Susannah Baker

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When You Need Encouragement as a Mom

On April 12, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, Motherhood, With 2 Comments

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on unique ability. (Click HERE to read the post.)

To recap the post, the definition of your unique ability is this:

Your unique ability can be defined as the thing that nobody else can do but you. It’s the thing that God created you to do and if you aren’t doing it, the people around you, the world around you, and you yourself will suffer.

Part of your unique ability is doing that thing that brings you joy and when you come alive doing it – drawing, painting, writing, creating, running, cooking, pastoring, teaching, accounting, counseling, coaching, or whatever it is that God created you to do.

But if you are a mom, I want you to hear me on this: part of your unique ability is to love, care for, pour into, shepherd, counsel, care for, and clean up after – yes, that one too – the children God has given you.

And in certain seasons, if your children are your only outlet for your unique ability to flow forth and shine because of time, energy, and emotional constraints, then pouring into them is enough.

I am writing the above statement through tears with a lump in my throat because it is so hard to believe, accept, and do.

I got such great feedback from the post I wrote on unique ability – partly because I think, as women, we struggle knowing what our unique ability is and if we have permission to develop it, engage with it, and let it flow.

And the answer is – yes. We do. But I also got great feedback about using our unique ability as moms to pour into our children. Because we all know, deep down, that pouring our unique ability into the world around us has to take second seat to pouring our unique ability into the children God has given us.

And friends, this is hard.

Nothing in our world stands back and applauds this decision. It often feels like the time we take to play a board game, read a book with someone nestled beside us, stay home at night to tuck everyone in or have a late night conversation with a lonely teen, get up early to make breakfast, pack lunches, plan, shop for, and cook dinner, plan birthday parties, draw up chore charts, or expend emotional energy doling out consequences, instead of blog, write, work, or do something measurable, manageable, and valuable from a growth standpoint in followers, numbers, or dollar signs, is flushing our time down the toilet.

Can I tell you something? I feel your pain – I wrestle with those very same things.

And I’m going to be even more honest: I dreamed of being a doctor, a missionary, author, teacher, and going back to school to earn my masters and doctoral degrees AND THEN be becoming a mom. But a mom first? Changing diapers? Playing board games? MAKING CRAFTS??? Nope. Didn’t cross my radar. I didn’t grow up longing to babysit. Didn’t like to babysit. Didn’t even like other people’s kids. I preferred books and academics to living, active human beings with real time needs that took away from fulfilling mine.

But then I had children – four of them – before accomplishing anything I thought measured as “significant” in the world’s eyes. And while I deeply love my children and would not trade being a mom for achieving any of the other dreams on my list, staying present to their needs, desires, wants, and hearts is something I have to remind myself is worth fighting for and doing on a daily basis.

I am thankful I am married to a man who loves to see me engage in my unique ability of writing, teaching, and discipling other women and helps me find and create avenues to do that, but I frequently have to reign myself in to remember: the unique ability of being Lillian, Lizzie, Caroline, and Mia Grace’s mom comes before any other.

I know this might sound harsh or like I am sharing too much or baring my soul in an inappropriate way as a mom, but I am sharing this because I think there are many others of you out there who struggle and feel the same way I do.

But I want to encourage both you and me in this: your work as a mom in the lives of your children, your pouring your unique abilities in them, is work that God made you and you alone to do. And it is work that will bear eternal, everlasting fruit.

I did a little research on how long the time and effort I put into sharing my unique ability of writing and teaching lasts:

  • The lifespan of an Instagram post is about 21 hours.
  • The lifespan of a blog post is about 2 years.
  • The life span of a book is 20 years.
  • The lifespan of your children and the generations who come after you is – eternal.

Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

My mom sent me a link to a podcast several weeks ago that I can’t stop listening to. The podcast is called Nothing is Wasted and is hosted by a guy named Davey Blackburn.

Davey was a pastor in Indiana, married for seven years to a beautiful woman named Amanda, and they had a two-year-old son. When Amanda was pregnant with their second child, she was murdered in an in-home break-in that left her husband, parents, siblings, and church community devastated and reeling.

But what Satan intends for evil, God uses for good. Every single time. Davey is committed to kicking the tail of the enemy by telling how his own story, his family’s story, and others’ stories, while full of pain, can be transformed, healed, and used for good by the power and grace of God. Any of his episodes is highly worth the listen.

But one episode just grabbed me. It is where Davey interviews Amanda’s father who is also a pastor in Indiana. This man did a phenomenal job raising his girl, and while he talks about the immense pain and grief of losing a daughter, he also talks about the tremendous fruit that came from her life.

And he doesn’t say this about himself, but I will – the fruit that was there in Amanda’s life was there in large part because he and his wife stewarded their unique ability well of being Amanda’s parents.

Fruit that I am tasting and eating and enjoying and growing from every time I listen to a podcast episode that came from her life and death. Fruit that came because he and his wife were willing to lay their lives down to prepare their daughter’s soul for eternal relationship and union with God.

Moms (and dads), every board game you and I play, every book we read, every phonogram card we hold up, every spelling list we dictate, every hurt we bandage, every consequence we give, every game we cheer on, every devotional we read, every prayer we pray, every teachable moment we teach, every moment we are present to the goodness and grace of God in the mundane moments and big moments of our children’s lives, eternal fruit is being born and shaped that will outlast us. It will.

As a screensaver on her phone, Amanda Blackburn had this quote: “Perhaps the greatest contribution you have to give this world is not what you do but who you raise.”

It’s so true. And those are the words that have to reign me in and reshape my values, my time, my heart, and my unique abilities every single day.

If you do not have children, or your children are not living the way you would like them to or are praying for them to, don’t despair. Jesus Himself did not have any biological children while He lived and walked on this earth, but He had the most eternally fruitful life of anyone who has ever lived.

The point isn’t if you able to have children or not, or if your children have turned out exactly like you expected or wanted them to. The point is this: if God has given you children, they are there, with you, for God to shape your heart. For you to pour your time, presence, and unique abilities into them and leave the results up to God. He is the great grower of every seed after all. The part that is up to us is the digging, planting, scattering, and staying present to their lives for the seasons we are given with them.

So if you are gifted as a cook, cook. If you are gifted as a writer, write. If you are gifted as an administrator, administrate. If you are gifted as a hostess, host. But if you are given the gift of children, stay present to that very precious gift. When time, season, and margin allows, God will open other doors and give you the peace and the courage to step through them. But until then, go at His pace. Work on His timeline. And don’t listen to the voice in your head that tells you you have to be more. More than “just a mom,” or “just a wife,” or “just at home.” Like I said in the previous post: Hogwash. (It’s a word I have to tell myself daily.) The soil in my home is the most fertile soil I am given to plant, tend to, and watch good seeds grow.

I want to end today as I ended the first post on unique ability:

I can’t do everything. God hasn’t asked me to or expect me to. I fall off the deep end when I start thinking God requires more of me than is possible for one single human being. I have to pull my pride in constantly – God is God. I am not. He can do everything. I can do a few things. My job is to stay in my lane and do the things He has called, created, equipped, and asked me to do. I can let the rest go. Leave them in His Hands. Surrender to His timing. Trust His ways. And let the peace flood in.

And might I add – my job as a mom is to tend to the soil of my children’s hearts with the unique abilities I have been given and let the seeds grow.

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

Podcast: Unique Ability

Earlier this week, I posted a blog about your unique ability – what it is and why you should make time to do it. But someone else I know speaks into that topic way better than I ever could – and that someone is my husband, Jason Baker. Jason was featured as a guest on David Park’s podcast, Faithful Venture, several weeks ago where he talks about his role in the real estate world, why it’s important to operate out of your unique ability, and the joy of being involved with The Seed Company, a Bible translation ministry that works to put God’s Word into the hands and heart of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation.

The podcast was just too good not to share, and I pray you are just as encouraged by listening as I was!

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

What is Your Unique Ability?

On March 8, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, With 2 Comments

During seasons in my life when I feel discouraged or overwhelmed, the first person I look to for help is my husband. Jason enables me to see the big picture in my life and discern what is important and what isn’t, often by asking me this question: “What is your unique ability, and are you spending a majority of your time doing whatever it is?”

So with the hint of spring in the air and the possibility of renewal after a long winter, I am going to do you a favor and ask you the same question Jason often asks me: What is your unique ability, and are you spending enough time in your life doing whatever it is?

Your unique ability can be defined as the thing that nobody else can do but you. It’s the thing that God created you to do and if you aren’t doing it, the people around you, the world around you, and you yourself will suffer.

A common thread I hear in conversations, especially among women, is, “I don’t know what my unique ability or gifts are. In fact, I don’t know if I really have any.”

Can I say something profound in response to that? Hogwash.

God doesn’t make someone, someone in His image, without giving him or her a unique ability. Without weaving into her very fiber and DNA something only she can do or offer to the people around her that is a unique and beautiful reflection of His goodness and glory.

Your unique ability can be cooking gourmet meals, coaching Little League baseball, welcoming people into your home, hosting Biblestudy, teaching Biblestudy, analyzing financial data, selling real estate, or developing relationships and connecting people. It can be writing, editing, singing, dancing, drawing, or, like my friend Price, simply living with more joy and contentment no matter the circumstances than anyone else I know.

But it can’t be nothing. It is something – something that when you do it, it brings you joy and satisfaction, and joy to the people around you as well. It is something that when you don’t do it, you suffer. You feel deflated and maybe even a little depressed. And if you relegate it to the back burner and start doing a bunch of other things more than you are doing that one thing, you feel stressed or overwhelmed.

What I’ve noticed in my own life is that to do my unique ability well, something has to give. Something has to go. I have to say “No” to two or three or ten things so I can say “Yes” to that one thing.

Right now, I have a couple of unique abilities – a few things that only I can do, I was created to do, and if I don’t do them, I suffer and the people around me suffer.

I am not sure if this is bending the rules of the “unique ability” definition according to my husband, but one of my unique abilities is being Jason’s wife and Lillian, Lizzie, Caroline, and Mia Grace’s mom. When I am doing the ten things and not doing that one thing, I suffer. Jason suffers. My kids suffer. Our home suffers. I’m not talking about when I’m not on top of all the dirty dishes or the dust and dirt that collects in the corners of our kitchen, but I am talking about when I am not delighting in and tending to the heart needs of my husband and kids. They know when I am enjoying them versus when I am gritting my teeth and enduring them because my list of tasks is too long and they are in small print at the bottom.

My other unique ability is creating content and expressing myself through words. That can take on the form of a blog, book, or Biblestudy lesson, but I’ve noticed if I am not giving adequate time to create content and give it away to others, I am stressed and overwhelmed, dejected, and even a little depressed.

The key to being the woman God has called me to be is paying attention to the season I am in and giving my unique ability ample time to flourish and grow. This requires paying attention to what my unique abilities are. This requires saying “No” to things that do not line up with those abilities. This also requires saying “Yes” to the invitation God gives me each and every day to step into the season He has created and step into it with the gifts and abilities He has given me.

I can’t do everything. God hasn’t asked me to or expect me to. I fall off the deep end when I start thinking God requires more of me than is possible for one single human being. I have to pull my pride in constantly – God is God. I am not. He can do everything. I can do a few things. My job is to stay in my lane and do the things He has called, created, equipped, and asked me to do. I can let the rest go. Leave them in His Hands. Surrender to His timing. Trust His ways. And let the peace flood in.

So this week, this spring, this season, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your unique ability?
  • What pockets of time do you have to say “yes” to that ability?
  • Who or what needs to be told “no” in your life so that you can say that “yes”?
  • Is there anything in your life you are doing right now that you need to surrender into God’s hands, trusting that as you say “no” so that you can say “yes” to the most important thing or things, He will bring about in His time or way if it is supposed to happen?

Living life out of your unique ability isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. It is a daily listening to Your Father’s voice and trusting Him enough to do what He tells you to do, to live from the purposes for which He created you.

This doesn’t mean we don’t do any tasks that don’t line up with our unique abilities – don’t I wish! There are still dishes to wash, beds to make, emails to return, and math homework to help with. But it does mean that we are to listen to the voice of the Spirit inside of us, pay attention to the beautiful, unique, amazing, extraordinary ways He has made to look like Him, and do those things.

So jump right in. Spring, renewal, and your unique ability is waiting.

Jason is the best about speaking into unique abilities, way better than me, so on Wednesday, be on the lookout for a link to a podcast episode where he talks about this very thing.

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

When You Need a Spring in Your Step

On March 1, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, Good Reads, With 2 Comments

I don’t know when I’ve been more thankful for the arrival of spring. Winter seems like it’s lasted a really long time.

I know we had spring last year – I remember sitting outside on my porch and enjoying nice weather. But the joy of spring was mixed in with the COVID, masks, economic downturn, and all the uncertainty that a global pandemic provides.

This spring, I know that corona is still around, but somehow the air feels a little bit different. There is a little more hope of possibility and renewal, and maybe even a little more lightness in my step.

I’m learning not to take these seasons of hope and renewal for granted. After weathering so many unexpected storms the past few years, I’m learning not to take stability for granted. Seasons of stability and chances for renewal are gifts to be received rather than the norm to be expected like I once thought.

So if you, like me, are excited and thankful for the hint of spring filling the air and want a way to dive right in, here are a few ways I like to open myself up to renewal:

Choose a different way to pray. I can get into a rut in my prayer life faster than anything else. I’ve found it’s good to pray in different rhythms in different seasons. If I am stuck forming my own prayers, it is helpful to use a sure-footed guide. Books that are forming and guiding my prayers this season are The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle and The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers.

Keep a Gratitude Journal. The past few months, each night before I go to bed, I’ve been writing down five specific things I am thankful for from that day. I’m noticing that it is keeping me expectant and looking for moments of renewal and thankfulness throughout my day. The gratitude journal I’ve been using is one my friend, Kori Biller, gave me. It’s currently sold out, but another good option is from Ink and Volt.

Think through your daily routine and do one thing differently. I am a creature of habit. Habits can be a good thing if they keep us moving towards the things that matter most. But they can also keep us stuck and resistant to change that is good for our brains and our bodies. This spring, one morning a week, I am getting up early and going to the gym with my husband to exercise. And I mean early. How Jason Baker consistently gets up and leaves the house at the hour he does is a mystery to me, but I decided to try it one time a week with him. I’m discovering this one small change is giving me the ability to look at the rest of my habits differently and be open to change in other areas of my life as well.

Read a good book…outside. Like most people, I love to be outside this time of year. I’ve found that spring is always a good time for me to sit in a lawn chair, stretch out on a blanket, or plop down on the grass in the middle of the the day and read for twenty minutes while soaking in the spring air. Not only does it force me to be still, but it helps me to pay attention to and enjoy the season of spring around me. Two good reads this spring are I am enjoying right now are Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn and The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily P. Freeman.

Spend time with your neighbors. I know this is all something we learned and valued during COVID, but it’s something I don’t want to forget to value as the pace of life returns to “normal” once again. Some of the sweetest moments of last year occurred on the front lawn with my neighbors. Lifetime friendships were formed as we learned to love and support one another, and we saw so many changes in each other’s lives for the good. Changes I would have missed if I had stayed inside. So this spring, don’t forget to go spend time getting to know the people on who live in closest proximity to you.

Remember that the end is in sight. If the past year has taught me one thing, it is this: seasons were made to change; they do not last forever. So whatever season you are in, notice it. Be aware. And dive right in. We’ve been in winter a long time, but where the snow is melting and green is pushing through, don’t miss it. Grab it. Receive it. Seize the day, and step into the rhythms of renewal while the season lasts. Spring awaits.

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

When You Need a Meal and a Table

On February 23, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, With No Comments

After a week’s worth of winter storms, sometimes you just need a table.

You need someone (someone with running water, heat, and power) to cook you a meal, set a table, pull out a chair, and invite you to sit down and eat. As adults taking care of everyone else, sometimes we just need to remember there is someone else taking care of us.

While God’s table isn’t one we can physically touch, taste, and see, it is a table we can see with our spiritual senses. Our hearts can be nourished through the meal of His Word and our souls comforted with the touch of His Spirit.

Psalm 78 has been that meal and table for me this week. The nourishment of its words have searched my conscience and also warmed my heart in the places I needed it the most.

The psalmist Asaph writes in Psalm 78:1-8,

“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
 I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

The psalm opens with a reminder for the people of God to do exactly that – remember. Remember the wondrous acts of God, remember the power of God, and remember the character of God.

When they were slaves in Egypt, they cried out, God heard their cries, and moved heaven and earth to provide deliverance. Verses 9-16 and 42-55 describe how His deliverance was seen through the Exodus, through the parting of the Red Sea, and through God’s provision in 40 years of the Israelites’ wilderness wandering. He provided His people with food, water, shelter, and protection over and over and over again.

And yet the people of God still doubted the power of God to save, to deliver, to provide, and to lead them through the hardest, harshest places.

In verses 17-20, the psalmist writes these very convicting words,

“Yet they sinned still more against him,
    rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
They tested God in their heart
    by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying,
    ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
He struck the rock so that water gushed out
    and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
    or provide meat for his people?'”

Verse 19 is what jumped out to me in my morning reading; it bears repeating here again: “They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?'”

Pause.

Isn’t that the question my heart has asked God every time a storm has hit these past few years? Here God, in this wilderness, are Your really able to provide a table? In this wilderness, in this hurricane, in this pandemic, in this election, in this arctic ice blast, in this marriage, in this friendship, in this relationship, in this season of my life, can You really provide a table? Do You really know what You are doing? Have You remained in control? Are Your promises still really enough? Is my place at Your table still secure? Is Your protection sufficient? Is Your “No” really for my good and is there behind it eventually, at some point, a “Yes”?

I have seen You provide once, and I’ve heard stories of Your faithfulness passed down from generation to generation, but really, Lord, here, in this season, in this pandemic, in this storm, in this ice blast, can you really provide a table?

When I put it like that, all my questions seem so vain, my doubts so foolish. I have walked with the Lord long enough in my life to know that in each and every wilderness, there is a table. And each and every time I come to the end of my rope, my resources, my sufficiency, and myself, the table remains.

Every single time I make a mess of things with my own sin or failures or every time others around or the sin-cursed world around me makes a mess with its own set of brokenness and failures, the table remains.

Verses 21-24 say this,

“Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
    a fire was kindled against Jacob;
    his anger rose against Israel,
because they did not believe in God
    and did not trust his saving power.
Yet he commanded the skies above
    and opened the doors of heaven,
and he rained down on them manna to eat
    and gave them the grain of heaven.”

Do you see that word “yet” in verse 23? Even when I do not trust, God’s mercy never runs out. Even when I forget, the meal on the table never changes. Every single time, because of God’s covenantal love and faithfulness, I sit down to the bread of God’s Presence and the cup of God’s kindness. I sip on mercy and I feast on grace. And every single time I sit down, I never eat alone. I eat with a Host who is good, strong, powerful, merciful and kind. I am always amazed to look up and instead of wrath, see mercy. Instead of punishing anger, see forgiveness. Instead of wrathful shame, see covering love.

When I can’t taste mercy or feel the tension rising in my shoulders and miss out on grace, it’s not that the table is ever missing or withheld because of punitive measures. It’s that I choose to forget that it’s there. I forget through complaints. I forget through becoming a task master, ticking things off of my list instead of feasting at the table of God’s Word, being nourished by the bread of His Presence. I forget through staying up late and watching shows instead of ending my day in gratitude, prayer, or reading words that remind me of the table that stands ready to serve me even as I sleep. I forget by ignoring my kids or tolerating my kids or griping at my kids instead of gathering my kids and sitting down at the table of God’s Word and Presence together as a family.

So as the people of God, here is what we are to remember: we are to remember the character of God and the power of God to save – in the events of world history and in the events of our own personal lives.

We are to remember that His deliverance of us from our sin, guilt, shame, and failures through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son, stands as a pledge that He will deliver us again…and again…and again. “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?” (Romans 8:32)

As long as we are living and breathing on this earth, ice storms and wind storms, financial storm and relational storms, are going to come.

We are not promised safety from difficult and demanding circumstances. But we are promised safety in the difficult circumstances through the table of the body and blood of Christ. And we are promised full deliverance of even our worst circumstances one day when we live forever with Him. The table that is set before us now stands as a promise of the table that is to come.

So this week, don’t forget. Don’t forget to sit down at the table of mercy, grace, provision, presence, shelter, and eat. Don’t forget to talk about it with your children. Don’t forget to rest. Don’t forget that time at His feet is more important than checking tasks off a list. And don’t forget that whatever you eat at the table here and now is only a foretaste of the meal to come.

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!” Luke 12:37-38

If your soul is in need of a good meal at a nourishing table, consider downloading my FREE prayer guide that walks you through the process of restoring your heart through prayer and sitting down at the table that will satisfy every need of your soul.

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

You are the Beloved

On February 14, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, Marriage, With 2 Comments

This week’s post is coming a little early – usually I post on Mondays, but I wanted to offer up these words this morning.

Valentine’s Day can bring a certain ache for many people.

Deep down within us is a fierce longing and ache to be known, to be cherished, and to matter.

We don’t just want to belong; we want to be someone’s beloved. We want to be the apple of someone’s eye, the delight of someone’s day, the joy of someone’s thought, and the needed part of someone’s embrace.

There is nothing wrong with that – it is how we were created. You and I were created to be someone’s beloved.

The problem is many of us look for that ache to be fulfilled in the here and now – we want to be a boyfriend’s beloved, a girlfriend’s beloved, a husband’s beloved, a wife’s beloved, a parent’s beloved, even a friend’s beloved. Some of us do find that ache fulfilled, in part, in the here and now. We are a spouse’s beloved partner, a parent’s beloved child, a friend’s beloved safe place. But none of us are the beloved in every single category in our lives in a way that fills our deepest desires.

That’s because being the beloved from someone here on planet earth only goes so deep. It only fills the surface of a crack that runs down to the depths of our soul.

And can I make this clarification: you can be someone’s spouse but still not be their beloved. Sadly, there can be a vast difference between being married and being beloved.

So no matter how it seems, married or single, most of us stand on the fringes of circles wondering why it seems like we are the only one who does not fit in or is not someone’s beloved in a certain category of our lives.

If this is you today, I want you to hear something: You are not alone, no matter how on the fringes you feel. You need to know that most people feel exactly like you do – wondering where they belong, where they fit in, and why it feels like they are the only one who doesn’t.

But I want you to hear something else today: You are the beloved.

You are God’s beloved. You are the apple of His eye, caught up in the warmth of His embrace.

You may not be the beloved in the way you wanted. But you are the beloved in the way that is needed.

Because being God’s beloved means that His love fills the ache down to the deepest places in your soul that He alone knows how to fill.

In fact, the very lack you feel is the opening He needs and looks for to get in. The wound in your life, the hole you want some other person to fill is the God-made hole He is wanting to fill. As the saying goes, the wound is not only where the light gets in, the wound is where God gets in.

So today, don’t focus on why you are not so and so’s beloved – because let me tell you something – spouses fail you, friends fail you, parents fail you, children fail you, and you fail others in every single category of your life as well. We can’t help it. With sin’s deep stain and curse, failure is who we are and it’s what we do.

But God will never fail you. Never. In fact, the deepest, darkest holes in your life are there so you will look up to Him.

You are His beloved.

YOU are His beloved.

You ARE His beloved.

You are HIS beloved.

You are His BELOVED.

Turn it over every which way. Soak in the nuances of every single word. And let His love fill your cup today, no matter who you are or whose you are. For you are God’s beloved, and His love is enough.

“I am my beloved’s, and His desire is for me.” Song of Solomon 7:10

Winter Beauty

On February 8, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, With 4 Comments

The winter season isn’t usually my favorite. It seems to be covered in a long dreariness where everything is colored in grey. Even school seems to take longer during the winter months of the year.

Winter isn’t usually other people’s favorite season either. When asked what their favorite season of the year is, “spring” or “fall” are the more common answers.

I think that’s because while spring represents new growth, and fall represents harvest, winter represents no growth at all.

At least, that’s what I thought until I visited Yellowstone National Park several weeks ago.

Jason’s youngest brother, his wife, and their two darling daughters live on a cattle ranch in Montana. Breathtaking mountains are the backdrop to their backyard, feeding chickens and collecting eggs are part of their normal everyday routine, and words like “hurry up,” “go faster,” and “we’re going to be late,” don’t seem to exist in their everyday vocabulary. And to top it off, the northern entrance to Yellowstone is just a forty-five minute drive from their front door.

Lucky.

My brother-in-law Josh had the idea that we should rent snow mobiles and take a winter tour through the park. I signed us up as quickly as I could, and then realized – wait. Montana, in January, has the potential to be COLD.

And let me tell you – it was. By the time we made it to the entrance to the park, the thermometer in the car measured -14 degrees Farenheit.

NEGATIVE FOURTEEN DEGREES. I thought I was going to die that day in Yellowstone.

But miraculously, not all did we all survive, but we all thrived and marveled at the park’s winter beauty.

In fact, I might even go so far as to say, winter might be my new favorite season.

That’s because I had mistakenly thought that winter seasons were barren seasons without growth. But winter in Yellowstone proved me wrong. Winter is bare, but it’s not barren. The season simply fosters underground growth.

While a white blanket of ice and snow covers summer’s abundance and fall’s brilliance, growth doesn’t disappear; it just hibernates under the surface where no one can see. And the outer bareness prepares the trees and landscape for the weight of summer’s abundance once again.

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In her book, Anonymous, Alicia Britt Chole observes the tree outside her window, and writes,

Through the window I watch as birds pick her branches clean. Cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, finches, and chickadees…strip away whatever remains of summer’s bountiful memory from the silver maple. Bare, her lean limbs can support the coming snow and ice. But that weight would be too much for her frame in all its fullness. Lighter is better for the deep work of winter.

So she bows. She bends. She surrenders to thinning and in doing so thickens her foundation for an even more glorious summer to come.

In the same way, submission to God’s seasons will be our saving strength. To resist thinning is to risk collapse. The future is weighty, capable of crushing the unprepared.

What she is saying is this: To resist the thinning of winter is to hurt no one but ourselves. The tree’s “submission to the season is her saving strength.” We must learn that when bare seasons come, they are not meant for our punishment. Instead, they push us into underground growth and prepare for abundance that is ahead.

Many of us are emerging or are still knee-deep in a winter season. God has stripped so much from us this past year. Some of the stripping has been in the visible realm, but much of it has been invisible, in the hidden ground of the heart.

Can I ask you something? Have you submitted to the rhythm of the winter season in your life? Have you allowed God to strip summer’s abundance from you with a willing heart? Or have you fought back, clinging tightly to what you cannot keep, your heart weighed down with anger, bitterness, weariness, frustration, anxiety, fear and doubt?

Friend, I have a few simple words for you learned from the beauty of Yellowstone: surrender to the season. Surrender to the stripping of winter, knowing it is so that you can be prepared for whatever season of summer and abundance and fall and harvest is up ahead. And as you submit, I think you might be surprised at the beauty that comes with the covering of winter.

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For God never strips away without covering us as well. It might be a covering of snow or white or cold we are not used to, but it is beautiful nonetheless. It is a covering that strips away everything that is unnecessary except for Him.

Winter does not last forever. No season ever does. So if you are still wading through winter, rejoice. Rejoice that there will be an end to the stripping. To the bareness. To the cold. And rejoice that although winter is bare, it is not barren. Deep, underground work is taking place in the hearts of those who are fully surrendered and fully trusting in Him. He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – even in the dead of winter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25

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

Eating to Stay Hungry

On February 1, 2021, Posted by , in Encouragement, With 3 Comments

A long time ago, my friend, Leigh Kohler, said this: “In the physical realm, we eat to get full. But in the spiritual realm, we eat to get hungry.” Many times through the years, I’ve thought long and hard about those words.

Sometimes we mistake lack of spiritual appetite for lack of spiritual need. We stop reading our Bibles; we stop spending regular time with God’s people and in God’s Word; time for prayer is given over to to-do lists and activities. And before long, we aren’t even hungry for spiritual things.

When I get that way, I’m tempted to think my activities or to-do lists are more important and necessary for whatever season of life I am in than fostering hunger for God.

But it’s simply not true. It’s not that my kids’ sports, or cleared inbox, or volunteer duties, or even Biblestudies – good things with good people – are more important. It’s that I’ve become full on lesser things.

In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus told Martha this: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Friend, can I suggest something? Everything you can spend time on today, everything, can be taken away from you – however many emails you clear will be back tenfold in your inbox tomorrow. Whatever money you put in your bank account could be here today but gone tomorrow. Whatever time you put into exercise could be null and void in the blink of an eye with an unexpected accident or diagnosis. Whatever errands you run will multiply for the next week.

But can I suggest something else? Whatever time you spend investing in the Word of God will not ever grow null or void in your life. It will be the one thing that is needed to leave your heart full, content, eternally focused and prepared, no matter what your circumstances may be.

But we don’t just develop spiritual appetite overnight – the more we eat, the hungrier we grow. So if you have little to no desire to spend time eating God’s Word and fellowshipping with God through prayer, it’s not that it’s not important or that you don’t need it. It’s that you haven’t been developing a spiritual appetite by hungering for spiritual things.

So this week, here’s my challenge to you and to me: eat the Word of God. Spend focused time in prayer daily. Even if it’s just for five to ten minutes. And by the end of the week, let’s see if our appetite has grown for spiritual tings by eating the one thing that is needed: time at Jesus’ feet, listening to His voice through His Word and prayer.

If you need help getting started in developing spiritual hunger, consider using this devotional book and prayer guide for the month of February. It’s a meal that will leave you fully satisfied at you sit down, hungry, at the Table of the Lord.

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

Seeking God in the Quiet Spaces

On December 28, 2020, Posted by , in Encouragement, Prayer, Teachings, Video Weekly Words, With 5 Comments

In the pause between Christmas and New Year’s, when things slow down long enough to think about what the new year could look like, don’t forget to make room to do the good and necessary work of tending to the unseen, hidden places of your heart and soul.

Although it is work that is often not seen by others, it serves as a foundation on which to build all the rest.

Happy New Year!
Susannah

To help you with the work of maintaining a quiet, steady heart, consider taking the month of January to establish a rhythm of prayer with Secure, my prayer guide and 31 day prayer journal.

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

Seeing Rejection as God’s Protection

On September 9, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Encouragement, Motherhood, Surviving School, With 3 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.