Walk Forward: sleep-deprived confessions and delighting in Jesus

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on…”

Philippians 3:13-14


I have always loved sleep. My husband’s relationship with sleep is a struggle. He is a light sleeper and often struggles to fall asleep at night. But not me. Sleep and I have a good relationship. I sleep deeply – often within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow. Sleep is my superpower…unless I have a new baby. 

I have found very few things as stressful as the sleep deprival I went through after the birth of both our boys. There are few things I have begged for with more passion than that the Lord would help my baby to sleep. I have been super invested in sleep training, in sleep diapers, in rice cereal, in nap schedules. And when I have done everything in my power and the baby wakes up anyway because he has an ear infection or he’s teething or he has some other mystery reason I’ll never get to the bottom of, it. is. maddening. This month, I felt the Lord gently prodding me to dig into why I was SO determined to get the good night’s sleep that seemed ever out of reach. Beneath the determination, there was fear. And so the real question surfaced: Why does being really tired scare me so badly?

Well…it’s because I hate failure. I am wired to plan, to prepare, and to arrange my life with intention. It soothes me to have anticipated a need and adjusted for it ahead of time; to have a contingency plan mapped out and everybody on the same page for what’s next. Good sleep, I realized, is one of the ways I set myself up to avoid failure. When I’m rested, I can take a lot in stride. When I’m exhausted, my anger is so much harder to control. I get irritable, forgetful, and emotional. My threshold for overwhelm drops significantly, and I tend to react, especially in my closest relationships: with Cody and our kids. Poor sleep is a great humbler; it exposes my need for mercy. 

So good sleep had become, to me, the holy grail that would make it possible to get through my day without damaging my relationships, without failure, without regret. For as hard as I tried, as much as I begged the Lord to help me walk with the Spirit, I had not found a way to just nail it after a night of poor sleep. A screw-up was inevitable. And so I grew more desperate. If only the baby would sleep! 

But any time I hear myself say the words “If only…,” I know discontentment is at work in my heart. And whatever I’m wishing I had isn’t actually the solution.

“…be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”


Hebrews 13:5-6

Be satisfied with what I have. Right now. Even with the amount of sleep I’ve been given. Even when it doesn’t feel like enough. So instead of trying SO hard to get sleep so that I won’t fail and lose my temper when I’m tired and irritable, I started praying that I would grow in how I recover from failure. 

My main goal cannot be to perfectly set myself up so that I never make a mistake. That is just not real life. But maturity gets good at moving forward from mistakes, and that is a good goal. As I prayed for this growth with one of my friends, she prayed for me, and she thanked God for his mercy when we fail. 

It occurred to me that we recover well by shifting our focus from our failure to His great mercy. From our badness to His goodness. From our disappointment to excitement about the total covering we’ve been given in His perfect forgiveness. The blood of Christ is a completed shelter, and it has no leaks. 

“…But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

…For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”


Hebrews 9:26, 10:14, 22

We can confess our sin and at the same time lead our kids and our own hearts to delight in Him because He has made us free. And this, more than a mom who never shows frustration, may be just what their little hearts need, because I’m not the only one who needs to learn how to recover after losing my temper.

Lord, 

I am so thankful that you forgive me each and every time that I fail. Thank you for setting your love on me and for giving your life to pay, completely, for my sin. Teach me the art of acknowledging my disobedience while I rejoice in your perfect obedience. Let the weight of my focus not be these brief and passing faceplants on my part, but your goodness, your mercy for me, your unfailing love and preference for me, the perfection of your plan that anchors me securely to the end of the race, to your lasting victory, your once-for-all sacrifice, to the day when I have overcome it all and I am completely like you. 

May my sin ever point me to my Savior so that I do not wither in discouragement, but I overflow with

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Jesus!

You did what I could not. You died in my place. You’ve anchored me to your new life. You’ve already forgiven me completely. Beautiful, understanding Savior. Thank you for looking on me with love and giving me your strength and your mercy to walk forward.”

Not My Own: lifting my eyes to his worthiness, work, and power

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.

“People of Israel,” he said, “What is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.”

Acts 3:12-13

I’m going through a Bible study about parenting in the power of the Holy Spirit right now because I’m 8 weeks away from my second son entering the picture, and what I feel is: “Oh my word, there’s going to be two!!! Lord, please help me learn how to do this, quick!” 

The study has been going through examples in Scripture of the Holy Spirit working through regular, flawed people with the gentle reminder that what made their work actually work was Him, not them. And so it must be in our homes.

When we let the Holy Spirit do his work in us, we make much of Jesus to our children. But instead, we often end up trying to step into the role of Savior to our kids and then we feel absolutely overwhelmed by needs we cannot meet in our own strength. I have felt this a thousand times! In our striving, we may not even realize that we’re actually working to steal glory that belongs to Christ, to substitute our hard work for what He is able to step in and accomplish as we yield to Him and wait on Him.

The author of this study asked the question: How does Acts 3 speak to your role as a mom? I loved this question because it helped me to put into words this thought: I am just as helpless to bring about the change and growth in my kids’ hearts as I would be to take a crippled man by the hand and tell him to walk. If it’s going to happen, it will never be because of my own power or godliness. And that’s where relief enters the picture.

I could never, by my own power or godliness, do the work God has laid out for me: not in my home, not out in the world, not even in my own heart. But just as his Spirit changed everything for ordinary Peter, He is able to lead me with certainty and work through me impressively as I yield to him.  No barrier, hurdle, or limit is too much for him.

The minute I say “not my own:”

-power
-godliness
-righteousness
-wisdom
-will

“but yours alone, Lord,”

is the minute that opens the way for His limitless and awesome work. 

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”
Colossians 1:28-29

Oh Lord,

As I yearn to walk well in this confusing season away from our ministry and displaced from our home; as I long to teach my son about you and instill in him a desire to know you; as I wrestle with my own heart to trust what you are building with my life and to be faithful in whatever work you place before me, my inadequacy becomes very clear. May it lead me again to the cross. To your worthiness, work and power, not my own. 

May these moments strengthen my heart to run hard, looking to you and believing you whole-heartedly for all you are able to do in and through a life like mine.

Reclaiming the Sweetness: what to rehearse when you’re dreading tomorrow

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…”

Hebrews 12:2

Today is a Saturday and Cody’s here and I’m making cinnamon rolls and Abi is playing in the sand. It’s a sweet day, and I could just enjoy it. But I’m distracted by what’s looming ahead.  

Cody’s leaving Tuesday for a week-long trip to a bush location. In a month or two, he’s planning a trip to the States for his Kodiak training. He’d be gone for a month.

Right now, I’m fighting a cold, not sleeping great, and worried about handling just this next week well without him. I’m still new here. I still find walking my toddler to the market in the afternoon heat and keeping him out of the road while I buy veggies in another language…overwhelming. I rely on that hand-off when Cody gets home, and I’m tempted to compare and feel discouraged when it comes to parenting Abishai without the back-up. Cody would do a way better job, I tell myself. You can’t be all that Abi needs. He’ll be worse off for having spent all that time with just you, especially if you’re not feeling 100%.

This month, I’m going through a Bible Study called “TruthFilled” by Ruth Chou Simons.  One of her main points so far has been this: You are your own biggest influence. No one talks to you more than you do. How vital is it, then, to make sure that what you are saying to yourself is the truth?

This week, the challenge was to describe some of the worries I currently feel and then confront those emotions by drafting a mini-sermon to myself with the truth I already know, but need to work at rehearsing. Here’s what I came up with:

I don’t need to worry about my performance. I don’t need to dwell on all the things coming up and how I will meet them. I don’t need to be fearful because my body is not doing well and the demands are more than I can meet. Christ holds all creation together and that includes me and my life. (Colossians 1:17)

I can see the challenges and still look at these coming days with hope and expectation, and here is why:

“…We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord and your lives will produce EVERY KIND of good fruit. All the while YOU WILL GROW as you learn to know God better and better.”

Colossians 1:9-10, emphasis mine

It’s a prayer laying out what God alone is able to accomplish, what a maturing believer who continues to pursue a knowledge of God, even in their frailty, can look forward to and expect.

I will grow. My life will honor and please God, and I will produce every kind of good fruit as I develop in my knowledge of God’s will and spiritual wisdom and understanding, getting to know Him better and better. And that wisdom? That knowledge of Him? It is not a place I can climb to. It is a gift to those who ask.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

James 1:5, emphasis mine

Even the next verse in James 1 brings it back to this one simple thing: “be sure your faith is in God alone.I am not called upon for my work, my discipline, or my understanding. I am asked to offer my faith.

“This is the only work God wants from you: believe in the one He has sent.”

John 6:29

And so, that which I am asked, I can most certainly do. I cannot know ahead of time what will happen or how to meet it. I cannot heal my body or perform perfectly. But I can trust Him. And that is my job. And as I trust Him, He gives me wisdom and understanding. And as I grow in wisdom and understanding, my life produces what He desires. All I am yearning for in my life springs as the outflow of a heart that decides to believe Jesus; to believe His work, to believe His words, and to depend only on Him, for this next moment, and the one after that.

There are tasks and challenges coming up that I don’t feel ready for. But my first priority is to trust the Lord. And I do that, even as I approach these things, by choosing not to worry. I choose to believe He will take care of me when I get there.

And when it comes to parenting Abishai without back-up? I never had a prayer of being what he needed anyway. Who he needs is not me. But it’s not Cody either. It’s Christ. And Christ lives powerfully in me, still faithfully cultivating growth, producing transformation, and holding out all the hope we need. I am never parenting all alone. Always, I carry about within me the treasure Abi most needs to take hold of.

Christ is sufficient for me. Christ is sufficient for him. Christ is sufficient for today. Christ is sufficient for tomorrow.

And when I do the work of deciding to believe it, He does the work of putting my heart at rest so that I can enjoy cinnamon rolls, breezy Saturdays, and my laughing, sandy toddler without any fear for tomorrow, next week, or any day after.

Strong Houses: on troubled relationships and the courage to tread new paths

Oh Lord…take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants see you work again; let our children see your glory.

Psalm 90:13-16

Cody and I got to go out for coffee one afternoon in October – we were offered some surprise babysitting so we could put some quality time toward our marriage.

It was a sweet time, but a lot of it was spent in tears as we took stock of some of the walls we’ve had up toward each other and just how we have struggled, especially through the adjustment of having Abishai, the travel problems, struggles feeding the baby, and post-partum emotions. We both felt at a loss for how to cope with that season. We reacted poorly and now we’re trying to sort through it all and break bad patterns. It’s easy to just wish it could go back to how it was before; back to when our relationship just worked. But we don’t want that. We want to press through this to the place where our marriage is better than before. We want to stare down the hard things in our relationship and work at them and believe that God is growing something even deeper and sweeter.

A hopeful moment in the conversation was when we verbalized the truth that this hard season did not take a beautiful relationship and wreck it.

Each of these stacked-up challenges added pressure to a relationship that was functioning okay, but had some harmful undercurrents. God allowed a hard season to push to the surface dynamics in our marriage that he was not content to leave the way they were. His desire is to transform what does not line up with his design and his character – not just in our hearts as individuals, but in our relationships with each other.

He is teaching us not to be disheartened or discouraged but to come to him and humbly ask him to change what we cannot. We are powerless to be any different, but in Christ, we have all that we need to walk forward; and we have all confidence that we are walking forward toward something good.

He is also teaching me to change my thinking toward my son. I am starting to see how easy it is to lose the joy of our relationship because I see parenting him as a matter of my performance. I tend to think of him in terms of the academic – a problem I can solve if only I study hard enough, a test I can get a good grade on if I put in the work. But Abishai is a complex soul, a growing heart, a person who longs for love, attention, and control just like I do. A firecracker like me who wrestles to manage the same anger, frustration and intensity, but with a lot less practice. And God have given us to each other; and given himself to us.

For a goal-oriented person who likes to hustle and shoot high and work with all my might, it is a strange thing to discover that sometimes the best thing I can do for my relationships is to relax toward them; to stop fighting to make sure everything goes right and to lay down my many expectations, both for myself and for my people. Marriage and parenting are both callings that take hard work and I want to do a good job so badly. But a big part my job is to enjoy, appreciate and notice the sweetness of the gift I have been given.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Family is not just a job; it’s a treasure. It’s a context in which we work out our understanding of who God is and who we are – it’s the most important place for us to stand still and see him work on our behalf.

Family is where we grow in how we handle pressure, weariness, pinch points, and passion. It’s where we practice sharing, giving, encouraging, handling insult, and allowing for faults. It’s companionship for the funny moments, the little stresses, and the daily decisions that no one else may witness.

It’s not an arena for competition. It’s a garden for tending: a place for spotting beauty, giving thanks, and celebrating the growth of good fruit. It’s a sanctuary of waiting, trusting, hoping, holding steady and holding our breath to see what will break through the surface. It is soil that holds all kinds of potential, a calling to plant seeds faithfully and cultivate the good growth and new life God gives.

It is not a computer program with predictable input and output. No. It is far more beautiful than that.

Oh Lord,

Help me to see it, to really see it, and to thank you.

Please give us gladness in proportion to our former misery. Let us, your servants, see you work again. Satisfy us with your love. In our marriage and in our family, teach us to come to you for the strength to tread new paths. Fill our hearts with hope toward what you can do with what feels wrecked, with the deep ruts we don’t see a way out of, and with the scarred, tender places where have snagged a hundred times already. We invite you to step in, to transform what we are helpless to change. Lord, we need you desperately. Let us see you work beyond our highest expectations and let our children see your glory.

With each of my people, help my heart to see this truth: they are not my audience, they are not my rival, and they are not my project. They are your gift to me. And you are the builder who is knocking away our crumbling places so that you may lay steady foundations in their place.

May I learn to let my soul rest, to thank you, and to take courage – for you give good gifts and you build strong houses.

Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him.

Psalm 127:1-3