Fostering Change

Driving down the highway on auto-pilot, I spoke outloud to the little one gazing sleepily out the window as I breathed in the early morning air.

“Today you get to be with your mom and dad all day, and pretty soon you don’t have to leave them anymore. They are going to take care of you and I will miss you so much.” She babbled back, but she was too little to have real words.

Unbuckle. Deep Breath. The handoff. Go home. Come Back just in time for dinner. Meltdown. Bedtime with an extra song. Pray for her. For Mom. For Dad. Repeat.

foster care Holly Hawes changeUntil one day we packed everything up and restoration happened. A family was reunited. We prayed our way to the moment when we shook their hands, unpacked the boxes, and drove as far as we could. We drove to the Pacific Coast where the salty air mixed with our tears and we could be reminded of the very big God who made the ocean so vast. He was the one who had intertwined our story with this little girl and the many people who love her. He is the one who holds us together when changes in life are hard, because even good change can be difficult.

My days have changed since then. Life doesn’t revolve around naptime, visitation schedules,and playing peek-a-boo. Every child we have had over that last four years has changed us. For a season there were new schedules, taking apart the bunk bed and putting together the crib, new schools, moving the bedrooms around again, different snacks because the last child liked cheese sticks, and this one doesn’t.

Now the time has come for a harder change. We are no longer foster parents, by choice. Partly to rest from the chaos of a revolving door, and partly to eventually pursue adoption through another means.

Before I finally accepted the change, I dug in my heels. I thought we were called to this? Even if we come back in the future, how is it that now is not the right time? How can I say no to the phone calls, the stories, the children who wait in DHS offices for a family to give them shelter? God, what are you doing?! What does this change mean?

Then, I was reminded this weekend of a word I began to ponder almost a decade ago as I read Isaiah 58.

Restore.

 

“And the LORD will guide you continually

and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:11-12

 

Holly Hawes Change Foster Care (1)I long to be a restorer in my community. I have had just a taste of seeing restoration first-hand, and I want to see more. I long for broken generations of people who are stuck in self-destructive lifestyles to find their footing in Christ—the only foundation that can bring true change and life.

The mission we have is timeless, but the specific application can change. There isn’t just one place where that restoration happens. It happens in foster care, in the women’s shelters, in my kid’s classroom, in my neighborhood, in the home, and within my soul. Wherever the people of God are, the Lord is guiding them, satisfying them, making them a spring of water able to overflow with the living water to people who are dying of thirst.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Advertisements

The Discipline of Change

I’m going through a difficult season right now where I feel broken and tired at every turn–health difficulties and struggles, emotional and mental instability, and also just the tiring parts of adulting. In this season, one where I feel so helpless, I’ve been forced to trust God like never before. I’ve been forced to give over control (mostly perceived!) in so many areas.

Sarah Clews ChangeI can’t believe I thought I knew what trusting God looked like as a young adult. Have you ever looked back on something you did or said when younger and just cringed with embarrassment? Too many times I look back with horror at my judgmental nature, hasty conclusions, overly direct and harsh words, and thoughtlessness. Sometimes I’m surprised I still have any friends after how I behaved!

I’m encouraged though by how God has been working on changing and transforming my soul over the years. The kind of trust I’m learning now…it’s so much more painful and brutal and soul stripping. It’s the kind of pruning that hurts bad but brings forth the best fruit. I’ve recently discovered just how many props I’ve been leaning on. What does one do when these props are stripped away? What’s left? My bare naked soul is finding that I control so much less than I ever thought.  

change sarah clewsGod has used my three little girls to break me down and root out my selfishness. The constant needs of three tiny humans, the mountains of laundry, the endless wiping, cleaning, cooking, and so on, refines me. I really identify with the hashtag #motherhoodissanctifying, and have found encouragement as my children need discipline, because it reminds me true discipline comes from love. All of life, I see it serving as part of the process of change. Paul reminds us it will all be used to make us into more Christ like people. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

We take hope in being disciplined and changed by God, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:6 The change, the hardship, the mundane routine, it’s a sign that we are His beloved children. The best part? God never says, “You know what! I’ve told you this a million times and you just don’t listen.” He’s the Pursuer, the Rescuer and He never gives up. I am not a lost cause, and neither are you.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

The Opportunity of Discipline

Author: Kimberley Mulder

I hate having to discipline my children. I hold awkwardly and begrudgingly the parental authority that has been given to me. There is nothing that causes my heart to sink faster than my children’s disobedience and disputes. I can be in a fantabulous mood all day but when that door bursts open and in tumbles a wailing child followed quickly by a yelling one it feels like a massive vacuum suddenly sucked away my mood and energy. Honestly, if I am not careful this scenario can wrench my attitude into despair and discord for the rest of the day. It is in these times that I am seeing the situation as a burden rather than the opportunity it is offering.

What is the goal of discipline? Certainly good citizenship is a goal, as is building good habits. However, these are lesser goals. The great goal of discipline is to teach us to trust God. This is true whether discipline is enforced from outside (think parenting), or internally adhered to (think self-discipline). To keep our relationship with God healthy and strong he instituted an intertwined dance of trust and discipline. Every sin is, in some way, a distrust of God; discipline was meant to guide us away from the lies we believe and back to the heart of the One who loves us.

Kimberley Mulder DisciplineDivine discipline strikes me as art. God gets His message across to us, His disobedient children, in so many ways. Reading the Bible as a standard is a two-dimensional reading of a three-dimensional text. The dimensions of God’s discipline are so deep and high and loving, so personal that the receptive child will feel the gentle pressing of His words in the scriptures, and have it bring out conviction like a hologram that has turned to reveal the picture. At other times, in love that we cannot understand, He abruptly blocks a path like a shutter capturing a black and white image.

Imagine the Father painting His discipline throughout history. The base layer is the creation of the Israelites and the ten commandments, then throughout the Old Testament He adds the foundational characteristics through particular sudden strokes (like Saul’s downfall in 1 Samuel or Jeroboam’s legacy of war because of his idol worship in 1 Kings.) The prophets add depth to the horizon as they envision God’s desires and cry out to the Israelites to return to God. But when Jesus walks onto the canvas the picture becomes alive and complete. The details are added as the broad strokes of the old covenant are built on and covered by the fine, personal, lines of forgiveness.

Jesus touches and teaches individuals that it’s the heart the Father is trying to reach through discipline. He doesn’t want outward conformists and inward sinners. In John 8 the Pharisees ask him how to discipline the woman caught in adultery. But Jesus tells these conformists: “Let any one of you who is without sin throw a stone at her.” This masterful stroke drives right into their hearts. Then he deftly highlights the beauty He is painting with the finishing stroke of forgiving the woman.

So, as a parent, I want to emulate God’s purposes in my discipline. The trajectory of all my efforts is not to make good kids who will obey all the rules. Rather, it is to develop their trust in God above all.

Discipline Kimberley MulderI want them to trust me too, which means I must be trustworthy. Are they seeing and feeling that I have their best interests in mind? If I am reacting, then I don’t have their interests at the forefront. Do I listen to them carefully, giving them space to be heard? Do they see me making every effort to be fair? I hope they will reflect on their growing up and see that the consequences I placed on them were part of what shows my trustworthiness and God’s. This is a lot to embed into the hot scenarios that we encounter daily with our kiddos! That is why it is so important to spend time intentionally thinking and praying about our discipline strategies.

For some of us we need to see the discipline in our childhood as our Old Testament and let Jesus lead us into living his new covenant as we discipline our kids. Do you react harshly wanting to simply squelch a behavior? I confess, I do at times because of my upbringing and lack of intentionality. However, Jesus doesn’t squelch, ever. He probes into the pain and sin, illuminates, addresses and then extracts it with his truth and forgiveness. He does it in a way that draws us near, not pushes us away.

If you struggle, as I do, to allow Christ to renovate your discipline, I encourage you to intentionally address it. Certainly pray and read the gospels to gain insight into Jesus’s way. Seek out classes on discipline that are grounded in His way. Talk to parents who you have witnessed disciplining with grace and wisdom. Employ forgiveness. Learn to evaluate your response before you execute it. My oldest sometimes gets frustrated with me because I take too long (in her view) to answer or discipline. I remind her that I need to take the time to carefully process the situation with Jesus so that I don’t react in a sinful way. And when I do riff off a reactionary consequence to her (always to damaging effect!), I have gone back to her and apologized. Then we evaluate what an appropriate consequence would be for the situation.

Let’s internalize God’s loving discipline and intentionally learn the art of building trust through the opportunities that the disobedience of children and others bring to us.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Taking Time

Like any mom with three small children, I have trouble resting. There’s always a load of laundry to fold, a dishwasher to unload,and children waiting to be bathed or fed. When I do have a few minutes to sit down, I have difficulty using that time for actual rest and instead find myself updating my to do list.

Rest Sarah ClewsSometimes I’m good at setting boundaries and saying “no” to obligations and appointments. Yet still I often find myself rushing from task to task. Not to mention how social media amplifies the sense that one isn’t doing enough. Instagram is full of what feels like hashtagging taunts of “mom boss” and “hustle.”

Our family just closed out two weeks of sickness, colds, and even one case of pink eye. Although it felt frustrating that everyone was down, it was also a gift in disguise. I canceled my normal appointments, obligations, and errands. I was forced to stay home, slow our pace and rest.

I don’t know why I think I can push and push. Even Jesus took times of rest. When I think about his ministry—three short years, I am baffled. From a human perspective, if you only had three years to accomplish your life’s work, you might be thinking, “Hey, I can’t possibly take a break now!” And yet Jesus took time.

Time to sleep

Mark 4:35-40

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Have you ever been so tired you couldn’t stop crying? This happened to me recently. I was bone tired. I needed to sleep, but a nap…who has time to nap?  

Jesus had time. During the three most significant years of his life, Jesus took a nap.

Time away from others

It’s so interesting to me that Jesus felt the need to get away from the crowds now and then. He encouraged his disciples to come with him away from the people that had been following them.

Sarah Clews RestWe all need a break from people once in awhile. As an introvert, I definitely get worn out by groups larger than seven people and need to spend some time at home either alone or with just with my family.

I find the verses like Mark 1:35 comforting,  “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Time to abide with Jesus

Another way for the weary soul to rest and refresh is by spending time in God’s word or praying. I find myself inundated by memes, sayings, and the words of humans all week long. I long for something truly refreshing—the timeless truth of God’s word.

“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”-Jesus (John 4:14)

God isn’t surprised by our humanity or our need for rest. He understands, sympathizes and modeled what it looks like. He meets us in our weaknesses and even commanded a day of the week just for resting so we would take the time to find Him.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

A Focus on Friendship

Author: Kimberley Mulder

My “one word” for 2017 is friendship. At the beginning of each year I spend some time listening to God and observing my journey thus far to discern what one word I am to focus my attentions for the upcoming year. It is always something that God is cultivating in my life, maybe pruning, but always bringing greater life.

To begin my year’s focus , I prayed about my friendships, and discovered a deep gratitude that rescues me from the seeping insecurities about them. When I forget to approach these relationships as God’s gifts I mire in doubts that others care for me, that I fail people too often, that people are rejecting me. These are fears founded on my sinful nature, for I do fail friends, but what God, and my lovely friends, are showing me is that they forgive me and love me.

In addition to cementing this foundation of gratitude for the friends I have, God has been showing me his friendship. I have found great delight in reading an account from the gospels as if I were there as His friend. I observe in my mind’s eye what is recorded, and His Spirit fills my imagination with details of the setting, with personalities of the characters, with words and actions that may have occurred. And I interact with Jesus, asking questions, listening, following and watching him. I am sure this imaginative imagery is not an accurate depiction of what occurred in real time 2000 years ago, however, through it Jesus is present to me as a friend!

One word FriendshipNaturally, I have to read a book or two about my “one word” and so I started with one on spiritual friendship – “Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction” by David G. Benner. It is a rich explanation and exploration of soul friendship. These are the friends who nurture your soul and care deeply about your whole self. These are the companions God has given you on your transformational journey with Christ. They are vital gifts from God! The guidance in the book has already blessed my relationships.

Then there is the guidance I am giving my daughter regarding friendships and “friending” online. She is a pre-teen and her world is dictated by peers. We recently walked her through the positives and negatives of using social media, building her foundation to connect and care for her friends. We have given her expectations and guidance to treat everyone as she wishes to be treated even as she encounters peers who aren’t held to these same expectations. We are trying to give her the tools and abilities to build her ship with her friends to sail together through these adolescent years.

Friendship Kim MulThis leads to our family’s newest adventure in friendships. This summer we did not sign up for any camps or classes, we are not taking any trips and our schedule is REALLY empty. (Hear my gulp of faith mixed with fear that God will fill all these days with good things?) Instead, I have been telling every friend and neighbor to come visit us, play with us, eat with us. Come summer break, we will be issuing invitations regularly to hang outs, picnics, trips to the library, you name it. And reiterating to everyone to drop by which is counter-cultural, at least in our neighborhood. This is a giant leap of faith for me – one in which I think we will be learning quickly how to build and maintain our family’s ship of friends!

I urge you to pray over your friendships, to see them through God’s eyes, to find resources that infuse life into your relationships and will help you train your children to model true friendship to a world addicted to “friending”.


Readers, how could you work on a friendship today?

2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

My Husband’s Legacy

I know this wonderful man. A man that believed his efforts were good enough on their own, who thought he could determine his own destiny. He had prayed a prayer inviting Christ Jesus to enter in and take control of his life, but didn’t let go. Not fully understanding how that prayer he prayed would actually change his life he stayed in his sin. So this young man grew in the confidence that his self-efforts were making him successful. And he tried to find rest in his achievements: business owner by age 17, plus a husband, homeowner, and rescue dog by age 20.

Brian Bradley (3)While this man knew all along that sin broke the heart of God, but had a hard time being affected by that. The man believed he knew what was best and that surely God would agree with him. He carried on until the day when temporal triumphs crashed in, and all he thought secure threatened to fail. At age 22 he felt the severing cut of divorce, while business struggles constricted around the life he had built. To his knees he fell as he bowed before God, desperate for Him for the first time. He placed the motives of his heart on display to the God who already knew them, and got real. He literally cried out to God, questioning His goodness in this life. The man came to the place that God had wanted him to be all along, completely at his end and unable on his own.

There are many facets at work in this man’s journey and his learning to utterly depend on Christ. It is beautiful to see the incredible and deep healing that Christ did in his life, turning him around completely. This man has now led several people to the redeeming grace of Christ, and has discipled many in the ways since his own surrender.

I know this story well, for this man has been my husband of almost 7 years. The things that God has done to change his life have been a blessing to me and our children. He is a loving, devoted husband, a fun, caring dad, and leads in our church as one of the church’s pastors.

Two years ago my husband and I sat down with his grandparents to talk about the family tree. As we peeled back layer by layer of his paternal family’s history, we learned something that still brings us to tears. After years of feeling like the only pastor type in his family. My husband discovered what he thought to be true was a misunderstanding. In the retelling of generations past it was revealed to us that there is a long line of preachers in his ancestry. A great grandfather, a great-great grandfather, and many great uncles generations back. I think we may have lost count after seven different small town pastors / preachers in the family line emerged from the pages of his descendants. That day we inherited an old Bible that was preached from and written in by his great grandfather, a man who most likely planted seeds of prayer for those who would someday be born into his family line. Stories of joy and loss were listed on the front page, and it was absolutely incredible to read about the journey of faith that had been hidden from our knowledge, but that still wove a legacy.

Prayer for childrenAs I think about the legacy we want to leave for our children and their children and down through the generations. I think of all the things I want to be known for. In actuality, it’s a little bit vain when I base the hopes on myself and what they will remember of me. However, when I look back down the line and see that people in my daughter’s ancestry, even hundreds of years back, loved Jesus and devoted their lives to serving Him, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude, and I too begin to pray for generations to come.

My husband is a living example of a man who lays down his life daily for his family, taking sacrifices upon himself for our well-being. I love that my children get to look at his life, and see Jesus reflected. I am deeply inspired that it is not just his life, generations of the faithfulness of God are intertwined with in their bloodline. It encourages me to dream about how the story of God at work in our lives will be told to those who may never know us. How curiosity may one day lead a young man or woman to look back with wonder about the works of our Mighty God.

Come what may, my prayer for my children is that they will surrender to Him who loves them most. That they will use the gifting God has given them in a way that will glorify Him as they follow fearlessly in the calling He has for them. And that they would open their Bibles in times of sorrow and joy to proclaim to the generations, “Look what God has done!”

 

“That the generation to come might know,

even the children yet to be born,

That they may arise and tell them to their children,

That they should put their confidence in God

And not forget the works of God,

But keep His commandments,” Psalm 78:6-7


Readers, Thank you for going through this series on legacy with us. What legacy would you like to leave?

britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.

Seeking Beauty

I stared at the glowing screen, eyes glazed over, darting from one item to the next. I compared products and added to the ever growing “wishlist.” Babies don’t need much, but we are foster parents and instead of 9 months of preparation, we have weeks to prepare. Car seats. Consumer reports. Carriers. Will it arrive in time? Thank God for free two day shipping.

Completely overwhelmed I ended the night gazing at the problem through tears. Wishing the pain that causes a child to need a backup plan on no one. My empathy ignited for separated families and those stuck in cycles they cannot escape. The fear of the unknown future for this tiny one, for my heart.

beauty-seekingI seek the physical necessities, but also mourn that life has not been stable and “put together”. I plan out what furniture we need to collect and find Pinterest projects to beautify spaces. I long for this child to be celebrated, welcomed, and loved if even for a short time.

But the beautiful printables didn’t calm my heart. The wish-list increased my anxiety. Grasping for control only proved how out of control I actually am.

Through tears I expressed my crazy to my husband. He pointed me back again to the only source of peace: dwelling deeply in Christ. My gaze shifted. My heart calmed.

Dwelling, Gazing, Seeking. This is what I must be about.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 NIV

Dwelling:

I sometimes forget that I don’t need to fix all the problems, mitigate all the relationships, and control the situation. I can dwell with my God in worship. Not just someday in heaven, but moment by moment; being near to the one who made me. Abiding with the one who loves me most.

Gazing:

I can gaze upon his beauty as I marvel at his character. Mercy. Forgiveness. Overwhelming love. Love that not only believes in redemption and second chances for all, but also cares for the most vulnerable with justice and compassion. Rather than focusing on what is in front of me, I must turn my eyes to the eternal.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:2-3

dwelling-gazing-seeking-this-is-what-i-must-be-aboutAs a turn my eyes from today to the one who is truly life, I can stop striving, because God’s wisdom, his Spirit, and his love are available to me. He who named the stars of the sky, who created galaxies, and has been working out redemption throughout all of human history also knows me intimately. He is at work in the entire world and yet

You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your book? Psalms 57:8

My heart is put at rest knowing that God is good. My anxieties ease as I stare into his power and greatness. I can leave him in control, for he loves me as well as those I fret over when midnight nears.

Seeking:

Seeking him out is the most beautiful pursuit. I don’t need to know the end of the story to know that God will be at work. He does not just take people who are doing well at life and shine them up a bit, but he transforms the worst situations possible into something beautiful.
It is not simply the “someday” resolution, wrapped up in a bow, that creates beauty in the midst of the messiness of life. Choosing to dwell with, gaze at, and seek the giver of life allows true beauty to bloom in chaos.


Readers, Whatever your cares the weight of them can be revealed by keeping your eyes on the the God who can carry it for you. May you seek and find rest as you search for His beauty today.

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

He Makes Things Beautiful

My husband and I are expecting our third child, a daughter, at the beginning of April. The state of my house indicates that clearly I have reached the third trimester. The cupboards are gutted and rearranged. Things that probably don’t need cleaning are cleaned. My seeking to add beauty to our final baby’s room has overflowed onto the rest of our apartment, as browsing through Pinterest and Instagram inspire dreams of new décor and transforming our space.

After giving time and attention to these things, I sometimes find a guilty monologue echoing through my thoughts. These things don’t last. What eternal value do they have? What good will come from surrounding our lives with the material glitz of this world? Is it honoring to God to be so enamored  by all the pretty things?

he-makes-things-beautifulThen as I looked out my window at the creation whose beauty cries out praise to the creator, that it can be honoring to Him! God didn’t create a purely utilitarian world. He dressed it beautifully, adorned it for our enjoyment and to remind us that He is with us. The appreciation of something beautiful truly brings a spark of hope to the downtrodden soul.

“All that is good, all that is true and all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beauty, God is truth.”~Pope Francis

How I love the stillness and purity of the outdoors after a fresh snowfall! I don’t love the cold, but I appreciate the magic of the untouched white as it gilds the bare, leafless trees. Oh, and how delighted I am to find the first cluster of tulips poking up after a hard winter. Even the Bible takes time to recognize beauty’s ability to impact living things.

Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12 (NIV)

Instagram has a virtual corner that has set itself up as a  marketplace, full of beautifully staged photos and lovely things people have taken the time to make and sell. I do love browsing through and enjoying the diversity of gifts God has given. I’m amazed by the abilities of freehand painters, and enjoy the beauty people are choosing to share. Investments in beautiful things others have made, add to my home. They remind me that created things, though never as great as the Creator, can remind us of who He is. Every time I look at them, I feel a little thrill of happiness and hope.

beautiful-thingsWe too can offer beauty. Occasionally, I find a project that’s within my scope and I get  to engage in creating my own beautiful things. I’m so thankful God didn’t just place us in a sterile  and industrial world with no color and no “scope for imagination” as Anne of Green Gables would say. From the freshly fallen snow to the first pink buds of spring, He has brought us beauty in every season. Whether I simply appreciate the natural world, or make beautiful things with my hands, I’m loving God’s generosity in allowing me to enjoy, find inspiration, and take part in beautifying a broken world as we hope for the day when beauty will be all we know.


Readers, How can you be a steward of beauty in your places? 

sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

Beauty for Ashes

By: Holly Berg

Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt:  “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding. Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more.  beauty-for-ashes

We spent the night in the emergency room but by the time the doctor finally got around to examining me we already knew the diagnosis.

“Your pregnancy has terminated,” he said.  So cold. So clinical.

He gave me a prescription for T3 and sent me home with a dismissive “It’s so early, everything will happen naturally. Come back if the pain gets unbearable.”

Unbearable.

The next day I couldn’t move. I laid in bed and cried.

And cried and cried and cried.

We had only found out about the baby the week before.  One week – but I already loved my little bean.

I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect the pain.

My husband had to carry me to the bathroom and then hold me while I sat there, shivering, shaking, trying not to be sick.

I’ve never seen him cry so much, or so hard.  It had only been one week, but he loved our baby too.

* * *

Two months later I found out that I was pregnant again.

I hated every moment of my relatively easy pregnancy with my son, but I cherished each moment of this much more difficult pregnancy.   It was a pregnancy filled with worry and fear and anxiety, but God replaced our mourning with joy.  

The Bible says “Those who sow with tears will reap songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  (Psalm 125:5-6, NIV)  And it reminds that the Lord will “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Ten months after my miscarriage, I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb 4 oz baby girl.  

Beauty from ashes.

At the time I clung to Scripture:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 (NIV))

Going through a miscarriage was horrible, it was scary and it was painful – but looking back, I can see how God revealed Himself – and His love for us – in that situation.  I can see how He worked all things – even our grief – for good.    

The tragedy we experienced strengthened my relationship with my husband. I remember the night after our trip to the hospital, lying in bed, sobbing, with a Kleenex box between us.  We were connected in love and grief.  We went through every moment of my third pregnancy together – my husband was much more attentive and much more involved than he had been the first time around!  We both learned that nothing in this life is a given – we need to depend on God for every single breath.  My husband was there for every doctor’s appointment, every ER visit, and every ultrasound – holding my hand, praying with me, calming my fears.  

ashes-and-beautyI also learned not to take the children I do have for granted.  Even on challenging days, when I’m exhausted and none of us are at our best, I see my children as blessings.  I realize my time with them may be fleeting so I try to make the most of each and every day with them. 

* * *

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain.  You can’t have one without the other.  

One of my favourite passages in Scripture says that we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but “these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Being refined hurts.  Weaknesses and impurities are stripped away, leaving us with only what is genuine and true.  But the end result is something more worthy and much more beautiful than gold.  


Readers, Sometimes our deepest sorrows shine light on the richest beauty, but it is not always easy to see through the pain. It is our prayer that today you would have eyes to see that even in the midst of trouble God’s promises still stand true.

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at Scattered Words.

Renewed Strength

I have been in a season of constant minor sickness amongst my family. Be it a common virus or my children having a bout of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, it never seems to stop. It is one thing after another during these winter months, and honestly I feel isolated which gets depressing at times. I have needed to skip out on events that I would have loved to be at, not been able to see the faces of friends I love dearly, and let my husband go to things I no longer can, so that my children and I can rest. I know I chose rightly, but alas, often find myself feeling lonely.

Losing physical strength from being sick, even with a common cold, can cause me to reflect on life in an interesting way. I want to feel better, now. I want my kids to be better, now. I refute the persistence of the waiting process, because I feel like I miss out on life. In fact, I even sometimes succumb to despair and wonder if we will always be weak and never get better. Full health and capacity never to be seen again.

Then I reflect on this amazing passage from Isaiah:

renewed-strength“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

I am reminded of where the renewal of strength truly comes from. It is not just from being at peak physical health, because that can quickly fail me. It does not come from a fun night out with my friends or husband, because the next day quickly approaches. It does not even come from a week long vacation in Hawaii even that can be totally exhausting.

True renewing strength, the kind that lasts and upholds us through to the end, can only come from God. Nothing that the world has tried to offer me as the cure to my weariness reaches beyond the moment and into the eternal places. Time with my Lord, and true devotion to Him, is what gives my soul strength to press on and take heart.

strength-renewedI run to my savior in prayer, telling Him every worry and desire that is in my heart. I long to hear from Him in those desperate moments; I long for Him at every moment. So I spend time reading His word and drawing on the timeless truths that He generously gives through the Bible. I look for Him through the colds and chaos and find He is bigger than it all.

Receiving strength from the One who knows the depth of my weakness, He who created the whole world, the Savior who cleanses my heart, only here do I find the renewal that will last. As this passage in Isaiah says, He gives power to the faint, and He increases our strength. Our bodies will grow weary, yet He can make us soar. Truths like the one found in Isaiah encourage me when I feel like giving up and  awaken my desire to turn to the God who sustains us for all of our days.


britney-squareBritney Bradley loves being a wife to her loving husband, Brian. She is mother to 3 girls (so far) Ruby, Cora, and Lily, as well as auntie to 8, and friend to many. She has always dreamed about marriage and motherhood, and is now navigating God’s will each and every day in these realms. She enjoys writing when she gets a chance, and of course, coffee.