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Saying Yes to Foster Care

Saying Yes to Foster Care

This time last year, my husband Spenser and I were, by all accounts, a thriving newlywed couple. We’d get off work each afternoon and hit the gym or meet friends for happy hour. We spent the evenings decorating our home or watching The Office for the ten thousandth time (ok fine, we still do that.) We cooked elaborate meals together and took way too many photos of our dog. We were confident and independent. Things were safe and comfortable. Our goal was to “live our best life” and frankly, we thought we were nailing it. While we were content with our small ambitions, God had something far greater in mind.

Now we are hot-mess foster parents in desperate need of help and grace.  Our selfish desires get trampled on with each new morning and our social plans now include PTA meetings and court hearings. We’ve survived tantrums, bed-wetting and back to school shopping at Walmart. We’ve discovered new buttons that can be pushed, new volumes at which to yell, and we often spend evenings trying to fight the lie that we are NOT cut out for this. But stay with me for a second—this isn’t a sad story.  While walking this road, our marriage has become deeper, stronger and more precious to us. We have experienced God’s love in new and profound ways and our life purpose has become crystal clear: to love the kids in our care as Christ has loved us. Sometimes I think back to the way things were and for a second I almost miss it. But, it turns out, living in our comfortable bubble was nothing compared to the wildly beautiful life that God had in store.

We were first introduced to the world of foster care on a weekend trip to visit our good friends in Boston. We sat down to dinner and they told us they were considering becoming licensed foster parents. The barriers were obvious; small apartment, busy city, no family nearby to help. They knew it sounded crazy, but they were humbly following God’s lead. He used their obedience and authenticity that night to spark our whole journey! Our spirits were stirred as we learned about the vast number of kids in foster care and the inadequate number of foster homes. We lived back in Tampa, Florida in our newly purchased house.  We had extra bedrooms, a big yard and both sets of parents in town. Spenser is a high school teacher and football coach and has always had a soft spot for kids who lack the love and opportunities to help them succeed. We were just beginning to consider this path when God decided to make his message loud and clear. On the last day of our trip we walked into church and were informed it would be a unique service because it was… “World Orphan Day.” I can’t make this stuff up! I remember standing in that service with tears welling up in my eyes as I sang these words:

I’ll just say yes, you lead the way

I’m not afraid of what it means for me to say

This life you gave is not my own,

I’m trusting you to hear my yes and lead me on

And there is peace when I say yes

I might not see it now but you save the best

For all who trust you and obey

There is an answer no more delay.

When we got back home after our trip, a quick Google search revealed that a fostering orientation was scheduled in our town the following week. We showed up, chose an agency, signed up for parenting classes, and the ball was rolling!

I must confess, for weeks during the process I only felt heaviness. There was no joy or excitement, I just felt burdened as I counted the cost. I cried often, wrestling with the reality that God sometimes leads us toward really hard things. In our parenting classes we were confronted with the horrific situations that these children are coming out of. We were given worse-case scenarios to help us prepare. I knew this was a noble mission but, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I also questioned my motives. Was I just doing this out of guilt? Or to win approval from others? Did I have regrets but feel too prideful to turn back now? My feelings were all over the map, but as we kept moving forward a quiet peace started to grow in my heart. I knew I was secure in Him despite the long list of uncertainties.

Looking back, I see what God was teaching me; sometimes you need to step forward in obedience even when you’re feeling scared and unsettled in your emotions. Friends, don’t spend your whole life waiting for things to “feel right” before you do the work God is calling you to. Feelings are fickle, especially if your heart is an emotional rollercoaster like mine. Even Christ in the midst of his work cried out in sorrow while sweating drops of blood! Scripture tells us “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Your redemption was at the heart of that joy.

Becoming licensed took us about five months. Fingerprints, background checks and home studies were completed. We bought booster seats, assembled bunk beds and decorated them with shark-printed sheets. Friends and family donated books and clothes to fill the closets. All we had to do was wait and with over 4,000 kids in care in the Tampa area we were alerted of a potential placement immediately. They sent us the information for a little boy whose current foster home was closing soon. With hearts beating fast, Spenser and I looked at each other knowing that the time had come. We said “Yes” and brought in the six-year-old, freckle-faced, blue eyed boy and our lives have never been the same.

This past year has been one wild ride. We’ve experienced heartache, joy, tears, laughter, frustration, growth and ultimately redemption. It’s been the best and hardest year of our lives. We welcomed in another amazing boy, then said goodbye to our first kiddo and, in the midst of that, found out we will be having a baby in December! We would NEVER have written this story for ourselves. It’s been too brutal and too wonderful. But that’s the whole point…submitting to God’s calling on your life is not usually glamorous by the world’s standards. No matter what God is leading you into (parenthood, new friendships, a leadership role, community service, ministry, marriage, etc.) Your service will undoubtedly be accompanied by discomfort, fear, persecution or sacrifice. You might wonder why you should carry on. I want to remind you. We are the recipients of the greatest and most undeserved gift of sacrifice imaginable! So, with simultaneous humility and courage, we can respond by laying down our lives—our gifts, our time, our money, our desires—for others. Foster parenting has taught me that laying down your life isn’t a one-time decision. It’s a hundred daily decisions to keep saying “yes” when situations appear hopeless or daunting. It takes utter reliance on God to move toward the brokenness in front of me instead of away. I’m only empowered to do this by renewing my mind with the truth of the Gospel: Christ stepped out of comfort and immortality into MY brokenness. He met me in my wretched state. He lived the life I should have lived and bore the wrath reserved for me. He rose from the dead in victory in order to purchase and redeem my rebellious soul! As I meditate on the overwhelming beauty of the Gospel, it changes me and it will change you too.

Whatever God has put you at the brink of or in the midst of, keep saying yes. Keep pressing on into the dark and broken corners of this world. That is where the Gospel light is needed and He has equipped YOU to bring it! Your shortcomings are not a barrier for our mighty God. Keep moving even when you’re afraid, limping, or discouraged and let the God of hope work through you. Our reward is a deeper experience of joy, satisfaction and purpose than we could ever have while staying in our safe, little comfort zones.

If you think God might be calling you to bring love and stability to vulnerable children in your area, follow the link below for more information and resources on how you can become a licensed foster parent in your county.

https://www.nfpaonline.org/

The Best You

The Best You

We asked what you wanted to read more about on the LO Blog, and by far the most common theme requested was relationships. I totally get it! Relationships are hard! We are imperfect people loving imperfect people.  How do we navigate that? There were a lot of questions that went something like this…How can I be a better/more Godly/happier wife/mom/sister/daughter/friend?

I love this question and I’m going to give you a simple answer because I believe that most things in life don’t take a rocket scientist to figure out (except for actual rocket science, for that you will need a rocket scientist). Here ya go: The best way to be a better you in your relationships is to treat the ones you love the most the very best. It’s that simple and, also, as difficult as you would imagine.

Why is this so difficult?  Well, one reason is, the ones we love the most don’t always treat us the best. The first thing to remember in any relationship is that you can only work on you. All you can do is work to be a better, healthier, happier, kinder “you” which was exactly the question asked at the beginning of this blog—remember the question was, “How can I be a better….?”

A wise woman once told me, “You aren’t your husband’s Holy Spirit.” Neither are you your mom’s, your friend’s, or your sister’s Holy Spirit. Let the Spirit work on those around you and you work to be the best “you,” you can be. Even though you are only one part of the equation, when you change you, those around you will notice and over time they will start to change themselves.  If they don’t, maybe you need to re-think that relationship, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Why do we give our best to people we don’t even know but treat the people we spend our lives with, the ones we promised to love forever and always, the very ones that hold our hair when we are throwing up, the ones that saw us through the hard times, so terribly?  I think part of it is we feel safe with our loved ones.  They are stuck with us.  They literally can’t leave. We live in the same house; there is nowhere for them to go.  We feel free to be “ourselves.” Unfortunately sometimes we are only giving them the bad parts of ourselves.  It’s good to have people we can be real with, be vulnerable with, show the not so pretty parts to, free feel with, but it doesn’t mean we get to treat them badly.

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Hmmm, if you say you love your husband, boyfriend, sister, mom, dad, friend, you should probably check to see if the way you are treating them stacks up to this biblical definition.  If it doesn’t, you’ve got some things to work on.

I’ll never forget a lesson a bible teacher I had in high school taught me. He had us write our name in the place of the word “love” in this verse as a reminder of how we are called to act toward others.  So it would go like this, “Korie is patient, Korie is kind…” you get the idea.  Do it for yourself.  I promise you will re-think some of your interactions with the people you love the most.

Now for some practical ways to treat those you love the very best. I really believe that if you just add these three things into your daily life with your nearest and dearest, it will begin to change your relationships for the better.

1. Act excited when you see them. Think about what you do when you see a child that you love but haven’t seen in a while.  A big smile comes across your face, you stretch out your arms, scoop them up into a big hug, maybe even swirl them around. Now contrast that with how you acted last night when you saw your husband for the first time after work.  Ouch! I know! Did you even look up from your phone? Did you stop what you were doing to ask how his day was or did you launch into all the things that went wrong that day or all the things he forgot to do? What would happen if you ran over and gave him a big hug and then twirled him around when you first saw him after a long day?  Would he think you had lost your mind?  Maybe, but I bet he would love it! Think about your reaction you have when you see your kids, your friend, your mom, your roommate.  Do you act excited when they walk through the door?  Do you show them that you are happy that they are there? That first interaction can set the tone for the rest of your time together.  Stop what you are doing, smile, walk over and give them a hug, ask them a question about their day. Think about how you would feel if someone did that for you.  It would make your day better, right?  Do that for the ones you love and see what happens.

2. Lead with the positive. I was reading Revelation the other day (I know you probably didn’t think I was going to bring up the book of Revelation in this blog about relationships did you!). Something struck me in the way God gave John the messages he wrote to the churches. He always started with something positive.  These churches had some real problems, but every single time, before he said something they needed to work on, he praised them for something they were doing well. Here’s an example so you get the idea, Revelation 2:1-4: To the church in Ephesus, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…you have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love….” He then he goes on to tell them what they need to change.

I thought about it and realized God doesn’t have to do that. He doesn’t have to lead with praise or a compliment. He’s God! But He does, so maybe I should learn a little something from God’s example. I challenge you to incorporate the principle of leading with the positive into your relationships. It will change the way you are received by those you love.

Also, in doing this, it will force you to actually think of something positive about someone you might be having some struggles with.  It might be difficult when you are angry, right?  The person you thought was the love of your life just days before, suddenly you can’t recall anything they are doing right.  But, if you make yourself think of something positive about that person, and say that first, you and the other person will be in a better state of mind to tackle the problem.  Sometimes the hard things need to be said, but lead with the positive and the other person will be more ready to listen.

3. Always kiss them goodbye. A mother who lost a son to a motorcycle wreck years ago broke my heart when she reminded me, “You never know when it will be the last time you get to kiss them goodbye.” I know this is a difficult thing to think about, but it has stuck with me because it is so true.  We aren’t promised tomorrow.  We should live each day like it might be our last. If we do that, how would it change the way we treat the ones we love?  Take the time to give them a kiss goodbye and tell them you love them every time they walk out of the door.  It only takes a few seconds, but it may make all the difference.

I hope this is helpful!  Every time I write to you I am in prayer that the things I write are meaningful to your lives. I know life can be difficult, and relationships are not easy.  By giving you these simple things, I can’t promise you that it will solve all of your relationship problems, but I can tell you that these are things that have made a difference in my relationships. I do know that when you work on yourself, even if the other person doesn’t change, (because people can be stuck in bad habits that are hard to change, so be patient, this isn’t an overnight fix) you will be happier and more at peace because you are doing all that you can do and that always matters!

Try these 3 things for a week and let us know if it’s had an impact on your relationships. We’d love to hear!

Korie Robertson is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who is passionate about motherhood. Korie (K-Swaggy) is a mom to Sadie — and five other amazing kids. In her free time, you’ll find her playing tennis, drinking coffee and spending time with her kids and new grandson, Zane.

Catch Korie and Willie on the Getaway Night Tour this fall in a city near you!

Follow Korie on Instagram @bosshogswife

Birth Story

Birth Story

It took me four months to finally share my birth story because I wanted to make sure I was mentally and physically recovered before I shared it. Hopefully, writing it down will help me remember every single detail and encourage, empower and prepare others who might have a few fears when it comes to having a baby.

I know having a baby can be scary to think about for lots of reasons. My pregnancy was so easy, but I was scared about the delivery. And, it wasn’t rainbows and sunshine, that’s for sure, but it was worth it. I can tell you, no matter what happens, you are strong, you are resilient and you will get through it. Because at the end of the tunnel (or should I say the birth canal ?) there’s a precious gift from God.

So here’s my birth story.

Thursday, January 10, 2019, was an unusually warm January winter day. I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant.  I woke up that morning remembering I had dreamed that I lost the bet on when the baby would be born. (We had a bet between family and friends about the birth date. It was basically the Louisiana Lottery as we have a huge group of friends and family. Ha.) There were lots of bets for January 10th. That’s probably because we had gotten a fortune cookie saying we would receive the gift of a lifetime on January 10th, plus my sister, Sadie, had dreamed that I would be having a baby on January 10thbefore I was even pregnant. It seemed like January 10thwould be the day.

But, I woke up feeling completely normal and, the day before, my doctor told me I had only dilated to .5 cm (it even shrunk from the week before when I was at 1.5cm at 38 weeks. I don’t know how that happened?) My doctor basically said I was nowhere close to going into labor that day, but he would like to induce me if I didn’t have it by 41 weeks. I really didn’t want to be induced. I just knew the baby was going to come when he was ready and I trusted God to have the perfect timing. Everyone has different views on this. That was mine at the time. In future pregnancies, I might think differently.

So, on January 10th, I went on with my day without worrying about anything, thinking I would have at least another two weeks until the baby would arrive. The weather was nice so I decided to create a “bump date” photo. I didn’t know this would be the very last photo of my baby in my belly. I posted an Instagram story giving everyone a baby update and telling them I was still pregnant. Then, I ran a few errands.

But, around 4:00 in the afternoon, my stomach starting hurting a bit. I thought I might be hungry, so I called my husband to see if he wanted to grab an early dinner. We met up at a restaurant in town. I remember thinking I was so hungry that I could barely get out the car. I felt like I could faint from hunger.

While we were eating, my stomach started cramping, but honestly at that point I had no idea what contractions would feel like, so I just thought I was having trouble digesting the food. At the same time, I felt a weird shooting pain in my inner thigh area. This got so intense I was literally jumping up from the seat from this weird shooting pain. Still, I didn’t think that it was contractions. (So funny to think about now!)

I remembered my mom and doctor told me if I started to feel any weird symptoms, I should just go to the hospital, just in case. I called my mom and told her I was going to go to the hospital just to find out what that pain was all about. I still didn’t think I was in labor, but I wanted to be safe. She said she would meet me there.

My husband and I were in two different cars since we met for dinner. I got in my car, headed to the hospital, and my husband followed behind me.

As soon as I pulled up at the hospital, the pain stopped completely. I almost didn’t go in. I didn’t want to feel stupid and make something out of nothing, but my husband said since we were there, we might as well go in and ask the nurse about the pain.

Being first time parents with zero experience, we were nervous and a little embarrassed.  What do we even say?I chuckled and explained to the nurse that I was experiencing some pain on the way here, but it completely went away just as I pulled up. I told her we were embarrassed to even be there. The nurse was super nice and tried to make us feel normal. She said that contractions feel differently to everybody. She said it was a slow night, so if I wanted, she could hook me up to the machine to monitor my contractions.

I put on the hospital gown the nurse gave me, but I left my beanie on my head because my hair was so crazy under it. I looked like Buddy, the elf, hooked to a fetal monitor. By then, my mom had arrived so the three of us just sat there and watched the monitor.

At first, it didn’t tell us anything. I started doing squats in the room just to see what it would do, but the nurse said I just needed to give it at least an hour. My mom called Sadie and they were praying about the situation over the phone. Just as they were praying, the monitor graphs jumped up! The nurse came in and said I was having some contractions, but they were still far apart. Once I knew what contractions felt like, I realized I had been having them all day. I just thought that was the baby kicking me.

Soon the contractions started getting closer and closer, like five minutes apart. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I was in labor. I still thought I should go home and wait a little longer.  My only experience had been watching “movie labor” where the woman’s water breaks in an inconvenient place and has excruciating pain and barely makes it to the hospital before the baby pops out. What I was going through was not at all what I expected or planned or had seen in a movie!

Just as I was gathering my belongings to head home, the nurse told me my doctor happened to be on call that day. He was on his way to check on me. Since I didn’t think I was in labor, this surprised me, but, okay, since he was already at the hospital, let’s do it.

He came in and checked me. It was time for another surprise. My cervix had completely softened and was progressing fast. What? Wasn’t it yesterday this doctor had told me it might be two more weeks? I kind of freaked out. I was not ready! I didn’t even have my bags packed! I had not fed my dog! I had not done a million things I thought I would do! I was wearing a beanie!

I kept asking my doctor, “Are you sure I am ready? Can I go home and shower first?”  The fear of delivery started to set in. I was trying to avoid it as long as possible. I tried to convince my doctor it wasn’t time. I, literally, tried to talk him out of my delivery.  ?

One last time, I said, “Are you sure I’m ready?” The doctor said, “I don’t know about you, but your body is ready. This baby is coming sooner or later ?and there is no need to shower, you are about to get real messy.”

After a moment of panic, I realized the time had come and I was having a baby that night!

I sent my husband home to get our hospital bags and feed our dog,

My doctor broke my water around 7:00 pm.

By then all our family members had been informed and slowly started showing up at the hospital! By 9:00 p.m. there were about twenty people waiting in the waiting room.

My body progressed quickly. Within five hours, I dilated from 2cm to 8cm.  My doctor was going home to take a nap, but he had just enough time to grab some dinner at Waffle House and get back to the hospital.

I knew I wanted to get an epidural. Some of you don’t know anything an epidural yet, but it’s a form of antiesthetic used during childbirth. I had done tons research on it and knew it was how I wanted to handle my delivery. However, the anesthesiologist administered the medication in my spine two times when we realized my body wasn’t going to response to the epidural. They offered me other alternative anesthesia methods, but I didn’t want to take the risk. There was no time for web MD or google, so I passed on the other pain relief methods.

Finally, it was time to push. I pushed for an hour. It was probably the longest hour in my life. My husband was right there holding my hand (or I should say right there letting me squeeze his hand), counting the seconds to push. My sister, Bella, was in the room taking pictures for us. Everyone else was in hallway, cheering us on and praying for the delivery. Toward the end, Bella had to put the camera down and help hold my legs up to help me push harder.  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t expecting to do that job, but she did it! (Remember, there are lots of surprises in childbirth!)

When the baby was crowning (head coming out), there was a moment of me thinking I can’t do it. I even cried out, “God please help me, I can’t do it!” My husband had his head buried in my chest so tight and he cried too, but he kept repeating, “You can do it!” I used every bit of energy in my body for one last push and out came Baby Zane at 1:27 a.m.!

The nurse put him on my chest immediately, so I could have skin to skin contact. I just gazed into his sweet eyes, overwhelmed by the miracle that just had happened. I thought everything was over and I asked the doctor if I could put my legs down from the stirrups. He said he still had to sew me up. (Another, first time mommy mistake. I hadn’t thought about that part.)

Baby Zane came so fast on my last push that my doctor didn’t have time to give me an episiotomy (a cut made during delivery to help with the delivery). I had what is considered a fourth degree laceration, which basically means I had a lot of stitches. It took my doctor more than two hours to sew me up. He used eight packs of stitches (one pack can usually give fifteen stitches so that’s about 120 stitches ?). I was told it was more than someone who has a caesarian section delivery (typically five packs), but, praise God, I was busy staring at my new baby while all this went on.

All of my family were waiting outside the room to see baby Zane. Around 2:00 a.m. John Reed took Zane out to meet them. I was still in the room being worked on until 3:30 a.m. but I could hear everyone talking about how cute he was.

But the night wasn’t over. We got into a room around 4:00 in the morning. I decided to try to go to the bathroom. I remember waking up to three nurses holding me up because I had passed out from the pain and blood loss. They got me back in bed and I thought I could finally sleep.

But, around 5:30 a.m., the hospital fire alarm went off. I jumped up from the bed. Even though I could barely move, I was ready to run to get my baby. I don’t know why, but the first thing John Reed and I thought of was someone was trying to steal our baby ??I guess our parent instincts had already kicked in. My husband rushed to the nursery to see if everything was okay. It turned out a kid had pulled the alarm. Our baby was fine. He was sound asleep in the nursery.

After that traumatic delivery, I thought I would never want to go through a delivery again.  But it’s crazy how strong we women are, physically and mentally. As I am writing this birth story, four months later, I am surprised how I have forgotten the pain. All I see now is the joy this little life has brought to our lives. I don’t think about not being able sit, walk, or even use the bathroom for weeks. I don’t think about the times I laid on the floor of the shower letting the water run over my body, crying and praying that the pain would go away. I don’t dwell on the sleepless nights and the exhaustion of caring for a newborn.

I think God places a special gift of courage in our heart to handle every experience we don’t think we can get through. For me, the gift of courage came because of my son. Through him, I don’t just have the joy and love he brings me, I also learned that I am strong, brave and resilient.

And, I know I can do it again. Because it will be worth it. It was the most beautiful, miraculous moment I could ever endure, and I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to become a mother.

God gave us the ultimate gift–our Baby Zane.

Rebecca was born in Portland, OR but grew up in Taiwan and she join the Robertson family at the age of 16. She is the oldest kid of Willie & Korie Robertson. Rebecca graduated from LSU with a degree in fashion design, merchandising & textile Science. She is married to husband John reed Loflin & together have a son, Zane Israel. They reside in Monroe, Louisiana.

Follow Rebecca on Instagram @rebeccalorobertson

 

A Mother’s Miracle

A Mother’s Miracle

It was September 15, 2017, and I woke with great anticipation, not only because I had my freshly baked eight-week-old boy Leo to gaze at, but also because it was my ten year “Bonus Life” anniversary.

Let me explain. Before marrying my sweet husband and long before adding our three boys to our tribe, my life changed when I was eighteen. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Lemierre’s syndrome that almost took my life. Jesus became a real person at my hospital bedside during that journey, and I would have never expected that the faith that carried me through that nightmare would replay on this day—exactly ten years later.

My day at home went on as “normal” and coffee was consumed in large quantities, as usual. You see, we live on an old farm and there is always something to do outside, so we all enjoy time together working on the property: kids pulling weeds (and also pulling worms) and dogs running and playing. That day, my husband, Luke, was mowing our large farm yard.

The first miracle of the day was that I got all three boys down for a nap at the same time. (I can hear all the mothers shout “Amen!” from here.) I quickly grabbed a mug of coffee and my book while making my way out to the swing on our outside porch with the boys’ room monitors within earshot. I began to read a page and my vision kept blurring. Weird. I tried to read the same line again and I couldn’t focus. Instead, I heard the Lord say to me: “Go check on Leo, and don’t believe what you are about to see.”

As you can imagine, at this point I’m running to his room where I find him face down, gray, cold, and with blood on his face. A million things seem to run through my mind, and I scream, “No, No, No, No!! I’m NOT burying my child!”

I ran outside to find that Luke was still mowing. He greeted me with his usual kind smile, but quickly looked down to see I was carrying our limp, lifeless baby Leo. Luke jumped off the mower and quickly called 9-1-1. I placed Leo on the ground while deep guttural screams came straight from my shattered heart. I tried what I know of CPR on Leo’s sunken chest. With his blood on my face from mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I looked into Leo’s once-sparkling eyes which were now foggy and empty. I laid hands on him and pleadingly prayed, “In the name of Jesus, bring back my baby. By the blood of Jesus, raise him to life!”

Luke looked at Leo and then at me as he was still on the phone with 9-1-1, and shook his head, saying, “Oh, Courtney.” We both felt intense surrender.

My hands fell off Leo, and I said in a whisper, “Jesus, only you can do this. Only you can bring back my baby.”

Suddenly, Leo’s chest expanded, his eyes started twinkling and he gave out the most glorious cry!

I can’t describe to you exactly what I felt in this moment, but it was somewhat of a combination of shock, awe, and complete glory. To everyone’s confusion and surprise, Luke shouted to the first responder on the phone, “He’s alive!”  What I remember next was a blur of the police and ambulance arriving, and Leo and I being whisked away in the ambulance. I hadn’t even thought about why or how this happened. All I knew was that my baby was dead and now he is alive.

We arrived at the hospital and in the frenzy of the emergency room, the hospital staff began running all sorts of tests—all with very scary definitions attached to them. When one of the many specialists came in, she felt around his skull and looked at me, saying, “You know that his skull is fused shut, right?” I literally lost my breath.

They found that Leo had craniosynostosis. That is where the cranial sutures fuse too early, causing problems with normal brain and skull growth, resulting in his case of sagittal craniosynostosis. In short, his head was misshapen, resembling a football while protruding in the front and being super heavy in the back. He would need skull reconstruction surgery.

In the end, the medical team labeled his case “near-SIDS” and discussed how his skull shape made the back of his head so heavy. In a perfect-storm scenario (and ultimate nightmare for us), this combination of issues led the doctors to believe that Leo rolled, got stuck, and suffocated.

I can’t begin to explain how our hearts were simultaneously wrecked with joy watching our son come back to life while also being utterly broken by all of this new information. I went from immense thanksgiving of celebrating Leo’s life to flashbacks of the extreme trauma of holding him—dead and lifeless—in my arms.

For almost everyone, the greatest fear we face in this life is death—death of a loved one, death of a child, and, even for believers, our eventual leaving this body and earth.

For me personally, I’ve navigated my own brush with death and glaring “stare down” with mortality ten years ago, then walked alongside my husband, Luke, who experienced his own life-threatening illness approximately six years ago, and then this with Leo.

As a result of those experiences, I lived many years with the controlling and life-sucking spirit of fear; my mind being overtaken with anxiety.

But here’s what I’ve learned: Not only does fear breed death, it also steals my joy, robs me of being present in the here and now, and confiscates “acres” of my mind that were made to flourish and dwell on the truth. (Philippians 4:8)

One day when I was heavily locked up in fear, a mentor friend of mine lovingly, yet simply said to me, “Fear is a spirit, but that spirit is under the foot of Jesus, and Jesus lives in you.”

Well, Boom. Truth bomb right there!

Something that has radically altered my life is believing the truth that when God sees me, he sees his Son. I am covered by his finished work, which means I’m no longer a slave to flesh or to any of the enemy’s ideas.

“Death is swallowed up by a triumphant victory! So, death, tell me, where is your victory? Tell me death, where is your sting? It is sin that gives death its sting and the law that gives sin its power. But we thank God for giving us the victory as conquerors through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. So now, beloved ones, stand firm, stable and enduring. Live your lives with an unshakeable confidence.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-58

My greatest fear happened that day in September. The enemy meant to kill, but, instead, what died was my fear. That doesn’t mean I never worry or that I never feel afraid; it now means worry and fear simply won’t rule over me—that the victory has been won, that my mind is precious soil for seeds of faith to be planted and to grow.

I know many of you beautiful souls reading this have experienced unspeakable pain and loss, paralyzing and unrelenting anxiety, or soul-gripping and joy-stealing fear—heartaches and setbacks you aren’t sure where to shelve.

Yet, as we near Mother’s Day, I believe this can be a time to confidently and courageously reflect on our roles as moms, of the children we’ve been entrusted with, children we’ve lost, and children we still hope for.

Here’s my hope for you and for me: May we go through our busy, full days with unshakeable confidence, imparting faith—not fear—to our children and then on to our children’s children and generations to come.

Courtney Smallbone is a storyteller and guest speaker who shares her heart-birthed, personal God stories so that people from all walks of life can thrive in their immovable identity in Christ. Her stories reflect the truth that God is still alive and working in today’s world, and she encourages everyone to live their lives intentionally and confidently—motivated by love, not fear. As wife to Christian music artist Luke of “for KING & COUNTRY” and mom to her three laughter-inducing boys Jude, Phoenix and Leo, Courtney embraces her “confetti” life, stomps out fear, and welcomes the adventure set before her while enjoying her rural country home life and traveling on the road.
Mom Gone Wild

Mom Gone Wild

I’ve always romanticized the idea of a staying in a remote lodge in the middle of the African bush surrounded by wild animals. You know, like the ones on the Discovery Channel, with thatched roofs and mosquito netting around the beds? Or – if you’re a more “mature” reader of Sadie’s blog – like the ones depicted in the 1985 Meryl Streep movie, “Out of Africa”! That is until two weeks ago, when my little girl Missy and I actually found ourselves staying in a remote lodge, deep in the African bush, a few miles south of Kruger National Park, and two treacherous miles from the main camp where our guides (that is, the guys with guns who knew how to protect us from the wild animals) were staying.

Since we’d been traveling for more than forty hours (flying from Nashville, TN to South Africa is no small thing) by the time we got to our safari encampment, I was more than a little groggy when our guide dropped us off at our temporary living quarters. Frankly, it took most of what little energy and mental acuity I had left to hoist myself up into the elevated, open-air, jeep-like commando vehicle that was required to transport us to our luxury hut in the middle of nowhere since the red clay tracks there are so rough that a regular truck can’t make the trek. Plus, there’s always the chance you’ll run into a lion or a belligerent African buffalo en route so it’s a good idea to ride high above the terrain (seriously).

Anyway, the only thing I remember clearly about our guide’s welcome spiel was his observation about seeing a six-foot, super deadly black mamba snake near our accommodations earlier in the day and how black mambas are very intelligent and aggressive and had been known to intentionally attack humans. He also strongly advised for me to make sure all the doors and windows in our lodge remained shut so that no animals or snakes could get inside our accommodations.

Unfortunately, the previous guests hadn’t heeded that warning because soon after Missy and I got settled into our room and gratefully collapsed into a massive, hand-carved bed enshrouded by mosquito netting (mind you, it wasn’t nearly as romantic as I thought after they told me the nets were a necessity because African mosquitos often carry the malaria virus), I heard a loud and persistent shuffle-thump-shuffle-thump noise. After lying there in the pitch black darkness for a minute or two trying to ascertain exactly where the sound was coming from, it dawned on my fuzzy, jet-lagged brain that it was coming FROM INSIDE THE BEDROOM. At which point, I remembered the guide told me that I had to use a remote to turn on the solar powered “smart” indoor lights or the whole system could short out and I couldn’t remember where I’d placed the remote!

The next few moments were a terrifying blur of sliding from the giant bed onto the floor and blindly groping around the room for the remote, certain I was going to step on the black mamba that was probably making all the shuffle-thump commotion. I’m convinced that several years were sucked from my life span during that fumbling session and the following heart-crushing realization – after I finally found the remote and turned on the lights – that neither my cell phone nor the phone in the room worked. I also realized the shuffle-thump sound was coming from a large woven basket by the desk. Upon closer examination, I noticed with increasing horror that the basket was MOVING because whatever deadly creature was inside it was thrashing back and forth.

Before I tell you the rest of the story – because I know you’re on the edge of your seat wondering if I survived the encounter – I want you to know that my precious, 9 year-old daughter, Melissa Price Harper, who’d fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, had continued to sleep soundly throughout this entire ordeal. Despite the fact that it was HER half-eaten fruit roll-up, which she’d discarded in the lovely, hand-woven basket that had lured the critter in the first place! Yet it was the visage of my baby girl – this incredible (albeit careless with snack wrappers) child God lovingly blessed me with through the miracle of adoption after her first mama died in Haiti – peacefully sprawled out and snoring softly that compelled me to grab an umbrella (the only potential weapon I could find) and fend off the huge, shrieking, bug-eyed, curly tailed, rat/koala-like critter locals refer to as a “bush baby” that leapt out of the basket when I poked it. Much hopping, shrieking (on both our parts) and peeing (on both our parts) ensued before I was able to scooch the killer outside through a glass sliding door.

Now that I’ve had time to heal emotionally from the incident, I’m convinced giraffes and wildebeests were watching me frantically leap around the room, screaming and flailing and wetting my pants (just a tad), while welding that umbrella-sword and were rolling on the jungle floor howling with laughter as a result. Because as my bemused safari guides explained the next morning after I told them about the “attack,” bush babies (officially known as Galagos) are completely harmless, nocturnal mammals that only eat insects and fruit. Therefore, it wasn’t a vicious predator after all. Only a bug-eyed, oversized Guinea pig in search of some sugary scraps. But let me tell you, I’d gladly pick up another umbrella and joust a much bigger, scarier, carnivorous critter in the middle of the night to ensure Missy gets a good night’s sleep after an exhausting transatlantic journey. Because providing for and protecting my punkin’s wellbeing is all part of the job I signed up for as her mama.

Which brings me to the moral of this crazy story: if a single, middle-aged parent with severe jet-lag and a leaky bladder will spring to confront a midnight intruder in the middle of the African bush to keep her daughter from potential harm How. Much. More will our Heavenly Father do for our provision and protection? Jerry, David and Matt answer it much better than I can:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12, NIV (emphasis mine)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11, ESV (emphasis mine)

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask himMatthew 7:11, NLT (emphasis mine)

Oh and one wee bit of advice before Mother’s Day: if you’re considering what kind of gift to get for your mom this year, I recommend a super sturdy umbrella. One can never have too many.

Lisa Harper is a master storyteller with a masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. She’s lauded as an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher. She’s been in vocational ministry for 30 years and has written 15 books, her latest being a children’s book, Who’s Your Daddy, as well as Bible study curriculums, including Job: A Story of Unlikely Joy. But Lisa says her greatest accomplishment by far is that of becoming mama to Missy, her adopted daughter from Haiti. They live on a hilly farmette south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy eating copious amounts of chips, queso, and guacamole.

When a Mother Leaves

When a Mother Leaves

This story gets worse before it gets better, so I’ll begin by quoting these beautiful scriptures that have meant so much to me on this journey of forgiveness and restoration.

“And I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Here we go!

When I was ten years old, my mother left.

I came home from school expecting her to be across the street at our family hair salon, but she was gone and had left a note saying goodbye. I didn’t hear from her for about six weeks.

She didn’t come back.

Can you imagine what happens to a ten-year-old girl’s heart when her mother leaves and doesn’t get in contact for six weeks?

It breaks apart. It is pulverized. It was like gravity had lost its power on the pieces of my heart and they were floating around aimlessly, like an astronaut in space. For quite some time after that, I was on a tight rope of abandonment and grief, just trying to stay balanced, just trying to keep from falling.

As you would imagine, I became hardened, older, and wary. The utter heartbreak began a lifetime of abandonment and trust issues, not to mention a suspicion of women, and obviously a great physical and emotional separation from my mum, (oh yeah, I’m a New Zealander. We say mum!) despite her eventual attempts to apologize and make up for the loss.

I lived with my Dad and threw myself into school, into books, into music—drums, rock ‘n roll and writing sad songs, specifically. Heartbreak is great fodder for songwriting, and I found I had a penchant for it from early on. The bands I found myself in and gigging with were local Christian artists, and due to the lovely way that God orchestrates things, I found myself playing at many Christian events and festivals.

So at seventeen years old, at Parachute Music festival in New Zealand, I heard the gospel in a unique and real way. Through the revelation of God’s goodness and constant, all-consuming love, I gave my heart to Jesus and slowly started to heal.

My heart gradually began changing. Like wax over heat, it started to become pliable and soft again, but unfortunately there was always a fracture in my relationship with my mum. There was always a divide, always a slight anger and mistrust. We spent a little time together during my teen years, but not much. I was young and selfish and hurt. Once I even chose a skiing trip with my dad rather than a week with my mum. (Wow- I need to go back and apologize to her about that!)

A measure of healing and forgiveness happened over my twenties as I grew and discovered more about life. I learned that life can be hard and the decisions one must make with the knowledge they have at the time can be difficult. It wasn’t until I had my son Oliver, nearly thirteen years ago, that the true miracle occurred.

Mum said she was going to come for the birth and stay with us for six weeks or so.

I said, “Absolutely not!”

I hadn’t lived with her since a fraught, tension-filled year when I was fourteen. I did a year of school in Montana, where she was living. It is our home state. (I’m half Kiwi/half American!) Granted, I was fourteen and everything was dramatic and tension-filled, but I could not imagine living with her again at such a tender, special time in my life.

I convinced her to come after the birth and for a shorter time. (Probably should apologize about that too. Geez, I was harsh towards her!)

She came after the birth and jumped right in to help. At first, I kept her at arms-length, but eventually, maybe due to exhaustion, but probably due to God softening my heart and covering us all with His grace, I let go. I let her help. I gave up trying to be hardened towards her.

I gave her the baby, said thanks, and went to bed.

It was during this time that I discovered that I needed her and that I trusted her and that I liked her a lot. She’s fun, funny and carefree, and she brought a joy and lightness to our home. I had been pushing her away my whole life. I had pretended that I didn’t need her at all and sometimes went for months and months without contact.

It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I realized we were more similar than different. That once she was a young mum too, who had just made a hard choice.

Grace, forgiveness and love abounded. God was on the move in my heart and in our house. All because of a little baby boy.

She was so busy during that month. She held the baby; she cooked for us. But more than that, she loved us all. At the end of that month with baby Oliver, I didn’t want her to leave. I wished she was staying longer. I was bereft and couldn’t wait for her to come back. A supernatural shift had occurred and, through the birth of our son, forgiveness was taking place in my heart. I was transformed and so happy to be able to tell her that I had forgiven her.

I think she had a hard time believing and receiving this news. We were in our kitchen, and she was busy again talking or baking or getting dinner ready. I sat her down and just said it, “You know I forgive you Mum. You don’t have to work hard to bake us another cake or do our laundry, you can just relax here. I forgive you and I love you. You don’t have to work for it.”

It was neat. It was true, and it was something I couldn’t conjure myself. Even though the words came out of my mouth, they came from above and were heavy with grace.

 

Soon after this she moved to Franklin, Tennessee and lived around the corner from us. She helped raise my two little beauties. (Lucy came 3 1/2 years later and looks just like Grandma.)

Mum is an integral part of our family now. My kids adore her. I can’t tell you what it means to me to see her play around with them or hold their hands on the walk to school.

The old has gone, the new has come. The Lord truly has restored to us years of our relationship that were stolen.

I’m so incredibly grateful to God that this change, restoration and reconciliation has happened in my life.

If you would have told that ten-year-old me that one day she would live close to her mum again and watch her help raise her children, that she would love her tremendously and forgive her absolutely, she would never ever have believed it. I thought the relationship was too broken to ever be repaired. I really thought that I would go through my whole life without a strong or real mother/daughter connection.

But this is what God does. He restores, He mends the broken hearts, He provides ways for miraculous healing to take place, even (and especially) through the birth of a son.

This Mother’s Day I am beyond grateful for my mum. I hope that this slice of my life encourages you somehow. If you are at odds with your mother, call her! Be super brave and think of ways that perhaps you have hurt her, then humble yourself and apologize. Apologizing frees you up and opens the way for communication and further healing.

And forgive! I know it is easier said (or typed) than done, but give it a go! Forgiving someone is like popping an angry balloon full of resentments and regret, and watching them fall away like confetti on the wind.

If your relationship is broken and fraught with drama, I’m sorry. I pray that you can be open to God’s grace and leading, and through the power of His love and mercy, reconciliation and restoration can take place in your family. I believe it can happen, because it happened to me, when I let go and let grace come in.

Blessings and love,

Laura C Boyd.

Laura lives in Franklin, TN, with her husband John and kids Oliver and Lucy. She teaches Zumba, writes songs, reads a lot and loves her cat Milo. Her mother Cecilia has now moved back to New Zealand to help with her brothers’ kids but comes back to Franklin often.

You can follow Laura’s band NeveCo on Instagram.  @neveco__

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