh wow! I’m totally going to try that!” *Clicks “Pin It” button. (Insert audience laughter here.)

But looking at Pinterest usually has a way of reminding me how creative I am NOT and how I’ll probably never get around to trying all of those DIY projects I’ve pinned (and if, by some miracle, I do try one out…it will probably be a #pinterestfail).

DIY Motherhood

I was reminded of a similar reality recently as I was reading through Romans 7. Check it out with me. (Hint: I find it easiest to understand this passage when I read it outloud. But read slowly. It’s a bit of a tongue twister!)

 

For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
— ROMANS 7:19-24 (CSB)

In other words…I have big plans of doing good and great things, but I can’t seem to do them! Instead, I keep doing wrong or bad things.

Can anyone else relate to this passage of Scripture? Especially in the realm of motherhood?

This feels like a description of my daily battles. Every day I set out to love well and lead well in my home. I plan to speak with a kind and gentle voice, to demonstrate patience and long-suffering towards my kids, and to parent selflessly, putting their needs above my own. 

And every day…I fail. When I want to do the right things, sin is always close by. As Trillia J. Newbell puts it in her study, If God is For Us, “Paul [the author of Romans] rightly describes this battle as a war between the truth we know in our hearts and minds and the desires of our flesh. These two aspects of our being are waging war against one another."

It’s a really good thing this passage in Romans doesn’t stand alone because it’s painful to read! I don’t know about you, but it leaves me feeling a little drained of hope.

We must keep reading, friends. The good news is next in verse 25,“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Who will rescue me from this ongoing battle? JESUS!

And we can’t stop there! As we move into Romans 8, we see the most beautiful explanation in the Bible of how the truth of the gospel is worked out in our hearts. And… spoiler alert: it’s not a DIY project! (Can I get an AMEN?!)

Read Romans 8:5-6 with me. I love the way it’s paraphrased in The Message version:

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

WOW. Did you catch that?

When we think we can do this life on our own—what I’m calling “DIY motherhood”—we begin obsessing over ourselves and become so inwardly focused that we can’t see God at work in our day-to-day, moment-by-moment lives!

Upward Focused

Instead, we should:

  • have our minds set on the Spirit (vv. 5-6),

  • recognize the work that God has already done on the cross (through His Son) and is continuing to do in our hearts (through His Spirit).

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
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I don’t know the details of your story or what’s on your planner for tomorrow, but I’m certain that you have things to do and places to go. You have babies to raise, hearts to shepherd, dreams to accomplish, and more! And the best way to do it all? Don’t do it yourself.

Look upward, not inward. That’s where the real, lasting hope lies.

Apply It:

Take some time this week to read, study, and meditate on the truths packed in Romans 7-8. When you find yourself measuring your “moral muscle” or becoming discouraged by the battle described in Romans 7, stop and remember that God never called you to DIY motherhood. He called you to life IN HIM.


Enneagram Basics for Motherhood, Marriage, and Friendships

By Mollie Talbot

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My husband and I will celebrate four years clean/sober on March 10th. My journey to and from that date has taught me more about God, life, love, and grace than I ever dreamed. But even more, is what facing rock bottom taught me about my identity. One of the life-rafts I was thrown in early sobriety was a tool called the Enneagram (any-uh-gram). My friend suggested it as a means of helping me find the voice God set within me before I began silencing it with vodka and pills. The Enneagram provided language to explain not only my behaviors but the motivations beneath them. Knowing this helped me work toward health and growth while beginning to embrace the pieces of myself I’d pushed away for being different. I began to recognize that "different" is exactly where God wants each of us because our different pieces fit together to make the body of Christ.

A brief background: The Enneagram is a few-thousand-year-old tool used for personality typing that sees us as nine interlocking types. A great description for those who feel this is too confining is to think of it more as nine different colors. There are countless shades of each and thus, room for growth.

Disclaimer: I never got caught up in fear of whether or not it was “evil” or had roots in mysticism and here are the reasons why:

1. I have confidence in the Holy Spirit’s guidance and discernment,

2. Nowhere in my studies has anything conflicted with the Word of God, and

3. I recognize that the more I learn of myself and others, the more I learn about my Father. After all, we are His image-bearers, created uniquely to fulfill a purpose He set out for us. To me, the Enneagram supports this truth.

Here’s a rundown of the 9 Enneagram types attached to the different aspects of God’s character that they each display.

1 “The Reformer” -- the goodness and rightness of God

2 “The Helper” -- God’s love and care

3 “The Achiever” -- God’s hope and radiance

4 “The Individualist” -- God’s creativity and depth

5 “The Investigator” -- God’s wisdom and truth

6 “The Loyalist” -- God’s faithfulness and courage

7 “The Enthusiast” -- God’s joy and abundance

8 “The Challenger” -- God’s power and protection

9 “The Peacemaker” -- God’s peace and oneness

This is not an introduction to the Enneagram or a how-to piece on discovering your type. As I said, you can resort to Google for further exploration if you wish. Instead, I want to use this opportunity to provide a few examples of how the Enneagram has helped me work toward health as a mother, wife, and friend. We can agree that as long as we’re on this side of Heaven we’ll continue to grow and change. The Enneagram teaches that working toward self-awareness while developing empathy for our differences can help us achieve harmony. I write this because, in addition to harmony, I’ve found confidence in the role God created me to fill.

The Enneagram and Parenting

As a parent, the Enneagram helps me identify patterns in my boys while providing a possible “why” behind their behaviors. Practically, this allows me to step into their perspective in order to communicate more effectively. For instance, my step-son Brady is the most helpful and peace-seeking pre-teen I’ve ever met (thank you, JESUS!). While we’re grateful, if we continuously praised these characteristics he might perceive his value limited to the times when he’s self-effacing, out of the way, agreeable, or serving others. So, instead of the blanket praise for these amazing traits, we empower the opposites. We have to remind Brady that while we appreciate his help, it’s not his job to parent his brother--that he gets to be a kid too. Then, because of his tendency to merge with whatever is going on in order to remain agreeable, we give him control. “What would YOU like to do tonight?” “How do YOU think we could be doing this better?”

Another crucial step we’ve taken is in empowering his feelings. Not just identifying them, but expressing them. That right or wrong, he’s safe with us and so is his feelings. Brady needs to remember that who he is on his own (i.e. his needs, feelings, desires, and dreams) has a place within the Kingdom that no one else will fill in the way he’s meant to and that he is a helper and peacekeeper by simply being himself.

If you have some Ennea-knowledge you can see that we’ve trended tendencies of the 2, helper and the 9, peacekeeper. This doesn’t mean that he’s a 9 or 2. He’s 12 and has plenty of changing to do but because of our awareness of the types, we’re getting a jump on helping him round them out. If he’s 15 and struggling with self-absorption, isolation, reality-escaping, and frequent emotional outbursts, we’ll love him best by empowering the awareness that he’s not an island. That his thoughts, feelings, and self-awareness are made even more valuable by the knowledge that they belong to a greater whole. (At this point Ennea-friends, he might be showing tendencies of the 4 and 5).

My toddler, on the other hand, is currently a tornado of the 7’s joy and experience-seeking mixed with the independence and stubbornness of the 8. I frequently ask for his help to show him that it’s okay to ask for mine. I explain that I NEED his help with the laundry or dishes because he’s strong and brave and can do hard things… and then I melt when I watch his fulfillment come with such joy that he holds me which is unlike him, or when he runs to climb the couch and jump off of it, which is very much like him. Disciplining him needs to be the removal of the “fun” aka timeout. I try to encourage him to express his feelings when he’s upset, with WORDS and then when he throws things, we remove the fun until he can calm down. Timeout doesn’t work with a withdrawn child. I personally LOVED it growing up. ;)

Enneagram in Your Friendships

You can see how a basic awareness of the 9 types helps you communicate more effectively with people who don’t (and aren’t supposed to) see things as you do. Additionally, when it comes to our own inner-frustration, mounting resentment, or anger that we feel when our husband or friend lets us down, it provides the reminder to step out of ourselves. To remember to take a deep breath and think. What else do I know about this person? What are they showing when they know you’re going through a lot but keep personalizing your distance as something wrong in your friendship? What seems to be some other big stressors in their lives? How can you meet them in the fear they’re experiencing while still respecting your boundaries?

Or on the flip side--when you see a friend who is withdrawn and struggling, try to touch base and show love in a way that feels out HER needs rather than what YOU would want if you were struggling and withdrawn? The Enneagram helps us give other people room to see and do things differently than we do.

The Enneagram in Marriage

My marriage is the most beautiful place I’ve seen the Enneagram show up and bring with it the gift of grace for us to sit in, unwrap, and laugh when the realizations fell into place. My husband and I are a hilarious combination of seemingly opposite types. It has helped us identify the differences that we can better respect in one another while showing us there are certain things that actually unite us more than we realize. I am an introverted 5; a withdrawn, energy-conscious, cerebral, innovator-type who leans into the logic behind my feelings to come out on the other side with a lesson to teach. Kyle is an extroverted 7; he is joy incarnate. A perpetually-moving collector of happiness, goodness, experiences, and accomplishments who kicks anything that hurts pretty far under the bed.

I’m grateful that we discovered the Enneagram early because a combination of these two types without understanding or valuing the other person’s type could’ve been disastrous. Of course, we still bump heads but we remember on the recoil “Ohh Mollie, I shouldn’t have sprung that on you; I forgot you need time to process” or “I’m sorry Kyle, I didn’t mean to accuse you of not caring; it’s just that when I talk about feelings, I want your support even if you can’t relate.” What was great was discovering that 5s and 7s both spend a lot of time in their heads. 7’s thinking about what they could do or should do next and 5’s thinking about… well, everything. With this knowledge, we’ve been able to grow together while we work on being more present for our own self-health and for our family.

There’s power in recognizing that our unique gifts would be without purpose if it weren’t for the different and complimentary gifts of others. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

The Enneagram has been a practical tool for helping me appreciate this verse in a whole new way. My hope is that you feel nudged to dig a little deeper today. If it’s not into the Enneagram then dig deeper into what makes you, you. I believe that being created in God’s image means that by exploring ourselves further, we’ll not only find more love for the differences we see in others but fall more deeply in love with the diverse and majestic characteristics of our Creator.

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One Day

Guest Post by Char Reid

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The ‘one day’ I knew would come has come. You know, that day everyone warned you about—the day the children would be grown. The day they really have moved on with their own lives. That day!!!  

Pouring all you are and have into seven (yes, I said seven) wonderful children occupied my very being. Not to mention an awesome husband who was pastoring a couple hundred people.

I have to say, when you look back you don’t remember the hard days as much as you do the good days. Take heart! Although there were tears shed over laundry for nine! There were the never-ending questions that harassed my every day:      

  • What’s for supper?

  • Who has a ballgame today?

  • Did I finish all of our homeschool work today?

  • Has everyone heard they are loved today?

  • Has love flowed from my words and tones today?

  • Was Jesus pleased with me today?

 You know, those things that matter to us as moms that creep in and make us feel like failures if we didn’t do them. I can recall days when I was convinced I was the greatest mom God ever created. While also feeling there were those days I was the absolute worst mom ever.

My heart, as I sit here in silence missing all the noise of little voices, reaches out for young mothers. There is an aching that longs to wrap my arms around you and fill you with words of encouragement and love. To say I loved being a mama is the understatement of my life! Being a mama is still my most favorite calling on my life. I tend to mother everyone now. Thus, my nickname Mama Char!

Through the years, there have been many God moments that have arrested me and gone way down deep in my soul, to the bedrock of who I am. One of my husband’s favorite sayings to our discipleship classes is, “Let the moment be the teacher.”  These are the times we allow what is happening in each moment to be what offers us life’s most precious lessons. These moments are the ones we receive the light that God shines on each circumstance; which leads us into His likeness and nature. I call these ‘Aha’ moments—the, ‘I get it now!’ moments. I want to share with you one of my personal ‘Aha’ moments that has helped me so much. I wish I would have known it as a young mom and I pray as I share it, it will help you as much as it helped me.

While going through a very heart-breaking situation, I realized I had given my heart to so many different people. I had given them control of my heart and my feelings. Hurt and disappointment came through family and friends, church congregations, and even my husband and precious children. I consider myself a people person and am outgoing, quick to give my heart to whoever I found myself with. I was completely capable of allowing my heart to be controlled by so many different situations and circumstances. One day, through my tears, I begged the Lord, “Please talk to me! I don’t know what to do with all of these feelings!”  In all of His kindness, He answered me that day.

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He said, “Daughter, when I said for you to love Me with all of your heart that is exactly what I meant for you to do. Your heart is Mine. I never meant for your heart to belong to anyone but Me. Not your husband. Not your children. No one but Me. Your heart is safe with Me. I will not crush you or hurt you as others can and will. You can trust Me with your heart. When your heart is fully Mine then you are free to love others fully.” 

 I can’t even put into writing what happened to me in that moment. I felt a freedom that I had never known. I realized that although I said I loved God with all my heart that I had really given my heart to everyone I had ever met! My heart wasn’t safe in His care when it was out there for my children and everyone else to abuse and hurt. I felt so vulnerable in that moment. I wanted to take all the pieces of me I had so carelessly given away and scoop them all back into me and make a fresh offering to the Lord. That was the day I realized my life as a wife, mother, and friend was really only about one thing: my relationship with God and Him alone. I learned, with my heart being secure in my love for God, I was free to be the wife and mother that my husband and children needed me to be. My position in Him was to receive His love and give it away.

It became so clear that my identity must be in belonging to Him and living and loving from that amazing place. If I love Him, with all of my heart, and I learn His nature and who He is then I become like Him and my husband gets the wife he needs. If I allow what is in Him, that makes Him so nurturing and kind, in me my children get to have the mama they need. If my heart is open to be changed with every fruit of His Spirit then my friends get the friend they need. And if I can just love Him and be His daughter, then I get the me, the real me, that I need to be for myself. The one whose heart is safe in my Fathers great love. Loving and living from this place has been the most freeing and fulfilling experience I have had as a wife, mother, and friend.

I pray you find this place of freedom, which will allow you to enjoy God’s love. A place of loving and living safe in His wonderful care. Blessings to you all! 

 

Jesus answered him, “Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.
— Matthew 22:37 (TPT)
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As a passionate lover of God, Char enjoys pouring out her life lessons learned from marriage, motherhood and ministry. Pastors wife and mother of seven (7), her nurturing nature is a true representation of the Kindness of the heart of God. Her greatest passion is spending time alone with God and Hearing His love. After journaling for years, she has recorded in this book her own encounters that have blessed her and many others.

Buy her book here.


Highly Favored

By Molly Kennedy

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When I think about a woman in the Bible who was deemed “highly favored,” my initial thoughts go to the woman from Proverbs 31--a woman who is worth more than diamonds, trusted by her husband, respected by her children. She’s a businesswoman, a seamstress, a cook. She has a good attitude and is kind and wise. She always looks like she is coming from a modeling appointment. Clearly, she has the hand of God on her life. I can almost hear her singing with the animals while she’s weaving her purple cloth. If only she would have written a book on personal growth.

And yet...the woman in the Bible who was considered highly favored was Mary, the mother of Jesus. What does a highly favored life look like in the Bible?

  • Pregnancy as a young teenager

  • By God

  • A fiance who was contemplating divorce

  • Raising a perfect son

  • Having your heart torn apart when your son is arrested, beaten, and crucified

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The highly favored life is not always an easy life. I think this is especially true for moms in 2019. When we get on social media and see other moms doing it better. When we are so tired with a brand new baby that the thought of having to go to the store makes us cry. When we run carpool in our pajamas and hope we don’t get pulled over. When our kids’ choices make us hit our knees and beg for deliverance.

And yet...God doesn’t make mistakes. He didn’t put you in this generation with these kids and cross his fingers. He knew you could do it. He knew you could do it on your best days when your kids look up at you with love in their eyes. He knew you could do it on your worst days when you yell and belittle.

Psalm 8:3-4 (MSG) says,

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry. Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?

Why indeed? Because we are highly favored. You, my friend, are highly favored.

What is the best thing that is happening to you right now as a mom? Do you know why that’s happening? Because you are highly favored.

What is the hardest thing that you are going through right now as a mom? Do you know why that’s happening? Because you are highly favored.

The dictionary defines “favored” as preferred or recommended. According to biblestudytools.com, the original Greek word is charitoo, which means to honor with blessings or to compass with favor--how gorgeous is that?

You are highly favored by the most interesting, most powerful, most beautiful King in the world. Just sit in that for a minute. He is absolutely crazy in love with you. So straighten your crown, sister. And no matter what is happening with your kids today, smile and rest in the fact that you are chosen, adored, and absolutely enveloped in God’s favor.

And so are your kids.