the friday features: april 28, 2016.


The Friday Features exist to fuel you with you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

For When You Have Target and/or Boycotter Induced Anxiety: Christians Can Hold Their Bladders and Still Shop at Target by Aaron Wilson for Christianity Today

For Artists Who Are People Too. (So, All Artists.): Lifting the Veil by Karen Swallow Prior for The Mudroom

For When Beyonce Teaches Us a Thing or Two about the Experience of Black WomenMaking Lemonade by Austin Channing

For the Table Flippers: How a Texas Church Drove out the Predatory Loan Industry by James Addis for The Local Church

For When You’re Headed to the Movies: “The Jungle Book” and the Doctrine of Adoption by Russell Moore

For the Mother’s Day Observers: It’s a Mother’s Day Giveaway by Me

For When Social Media is Giving You Hives: The Nine Types of Christians You Need on Facebook by Stephen Altrogge for The Blazing Center

For the Foodies: We Are What We Eat by Erin Straza for Christ and Pop Culture

Here’s to a restful weekend!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
signature 3

it’s a mother’s day giveaway!

Mother's Day Giveaway (1)

I’m delighted to present the Joy Woven Deep
Mother’s Day Giveaway!

This giveaway is built around the idea of supporting mamas in as many ways as possible. It’s not simply that the gifts are intended for mothers; the mama love doesn’t stop there. Most of my partners for this giveaway are moms, and many of the founders of the companies represented are as well. Many of them employ moms, providing income opportunities and flexible, kid-friendly schedules. This giveaway is a 360 degree mama celebrating party, and while Mother’s Day may be a Hallmark holiday, I can’t help but believe it’s one worth celebrating.

The Packages!

Giveaway Package #1: Sign & Sparkle
Pen & Bloom
is a signs & design shop created by Cheyanne Phillips. Pen & Bloom offers wooden signs, wood slices, custom addressing and paper inscriptions, all in an artsy, unique style. The winner of package #1 will receive a $25 store credit to Pen & Bloom, to be used in the shop or on a custom order! pen and bloom collageConnect with Pen & Bloom: WebsiteFacebook | Instagram | Email

Noonday Collection is a business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world. Noonday gives us the chance to wear beautiful jewelry made with love by women the world over whose lives have been changed by the empowerment of a job. Lindsey has contributed these lovely Charmed Hoop Earrings (made in Ethiopia) to our giveaway & this May Designs/Noonday Collection collaboration monthly view planner, to our giveaway!

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 11.06.48 PM

Connect with Lindsey: Her Noonday Site | Facebook | Instagram

Giveaway Package #2: Style & Sweets
LuLaRoe
is a modern line of women’s maxi skirts, pencil skirts, a-line skirts and dresses. Their leggings feel like butter, and they are constantly releasing fun new patterns in limited quantities, so there’s a fun little rare quality to LuLaRoe purchases. Laura Brown, LuLaRoe rep, has contributed a $40 credit toward her LuLaRoe collection!

lula

Connect with Laura: Facebook

Sissy’s Sweets makes our FAVORITE yummy treats! Owned by Marissa Martinez, Sissy’s is an effort to put a little more celebration and sugar into the world, while saving for Marissa’s big dream of finishing seminary. Marissa has contributed a dozen cookies for yo mama!

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.00.28 PM

Connect with Sissy’s Sweets: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Email

Giveaway Package #3: Scripture & Spa

Freehand Truth provides you with colorful reminders that God is good. Owned by Sarabeth Harlow, Freehand Truth offers one-of-a-kind Scripture canvases. We have one of Sarabeth’s canvases hanging in our youngest son’s room and I love it for so many reasons – the verse itself, Sarabeth’s handwriting, and knowing the prayers that she pours in to each canvas. Sarabeth has donated a $20 shop credit to our giveaway!

Freehand

Connect with Freehand Truth: Website | Facebook | Instagram

Raindrop Essentials is the doTERRA Essential Oils business of Kailey Vick. Kailey is committed to living life to the full one drop at a time with doTERRA essential oils. Raindrop Essentials has contributed a spa trio to our giveaway – a hand lotion, scented bath bar and lip balm.

doterra

Connect with Raindrop Essentials: Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Immeasurable Shop is the dream of Sally Shake. This shop is a result of her passions and ideas. She believes that creativity is, at its heart, immeasurable. Immeasurable Shop carries headbands, pillows, zip bags, baby quilts and more. Sally has contributed a $20 shop credit to our giveaway, perfect to use toward a headband for a day at the spa (or a day of regular mom life!).

IMG_4965 (1)

Connect with Immeasurable Shop: Website | Instagram

EACH PACKAGE will also include a copy of The Mother Letters by Seth & Amber Haines and Selections from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

BooksPHEW! Can you believe it? You’ve made it this far, so it’s time to enter the giveaway. There are A LOT of chances to win one of these three packages for your mama, yourself if you’re a mama (or if you’re not. I’m not judging.), a mama you love, whomever!

You’ll notice that the entries for Facebook pages simply request that you visit the page. While this is the only task required to earn that entry, we would be SO grateful for your “like.” For small businesses, creatives, and writers, that social media support is incredibly meaningful and helps us along on our journeys.

The giveaway will end at 11:59pm on Sunday, 5/1. Winners will be announced first thing Monday morning.

Package #1: Sign & Sparkle | Earrings, Planner, Sign, Books
Package #2: Style & Sweets | LuLaRoe, Cookies, Books
Package #3: Scripture & Spa | Canvas, Soap/Lip Balm/Lotion, Books

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Fine Print
This giveaway is in no way affiliated with the Haines or Ann Voskamp. I simply love their work and am excited to share it with you!
Prizes may not be exactly as pictured.

introducing the friday features!


I’ve had the (completely unoriginal) idea for a weekly round-up post mulling around in my head for a while, and this week, I decided to make it happen.

Welcome to the Friday Features! 

From now on, I’ll post 5-10 reads from around the web that are eye-catching, affection-stirring and/or thought-provoking for your Friday. My hope is that these chosen pieces will be an encouragement and help to you in one or many facets of your life. I’ll list each one with an emboldened header that says something like “for the parents” or “for when you feel blue” so that you can quickly scan through the post and figure out what’s for you.

This will also be where I link to posts or articles I’ve written for other outlets in the last week. You can also always find links to content I’ve contributed to other sites on the elsewhere page (which can be found under “about” in the menu bar.)

I hope the Friday Features give you sparks of joy and propel you toward the things that matter as you head into your weekend. If you’d like to submit an article to be included in the features, you can send me the link here.

And now, the first edition of the Friday Features!

For When You Have FOMOWhen You Have FOMO, Even Though You Were There by Bronwyn Lea

For the Justice SeekersMississippi Jails Are Losing Inmates, And Local Officials Are ‘Devastated’ By The Loss Of Revenue by Ryan Grim for The Huffington Post

For When You’re Comparing Yourself to OthersSisters in Calling by Sharon Hodde Miller + Comparison, Capacity and Calling by Me for Gospel Taboo

For the WanderersSinking Sand by Steven Dilla

For When Times are Changing3 Things to Do When You are Struggling with Change by Me for iBelieve

For the Fearful of FinancesOn Money, Anxiety and Marriage by Nicole Chung for The Toast

For When You Need a LaughYouth Pastor Forgets What His Hebrew Tattoo Means by The Babylon Bee

For the Tired MamasHow I Found Creativity after Being the DIY Queen by Cara Meredith for Mudroom

For When You are Hungry for the Deep Things of GodI Believe in the Existence of the Holy Spirit by IF:Equip

For the Literature LoversJane Eyre and Our Age of Authenticity by Karen Swallow Prior for The Gospel Coalition

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of the Friday Features! Here’s to a restful weekend.

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
signature 3

to have everything and possess nothing.

001_TKD_5733I am so honored to share this story written by Arlina Pletcher. Arlina is married to my cousin, Chris, and our families have the joy of living in the same town. Arlina is mom to Caleb, and twins Hudson and Levi, whose story of joining the world was filled with frightening, faith-requiring moments. Today is the one-year anniversary of a critical in-utero surgery that the Lord used to sustain Hudson and Levi before their entrance into the world. It’s a joy to celebrate these sweet boys, their big brother and their steadfast parents today! 

“To have everything but possess nothing.” These words written by A.W. Tozer are ones I have mulled over in every season of my life. They have rocked me to the core. They have echoed in my heart and soul time and time again. This statement both inspired me and terrified me.  What does it mean, really?

To have everything, but possess nothing.

Every time I have read these words, the enemy has been swift to speak fear to the places where the Lord wanted to build faith.  Under the weight of these words, faith always felt like such a fight. Every time these words began to take root in my heart, the enemy whispered the same lie time and time again. “If you really let go, He is going to take away everyone you love” and to be quite honest, the lie worked many times. It made me hold on a little tighter. It made me close off my heart a little longer. The lie cut deep to my core and it was a battle to get out from under it every single time.

Season after season, from miscarriage, to trying to get pregnant with our first born son, to the first year of parenting, to finding out we were expecting identical twins, the Lord has been faithful to bring me back to this sentence every single time. Each time, it got a little easier to swallow what he was asking me for, to really let go, and to give it all. Where the enemy spoke fear, the Lord was faithful to meet me and build faith. Little did I know, that he was preparing my heart to relinquish my rights, to surrender all in the deepest of places. I am so thankful for the depths that He took me to leading up to my pregnancy with our boys. And it is an honor to get to share it with you today.

One year ago today was a day that changed me forever. Just days before, we were told that our identical twin boys appeared to be developing a disease called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and on April 21, 2015, it was confirmed and appeared to be progressing quickly. Without intervention, the chance of survival was low at just barely 24 weeks. With intervention, the chance of survival for both of my boys was still lower then I ever wanted to hear. Yet there we were, being faced with an impossible decision.

A few short hours later, I was wheeled into an emergency procedure to try and help save my pregnancy, and ultimately, save the lives of two of my children.

No mother ever wants to hear “the chances of both boys surviving…vs. the chances of one of them surviving.” No mother ever wants to be given any percentage of survival rate less than100%, let alone 60% chance that both of her sons would survive.

To have everything, but possess nothing.

How does one have everything but posses nothing?  I think the answer comes when all is stripped away, and all you have left is Jesus Christ and his promises. You see, his promises are true, and his steadfast love endures forever. So how can that be true in the face of what seems impossible? How can it be so easy and so hard at the same time?  To trust him, to say yes, even when it means to let go of all that you hold so dear?  I think it is there, in that place, where he gives you eyes to see, that the safest place for your heart, for your everything, is to let it all go and trust that he is who he says he is, and if that is true, then you can have it all, no matter what the outcome.

There’s nothing quite like hearing that two of your children may not survive to make you realize how small you are. For a brief moment, time stands still and all goes quiet. And in an instant you are faced with a choice: to trust in the Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord of all, and to choose to be confident in who he is, no matter what may come, or to let fear reign, and forget everything you’ve ever known to be true about this God you serve.  And in a moment, you must choose. To have everything, but possess nothing, or to hold on tightly and lose it all.

In the midst of the unknown, His nearness was my good. His presence, my peace. So many forms to sign. So many questions to answer. So many doctors to meet. So many unknown outcomes. What was it going to be like when I woke up? Would my children be alive? Would they still be growing in my belly or would they be fighting for their lives outside of my womb. All I knew for sure in those moments was the goodness of God. He was so near. So very near. And all I could do was take the next step and say yes to him no matter what.

April20155846

I went in for surgery at 8pm on April 21, 2015 for what was supposed to be a 30-minute procedure. The procedure was called a Laser Ablation. The goal: To laser the blood vessels that were transfusing blood between the boys on the placenta that they were sharing. Yes. They went in through my belly with a laser and cut through the placenta that was keeping two of my children alive. All in hopes of saving their lives while risking them all at the same time. Everything went smoothly until they came to the lastvessel. It was the biggest one, and as they severed it, it began to bleed. In a matter of seconds, the neonatal team was called in preparation to deliver my boys. Our surgeon stood there, watching the bleed and waiting… would it clot? Or would they begin an emergency c-section. 10 seconds… 15 seconds… 20 seconds… 25 seconds… then, by the mighty hand of God, the bleeding clotted and subsided, and the delivery team was instructed to stand down. And in that moment, all was well again.

2 hours later I was in recovery, with Hudson’s heart rate dropping off the chart with every contraction. The air was thick, the contractions regular, and the outcome unknown.

Before the procedure there were three major milestones they gave us. The first was all three of us making it out of the surgery alive. The second was both boys adjusting to life in the womb after the laser ablation and surviving the first 48 hrs. Once we made it past there, our final milestone was to get to 28 weeks.

To have everything, but possess nothing.

The next 11 weeks were the most challenging, most surrendered, most exhausting and emotional weeks of my life. There’s just nothing quite like the day to day of wondering whether or not your children were going to survive for 11 weeks.

Be still.

Rest in his Goodness.

Surrender.

These were on repeat in my head and my heart. Where else could I go? What else could be said? They were never mine to possess, they were always mine to surrender. What else could I do?

My God is faithful.

Often times, the Lord takes us to that place, where surrender is the only thing that makes sense. At first it feels so unsafe, but his kindness reveals that it’s where he created us to rest. In the shadow of his wings was the only place for my weary heart. He was faithful. He is faithful.

The first procedure was successful in accomplishing its goal and both boys adjusted well and survived the first 48 hrs. Their amnioticfluid levels began to level out (the drastic difference in their fluid levels was the initial sign of the disease in the first place), and the doctors reported that it appeared to be reversing TTTS. We were so incredibly thankful, relieved, and envisioned for carrying these boys to 28 weeks and beyond! And then 2 weeks later, we discovered that one of the severed vessels had reopened and the TTTS had returned and was yet again progressing quickly with Hudson’s sac filling rapidly. Levi was wrapped in his sac with barely any fluid while Hudson’s was increasing daily. And in a moment, all became still yet again. I thought I had let them go already. My weary heart longed for reprieve, for rest. But here we were yet again. At the alter with our boys. Where else could we turn? “I lift my eyes tothe hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.”

Be Still.

Rest in his Goodness.

Surrender.

Over the following two weeks, we underwent two more procedures. They were called amnio-reductions and were the least invasive way of trying to prolong the pregnancy as long as possible. The boys were 26 weeks at the time. They did the first amnio-reduction on a Tuesday and removed 1.5 liters of fluid from Hudson’s sac. Less then a week later, they had to do another amnio-reduction where they removed close to 2 liters of fluid from his sac yet again. For those of you wondering, yes, that is a lot of fluid, and yes, it was unbelievably uncomfortable.

To have everything, but possess nothing.

What is true about God cannot be determined by how our circumstances feel.  How can God be good when it doesn’t feel good? How can his joy be my strength when I feel so weary, so weak?

There seemed to be so many questions in my heart whose answers are only to be found in the storehouses of heaven. But in the midst of the unknown, what holds true about my God is this: he remains the same always and He is good, even when it feels so wrong.

But how can he be my refuge when it feels so unsafe? How can he be trusted with the things that are most precious to me? And the still, soft voice whispers again over me…

“To have everything, but possess nothing.”

How can he be a trustworthy refuge for the treasures and dreams of my heart when everything seems to keep going awry? Frankly, because he has a perspective of my circumstances that I do not.  He sees through the lens of the eternity when I see through the lens of my circumstances. His perspective is good. His perspective is trustworthy. His perspective is a safe place for me to find my rest. He is my refuge, for eternity.

On May 18th, about a month after this all began, my heart was weary. The disease had returned and Hudson’s fluid levels continued to rapidly increase. We had since relocated to Houston for the remainder of the pregnancy because I was no longer able to travel back and forth safely. It was a day that the fear was reigning heavier and louder then faith. And a precious friend spoke one simple sentence over me that changed everything. “It is never too late for a miracle” she said. To give you an idea of where my heart was at the time, that statement made me furious. It felt too late for a miracle. I didn’t even want to ask for another one. Because hadn’t I already asked for so many and not seen them answered? Hadn’t I begged the Lord to reverse the disease without any intervention? Hadn’t I asked and believed for the fluid levels to remain stable and for the disease to not return? And yet here we were. Uprooted from our home, so many unknowns ahead, my children’s lives stillhanging in the balance every single day. Oh my weary heart. So tattered and torn. So quickly forgetting the faithfulness of God over my children’s lives thus far. Sustaining them through the original procedure. Sustaining them daily. He was their provider. He held their lives in his hands.

The Lord was so gracious to me in my weakness. He gave me fresh faith to trump the lies and prompted my heart to boldly ask for 7 miracles moving forward from that day.

– For Hudson’s fluid to level and stabilize (Levi’s fluid was around 2cm, Hudson’s was around 13cm before the first reduction)

– For both hearts to be protected and healthy (One of the side effects of the TTTS is causing heart sickness in different ways because of the blood flow complications)

– For Levi’s growth to continue perfectly alongside of his brother (There was concern for Levi’s growth because he was the “donor baby” to Hudson and was therefore not getting all the nutrients he needed from the placenta)

– For my womb to be a safe place for 6 more weeks (from 28 weeks-34 weeks)

– For both boys to be able to breathe and eat on their own when they are born

– For both boys to weigh at least 5lbs at delivery! (At the time I wrote this out, they were both around 2lbs each.)

– For both boys to be completely healthy and fully developed

Following the second amnio-reduction, the doctors told us that we would probably need to continue doing these procedures until the boys were born because it was the only way to try and prevent preterm labor, but at the same time, it was risking preterm labor every time they punctured Hudson’s sac to drain it.

Then, something amazing happened, something miraculous, really. We went in for our follow up on May 22nd, after the second-amnio reduction to find that both of the boys’ fluid levels were stabilized and exactly the same at 8cm! This was a miraculous answer to prayer! One of my prayers for our boys when they were first diagnosed was that they would learn how share what they had been created to share and that they would learn to live in unity with one another. With their fluid levels stabilizing, this is exactly what happened! The doctors shared that the only explanation as to how this could happen at this point was that the reopened vessel that was originally flowing in a single direction (from Levi to Hudson) was now flowing in BOTH directions and no longer compromising the amount of nutrients between our boys! God was faithful before, he was faithful then, and he is faithful now. It is never too late for a miracle.

We were overjoyed by this miracle, humbled really, that God saw fit to heal our boys, to sustain them after so much already, to make a way for them to thrive and grow in unity and for my womb to continue to be a safe place for them to grow. And we thought, surely, we are in the home stretch now.

A week later, we were in another ultrasound (we had two a week), and Hudson’s heart was showing some side effects of the disease. As the recipient in the transfusion, he received an over-abundance of blood flow, which is what caused him to over produce fluid. This caused his heart to work harder and faster to process everything that was coming his direction. And at 29 weeks, he was showing some very alarming signs that his heart was getting sick. “It’s just another opportunity for another miracle,” I said to myself. Speaking faith over the fear as quickly as I could. The thickness they saw led them to order an echocardiogram of the boys’ hearts. This exam is basically a really fancy, extensive ultrasound of their hearts. They check blood flow, valve function, everything, in great detail and takes about two hours to examine both hearts.

What started as a concern for the thickness that was forming in Hudson’s heart, quickly turned into something more serious when his PDA valve was starting to close. The PDA valve is a valve that closes on its own after birth, but if it closes while that baby is still growing in the womb, it can lead to death. It was another opportunity for a miracle. The cardiologist sent us home that Friday and said that we needed to prepare to deliver the boys on Monday if his valve did not reopen. We were 30 weeks along at this point. I wanted so badly to believe it was, in fact, another opportunity for another miracle, but my weary heart was being bombarded with heavy questions yet again.

To have everything, but possess nothing.

What if I saw every trial as something the Lord wanted to give me, instead of blaming him for taking something away? Why is blame so easily and readily my first response?  Why is it so easy to forget his faithfulness and so easy to remember the places that feel painful? I have found the answers to these questions to be quite simple really; we want to be God of our own lives. Because we are selfish and because we think we know best.  But we do not.  God reveals deep truths of his kingdom through suffering.  So why are we so easily offended?

It was so clear in that moment that there was a choice set before us yet again: to walk in faith, to choose to praise the name of the Lord and proclaim his as healer in the midst of the disappointment and fear, or to be offended with God for not making a different way for our son, for our family.

In the midst of this whole journey, the Lord was ministering to my heart so deeply. He was showing me that surrendering my whole heart was the safest place for me to rest. That there is a joy found in the offering of praise and thanksgiving before we ever see the breakthrough. That my God is still Healer, even if he doesn’t heal my son. That I can praise him confidently for who he is and give him praise before I see the breakthrough, when nothing makes sense. We can make a choice, in moments like this, to refuse to be intimidated by the schemes of the enemy and choose to worship God instead. And so worship we did. At 30 weeks. Proclaiming God as healer and sustainer and provider. Before we saw any healing in Hudson’s heart, lifting up his name. In my journal that day I wrote in faith “IT’S OPENING.”

Because my God is faithful, and it’s never too late for a miracle.

The outcome of my circumstances has never and will never determine the level of goodness or faithfulness of God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His goodness remains. His faithfulness stretches to the skies, despite what may come my way. I get to praise him for who he is even in the midst of the uncertainty of the outcome. Because he is always true, always good, and always faithful.

On June 1st we had a follow up echo to examine their hearts. This exam was going to determine whether or not our boys would be delivered via emergency c-section at 30 weeks, or if they would be able to continue growing in my womb. After a long exam, our cardiologist came in after reviewing all of the data to tell us that Hudson’s PDA had, in fact, OPENED!!! Another miraculous answer to prayer! She was shocked. She had no words, other then “I was expecting to have to send you to Labor and Delivery today.” But instead, she sent us home until our next ultra sound to continue allowing my boys to grow in the womb. For the remainder of the pregnancy they monitored the boy’s hearts with a weekly echo. His PDA remained opened, but his heart was still sick. Due to the effects of the disease, the walls of his heart were getting thicker. They monitored it closely, and it was up and down from week to week – should we deliver now or should we allow them to continue growing in thewomb? The thickness was something that could potentially lead to heart surgery if it got worse, or could simply be something that eventually went away on its own after birth. Hudson’s heart was so thick at one point that our doctors could quickly and easily differentiate between the boys with just a quick look on the ultrasound at the appearance of their hearts.

On June 19th, we invited our faithful friends who had been praying alongside of us throughout the whole journey, to pray another bold prayer with us for our boys. At 32 weeks, we were bold, we were specific with what we were asking God to do, which was heal Hudson’s heart thickness completely before birth (something we were told does not happen – it usually can take several months to a year for it to go away on its own).

“Father, we ask for you to completely heal the thickening in Hudson’s heart so that the boys’ hearts look the same and the doctors cannot tell a difference between them. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

Four days later, one of our fetal surgeons, the one who specializes in heart health, who had been following our case from the very first surgery, was looking at the ultra sound and said out loud, “I’m having a hard time determining who is Hudson and who is Levi.” He couldn’t tell a difference between their hearts! We jokingly showed him where we had written that prayer in our journals and explained that God was to blame for the difficulty he was having 🙂

God is alive and He is on his throne. He is performing miracles in our midst today. To him be the glory forever and ever.

I don’t know where this post finds you today. I know, in the deep places of my heart and soul, that there are many of you who have prayed big, bold, powerful prayers, and not seen answers. I have prayed many of those prayers this year and in years past. I have prayed for three different people in the last two months to be healed and live, and not one of them is alive today. I do not know why some prayers are answered and some are not.But I know that God is faithful. I know that it delights his heart when we choose to walk in faith and when we ask him for big and bold things in His name. I know that he is good, even when our circumstances feel so far from good. I know that surrender is the safest place of rest for our weary hearts.

To have everything, but possess nothing.

So often we hold tightly to what we love most. We don’t want to let go because the enemy tells us that if we do, we will lose them. And sometimes we do lose them on this side of heaven, but either way, we must let them go. Because when we let go of the grip and surrender our hearts completely to the Lord, the kingdom is unstoppable in and through us. May we be a people who surrender all and believe that he is who he says he is. He is good. He is trustworthy. He is our refuge. Our strength. In his hands is the safest place for us to relinquish anything and everything.

April20155862

IMG_1104

The boys miraculously remained in my belly until 34 weeks. At birth, they were both over 5lbs and completely healthy. We saw every single one of the miracles we asked for come to pass and more. Hudson and Levi have been the sweetest gifts to our family, and I am forever grateful for the honor and privilege of getting to be their mother on this side of heaven. It is still a daily choice, and lets be honest, often a struggle, to hold my hands open to the Lord with their lives. But they have been and always will be, not mine to keep, but mine to surrender. My hope and prayer for you today, is that the Lord would touch the deep places of your heart that need rest through surrender. Peace, be still, oh weary hearts. You are seen. You are known. You are beloved. And the safest place for you to rest is in the shadow of his wings.

ARPJULY054ARPJULY032ARPJULY181PletcherTwinsNB20CR6A9417 fb
CR6A9796 fb 039_TKD_5928

when there is wonder and worry.

Friday morning started abruptly, Jared calling to me from Gabriel’s room.

“Babe, I think I need you to come in here,” the slightest hint of panic, definite uncertainty in his voice.

I bolted in to see him holding Gabriel, a pale face, heaving. Something red was smeared all over his crib sheet. Was that blood? Oh, my God. Is that BLOOD? Gabe was lethargic, didn’t look like himself. I called my mom, threw on a pair of boots, and he and I bolted to the Emergency Room.

We walked in the door and I stammered through the complicated explanation with a patient, nodding along nurse. “We think there may have been blood in his crib and he’s heaving and there’s mucus everywhere and he has a neuro-genetic condition it’s like CMT but it’s not CMT but his pulmonary system could someday be affected we just don’t know and so we have to be so careful.” The nurse was exactly how you hope a nurse will be – gentle, swift, understanding, listening, keeping things moving right along. She made me feel not crazy. This is not the point of an ER visit, but it matters. When your inner voices are battling, one telling you that you are paranoid, ridiculous for even coming here, the other telling you that your sons lungs could be failing, having someone agree with you provides an inner ceasefire, if only for a moment.

We saw a doctor, had chest x-rays conducted, discussed Gabriel’s condition overall and his condition that morning and were they related? The conclusion was no, thank you Lord. The doctor was certain that what we saw in Gabriel’s crib was not blood, but that he had vomited something up in the night. I was unsure about his conclusion but it was ultimately confirmed about an hour later when we were back home and the vomiting episodes began (or, continued, I suppose).

It was just a bug. Just a nasty little stomach virus that’s “going around,” as they say, keeping folks down for a few days then leaving, letting us all get on with our lives and Clorox our bathrooms. It’s just that there was the chance that it may not have been, that it could have been so much more. It’s just that these moments, these moments where we don’t know, where that could be a normal childhood temporary illness or it could be a sign of things occurring, things to come, that will impact us forever, it’s just that these moments put our emotions through the wringer, call for so much resolve, require so much decompression.

We really are okay. We are so thankful that it was just a little bug, already a memory. We are so grateful for doctors who were understanding, who did not make me feel paranoid, who listened to my concerns and addressed them. But we, or at least I, am still in a daily battle with thoughts to take captive and what it is to be vigilant enough but not paralyzed by fear and how to receive the “normal” ruckus of life with children yet maintain the possibility that what we are facing in any given moment may be abnormal.

I feel this every time Owen complains of leg pain. “My leg hurts, again!” he will tell me. Growing pains, I’m sure, I think. Or is it? Or are the mutations having their way? Is his body trying to tell us something beyond the fact that he is three-and-a-half, sprouting up like a weed, and runs every chance he gets? So far, it seems that’s the full story. But every day, every time he wakes up in the night with calves aching, I wonder, I fight the wonder, I ask the Lord to hold it for me, because I do not know what to do with it on my own.

We all face uncertainty in so many areas of life. It’s an odd place our family is in, this awareness of how many unknowns we have. Sometimes I would prefer the ignorance. But there is a little part of me, brighter some days, dimmer others, which knows that all of this uncertainty, all of this “what is it?!” of which we are so painfully aware, draws us nearer to the One Who Knows all things, holds all things, the One Who, in Him, all things hold together. I don’t like how much faith all of this requires, most days. I really don’t. But I find that He is here, that the faith springs forth from Him, that even my ability to believe is not contained within my limited strength. So I will keep handing Him the wonder, keep offering up the worry. And He will keep meeting me here.

a few quick thoughts + excitement for tomorrow.

When I first started considering the possibility of crafting a newsletter, a somewhat nebulous fear orbited around me. I wondered if I would be able to produce enough material to blog regularly, work on book projects, pitch articles elsewhere on the internet, be engaged on social media and give the newsletter the attention it deserved. I don’t want to be tossing words out into the wind, filling your ears (eyes?) with more and more and more stuff. Heaven knows that each of us is inundated with “content” day in and day out, and sometimes, it’s just too much.

I have many thoughts on that problem of our era, and perhaps I’ll explore them more in future pieces, but for now, what I want you to know is this. I’ve found that life gives birth to life. As I write words which I am confident came from the Lord and share them with you, He seems to give me more to share, and insight into the best places in which to share them. Some ideas are book ideas, some are for the blog. Some questions fit better in a devotional than a newsletter. Some links are better shared on social media than anywhere else.

This discerning, life-giving spirit is the one in which I’m learning to dwell, and I’m so thankful for how I can see the Lord guiding me in it as I craft April’s newsletter to release tomorrow. I want you to know that it’s written from a place of authenticity, joy, and reality, and that it was written with you in mind, your heart and mind and needs and desires. I’m so excited to see what you think about it.

Make sure you receive Carefully Curated, the Joy Woven Deep newsletter, by signing up here. I can’t wait to give it to you!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
signature 3

when energy is a commodity, which means it runs out.

I’m often asked how I do certain things that I do.

“How do you read so much?”
“How are you involved in so many things?”
“How do you write all of this?”

I usually laugh a little, give an ambiguous answer. But every time I am asked, a new little tally mark goes in the mental column titled “things I need to consider and address.”

This week has been relentless. In the dark hours of Sunday morning, my grandfather’s precious wife, Jackie, passed away. Charming and beautiful, so devoted to my grandfather and to treating our family as her own, she slipped into eternity. We will celebrate her life tomorrow, at their beautiful Episcopal Church in the city, remembering her warmth, missing the way she smiled, the way a hair was never out of place nor an outfit incomplete yet she was just as up for a road trip as a 20-year-old well into the later seasons of her life.

Gabriel was up at 3 AM inexplicably last night. Screaming “mommy!” over and over and over again, almost inconsolable. He laid across me in our bed like a tiny newborn, though his legs now spill far past my side, little braced feet kicking Jared’s arms. For hours, just when I thought Gabriel was asleep, he would suddenly begin to cry, shrieking “mommy!” again. Every time, I would remind him that I was here and that he could lay down, and the cycle would start over again, until we finally both fell into early-morning sleep, bodies bent at uncomfortable angles, but minds thankful to slip into dreaming.

Jared had evening work events Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a crack of dawn meeting Wednesday morning. This is a bit more intense than his normal workweek, and I’m feeling it. We are used to him having long, irregular hours, but the lack of rhythm of these unusual weeks grates on me sometimes. I think it’s important for me to admit that on occasion, to say that I would not trade our life in full-time ministry for anything, but that sometimes it’s exhausting through and through. I hope it speaks of our love for the people of God when I tell you that some nights we are so tired by the time Jared gets home that we hardly speak. We watch a short TV show, trying to wind down, trying to have a bit of a common experience. Then we turn off the lights, slip into bed and fall asleep holding hands, asking our intertwined fingers to communicate solidarity, to affirm the exhaustion in the short-term but commitment to the long term that we are both feeling but do not have the energy to express.

Yesterday, I had a good bit of work that I needed to accomplish, and the kids of course needed me as well. My in-laws bought them an inflatable bounce house for Christmas, so we set it up in the backyard, they bounced and slid while I pecked out emails on my laptop, glancing up to applaud their antics as I sat in a lawn chair on our messy back porch.

Energy is a commodity, which means it runs out. It means we can only contain so much, that there’s a constant going out, and without a constant coming in, we will run dry. I’ve done it before, I’ve done it too many times, going and going and going until I crash. I am just recently learning how to take breaks, how to truly rest before my body forces me to do so.

Energy is a commodity, which means it runs out. This is why, among other things, books are so important to me. This week, I have stacked up my library queue with a dozen requests. I have listened to books on audio while I put loads of laundry in the dryer and dishes in the dishwasher and dinner on the stove. I have tried to teach myself how to be replenished even in the days with little respite, how to intertwine work and refreshment. I am a devoted believer in the essentialism of times of being hard at work and other times of being hard to play, but this week has not allowed for much of that. This week has asked me to press in, to recognize that energy is seeping from me in ways I don’t even know and that I need to find ways to almost trick it back into me or I will find myself what on the floor, unable to love well, unable to serve well, unable to sit alongside my grandfather and family as we ask God to help us grieve well.

Energy is a commodity, which means it runs out. I am drained by things I don’t always feel comfortable admitting. I am drained by my kids touching me all the time. I am drained by planning – meals, calendars, therapies, appointments. I am drained by clutter. I am replenished by learning, by reading, by thinking. There is a way in which I am replenish by hard, measurable work. So I ask God to help me find it, to help me be creative in funneling energy back into my body and soul, even as it slips from me.

Energy is a commodity, which means it runs out. But the good Giver of it is not a commodity. He does not run out. And He prompts me forward in studying who he is, who I am, how He has designed me to receive from Him, receive from his world.

Owen is at school today, Gabriel and I are in the backyard. He is rolling around on the bounce house while I, true confessions, speak this post into my phone by voice text. This is a perfect example. I have to be two things at once right now. I have to be the mom who is here, the one standing in the yard, the one tossing the ball back to him that he keeps rolling down the slide. I also have to be the woman who is self-aware enough to know that writing this post will help me to love these little people better, will help me to walk into a weekend and hold space for pain and mourning in the hearts of those I love.

I’m figuring this out, slowly (certainly), surely (I pray). And I would love to hear how you find ways to replenish. What speaks life back into your soul, refills your tank? I’m praying you find time for it today.

the annunciation of the lord.

On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Annunciation of the Lord
(also called “Feast of the Annunciation” or “Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary”)

What’s this holy day all about?
Annunciation (definition: announcing) of the Lord marks the day when the angel Gabriel came to visit Mary, declaring to her that she would be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. The Annunciation is typically observed on March 25th (exactly 9 months before Christmas), but is never celebrated during Holy Week, so this year it is observed on April 4th. It is recorded in Luke 1:26-38. The Annunciation occurs during the season of Eastertide.

What’s the history of this observance?
“The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary dates back to at least the 6th century, and is mentioned between AD 530 and 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus. In the West, the first authentic reference is in the Gelasian Sacramentary in the 7th century. The tenth Synod of Toledo (AD 656), and Trullan Synod (AD 692) speak of the Annunciation feast as universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. In the Acts of the latter council, the feast is exempted from the Lenten fast.” (citation)

What’s it to me?
The Annunciation represents a great deal to the Christian, both in the facts of what actually happened on that miraculous day, and how the story informs our lives even still. Through Gabriel, God declared that, in fulfillment of prophecy, His Son would enter the world, establishing “a kingdom that will never end.” We are reminded of the radical, saving, loving, unstoppable plan of God to redeem humanity back to Himself. Mary’s humility and submission in her response speaks volumes about her deep faith, her strength and her certainty of God’s goodness. She asks how she will become pregnant, and what she is told sounds impossible, yet she believes, though her subsequent pregnancy will likely cause scorn and marginalization by her fiance, Joseph, family and community. She trusts that that which the messenger of God has declared not only will come to pass, but is the best thing that could happen, and she willingly accepts his mission, beckoning us to do the same.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
The Annunciation of the Lord commemorates the day when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her she would become pregnant, give birth, have a Son and name Him Jesus, whose kingdom would have no end.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts and pray the Collect for the Annunciation.

Pray the Collect for the Annunciation: Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The unborn Jesus is not often discussed in Evangelicalism. This article presents some interesting reasons why, and observes how the unborn Jesus influences (or should influence) the pro-life position. Celebrate life by supporting a local pregnancy outreach center financially or by asking how you can volunteer.

Consider what it is to be filled with the Spirit as Mary was filled with Jesus. Ponder the Fruit of the Spirit, asking God to make them manifest in your life by the Spirit who lives in you.

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of the Easter season through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the remainder of the season of Easter/Eastertide.

Add touches of white to your home through decor, flowers or candles.

For kids: In Sweden, this holiday is celebrated with WAFFLES! How fun is that? Make waffles (for any meal) and talk to your kids about how Mary said yes to God even in fear, even before she had all the answers. Celebrate her bravery! Find all kinds of coloring sheets and activities here.


I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on the Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing The Annunciation?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
signature 3