There is so much more than this...

I'm not even sure what to title this post. But I want these words written down. I need to process them in my little space on the internet. I want to preach this message to myself and come back to it over and over again when I get caught up in the mundane motions of life. My heart is extra heavy today seeing the poverty, pain and hurt in this world.

Let's live sold out lives for Jesus, He is the only thing that matters. I hope this letter encourages your soul as this reminder has for me. Remember you are loved and your life has purpose. There is so much more to life.


You need another reminder so here it is. You have one life to live. You could die at any moment or Jesus could come back at any moment. You are on this earth in 2017 today for a reason. You have purpose. You are God's child and set apart for good works that God knew about before this earth was even made. But seriously girl, you need to spiritually wake up more. There is way too much you are missing when your eyes shift even for a second back to the things of this earth. The things of this world are attractive, they are luring, I get that but God, God is so much more. And you know that. You love Jesus with every part of your being. You need His word daily and there are so many people you get to encourage on a daily basis who look up to you in your faith. You're a pastors wife and are in full time ministry and you hurt for the least of these but girl, your focus can slip, your eyes can shift off the Kingdom and I am typing this out to tell you to use each and every day for Jesus.

Don't get prideful or stuck or caught up that you are doing enough. Don't think it's enough that your heart already physically hurts for people who don't know Jesus yet. Don't get prideful that you are leading bible studies and mentoring girls and already doing lots for Jesus. Don't get prideful that you are running a teen girl conference or that you are excited to put different ministry programs in place. I know you aren't but even for one second if you think you are great or this has anything to do with you and its not all because of Jesus it will cost you. Stay humble, keep your eyes fixed on eternity. 

Yes, God is so real and tangible in the mundane moments. Those sweet moments where you get to do the dishes each evening and just pray over people in your life. Those moments folding laundry, thanking Jesus for clothes, and running water. But these moments often turn into grumbling, and your sinful heart shows itself. Thoughts of wishing you had a dishwasher or the ministry you could do if you had your own home. Thoughts of comparing yourself to others and what they have, and their gorgeous home and successful ministries. Maddie, remember nothing on this earth is coming with you when you die. You take nothing. Build treasure in eternity, not here on earth. I know it's hard, I know for even one second it seems so tempting to dream about the earthly stuff but it will fade it has no value. 

Each morning is a gift. Every breath you breathe is a gift from God. You know you have the Holy Spirit, God living inside of you, people should notice you are different. People should see the way you love this world and ask "why". They should question the sacrifices and the way you live your life because Jesus and His word says everything that is opposite to how the world tells us to live. But Maddie, not all people will like you. People will reject you and that is OK. The New Testament is all about suffering. Your crazy love for Jesus, people will reject you and even hate you for it. That's OK, remember they killed all the disciples and Jesus for this faith. But some will see the hope you have, the assurance that you know there is more to life, and ask for the answer. These moments are what make life worth it and Jesus so real when you get to look into their eyeballs and tell them they are loved and valued and that Jesus is real, He's enough and to follow Him with everything, no turning back. Maddie live for these moments, crave the good things of God.

And Maddie remember you don't need to go back to Africa to find that passion again. You're ministry is right where you are, here today. There are people who need Jesus and His love right where you are. Serve well. Serve in Jesus's strength alone, because let's be real, you know better than anyone else you suck when you do things without Christ and are end up just so exhausted and useless. Remember that although North Americans and the North American church comes across as "not needing God", remember that they do. They are desperately searching.  Just because we have retirement funds, running water, electricity, food to eat and malls with thousands of items they still are hungry for Jesus. People are waking up every day in NA wanting more. Be Jesus to them. Shout it from the rooftops with the way you love them and remind them that what they are searching for is found in Christ. 

I know you want to spiritually shake people and yell at them to 'wake up' because we all only have one life. So I'm 'yelling' at you now. Stay awake. Stay fixed on Christ. He could come back tomorrow and their are still people who don't know Him. Stop fussing about the little things in life that don't matter and start awakening your eyes, your church's eyes and others around you of the poverty and pain that we live in. Thousands of people are dying every day from preventable causes, people are sold in slavery, human trafficking is a sickening industry that you can't even fathom and babies are being killed without ever having the chance to live. Don't get overwhelmed with it all because you can't save anyone. But let it sink in. Let it hurt. Don't get blinders on and not remember what is happening in Elmira and around the world. Have a righteous anger about it all and then do something about it. You aren't called to do it all but you are called to do something. To give and to love and to share Jesus with whoever will listen. 

So please girl, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and live each day as if Jesus is coming back. Set your priorities, the way you give and what you do on that fact alone. You have grown so much in your faith and your journey is remarkable. It doesn't seem too long ago that you were kissing all the boys and getting your worth from boys and not Jesus. God really does use the most messed up people like you to live out a story of grace and redemption. Now that you understand a fraction of God's love, continue to give it away. 

Fix those eyes on Jesus Maddie girl. You have the hope inside of you, continue to give it away.


Dear Jackson // Ten Months

Dear Jackson,

Seriously? Ten months! You are growing so fast. I can't believe it. I feel I've mentioned this before but the days are super long and the weeks go by in the blink of an eye.

I just re read your nine month letter and there isn't many new things to add. You have just progressed in all the habits you've started at nine months. You still use your walker to walk around everywhere. Last night you took one step towards me which was super exciting but still no where near holding your balance to walk.

You now eat 1/2 puree food and 1/2 cut up food. You still only have two teeth which is proving to be difficult when trying to feed you because you can't really chomp at it yet. But you LOVE feeding yourself. It is one of the only times you are quiet. Since you love feeding yourself you don't like when I do. The only way I can get you not to cry when we do puree food is by watching music videos or daniel tiger neighbourhood. Even when you are full out crying if I play "deep cries out" by Bethel Kids you instantly get mesmerized and stop crying, allowing me to continue the feed. Many parents are anti tv/screens before age 2 and I've read up on some of those reasons but I believe in choosing my battles and eliminating tv is not one I want to tackle. I want to be sensitive to it so we try to only watch music videos when you refuse to eat. And I keep telling myself it's a phase so hopefully you will like to eat food again, or we will just stop doing puree.

You've definitely been growing a bit more. We bought you clothes way back in September and now its March and we haven't had to buy anything...yet... but now it seems that some of your pants and clothes are tight which makes me excited that we get to go shopping again! I weighed you (on our home scale) and you hit 17 pounds! It was exactly 17.0 but hey we got there and that is exciting! Most people comment on your size and how you are still so tiny but I love it. Also for practical reasons you have been able to fit into your carseat all winter long which makes my life super transporting you everywhere.

You still know the same words, still aren't clapping (even though I've continued trying) and I guess the new word would be "come." Yes, it sounds like a dog but when I say it and wave my hand to come to me you normally do. It's super cute.

You now sit in big part of the grocery carts. When we head to costco you love looking around and scratching all the grocery items. One of my favourite things is when you go grocery shipping with Daddy. Mark likes to shop (cuz he is so picky and I don't mind one bit!) and he takes you on a Daddy/son date. It is the cutest and you are always on your best behaviour. It is really easy taking you out as long as you have slept and ate.

Breastfeeding has changed a bit. I don't feed every 3-4 hours anymore just morning and night. This has worked well this past month and you have transitioned so well. You get distracted even if you hear the slightest noise and I think you are slowly outgrowing it. I feed at 5am when you wake up and then you fall back to sleep for another couple hours and then I feed right before you head to bed. I hope to continue this as long as possible. I was worried about stopping breastfeeding right before I go back to work but this transition has been pretty smooth so I can continue with those two times.  Other than the two feeds, you just drink water during the day and still get all your nutrients from your food. We've tried countless sippy cups and the one that you love the best is a gatorade water bottle that Dad and I drink from. You only want to drink the same ones we do. We tried for a couple weeks and then just gave up and bought you on like us. You love it, except it isn't child proof so if I'm not watching you water goes everywhere!

There is always something to disrupt your sleep but we are getting there. Just recently I figured out if I put a soother clip on your pjs' that when you wake up in the middle of the night you will find it and go back to sleep. This could be a game changer because when you wake up in the middle of the night you are still crying for a good long time. You weren't soother dependent before but I think with your teeth coming in (hopefully) you have liked it more and now you know how to put it back in this has been super helpful.

You are the best baby and I love hanging out with you every day. Just thinking about heading back to work makes me super grumpy and emotional but know that God is in control and has your sweet life in His hands, and God has the very very best for you.

I love you more and more each day, not what you can do for me but because of who you are my baby. I think about that parallel with Christ. He loves you and me just the way we are and nothing we do for him or can do for him changes his love towards us. I always think I need to do great things for Jesus and being your momma has given me fresh perspective on how Jesus must feel towards me. It is beyond comprehensible the love God has for us. Thank you for letting me learn such sweet lessons from you Mr. Jackson. I pray every day you will grow up knowing Jesus and his great love towards you.

Happy Ten Months My Baby Boy,


Postpartum Weight Struggle

I was listening to this coffee + crumbs podcast the other day and they asked the question "what do you love about your postpartum body?" I couldn't believe they were asking this question... does anyone love their postpartum body? I sure don't and have struggled with my body since becoming pregnant. The mommas talked about their strong bodies and curves and I just had to pause and listen because I was so shocked that women could love their bodies after giving birth.

Weight gain has never been my struggle. It just hasn't been my thing. Growing up I was always athletic and then in middle school/high school I was a competitive track athlete and worked out pretty much every day. I had intense workouts and competed at junior nationals. Sure, there were times I struggled with perfectionism and had struggled for a couple months with an eating disorder but I knew I was never fat, I had a six pack to prove it. The eating disorder was me wanting to be perfect, to do better at track and didn't have anything to do with weight.

I knew that carrying a baby inside of me for nine months would change me...maybe forever. Let me say outright that having Jackson as my son is the best thing ever but can I be honest and say that I struggle, I'm struggling.

I was leading a fitness class at my church when I was pregnant. My goal and thought was to lead that class all the way up to giving birth. I was so excited to stay fit and in control of my weight. I knew you could workout the same amount as you did before becoming pregnant so I was confident I could try and control the weight gain.

December 27 (the day before my anniversary) I got a call from my midwife telling me that Jackson was healthy but that I was getting close to placenta previa and that I would have to stop exercising among many other things. I was crushed. Stop exercising? Really? Obviously for the health of my baby there was no question in my mind that I would give up exercise but I no longer had control. Despite trying to eat healthy when you aren't working out the weight seemed to pile on and I gained more than the average pregnant lady.

Then insert pelvic girdle pain. I had intense, low numbing pain and immediately called my midwife. It hurt to walk, it hurt to stand and it was painful. After talking to her at length and with my ultrasound she said it was pelvic pain. The way Jackson was growing was putting large amounts of pressure on my pelvis causing low numbing pain. I stopped waitressing in February because it hurt. I wasn't on disability but the days were long and the weight continued. I actually stopped counting the weight gain because I was becoming obsessed with it and knew it wasn't healthy. It wasn't my fault I couldn't be on my feet for very long but still.. as the scale kept climbing I felt less and less in control.

After giving birth I was exhausted and walking hurt, everything hurt and Jackson didn't sleep all that well. I didn't bounce back like so many articles I read. I didn't even get out of the diaper the midwives give you because the bleeding continued for a month. Then my stitches started to hurt. It continued to hurt to walk (let alone exercise and loose the baby weight). I went to the doctors at two months and he told me my stitches had re torn a bit and were loosing up but he didn't want to re sew me, he assured me they would continue to heal and the skin would start to close naturally as long as... wait for it.... I laid low and didn't exercise.

I laughed. This was my story. I stared at my body in disgust. The massive stretch marks, the saggy skin, my fat face... seriously? How did this become me and my story? I had no control but to listen to my doctor and let my body heal. I wasn't stupid so I rested. I didn't walk and the weight stayed.

I fought the lies in my head that I'm not beautiful. I've questioned Mark countless times as he tells me how pretty I am that he is lying and just saying that to make me feel better. I've looked at pre pregnancy pictures and longed for my body and my skin back. I've had bitter thoughts of other mommas who just bounced back and lost the weight in the first couple months. I've compared myself to celebrities and other social media figures who post working out pictures days after their baby. I never realized how hard I would struggle with weight gain but I do, I am.

Jackson is now ten months. It's been nineteen months of working through these thoughts and body issues. Today, I feel like in our "love your body whatever size it is" age that I can't even share this stuff due to people saying "I'm body shaming" but I want to write about it because I want to be real. Every story is different. Every pregnancy is different. Every body is different. And from a girl whose never struggled with weight gain, this has been the hardest postpartum struggle. Not being allowed to exercise and then finally after three months feeling "healed" enough to start working out and then not seeing results is tough.

But loving my body? These mommas actually love their bodies. They weren't lying. They had positive qualities about their bodies from giving birth. Could I love my body again? I felt hopeful.

I'm feeling hopeful. 

Comparison is the thief of joy. I know that. I preach that. But I wasn't prepared for the comparison. By God's grace and loving kindness towards me I've been praying to love my body and after ten months I am finally starting to be OK with getting a new wardrobe and buying some new clothes.

Is it really the end of the world if I will never fit into my skinny jeans again? Can I accept that my body has made and carried a human and rejoice with these other mommas that I now have hips that my skinny jeans just won't sit over? Can I swallow my pride and buy a new pair a few sizes bigger?

I'm feeling hopeful that I can.

& I'm feeling hopeful that if you are a momma with this struggle that you can too. OR if you are a woman who has ever struggled with weight gain or ever struggled with loving your body, I'm feeling hopeful for you.

Why? Only because of Jesus. Because as we fix our eyes on Him, His kingdom, on eternity "the things of the world grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." Heaven feels close and real and my stretch marks suddenly don't seem to matter so much. As these nineteen months have passed I have struggled and will continue to struggle but am hopeful that as I work out, eat better and see my body the way God sees it I will learn to love it again.

And like I said, as I see my story laid out differently than other mommas I am hopeful to love my body again. I looked into the mirror this morning and smiled at my hips and stretch marks and thought "OK this is me and that is OK." I am hopeful for you too if this is your story.

Let's learn to love our bodies even if it takes some time. I'm on this journey with you friend and I'm cheering you on.

From a momma learning to love her postpartum body.

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