How to Grab Onto Grace During Times of Transition

Growing up, I used to approach the new school year with differing levels of apprehension and terror.

What if the teacher didn’t like me?

What if I forgot everything I’d learned the previous year? (I actually remember trying to practice some Math worksheets a few days before starting fifth grade.)

Before my wedding, I remember worrying that I wouldn’t figure out how to shop, plan, and cook meals each night.

Before Isaiah was born, I feared I wouldn’t know how to care for a baby, since I’d only had experience babysitting older kids, (which had been years earlier).


As I anticipate the birth of our daughter in a few weeks, it’s easy to try to picture what life will be like and to wonder how I’ll possibly have the strength and energy to care for a toddler and an infant.

When my free thoughts aren’t being attacked by those worries, my brain and/or hormones have wanted to convince me that this is the last chance to ever experience uninterrupted sleep, extended devotional times, and mental energy to write.

That I’d better enjoy it while I can, and pack as much into these last weeks of “freedom” as I’m able.

But the reality of transition is that it often doesn’t look like we imagined it would, no matter how much thinking or planning we do.

There are sacrifices that can be expected, but even those changes can be discouraging when we forget Who will be in the future with us, just as He is in the present.

Here are a few ideas that have been helpful, when I’ve needed something to replace stressful thoughts of anticipation:

  1. Reflect on the past.

It’s easy to be so focused on my current circumstances or the unknowns of the future that I don’t take time to remember God’s faithfulness in past experiences. This isn’t the first transition I’ve gone through, and it won’t be the last, until I reach my final home with Jesus on the New Earth.

As we read God’s Word, tracing His redemption plan over the course of history, we can see a God who is unchanging in His goodness and sovereign care for His children.

We can also follow the pattern of our own history within that plan, how God drew us to Himself and has led us ever since.

Sometimes we can even see how He’s made us more like Himself through past difficulties. I’ve been able to look back on years of physical pain enhanced by unhealthy thought patterns (that led into depression), and see God’s gracious hand leading me into His freedom.

I love the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

“I may not be the man I want to be; I may not be the man I ought to be; I may not be the man I could be; I may not be the man I truly can be; but praise God, I’m not the man I once was.”


2. Embrace the unknowns.

Living by faith brings us to a place of rest in the Father. The people of Israel were offered a way of life and fellowship with God, but didn’t combine their head knowledge with faith. (Hebrews 4:3)

Do I really believe that Jesus is the only One who can satisfy my deepest needs?

Faith also involves living in submission to the way God wants us to reflect Him. It opens our eyes to see the good works (and roles) He’s prepared for us, and allows us to trust in His strength and presence to guide us through each change. (Ephesians 2:10).

Faith gives us the ability to ask Jesus what He wants for us next while still being engaged in the life we have now.

And because He’s the One leading us, we are free to keep enjoying Him no matter how many minutes (or seconds) we get to spend in focused prayer and Bible reading before a little voice starts calling for milk.

3. Remember the stages.

My mentor Natalie recently reminded me, “One of the biggest discouragements in life is feeling like something will never end.”

After those first newborn weeks of interrupted rest, it felt like Isaiah would never sleep through the night, and that he’d only ever be able to communicate with me through crying.

Sometimes, I’ve needed someone to let me acknowledge the discomfort of the situation while pointing me ahead to the next stage. Remembering that I won’t have a newborn and a toddler forever gives me hope for a future time when I’ll be able to just grab my keys and leave the house.

And as I’ve thought about the limitations another baby will bring, I was embarrassed to realize I was spending more weeks worrying about caring for a newborn than the newborn stage would actually last.


Sometimes it feels like a change has been anticipated for so long that it will never come.

Like I will never be able to see my feet again or flip over in bed without executing a three-point turn.

But once again, these feelings can be a reminder of the patient character of God. As Melissa Kruger said in her Biblestudy on motherhood, “We can only bear the fruit of patience when we have something to be patient about.” (p.164)

When we look at the creation, fall, redemption, and restoration aspects of God’s rescue plan, spanning Genesis to Revelation, we can see that God is not in a hurry.

In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter says that “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

When we anticipate a transition, we have the chance to be a part of reflecting that grace-filled redemptive patience as we wait with hope.


Will you surrender your worries to the One who would like nothing more than to take them from you?

Will you trust God “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” in your current stage of life? (Philippians 2:13)

Is there a transition you’re anticipating? I’d love to hear and pray for you.

6 Ways to Bring More Joy into Your Parenting

6 Ways to Bring More Joy into Your ParentingMy almost-two-year-old son currently spends his days pointing to something, asking what it is called, and trying to repeat it.

If he had the money, he’d also hire someone to be his full-time book reader–as long as he could sit on their lap the whole time.

He loves it when we finally understand what he’s trying to say.

And when he makes us laugh, he likes to say, “That’s funny.”

But when there’s a container he can’t get open or a knob he can’t turn the whole way, every good thing in life is forgotten. He yell-cries and tenses up, as if his frustration is trying to mutate his body. To him, there is no other solution, until an outside force asks him if he needs a little help.

In a voice still wet with tears, he echoes, “Little help” and looks at me.

In these past two years of being a parent, I often feel like I’m not strong enough to keep twisting the lid off the jars of training, correction, and discipline.

It comes so naturally to pity myself, act annoyed, and wish I wasn’t entrusted with someone who can send me running with only a “Moooommmmyyyy!” from the other room.

So often I ignore the Spirit’s small voice saying, “Do you need a little help?”

I assume that because lots of parents raise their children in their own strength, I should be able to as well.

But then the weary, fearful, and overwhelmed feelings start pelting me, one pebble after the other, reminding me that only God can help me thrive in this season of parenting.

Here are six questions I’ve had to ask myself when parenting feels like climbing a rock slide.

  1. Am I spending time in the Word?

Maybe reading the story of Ahab killing Naboth for his vineyard won’t seem to bring the immediate answers I feel I need, but as I study each God-breathed Scripture, I can get to know the character of God more. The God who gives us so much more than what we might think we deserve, and is ready with His forgiveness when we do repent of our selfish desires.

I can delight in depending on someone else as my Rock, Refuge, Wisdom, and Lover, instead of trying to be those things for myself and my family.

I can see the grace He offered again and again to the Israelites and embrace Jesus’ perfection on my behalf.

When I read the words of God, I can submit my insecure, insufficient thoughts to Him and welcome in His truths to replace them.

6 Ways to Bring More Joy into Your Parenting2. Am I inviting God into each peanut butter and jelly-filled day?

Sometimes I wake up with my to-do list scrolling through my head.

Sometimes Isaiah gets up early and is ready to contribute his own demands before I’ve even shaken off my dreams.

When I step out of bed, it can feel like a moving sidewalk, pulling me to the next responsibility.

If I don’t take the time to invite Jesus into my activities for the day, it’s easy for me to start thinking it’s all up to me to keep the ship from sinking. Household responsibilities can start to feel pointless and mundane.

When I ask Him to help me enjoy Him and the work He has for me that day, it opens the way for Jesus to bring the satisfaction and contentment He longs to give. It also helps me fight the battle against guilt influencing the good things I think I should be doing.

3. Am I taking on burdens of responsibility that weren’t meant for me to bear?

My tendency has often been to try and make Isaiah’s life as comfortable as possible. I hate seeing him experience hunger, thirst, or pain. I’ve cringed at the thought of having to let him learn from his poor choices.

In Parenting With Love and Logic, Foster Cline and Jim Fay share that, “Effective parenting centers around love: love that is not permissive, love that doesn’t tolerate disrespect, but also love that is powerful enough to allow kids to make mistakes and permit them to live with the consequences of those mistakes.

“Most mistakes do have logical consequences. And those consequences, when accompanied by empathy—our compassionate understanding of the child’s disappointment, frustration and pain—hit home with mind-changing power.”  (p. 13)

These consequences go back to the beginning of time, when sin entered the world.

“When Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, God allowed them to suffer the consequences. Although He did not approve of their disobedience, He loved them enough to let them make a decision and live with the results.” (p. 29)

Of course, God’s grace and mercy were at work the entire time. Even in their sin, He used them as part of His plan of redemption and forgiveness.

But because our sinful nature keeps us from God, our children also need the chance to be faced with the realization that they can never be perfect. Only when they see their need can we point them to Jesus, who paid with His life so that they could be seen as righteous before God.

6 Ways to Bring More Joy into Your ParentingTedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart talks about correction having a central focus on redemption. He shares that, “You must address the heart as the fountain of behavior, and the conscience as the God-given judge of right and wrong. The cross of Christ must be the central focus of your childrearing.

“You want to see your child live a life that is embedded in the rich soil of Christ’s gracious work. The focal point of your discipline and correction must be your children seeing their utter inability to do the things that God requires unless they know the help and strength of God.”  (p. 120)

As we encourage our children in the truth of the gospel, facing natural and parent-led consequences give our children safe ways to fail.

Cline and Fay share that “The older a child gets, the bigger the decisions become and the graver the consequences of those decisions. Little children can make many mistakes at affordable prices. They can pick themselves up and try again if things don’t work out.” (p. 30)

If Isaiah refuses to eat his dinner, he will feel the natural consequence of hunger and be ready to jump into his high chair at breakfast.

If it is time for his diaper to be changed, he can choose whether he wants to walk, run or be carried to the changing table.

When it’s time to brush his teeth, he can have them brushed while he’s sitting or standing.

If he’s having trouble sharing when a friend is over, he spends a few minutes alone in his bed.

I’ve needed God’s help to be unemotional when dealing with my son’s bad choices and jubilant when he makes good ones.

I’m realizing how natural it is to say things I regret or can’t enforce. But when I do, I can ask for my son’s forgiveness and keep disciplining in God’s strength as His agent.

There are many parenting situations we haven’t had to face yet, but I’ve appreciated Cline and Fay’s insights into bedtime struggles, chores, homework, grades, and getting ready to go somewhere. They give concrete examples and case studies of how parents can handle these situations.

As children learn our expectations and their responsibilities, they can take charge of their own choices, (and we can stop doing the thinking for them).

4. Am I making my expectations clear and taking the time to enforce consequences?

Jeff and Jen Wilkin, in their parenting class share that the number of warnings I regularly give will be the number of times my children will get used to disobeying before they listen. They talk about keeping a long view of parenting, making decisions based on what will be best for our children in the long run.

For example, if I take the time to talk with my children about how I expect them to behave when we go somewhere, they will know when they’ve done something deserving discipline (even if it has to wait until we get home).

And when it’s time to leave, if I’ve given them a few minutes warning, they may not be as frustrated to be swept back into the car.

5. Am I accepting the grace of the gospel in my own life so I can pass it on to my children?

If I have a running commentary of insults in my head whenever I make a mistake, I can’t help but be critical when my son messes up.

Even before I became a mom, I saw how my feelings influenced the way I treated others. If I was frustrated by how little I seemed to accomplish that day, when my husband came home from work, it was natural for me to get frustrated if he didn’t feel the same drive for productivity by taking out the trash or helping with the dishes.

6 Ways to Bring More Joy into Your ParentingMelissa Kruger, in her Biblestudy Walking With God in the Season of Motherhood, says that our “hope is to have God impact our own lives in such a way that His imprint on our hearts makes a lasting impression on our children. If we yearn for children who take their needs to God in prayer, it is important that we increasingly become women of prayer. . .If we want  peaceful, hopeful, kind and compassionate children, it is essential that we grow in these graces ourselves. In the beauty of God’s design, He is in the process of parenting us as we parent our children. (p.3)

6. Am I allowing myself time to enjoy my children?

Ephesians 2:10 says, “ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Many times God leads us to His good works through our roles. Listening to my husband share about his work day is a way to show love to him.

When I take time to delight in my son, reading Rumble in the Jungle for the fiftieth time or watching him go down the slide, I am sharing in the good works God has for me.

When I start to thank God for my role of parenting, rather than seeing it as a constant burden of interruptions, it can open up the way for His joy to flow through me.  (And to appreciate how funny a two-year-old can really be.)

What has God used in your life to bring more joy into your parenting?

Jesus, we invite you into our lives and this terrifying and wonderful journey of parenting. Thank you for the eternal souls you’ve placed in our families. Would you give us and our children soft hearts to embrace all you have for us? We are Yours.

When Ordinary is Not Wrong

When Ordinary is Not WrongWhen I was nine years old, I told anyone who asked that I was planning to be a missionary orphanage worker. I toted my American girl doll Addy to school for career day (pretending she was an African orphan).

I decided that I was going to adopt twin girls from Africa (since I’d heard that in some of the tribes twin babies were left to die because one supposedly had an evil spirit), and also adopt a little girl from China (since boys were preferred in the one-child policy).

I supposed it would be okay to give birth to a boy, since I hadn’t heard of any bad stories about them.

When I started college, my career aspirations shifted to becoming a public school teacher, shining the light of Jesus among the other teachers and students.

After Christopher and I got married, I ended up teaching for a year at a Christian school and prepared for yet another change in plans.

Since the time we’d started dating, Christopher and I had decided to move overseas and share the gospel with those who hadn’t heard. We spent six weeks in Iraq and made plans to join the team preparing to go long-term.

When we felt the Lord’s redirection to delight in Him and share Him in Delaware, it felt so small.

It was a lot more exciting to share plans of adventure with people than stories about Isaiah calling out for his daddy at the top of his lungs in Walmart (even though Daddy had already been at work for a few hours).

When Ordinary is Not WrongAt times a fearful thought would fill my head with the pressure of a fire hose. What if I’m not doing what’s right? What if God wants me to be doing something else?

What if the mornings lingering over devotions and other reading, the time spent reading books to my son or making his stuffed animals talk to him would be better spent doing something else?

What if I should be fulfilling this or that need in the community? Someone has to, after all.

How could my life be pleasing to the Lord when everything feels so—ordinary?

What if I’m doing something that is keeping God from using me like He wants to?

My mentor Natalie asked me a question once that made me almost drop the phone in surprise. “Is God there to catch you and accept you regardless?”

She reminded me that our problems are so much more than we realize.

If God were to point out all my faults, sinful tendencies, and weaknesses, I’d probably want to hide in a cave and never come out.

If He condemned me for them, I would go to hell. (Romans 6:23)

Natalie said that God knows the true problems in our hearts and wants to meet our deepest and greatest needs with Himself.

When Ordinary is Not WrongBecause of Jesus’ death on the cross, our past, present, and future sins are paid for. (John 3:16)

I believe Satan is satisfied with anything we let tear our focus away from God, even if it’s the fear of being too ordinary.

Here are three questions I try to consider when I can’t tell the difference between my own concocted good deeds and God works:

1. Am I spending time with God?
If I’m not setting aside time to read God’s Word, pray, and find times of Sabbath rest, it will be much harder to seek His direction, delight in my relationship with Him, and be open to His conviction.

If my mind isn’t being filled with truth, condemnation and lies can weasel their way in until they bully out all the good thoughts.

2. Am I valuing the roles He’s placed me in?
Our culture values individuals. We rejoice when we see one man move up the ladder of success by sheer grit and determination. It can be exhausting if we’re trying to do the same thing with a toddler hanging off our waist and a husband who wants a hug and a listening ear after work.

It can be easy to resent the people God’s given us the most access to love.

When Ordinary is Not Wrong3. Am I talking to God about my activities so that if He redirects, I’m available for the good works He’s prepared for me to do? (not the good opportunities that seem to come at me from all sides like balloons in a waterballoon fight.)

Most people in the Bible didn’t convince God to use them a certain way. In fact, they were doing pretty ordinary things.

  • Joseph was babbling his dreams to his brothers and checking up on them for his father. (Genesis 37)
  • Moses was taking care of sheep in the wilderness. (Exodus 3)
  • Gideon was hiding from Midianite enemies while threshing wheat in a winepress. (Judges 6)
  • Mary was probably helping her mom in her household, preparing for her marriage to Joseph. (Luke 1)
  • Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishing. (Mark 1)

And when the people in the Bible did try to do awesome things, they usually forgot God in the process.

  • Samson got his eyes plucked out and was obsessed with revenge even at the end of his life when he pushed the pillars down to kill a bunch of Philistines. (Judges 16) (Click here for some excellent Bible study podcasts on the book of Judges by Jen Wilkin.)
  • Gideon refused to be king, but instead made a golden ephod, which the people worshiped. (Judges 8)
  • Saul got scared when the prophet Samuel didn’t come before a battle and offered an unauthorized sacrifice. (1 Samuel 13)

Some short prayers I try to remember to pray (especially in times of confusion or false guilt) are:

“Jesus, would you help me to enjoy you today?”

“Father, I invite you into this day. Would you go before me and show me where You would have me love and serve?”

“I surrender my plans to You, Holy Spirit, and trust You to lead me.”

“Thank you for loving me even when I do sin. I ask for your conviction and freedom from any condemnation.”

“Would you make me more like you today, Jesus?”

I don’t know what my life will look like tomorrow, much less ten years from now. (Maybe He will bring those twins from Africa.) But I don’t want to live in shame or resent the ordinary tasks God is entrusting me with.

Because is any work God does really ordinary?

Is there a “good work” that needs surrendering? Is there a less noticeable one God is leading you to do instead?

5 Ways to Fight Fear

5 Ways to Fight FearThe dreams all happened over the course of a few nights.

A dream that our friends got divorced.
A dream that a friend’s baby died.
A dream that another friend got cancer.

For some, these tragedies are reality. For others of us, they are part of the battle against fearful thoughts.

If all our fears were unfounded, we could probably talk ourselves out of it.
But in this broken world, pain will invade us until Jesus comes back to destroy evil once and for all.

Those who don’t know Christ have a lot to fear. But if we have surrendered our lives to Jesus, His Spirit lives inside us.

We have weapons for the battle.

When I was pregnant with Isaiah, I remember being so afraid I would have a miscarriage.
In his first newborn weeks, I worried if I couldn’t hear him rustling around on the monitor during the night.
There are times even in this toddler stage that my mind jumps to fear when I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner and haven’t heard him make noise for a while.

Sometimes the “what ifs” can be suffocating, squeezing the air out of more positive thoughts.

Here are 5 ways I’ve fought in the battle against fear:

5 Ways to Fight Fear1. Remember that it takes intentional fighting.
Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Author and speaker Steve Wibberley talks about the importance of daily putting on the armor of God in his book, Knowing Jesus is Enough for Joy. We can be prepared for the battle by praying through each piece regularly.

  • The Belt of Truth: proclaiming the gospel to ourselves and acknowledging our identity in Christ (that we are loved, cleansed, and commissioned for His work)
  • The Breastplate of Righteousness: claiming God’s righteousness on our behalf, accepting His forgiveness for when we do sin
  • The Shoes of Peace: asking for strength to forgive others who hurt us and to love everyone we interact with
  • The Shield of Faith: praising God, even when things are difficult, trusting His work in our lives
  • The Helmet of Salvation: thanking God that “my significance and security come from Him and that they cannot be taken away by any person or circumstance.” (Wibberley 69)
  • The Sword of the Spirit: memorizing the Word and praying through what God is saying through a passage, relating the principles to our own lives. Here’s an example from Nehemiah:

“Thank you, Lord, for the grace you showed to the Israelites as they rebuilt the city walls and renewed the covenant, knowing that they would break it again soon. Thank you for extending that grace to me when I forget you and decide to wallow in self-pity, and for when I’m tired and short on patience with my husband and Isaiah.”

2. Remember whose side you’re on.
Sometimes it helps me to step away from my limited perspective by meditating on attributes of God that I have experienced or recently observed in Scripture.

Lover of sinners.

Creator of the universe.

Worker of everything good.

Gentle Shepherd.

Sovereign over all creation.

Redeemer of all my past, present, and future sins.


Promised Conqueror of all that is evil.

3. Remember that it’s not wrong to be afraid.
It’s encouraging to me when I think about how many people God used in the Bible who were afraid.

God said, “Do not be afraid” to Abraham, Moses (over and over during his ministry), Joshua, Elijah, Jeremiah, Joseph, Mary, and Paul, but it was not an accusation. It was a reminder that He was going to be with them in the special purposes He had for their lives.

Even Jesus was afraid. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, waiting to be arrested, He said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)

4. Remember the psalmists.
What I love about the book of Psalms is that one moment the writer is pouring out his feelings and frustrations to the Lord, and then by the time he reaches the end of the psalm (I picture him gritting his teeth), he declares his trust in God, even if he can’t see how God is going to fix his problems. (see Psalm 13, 28, 35, 42)

God wants to listen to the emotions going on inside of us and has given us words of faith we can pray with the psalmists.

A few weeks before Isaiah was born, my midwife encouraged me to find verses of faith to cling to as I approached the unknown of childbirth.

Here are a few examples of those words of faith: (Many of these examples are taken from Gaylyn William’s book All Stressed Up and Everywhere to Go).

Psalm 56:3-4–When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 68:19–Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.

Psalm 27:14–Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

5 Ways to Fight Fear Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11–God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

5. Remember our final destination.
Sometimes the things we fear do happen.

Here are John’s words to one of the churches facing a fearful situation in Revelation 2:10: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Maybe the pain feels so raw and gaping that you can’t remember what happiness felt like.

Paul reminded the church in Corinth, “For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5)

In Christ, there is always a hopeful future.

Randy Alcorn helped me to put this into perspective. He illustrated that our lives right now are a dot, but eternity is a line. (You can read more thoughts on heaven here.)

5 Ways to Fight FearThere might be a lot of pain packed into that little dot, but the line won’t even have a hint of it.

We will encounter fearful situations. Fearful thoughts may come when we least expect it. But Jesus is always ready with His peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Calling out His name is a great place to start.

How will you battle against fear today?