Susannah Baker

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Seeing Rejection as God’s Protection

On September 9, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Encouragement, Motherhood, Surviving School, With 2 Comments

I still remember the day I didn’t make the 7th grade girls volleyball team. I stood in a cluster of girls with bangs and braces around a bulletin board in the school hallway while looking up at the list of names pinned to the board. I still remember the flushed feeling of my face and the disappointed and embarrassed ache in my heart when I realized my name wasn’t on the list. It was as if the list bore confirmation to the subconscious thoughts always circling around in my head and heart – “Yep. This just shows you’re not enough – never have been, never will be.”

Rejection hurts, no matter if you are 13 or 43.

But while rejection usually has the first word in our ears when we miss the mark or miss the grade or don’t make the team, it doesn’t have to have the last word.

After you’ve been rejected (and let’s face it – who hasn’t been rejected? It’s part and parcel of living as a human on this earth), it takes a ton of work not to see all of life through the lens of “not enough,” shame, embarrassment, and failure. It’s hard not to make inner promises and vows of, “I don’t need them,” or “I’ll just show them later,” and walk off either stuffing our hurts or spewing our hurts in unhealthy ways.

Lately, I’ve found that I need a refresher course on how to walk through rejection. Not just for myself, but for my kids. Because with the start of every new school year comes the start of new friend groups, new teams, and new tryouts. Everyone tries everything and everyone on for size to see if you fit the group and make the cut.

And it’s a funny thing – when your kids enter junior high, if you’re not careful and watching your heart and your step, you can feel like you’re entering junior high all over again as well.

So as I hugged a friend tight this week and prayed through a hurt her child had received from rejection, this is what I had to remember for myself, my friend, and our kids:

Rejection happens. That’s because life happens, and we live in a fallen world. I think my goal for so long was to rejection-proof my life. I thought if I could only be a good enough or if my kids could be good enough or take good enough lessons, make good enough grades, or be good enough friends, I could fool-proof our lives from rejection and its crippling effects.

But that just isn’t possible. Rejection is going to happen for ourselves and our kids. So at some point, I realized I could either continue to walk through life feeling continually hurt and offended, or I could change. And that meant my goals needed to change as well. Instead of trying to insulate my life from rejection, I needed to change the lens on my life.

What I mean is this: when we or our kids don’t make the cut, we automatically determine we are bad or there is something inherently bad or faulty in us or about us. But instead of the lens being rejection, what if the lens we had on our eyes was protection? When we don’t get what we want when we want it, what if we told ourselves and our kids the truth: “What looks like rejection is God’s protection.” And when hard things happen (and they will), if God is our Father, then everything that happens to us or touches us has first passed through His Hands of steadfast, unending love. We must learn to tell ourselves while meaning it and believing it with all of our hearts – “Everything is necessary that God sends our way; nothing can be necessary that He withholds” (John Newton).

“No, your name isn’t on the list for that particular team, but yes, God is working out in your soul an eternal weight of glory that will far outlast anything you could have gained by making the cut and making the team.”

“No, you weren’t included in that friend group or spend the night, but yes, God is protecting you from something you cannot see with your physical eyes and drawing you close to time with Himself that will shape your soul for much longer than a night spent with friends.”

“No, you didn’t get the job, but yes, it’s because God has a specific, tailor-made purpose for you that does not involve the path you thought you would take. He has other things in store.”

We must learn that behind every no is the sovereign yes of God. And learning to hear God’s “Yes” behind every “No,” learning to see protection instead of rejection, learning to see that nothing is withheld from us that we need and behind every “no” is a good Father’s steadfast love, takes a lifetime of following closely to Jesus.

But parents, let me warn you of something I have learned the hard way through personal experience: your child’s vision begins with yours. What your child sees behind the “No” begins with what you see. What your child hears behind the rejection hears begins with how you hear. And if all your child can see and hear on a regular, perpetual basis is rejection and failure and bitterness and anger and shame that life isn’t going the way they want it to or would chose for it to, the first person to look to change is yourself.

When your child hears or receives a “No” when all they wanted was “Yes,” STOP. PAUSE. PRAY. Before you start seeing the decision or rejection or relationship through your child’s negative lenses, stop long enough to put on lenses of your own. Lenses of the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases and whose mercies never come to an end. They are there for the taking; you just have to choose to put them on. And parents, it takes a lot of self-control not to enter into the negative emotions of gossip or slander or bitterness or – let’s just be honest – envy that go along with rejection.

You and your kids are going to be sad. That’s ok. Feel the pain and sadness with your child, rub their back and dry their tears, but then speak words of life. Speak God’s “Yes” over them when all they can hear is “No.” Speak humility and submission to authority figures and obedience instead of helping them demand their way or the highway.

There is a time to speak up for your child when injustice has occurred, but those times are few and far between. Most of the time, we are to pause, humble ourselves under the mighty Hand of God, and let Him exalt us and our kids when and how He wants to do it.

WARNING LABEL: THIS IS NOT EASY. Your children will be mad at you, stalk away from you, and resist hearing you. They will want to demand their own way, stomp their own feet, and sulk in a corner.

STAND YOUR GROUND, MOMMA, AND DON’T LET THEM.

Because what’s at stake isn’t their place on the volleyball team; it’s the eternal state of their soul. What’s at stake isn’t their name on a list; it’s their names written in the Lamb’s book of Life.

And while I wish our kids learned depth of character, kindness, humility and the value of hard work and discipline through making the team, being in their friend group of choice, and getting what they want when they want it, the best character lessons are learned through suffering. The caverns of obedience are carved out through the “No’s” and their ability to remain present, moldable, and humble.

Next week, we have volleyball tryouts, musical auditions, and the start of school on the docket. There is going to be ample opportunity for me to practice what I preach in the days ahead.

So when you see me, feel free to ask me, “Are you seeing rejection as protection? Are you hearing God’s “Yes” behind every “No”? Are you agreeing with the negativity of rejection, or are you choosing to hear God’s words of life and love? And are you helping your kiddos do the same? Are you honoring the authority figures in their life, the parents in the grade who make mistakes just like you do, and are you choosing to be humble?”

I need all the help I can get.

Because at the end of the day, what I want for myself and for my kids isn’t the perfect resume, but a humble heart. A heart that loves Jesus and has been shaped by the fires of suffering and obedience, just as His was (Hebrews 5:8), and comes forth loving God more than we ever thought possible. What I want is for my child’s life to go according to God’s way and not my way, even when His way involves the inevitable “No’s.”

And I know that you want that too; so let’s commit this year to putting on our lenses of God’s unfailing love and helping our kids to do the same.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-32, 35-39

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram and Facebook.

Parents, Sons, and the Fight Against Pornography

Yesterday’s post was about getting Boys In the Word of God. As a mother of two teenage boys, my good friend Leigh Kohler spoke from her heart about the importance of the Word of God in discipling boys as they become men and the tools and resources she and her husband, Marc, have used throughout the past seventeen years as parents. To access that blog post, click HERE.

But as Leigh thought and prayed through the topic of discipling boys and getting them into God’s Word, there was a topic she couldn’t help but address – pornography. As a mother of two teenage boys and a sister to four brothers, Leigh knows well the temptation and danger that pornography brings.

Listen as Leigh’s youngest brother, Todd Davidson, shares his struggle and battle against pornography and the tools that helped see him through to freedom on the other side.

Trying to live as if our kids are never going to make mistakes is impossible; but living and praying and keeping our kids in the truth of God’s Word is possible and deeply necessary for all that lies ahead for our children, especially our boys.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find us on Instagram @leigh.kohler and @baker.susannah.

Boys in the Word

I have known Leigh Kohler a long time. The first time we met – our moms introduced us over lunch – I was a junior in high school, and Leigh was a senior. As we chatted, I remember studying for a Spanish quiz between taking bites of bread. But I also remember this – Leigh had a reputation for being a woman after God’s own heart, even as a senior in high school. From the start, I was drawn to her passion and intensity for life and all things holy. I loved her laugh and quick sense of humor, and I loved the way she made pursuing God an adventure. She made me want to join her in her pursuit of God and others He put in her path.

Twenty-six years later (I’ll let you do the math on how old we are), I still feel the same way.

Leigh is a woman after God’s own heart, and she still has a passion and intensity for life and all things holy. She and her husband Marc have three children, two boys and a girl, and are raising their children with a passion for God’s Word and a hunger for holiness as well.

Since I have four girls, my Kids in the Word video leaned heavily on the girls’ side, so I asked Leigh to share her heart, ideas, and resources on how she has engaged her boys in reading and living out the Word of God (thanks for the great idea, Leti Lusk!). So join me in taking a few moment to learn from Leigh – I know you will be as blessed as I was!

All the resources Leigh mentions in the video have been added to my Kids in the Word list on Amazon. To access those resources, click HERE.

To check out the Bible app she mentions to read through the Bible in a year, click HERE.

In addition to the amazing job she does as wife and mom, Leigh serves as the President of the Freedom Church Alliance, an alliance of churches from around the city united to fight human trafficking in the name of Jesus. To learn more, go to www.freedom church alliance.org. And to receive more encouragement from Leigh throughout the week, you can find her on Instagram @leigh.kohler.


Kids in the Word

On July 7, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Motherhood, Video Weekly Words, With 10 Comments

As parents, more than anything, we want our kids to live their lives knowing and loving the Word of God and relationship with Jesus Christ more than anything else. Join me as I share about the challenges, rewards, and value in teaching our kids the Word of God, and the tools that have helped along the way.

To access the tools I mention in the video to help your kids, all the way from infancy through their teenage years, click HERE.

Other great websites with scripture memory and devotional resources include:

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.

For Those Who Struggle with the Hurt of Abortion

On June 1, 2020, Posted by , in Abortion, Adoption, Encouragement, Motherhood, With 4 Comments

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “Love Wins: A Story of Adoption, Redemption, and Love,” in response to hearing Nina Hendee’s story of being reunited with the son she had surrendered to adoption over forty years ago. (To watch their story, click here.)

Nina’s story is a miraculous and courageous one. Courageous because she made the decision to carry her baby as a 17-year-old unwed mother and then place her baby in the care of a family who could love him well. And miraculous because God reunited Nina and her son decades later and allowed them to see a glimpse, this side of heaven, of the power of faithful and persistent prayer.

When I wrote the piece, I knew it would bless people deeply to read about Nina’s courageous decision and God’s faithful redemption.

But I didn’t know it would also hurt hearts who had walked through the same circumstances as Nina yet chose abortion instead of adoption. Abortion and those who suffer under its weight is the side of the coin of unplanned pregnancy I do not think about as often as I should, and for that thoughtlessness, I am deeply sorry.

And it is to you, to the women who suffer under the hurt and pain that abortion brings, that I want to write today’s blog.

Several weeks ago, I had a quiet conversation with a friend that I cannot recall without tears.

In slow and quiet words, my friend shared the emotions she experienced as she read Nina’s story.

She too had been a young, single woman who found herself pregnant by a man she knew she did not want to marry or start a family with. She felt alone, overwhelmed and backed into a corner, squeezed into a tight space, with no option but this one: to end the life of her baby. So she did. And she stuffed that decision, buried it down deep, and moved on, living her life, until she heard Nina’s story several weeks ago.

And that’s when the pain and the shame and the hurt of her decision began to come up and out of the places where she had stuffed it.

As we went back and talked through the moments leading up to her decision to abort, we talked through the pain and loneliness she felt, and the grief she had buried.

We were able to go back through those moments and see the Presence of God with her in the doctor’s office when she felt so alone. We were able to see, through prayer, that her good Shepherd was with her in the valley of the shadow of death all along. And while it grieved Him deeply the decision she made, it grieved Him just as much that she was separated from Him, far off in her grief and pain. And the same God who was there to comfort Nina as she surrendered her son was there to comfort my friend as she surrendered her grief.

What we both remembered and experienced firsthand in those moments together was this – God did not come to comfort perfect people. He did not come to die for and forgive the righteous – for those who make good, right, and perfect decisions. He came to comfort and cover the UN-righteous. Those who made and make bad decisions, hurtful decisions, decisions that end in death and grief and in separation from God instead of loving union with Him (Romans 5:6).

And what we discovered and remembered together is that the same God who redeemed Nina’s story was there to redeem my friend’s story and every single woman’s story who wrestles with similar pain from her past.

Yes, Nina took the opportunity to make a courageous decision when she chose to carry her baby to full term and to give him life. And yes, that decision reaped immense blessing and redemption in her life. But if you chose abortion instead of adoption, it does not mean that you are excluded from the goodness of God’s blessing and redemptive purposes at work in your story and in your life. Your road will look differently than Nina’s, but the goodness of God and the power of God behind you, walking with you on your road, is the same. And if you chose abortion, you now, like my friend, have the opportunity to make a courageous decision as well, one that will have lasting impact just as Nina’s did.

You can choose to stay hidden in the pain and grief of the choice you made, or you can choose to bring it out into the open, into the light, just as my friend did, and choose to believe God can heal and redeem even this. Just as with Nina, the worst the enemy can do in your life, God can undo. He can redeem.

And every day, just as Nina had a choice to trust God, to close her eyes so that she could see His goodness and believe that God did not love her or her son because Nina was so great; He loved her because He was so great. And it was on God’s greatness and goodness that Nina’s choice to be courageous rested.

And it is the same choice you and I have as well.

I think one of the biggest lies we must learn to overcome as believers in Christ is that God’s goodness is for those who make the fewest messes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does He draw near to those who make messes time and time and time again, He does not leave us on our own to clean those messes up. Instead, He gets down on His hands and knees and cleans up our messes for us and with us with His broken body and poured out blood.

If we believe anything else, or if we believe the goodness of God and the redemption of God is only for people like Nina who make good or courageous decisions, then we are not believing the true Gospel. The true Gospel is this: Christ came to die for sinners. Not when we were good and loved God but when we hated Him and were far off and made horrible, terrible, selfish decisions (I Peter 3:18).

And that is a truth not just for people who have chosen abortion but for all of us, myself and Nina included. I have chosen murder often when I have held unforgiveness in my heart (Matthew 5:21-22). I have chosen death many times when I have deeply envied and wronged people who have gotten things I have wanted (James 3:16). At the foot of the cross, my friends, we are all on level playing ground. We are all deeply flawed, full of sin, in need of grace.

But the tragedy is not that we have sinned. The tragedy is if we stay stuck there.

Don’t stay stuck in your past. Move up and out through confession into the light.

You don’t have to trumpet the decision you made on a loud speaker on your front lawn to your whole street. You don’t have to stand up in a pulpit on a Sunday morning and confess to a whole church full of people.

But you do have to confess to God, confess to anyone who was hurt by your sin (and this happens in God’s time, God’s way as He shows you how), and it helps tremendously to confess to at least one other person who can look at you in the flesh, put their hands on you, and say, “My friend, you are forgiven. This is what the cross of Christ is for. And God is going to redeem your story. All of it. Even this, especially this.”

This is what the body of Christ is for. We are to proclaim to one another daily and often: Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. In others words, Christ has died – you are forgiven. Christ has risen – you are made new in the power of His Holy Spirit. Christ will come again – all of our stories will be redeemed, and we will live with Him forever.

Please know that as I write, if you are in pain over a decision from the past you have made, I am praying for you. I am praying that right now, today, your heart would be stirred to look up and out to Jesus. I am praying that you would leave your shame and pain at the foot of the cross and learn to look courageously at Him for the rest of your life, for all of your days. Like Nina, you might see the outcome of your decision to trust God here on this earth, or like many of us, you might not. But I can promise you this: you will see it one day. And you will be blown away by the power of our God to make all things new.

If you are struggling under the weight or sorrow of an abortion, here are some steps you can take:

  • Confess your sin to God, and then pray about confessing it to another person who is trustworthy. Ask God to show you who that person is.
  • Instead of burying your grief about the life of your child, allow it to come to the surface. Consider giving your child a name if you have not already done so. Write a letter to him or her, and say the things you wish you could say; write out the prayers, hopes, and dreams you had for his or her life.
  • Trust the decision you made to end a life in death, God can redeem. Put a tangible reminder of this hope and God’s redemption in a place where you will see it often. Plant a tree or flowering bush. Pick up a rock, a stone of remembrance of the goodness of God, and put it by your bed or on your desk. But do something to remind you of God’s promise to be faithful even when you are faithless (reference).
  • Guilt and shame can only hold power over us when they go unacknowledged and remain hidden, in the dark. When the enemy of your soul comes to make you feel small, ashamed, embarrassed, or dirty from the inside it, stop, and notice it. Stop and say, “That’s shame.” Say it out loud, under your breath, or make a tally mark on a card. Even something as simple as that begins to loosen and destroy the hold that shame has over you. And then actively turn towards God. Memorize and think on a Scripture that pushes you towards the goodness of God for sinners who are made righteous because of Jesus, not because of anything we do for ourselves or on our own. One verse you could use is Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, how will He not graciously give us all things?…If God is for us, who can be against us?” If God has forgiven you and promised to redeem you, then what can anyone else including Satan himself, do to you? Nothing.
  • Consider meeting with a counselor or joining a support group with other women who have walked through abortion and actively process your story with those who can help you work towards healing. For resources on a counselor or group, please consider connecting with the amazing people here.

Know this from Nina, from my friend, from me, but most of all, from the Lord: no matter your past, or the decisions you have made, you are loved. Those who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). Forgiven. Made whole. And renewed. And no power on heaven or on earth can separate you from His love.

Whatever decision you make today, let it be this: courageously look up and out to Jesus, and like Nina, and like my friend, let your healing begin. You will never regret surrendering all that you hold in your heart and your hands to Him, to the One whose hands can safely hold it all.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah

Video: Teens Trusting God in Seasons of Loneliness

Junior high, high school, and the early teenage years are often times when teens experience loneliness. But loneliness doesn’t have to be a burden; it can be a gift when used as a tool to turn to God and get to know Him and who He has made us to be. Join me and my daughter, Lillian, in a conversation to learn how God has used this very important tool in her life.

Video Blog: Teens Trusting God in Anxiety

Many teenagers and young people today struggle with overwhelming dread, fear, and anxiety. As parents, aunts, uncles, and mentors, we can often struggle with knowing how to help them fight their crippling, unseen fears. My 19 year old niece, Hannah, has battled anxiety the past five years, but she has learned how to fight her fears one step at a time. Listen and be encouraged as she shares her story and the tools that have helped her along the way.

https://youtu.be/fxAJmHL3voY

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.

Love Wins: A Story of Adoption, Redemption, and Love

On May 12, 2020, Posted by , in Adoption, Encouragement, Motherhood, With 5 Comments

I’ve known Nina Hendee a long time. I’ve known the warmth that radiates from her big, beautiful blue eyes. I’ve known the joy that emanates from every cell of her body even when, and especially when, life is hard. I’ve known the comfort of being a part of her family in some of my most difficult days. I’ve known her as a mentor, mom, role model, and friend.

But I’ve never known her as a fellow mom whose life had been touched by adoption until several months ago.

Jason and I were eating dinner at her family’s famous steakhouse restaurant, The Taste of Texas, when Nina came over to visit. As she pulled out her chair and sat down, she began to tell us a story. A story of herself as a seventeen-year-old girl who was pregnant and unmarried yet who made the courageous and inconvenient decision to carry her baby full term and surrender him to adoption.

She told us the story of holding him in her arms just once, only once, and telling him everything that was on her heart to say – all of her prayers, all of her hopes, and all of her dreams for his life. As she handed him over to the nurse, she handed him over to God with fervent, heartfelt prayers that he would be raised by a family who feared God and loved Him with all their hearts as she did.

And then she never saw him again.

Until the day a letter showed up in her mailbox forty-eight years later from the son she had surrendered long ago.

The letter was from a man named Kyle Poulson who had gone on the long, arduous, and vulnerable journey to find his birth mother, only to discover Nina Hendee at the end as his destination.

Their reunion over the past few months has been sweet and rich and redemptive – redemptive for several reasons.

One, all of Nina’s prayers for her son were realized and confirmed when Kyle walked into the room. He was adopted by parents who raised him as their beloved son with a strong and nurturing love for the Lord and for other people. They helped Kyle grow into a man any woman would be proud to call her son.

Two, I don’t know who Kyle imagined would be at the end of his journey to find the woman who gave him life, but my guess is never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that woman would be anyone as close in character and kindness and excellence as Nina Hendee. It was like he hit the jackpot of all jackpots in moms and in families.

But three, ten years ago, on February 13, 2010, Nina lost her son, Edd K. Hendee, in a tragic skiing accident. He left behind a grieving wife, children, parents, and two beautiful sisters. And I thought Nina had lost her only son.

But God has a strange and miraculous, almost incomprehensible, way of redeeming every story.

And when Kyle walked back into Nina’s life and into her family’s life forty-eight years later, Nina got back a son. No one can replace Edd, and that’s definitely not what I am suggesting.

But what I am saying is that when I watched a video this past Sunday about their story and the beauty of their reunion, my hope in a God who holds the power to redeem was renewed.

When Kyle’s face showed up on that screen and I saw Edd K’s eyes looking back at me, I wept at the ability of God to give us back here on this earth, in small part, what we have lost, with the sure promise of all He will restore and redeem one day in the future.

I was reminded anew that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

I was reminded that the worst the enemy can do in our lives, God undoes (Genesis 50:20).

I was reminded that every decision we make to honor God and choose life never goes unnoticed or forgotten. It is like precious seed that is buried in the ground, and just when we think it is dead without any hope of resurrection, God speaks, and it blooms (Psalm 126:5-6; John 12:24).

And I was reminded that in the Kingdom of God, our greatest deaths and deepest surrenders end in life when we surrender them into God’s hands. They do so not because we are so good or so wise. They do because God is so good and so wise, and He holds the promise of our full redemption in His nail-pierced hands.

Nina, thank you for choosing life. Thank you for making the hard and gutsy decision to carry a baby only to entrust him to another. Thank you for loving life and loving adoption.

Thank you for walking through all of your trials with the hope of heaven in your heart. Thank you for reminding me that with every loss, with every surrender, and with every death, there is a God behind it all who holds hope, redemption, and life in His Hands.

You have painted a beautiful picture of the goodness of God with the choices you have made in your life, even when those choices have cost you something big. As I look at that picture, you have helped me love God and know God more. And for that, I speak for many who say, “Thank you.”

I can’t wait to be in heaven and see the fullness of His redemption with you one day.

To watch Kyle and Nina’s powerful and beautiful story, click on the link below:

Video: Encouragement for Moms

Happy Mother’s Day! While we are so thankful for the children God has given us, parenting can be hard on the heart. If you or your children are walking through a season of loneliness, don’t despair. Know God is using it for great good in their lives and in yours as well.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.

Setting Yourself Up for Success on Mother’s Day

On May 11, 2018, Posted by , in Motherhood, With 12 Comments

Holidays are full of expectations, Mother’s Day included.

Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that it helps to pay attention to my expectations before the actual day arrives and try to line them up with reality as much as possible.  That way I’m not disappointed and the day goes smoothly, even if things don’t go exactly the way I was expecting them to.

Like it or not, embedded within our hearts are certain expectations that we, as mothers, will feel honored.  Appreciated.  Given time off to take a nap, get dressed for church or lunch at a leisurely pace, avoid any and all food prep at any cost, and given a gift that is handmade or homemade from our kids and appropriately thoughtful and economical from our husbands.  Something not too extravagant but not too cheap either.  I’m just saying.  Like it or not, these expectations are what’s in our heads, even if we know how slim the possibilities are that any of the above will actually occur.

I’ve learned over the past twelve years on Mother’s Day that life with kids is still life with kids, no matter what day on the calendar it is or what kind of expectations the day holds.

The reality of getting four girls (five, including myself) dressed, fed, ready for church and out the door by 9am on Sunday morning is simply summed up in one phrase: damage control.  Someone will stand in the bathroom crying about her hair, someone will stand in front of her closet upset about her dress, and someone will scramble in the car missing a shoe.  This is what happens on Sunday mornings.

Food prep in the kitchen will most definitely occur because let’s face it: feeding four kids who need to eat three times a day (can’t they ever just skip a meal every now and again?) is easier to do within the confines of your own home than out in a restaurant.

And the chance of getting to take a nap is 50/50.  If my daughter wins her softball game and is still in the playoffs come Sunday, she will have an hour and a half of practice.  There goes my nap.  (Is it terrible to say I wouldn’t be too sad if they lost, and we were done for the season sooner rather than later?  She is only seven…)

And let’s talk about another expectation for a moment: in Houston, where I live, embedded within church culture is the expectation that all mothers and daughters should look especially pretty on Mother’s Day.  Your dresses need to color coordinate.  In fact, let’s back up.  Everyone should have on a dress, your hair should look especially non-greasy, your makeup should be done, and a pretty, relaxed, happy smile should be on your face when you walk in the church doors.  Oh, and you should be holding the hand of at least one of your children.

Listen, some of my girls are in full-blown adolescence.  There will be no hand holding walking into church.  Someone will be mad at someone else, someone will hate their dress, and someone’s hair will not be doing what it should be doing.  There will be tears.  There will be pouts.  There will be all kinds of “I’m not walking with you, mom; I’m walking behind you” business going on this coming Sunday morning.

And somehow, the cute, spring dress I bought several months ago in anticipation of the expectations of this day will just not look as cute on my body as it did on the hangar.  I know this from experience.  My husband is a wonderful man.  In fact, he does a fabulous job of filling my cup by letting me know how pretty I look in his eyes on a regular basis.

But last year on Mother’s Day, he made the mistake of telling me that my dress looked like a bathing suit coverup as we were heading into lunch with his family.  A bathing suit coverup.  On Mother’s Day.

No sir.

I think it’s taken a year’s worth of “You look really pretty, babe” compliments to get him over that one.

And let’s finish talking about expectations by talking about gifts.

Men, I mean this.  I really mean this.  Whatever card or gift or homemade creation you hand your wife on Mother’s Day simply needs to reflect that you thought about it.  In advance.  Meaning, for more than a panicked few minutes before the gift-handing-over moment.  As moms, we care more about the thought behind the gift than the actual gift itself.

My favorite gift-giving expectation from Mother’s Day happened five years ago.

Several months before Mother’s Day, I started dropping hints, laying the groundwork, prepping the soil of my husband’s heart, if you will, that I wanted…an iPad.  I know, I know.  It was a big ask.  And I was fairly certain the heart of my husband was not going to be moved in the general direction of an iPad when what he had in mind was probably a gift certificate for a new pair of workout pants.

But it was worth a try.

I even enlisted my sister-in-law, Cara, who is the master of persuasion, to help me in my cause.  And even she failed.  Something she was not too happy about.

Mother’s Day morning came, and went, and no iPad.  Flowers, yes.  A card, yes.  A smaller, more appropriate token of his affection, yes.  But not an iPad.

But then came Mother’s Day evening.

His family had come over for dinner, and at the end of the evening, we were in our driveway walking everyone to their cars when Jason noticed our cat pawing at something in the street.  He walked over to check it out, bent down, and came up holding…a snake.  A twelve inch long twisting, wriggling, curling around his arm snake.

And out of nowhere, Cara, Jason’s sister, said, “I dare you to eat that snake.”

Now I think it would be entirely appropriate to pause here for a moment and ask, “What kind of a person sees another person holding a snake and immediately thinks, ‘I should ask that person to eat that snake’?”  Probably a person who grew up as the only girl in a household with three brothers.  But even then, her question gives me pause about a whole lot of things concerning my sister-in-law.

And as quick as lightening, Jason came back with, “I’ll eat it.  But only if you buy me an iPad.”

“Done,” Cara said.

And in that moment, time froze.  The ten of us standing in the driveway stood there with our mouths hanging open as Jason opened his mouth and then shoved that whole writhing snake inside.

Children started crying.  My girls were screaming because they thought their daddy was going to die from eating that snake.  Cara’s children were crying because they thought they were going to have to give Uncle Jason their iPad.  My mother-in-law who thought she had seen it all in raising four children stood there with her mouth hanging open, cleaned out banana pudding dish in her hand, watching her son in horrible fascination.  Even neighbors turned on their lights, opened their shutters, and came outside to see the cause of the hubbub we were all making.

And through it all, Jason chewed that snake.  And chewed.  And chewed.  And chewed.  He stood there for five minutes chewing that twelve inch long, wriggling thing with his sister beside him the whole time saying, “Open your mouth.  Let me see.  Nope.  It’s still not all down.  I said all of it.”

And every last bit of that snake disappeared into his mouth down into his stomach.  I didn’t kiss the man for a week.  But guess what I got for Mother’s Day?…an iPad.  Thank you, Cara.  Thank you, Jason.  And thank you, Mr. Snake.

So, like I said, Mother’s Day is full of expectations.  Some of them don’t always turn out the way you think they will.  Sometimes you get the gift you want; sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you look cute in the dress you bought; sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes your kids behave and hold your hand walking into church; sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes your husband eats a snake; sometimes he doesn’t.

But no matter what happens this Mother’s Day, I want to remember is this: expectations are fine to have, but real joy, real life happens in the mess.  It happens in the car-crying moments and in the snake-eating moments.  It happens in the gift-giving moments or the not so great-gift giving moments.  It happens if I get a nap in or struggle on through the afternoon.

Because Mothers’ Day isn’t so much about being celebrated as a mother as celebrating those around me who make life sweet, children or no children.  iPad or no iPad.  Nap or no nap.  Lots of food prep or no food prep.  Finally, twelve years in the making, I am learning to delight in the people He’s given me to fill my cup, my plate, and my life, no matter how the events of the day unfold.

And by all means, if you see a woman this Mother’s Day who looks like she has a bathing suit cover-up on, and her children are all standing about ten feet behind with tear streaks on their faces, give that woman a hug and say, “Good job, momma.  You look great in that spring dress of yours.  I hope you get a nap this afternoon, and a free iPad by dinner.  And if your husband ever needs to know how to eat a snake, I know someone you need to call.”

For those of you who live in Houston, I have an exciting opportunity.  For three weeks in June, I will be teaching a Bible study at Houston’s First Baptist church on prayer.  We will be using my prayer guide and journal called Secure, due to be published and released right before the study in late May.  There is no need for you to register beforehand; just come the first night of the study ready to enter into a time of learning how to securely attach to a good Father who loves to connect with His children through the daily habit of prayer.

The study will be the first three Tuesday evenings of June, June 5, 12, and 19, from 6:30-8pm in the Reception Room at First Baptist.  The address is 7401 Katy Freeway / Houston, TX / 77024.

I hope to have the privilege of seeing some of your faces and meeting you there!