The Years the Locusts Ate

There’s a passage tucked away in the book of Joel that goes like this:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,

The crawling locust,

The consuming locust,

And the chewing locust,

My great army which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2:25-26 NKJV

These verses weren’t written for me; they were written for the Israelites. But like so many passages of Scripture that were contextually intended for a different time, place, and people — I find comfort none the less in the heart of God portrayed to all people regardless of time or place — including me.

I often find myself looking around at other women, some a few years ahead, some a few years behind. I see women with more children than me or children who are older than mine. I see women deeply rooted in their faith and living out well what they believe. I see women growing businesses and ministries and impacting people for good. I see a lot of things I’m not doing or if I am doing them, I feel years and miles behind the women I’m watching.
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I tend to puzzle things out. If something gets in my head, I don’t stop thinking about it until I’ve reached a satisfying end. So this whole thing about why some people seem to be so much further ahead in life — well, it’s really bothered me for a while now.

Are some people just naturally better at life than others? Were they born into better circumstances and opportunity or did they simply do more with what they were given? Does it matter how hard I work or will I always fall short of what I see?

I believe the answer to any of these questions could be yes — yes, some people are better at life than others, some are more talented and gifted, some are born into better circumstances and with that have more opportunity readily available to them. Though it’s hard to swallow, life really is not fair.

But still, there are plenty of examples of people who had nothing going for them and managed to make something of their life anyway. Sometimes the most successful people are those who’ve had to fight the hardest for what they want. So why do I flounder in comparison to those around me? Why are some women so capable and I always feel like I’m drowning in half the water they manage to swim in? 20181019_131947.jpg

Sometimes I don’t like the conclusions my puzzling reaches. But sometimes, when you’ve thought something out to all its various ends, you have to accept hard answers you might not like and one part of that for me is accepting this:

You’re not where you want to be because you’ve wasted a lot of time. 

You quit as quickly as you start. 

You’d rather plan and dream and begin than work and continue and finish. 

I was hoping for a different answer — like maybe one that didn’t lay the responsibility so squarely on my drooping shoulders. But here we are, puzzle solved and I’m the missing link to much of my own happiness and success.

Now don’t get me wrong — I don’t intend to leave God out of the equation and I don’t mean to say that my happiness and success are completely in my hands or the highest aim in my life regardless. Sometimes, you can be doing everything God is asking you to do by his grace and help and the road is still hard and the answer is still no. We grow by this and we get to find out if our relationship with God is actually with a genie who grants our wishes or a sovereign, loving God who has our best interest and his own glory at heart.

What I am saying is this: sometimes we are responsible for our own failures. We reap what we sow and sometimes that means a lean harvest. That’s kind of where I’m at right now and it’s a sobering reality to look in the eyes.

When you plant something, you don’t get to harvest fruit right away. Nothing blossoms or blooms and you are asked to trust that that seemingly dead seed splitting apart in the soil — hidden and unsure — is actually putting down lively roots that will bring forth life and beauty we can taste and see above ground.

I’m the kind of person who likes to go to the store and look at all the colorful images on the seed packets and dream about how they might look in my garden. I buy the seeds and draw up a plan for where the garden will be and probably post something on social media about this inspiring little endeavor.

And then I get bored with the work and the waiting and the process that goes into actually watching those seeds blossom into life. I fail to plant them all-together or neglect the work required to keep them alive once they’re in the ground. And here lies the analogy of so many of my hopes and dreams — seedlings, shallow roots, boredom that leads to neglect, a life perpetually distracted by the next shiniest thing.

And then I wonder why some women around me seem to have so much bounty and so much visible fruit for their labor. Are they just luckier than me or did they daily tend to deep roots even when no harvest could be seen?
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Here’s where the locusts come in. I see all the time I’ve wasted and it feels like the years the locusts ate. The years I gave away to distraction and laziness and quitting half way. Sometimes it feels like I’m so far behind now that no matter what I plant or how faithfully I tend, I’ll never get my roots deep enough to make up for the lost time. I’m almost 33, ten years into my marriage and two children at my side.

But that passage doesn’t end with all the Israelites lost; it ends with a faithful God redeeming broken things as he does best. So when I’m discouraged and feel a failure, I speak this truth to myself:

God will meet with me today, where I am, through prayer and his word //

I wish I had dug deeply into God’s word years ago. I wish I had prayed and drawn close to the heart of God. But a failure to do these things in the past does not doom me to continued failure in the future. I can start right where I am today and God will meet me here.

God is the one who makes all things new // 

Yes, you reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7-9). We are responsible for our actions and God requires that we be faithful stewards of what he entrusts (Matt. 25:14-30). But it is God — good, loving, sovereign God — who gives the harvest (1 Cor. 3:6-8). All my striving is not what propels me forward so much as the grace of God that takes my weak and failed attempts and offers all I can not create or deserve in return.

To be defeated is to doubt God; we must always be doing the next right thing and trust him with the results (Job 1:21). So yes, it’s disheartening to think about the years I’ve wasted. I see the fruit being harvested in other people’s lives and wish I had tended my own garden better over the years. But I’m thankful that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

The familiar chapter of Proverbs 31 ends with this verse:

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Prov. 31:31).

But this conclusion comes only after the thirty verses prior describing all the diligent and disciplined work she does each day throughout her life. So today I learn to keep my eye on the prize but first to dig deep and plant seeds. To tend and wait for fruit I cannot see. To be faithful in all the moments in between the exciting beginnings and slow ends.

May the Lord find me faithful.

 

When Life is Heavy

This week was hard. Yes, hard in the sense that I’m an American, middle class, white girl who gets to stay home with her babies kinda hard; certainly there are plenty of people who have it harder. I know that, but still. No matter who or where you are in life, we all have days and weeks that are “sanctifying”—this was one of those weeks for me.

Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not sharing this to complain, get pity, or create drama. There’s redemption in the end and that’s the part I’d like to get to but truuust me when I tell you there were a lot of high fevers, crying babies, sleepless nights, poo (I am now referring to Monday as “poo-pocalypse”), long road trips that fell at the worst time, concerns I didn’t anticipate raised by the doctor, and the most humbling trip I’ve ever made to Target that ended with a shopping cart full of groceries abandoned while I did a walk of shame from one end of the store to the other with a baby on my hip and toddler in tow.

It was not a stellar week.

And none of this accounts for the hard conversations about life with friends and family that go far beyond just one hard week.IMG_20180413_194821_948.jpg

If I could sum life up in one word right now it would be heavy. My heart is heavy. My mind is heavy. My body is heavy beneath the weight of it. And I’m weary. I’d like to say that’s all and drop the mic before I give up and walk away. But again, this story doesn’t end that way…and for that I’m so thankful.

I’m learning something right now, especially about how I pray and ask God’s help and blessing over my life. I used to pray, “please let this day go okay” or “please help me get through.” I was seeking immediate relief from immediate circumstances that felt hard and overwhelming. The only “right” answer then would be a day that went smoothly, enough sleep to manage, or not feeling overwhelmed.

But the thing I’m learning is this: Truly growing and putting down deeper roots in my faith means not just praying for a good day but rather praying for the right heart attitude, grace sufficient, and God’s work to progress no matter the circumstances.

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Yes, I would like the days to go smoothly too. But the key is how I respond when everything goes awry. How do I react when, even after I’ve prayed and asked for help, the days are still exhausting and hard? What do I do when I’m frustrated by circumstances out of my control or humbling moments of motherhood that make me question if I’m doing anything right at all?

Whether or not the days go smoothly says almost nothing in comparison to how I react in my heart, mind, and attitude regardless of the circumstances. Growing in my faith means trusting in the heart of God even when life feels like a brick wall on every side. Is God a magic genie I conjure up when I want to wish something away or is he someone I love and trust even when I’m asked to walk through deep waters in order to know him better?IMG_20180510_114445_195.jpg

It’s easy to walk through life thinking everything will be okay on the other side of_____you feel in the blank. Life will be easier once my kids are in school. Life will be easier once my baby sleeps through the night. Life would be so much better if we could just move or if I could just land that certain job.

I find myself doing this in a million smaller ways day-to-day, too. I seek comfort and reprieve in an iced coffee, online shopping or getting five uninterrupted minutes to myself. I tell myself, “I deserve this” or “I just need to get through this day and start over tomorrow.”

But the truth is, no change in circumstances, no temporary pleasure or comfort is actually going to fix anything if I’m not already surrendered in my heart and present situation. Troubles will resolve, one season will change into another, what feels impossible today will nearly be forgotten tomorrow. But where one weed is pulled out in this life to make room for flowers, so more weeds will continue to pop up.IMG_20180503_211214_754.jpg

The truth of my heart and nature is this: The more comfortable I am, the easier it is to drift away from God. Knowing I need God every waking moment also draws me closer to his heart. So while I’m thankful for the simple pleasures that dot this life—the iced coffees and spring flowers—I’m learning to be thankful too for all the hard things that draw me nearer to my true hope and help.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, which makes me laugh a little considering how this week has gone. In truth, all I want from the day is Chinese takeout and maybe a nap. But regardless of how the day actually goes, I hope I will remember where my hope rests and carry that truth with me into a new week—regardless of the circumstances.

 

Broken Better: Finding Healing in Motherhood—A Guest Post by Rachel Kaye

Today I’m excited to introduce you to my friend (and also, fun fact, my husband’s cousin). I first met Rachel in college and have thought ever since that if I’m ever half as artsy and hip as she is then I’m on my way haha.

Rachel recently had her first baby and after reading some of her words about motherhood on Facebook, I knew right away I wanted to share her heart with you as well.

I’m so thankful Rachel took the time in this busy, sleepless season to pen these words and share a raw piece of her heart with us ❤


There’s a lot of brokenness in motherhood, I’m learning. I see it all around me. Friends who suffer through infertility and miscarriage, long-awaited children born with special needs, adult offspring who alienate themselves from their parents. It’s a joyous thing, motherhood, but it’s also the most violent rending your heart will ever experience.

My own fractures appeared early. First, there was the waiting, the hoping that each new month would bring a baby. Then, there was the expectation. A baby was in my womb. My heart was torn between excitement and fear. How could I care for this new life? Who was I to take on such a momentous task? That fear nearly crippled me.  

We lost that child. I remember hemorrhaging blood on the bathroom floor in a foreign country, far away from my home and family. I learned then just how broken my own body was. I had failed to protect the life developing inside me.

We lost three more babies after that one. With each pregnancy, I opened my heart to love. With each loss, I fled the heartache. I pretended I was a hardened whole, worn but unbroken.

After the years of uncertainty and loss, our beautiful daughter came. I thought the experience would heal me. Instead, I felt the last vestiges of control slipping away.

I saw it first in my body. The terrain of my physical self had changed, stretching to contain a new life. I wrestled with the knowledge that who I was is permanently altered. There was a child within me, and that was magical, but it was also disconcerting. That physical change mirrored emotional and mental ones. I no longer existed merely for myself but now for another too. I’ve long clung fiercely to my own independence and identity, in part because it’s taken so long for me to feel at home in my own skin, but that identity was splintering. 31351501_10155281681741426_5063599612569321472_n

My daughter is now nearly six months old, and I’m just beginning to come to terms with my bruised, torn heart. It’s scary to love this little life. At times, I’ve tried to run from this love. I fear a shattering so complete that I lose myself entirely. The funny thing is, though, as much as I fear it, it’s in losing myself that I’m truly finding myself.

Muscles tear and bones break before they grow stronger so too with motherhood. This daily death to self is where theological concepts like sanctification get fleshed out. By becoming more like Christ, I become more fully the person God created me to be. I’m more me than ever before.

It occurred to me recently that God knows a lot about parenting. He chose me, loved me despite knowing just how much I would hurt him when each of my sins was heaped on him on the cross. The self-sacrificing love I fear was embodied perfectly by the God who rightfully could have walked away.

Love means heartache. It’s an inevitable consequence. I can’t run from the heartache I’ve already experienced. I can’t run from the potential for heartache to come. At some point, my daughter will hurt me. When she does, I’ll heal, but I’ll heal a little different than I was before. That change isn’t a bad thing, though. Each time my heart stretches and tears for love, I have the potential to be made stronger if I just let God do that sanctifying work.

There’s a tendency in our culture to glory in brokenness. As Christians, we should have a slightly different goal. We live in a messed-up world. That’s not something to celebrate. But we should celebrate the God who takes the pieces and makes all things new and whole.

I was created for a purpose. I’m here to glorify God. God is love. I think a large part of glorifying him is modeling his attributes to a hurting world. True rubber-meets-the-road love isn’t easy, though. To love like that, I have to become more myself, more like Christ. I have to take up my cross and follow him. I have to fall apart in order to be made whole. I have to let my heart break in order to love again.


31318374_10155281688306426_3375813839042904064_nRachel Kaye calls Maine home but currently lives in South Carolina with her husband and daughter.

As a child, she promised herself she would never forget what it was like to be young. As she’s grown older, she’s also grown more childlike. Quick with tears and laughter, she endeavors to embrace life in all its joys, pains, and inconsistencies.

At heart a wayward, wandering, restless soul in need of a Savior, Rachel Kaye looks to Jesus, the author and finisher of her faith to direct her path.

You can follow her musings on Instagram at afreckledrachel


 

Labor Pain

It snowed again today. A friend of mine lives in Canada and told me once that waiting for spring feels like a woman waiting for the birth of a child. You wait and anticipate and have a date in mind when you think the journey should be done and that baby in your arms. You go into labor, or so you think, only to have everything stop…and you wait some more.DSC_1369

Spring, like babies, comes when it good and well pleases and not a moment before. But the waiting, the hoping, the thinking you’re almost there to have everything stop and start again—

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)

Life lately has felt a little like labor pains. I know there are good things on the other side. I know the wait will be worth it. But sometimes it’s hard to keep believing in all I can’t yet see—spring, answers, new life in dead places, fruit for the labor that right now only blisters my fingers and leaves me weary in hoping for a someday harvest.DSC_0732

Like a woman waiting for a baby, I know false labor doesn’t mean the baby’s not coming—it just means the baby’s not coming right now. I’ve felt those false pains before and can assure you that all the promises in the world that your baby will still come and soon—just not today—don’t make you feel any better in the moment. False labor hurts just like real labor and the waiting hurts even more.

But this is where we live this side of heaven—in the now but not yet. We carry eternity with us every single day but cannot yet enter into it. We taste it, get glimpses of what is and what’s to come—but the satisfaction of true fulfillment is not yet in our grasp. We are always waiting for something east of Eden.IMG_20170501_164343_623

Questions unanswered. Problems unsolved. Planting seeds for the promise of life and growth tomorrow in exchange for sore backs and weary hearts today. We can get around a lot of things in this life but we can’t get around time. We can’t make it move faster or slower. We can’t hold onto it or demand it leave us alone. We are made for eternity and a different kind of time but are bound here in mortality for a little while and must learn to submit to the seasons of this life—both in nature and our sojourning hearts.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Today, I wait for spring. I wait for the fruit of my labor. I know I will get answers and someday I will see all of this waiting from the other side. Just like I hold my babies and think a million times over how they were worth the waiting and the labor (both false and real). So someday I will look back on a weary season of sore backs and blistered hands and know the harvest at my feet was worth the labor and the waiting.

We journey on. Let us not grow weary, friends.dsc_1324

A Piece of the Puzzle

I’ve written a lot about how I’ve struggled as a mom—with my temper, with depression, with regret. I knew motherhood would be hard, I just never imagined how it would be hard or how I would struggle.

But along with all I’ve said about the tough times and the learning curb, I don’t want to fail in sharing the good stuff and the victories too.

Eight months ago today, our daughter was born. Eight months. How do the nine months of pregnancy feel like a small eternity while the first year runs like water through your hands? It’s not fair but here we are with a baby who is trying to give up her morning nap, crawl, pop two teeth through, and laughs at everything her brother does.IMG_20180308_145354_700.jpg

We, all of us, adore her; but that doesn’t mean the last eight months have been easy. If we struggled with our son before our daughter was born, we just about sank after. Bringing our daughter home took every last gain we’d made with our son two steps back and it was discouraging, frustrating and downright heartbreaking at times.

And yet, like so many times before, it was here that I met with God. God is seen in all the beauty and goodness He offers, for sure. But no doubt about it, God is felt and known in the midnight hour when our souls are cracked open and raw with hurt and want.

These last eight months I have needed God in a way I simply didn’t before. And while I fought and wrestled against Him at first, for a while to be honest, I have found God to be waiting with open arms on the other side of the struggle. Mostly, I just needed to realize how much I need Him and to taste and see how willing He is to meet me with hope and answers in the struggle.

Have you ever prayed a prayer and known without question that God answered you—that there was simply no other explanation beyond Him moving and working on your behalf? I had a moment like that a few weeks ago.

I have long prayed for wisdom about how to reach my son’s heart and how to build a relationship with him. I reached out for help and read lots of books and tried to be open to advice when given. But still, everything seemed to fall flat and end in more frustration and heartache. But still I prayed. What else could I do? I knew I desperately needed wisdom and help only God could give so I asked Him for it and hoped, someday, I would find an answer.

One night we sat at dinner, struggling to get through the meal as we often do with lots of, “I don’t like this food” and “sit down and take a bite.” Without ever thinking about it before, honestly, until the words were coming out of my mouth, I told Roman he should hurry up and eat because after dinner and getting his sister in bed, we could stay up and have a special time together eating popcorn and ice cream and watching a show.

I’ve never seen a kid change his speed so fast. He might not want to eat his dinner but he fo sho wanted to stay up with us watching shows. After I said it, I wasn’t even sure if we had ice cream or popcorn or if Darren would be up for him staying up late. I put his sister to bed and came downstairs to find Roman all set up in the living room with his snacks, show picked out, and telling his dad that they couldn’t start the show until I was in there too. I thought I would tidy the kitchen quickly while they started but he insisted I be in there to begin :] So we piled on the couch together and had a super fun night spending some time focused on just our boy.

It seems like such an obvious thing, spending some special one-on-one time with just him while his sister sleeps but somehow it had honestly never occurred to me how we could make that work before this moment. But here we are, a few weeks later and every single night, as soon as I start prepping dinner, Roman starts telling me about how after dinner and baths and jammies and once sissy is in bed, we’re going to stay up together watching a show and eating ice cream and popcorn—and we do. And he is such a different kid from the little guy we were struggling so hard with just a few weeks ago.IMG_20180320_122227_888.jpg

Is everything perfect and easy now? No, not at all. After all, he’s still just 3 years old and we’re all still sinners. But I can’t even explain what a difference it has made in our relationship with him, his relationship with his sister, or the overall vibe of our family. It’s a “God did this” thing for sure and an undeniable answer to my prayer for wisdom.

God knows each of us, made each of us. God knows the workings and makeup of this 3 1/2 year old who so mystifies me at times. And in that, God knew what his little heart needed— t i m e.  And that is perhaps what has moved me the most—not just that God saw and heard me and my heart but that he also saw the hurts and needs of a little boy and met even him, a little child, in his need for time and attention.

When you are parenting a small child, you are the face of God. I don’t mean that irreverently but it’s true. A child does not know or understand much about God and in fact a lot of what you tell your children about God they will believe simply because you said it. If I tell my son God loves him, as I do, and then fail to show him the love of God in my attitudes and actions toward him, what have I now shown him about this God of mine? It’s a sobering, humbling thought—that my life, for a time at least, speaks God (the true God or lies about that God) into my children’s hearts.

But God is good and gracious. He answered me in one small way for now at least. And in doing so, He is showing His heart and love to both my boy and his needy momma ❤IMG_20180321_130404_078.jpg