Monday, July 3, 2017

Changing Landscapes

Dan and I were able to get away for a quick overnight this past weekend in celebration of our eight-year anniversary. I had been itching to visit my college campus (Go 'Cats!) for some time, so we opted for a night in Evanston.

It was an odd juxtaposition--so many familiar sights and sounds mixed with lots of new ones.

Coming into town, we didn't need our navigation system. The streets haven't changed. We've just grown up from Dan's old Grand Prix to his Ford F150. When we first arrived, we ate sushi at Koi--where I first lost my sushinity back in college. After dinner, we walked the streets and noticed that Dixie Kitchen and Merle's BBQ had shut their doors. My church had moved down the road. We stopped for ice cream at a fun new frozen custard place, and I enjoyed peeking into the new restaurants and stores that had popped up downtown.

The campus itself blew me away. Outside my dorm, the road where Dan used to wait in his aforementioned Grand Prix had been replaced by a grassy common area where students were sitting on benches doing scholarly things. The view by the lake was almost unrecognizable. I had heard about the new music building, but no one could have prepared me for the scope of this state-of-the-art new construction. The floor-to-ceiling glass structure looked like something out of a George Lucas film. Not to mention the addition of a visitor center and sailing center (not pretentious at all).

As we drove away, I started to cry.

"How could so much possibly change in eight years?" I thought. "And why am I getting so emotional about it?"

And then it hit me.

Eight years.

The same amount of time that Dan and I have been married.

It was poetic, really--this changing campus landscape. Just like the changing landscape of our life together. Our new home now stands where a condo once was. We've moved down the road from Lakeview Church to Crossway Community Church. Dan has graduated from an elementary school district to a high school one. We have watched landmarks torn down due to death and brokenness, but we have also watched God create three beautiful skyscrapers--our three beautiful boys.

"For everything there is a season," it says in Ecclesiastes. "A time for every matter under Heaven...A time to break down, and a time to build up." (Ecclesiastes 3:3)

It's comforting to know that God has ordained the changing landscapes of our lives, isn't it?

The Master Builder has "made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) My life is no different.

I may not be able to see the full landscape now. In fact, there are days when I feel like everything around me is crumbling to the ground. But God's word assures me that he is strategically laying each brick and mortar to build something magnificent for his glory. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Today, I am thanking God for the growing pains. As much as it pained my heart to see my Alma Mater change, I think I would have been sadder had she stayed the same for eight years. The same goes for my life together with Dan. May our landscape be ever-changing, ever-growing for his glory.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Best Heart Medicine

For the past several months, I've been dealing with some relatively serious health issues. You can read more about it here if you'd like more details, but in a nutshell, I've been suffering from acute allergic reactions since November. The cause is still unknown.

Since we don't know exactly what's triggering these episodes, my doctor has put me on a pretty strong cocktail of antihistamines in hopes that they'll help keep me safe while he tries to come up with a diagnosis and a more permanent solution.

Today, I realized that my heart is mirroring my body. There's something wrong there. Something I can't diagnose right now.

After my first major allergic reaction, I saw an allergist who sent me home with no more than an epi-pen in hopes that it was "just a fluke." Needless to say, I sought out a second opinion because I knew that I needed someone who would help keep me safe while we searched for answers. 

In the same way, I want to keep my heart safe as I sort out whatever is going on in there, and I think a hefty dose of God's life-preserving Word is just what the Great Physician ordered. 

God's words of eternal life are like the pills I take each morning and evening to ward off sickness. If I am in God's word, then I am fully armed and protected to face each new day with the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit.

"If your law had not been my delight," the psalmist writes, "I would have perished in my affliction." He continues, "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life." (Psalm 119:92-93 ESV)

God uses his word to give us life and to sustain it. In times of uncertainty, his word is reliable and true. We can count on him and his word to keep us safe.

Yes, I want a diagnosis, and I'm sure God will be faithful to search me and test my heart. For now, though, I put on my armor and pray, "I have suffered much; give me life, O LORD, according to your word." (Psalm 119:107 ESV)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hearts Made For Baseball and the Gospel

Some families spend their summer vacations traveling to national parks. Mine visited national ballparks.

Many of my best childhood memories took place at these parks—singing the seventh inning stretch with Harry Caray at Wrigley Field, cheering for the sausages at Miller Park, watching the Red Sox score twenty-two runs at Fenway, and celebrating Cal Ripken Jr’s birthday while chewing on Double Bubble at Camden Yards.

There’s something about a major league baseball game that makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. The ballpark is a magical place where old and young, rich and poor, fathers and daughters all gather for one common purpose: to enjoy America’s favorite pastime together.

At each baseball game, you form a sort of family with the other 20,000 fans in the stands. When the lights go out and your new family members return to their respective lives, your heart aches just a little. Even grown men have been known to shed a tear or two at the end of the season. But there’s always the promise of next year (just ask our beloved Chicago Cubs).

Why do we love baseball so much?

It could be because our hearts are made for it…or at least something like it.

Something that brings together people of all colors and cultures and puts them on a level playing field…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 ESV).

Something that gives us reason to stand up and cheer…

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV).

Something that makes us want to share hot dogs and peanuts and Cracker Jack with the guy sitting next to us in the stands…

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-27 ESV).

And something that gives us great hope…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The same hearts that soar after the game-winning run are the hearts that were made to praise and glorify God forever.

And because of the good news of Jesus Christ...they can.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When All You Want to Do is Strike

Do you ever feel like you just want to strike?

Maybe you've fantasized about walking out the door for a day, leaving the dishes, diapers, and dinner for Daddy?

You're not alone.

On March 8, the Women's March movement is encouraging women to walk out on "paid and unpaid labor" as part of their A Day Without a Woman strike.

Today, I'm beyond thrilled (and incredibly humbled!) to be a guest contributor at Desiring God discussing the very first "Day Without a Woman" and six ways the Church can stand with women. 

But what about you--the weary, sleep-deprived, overworked mama? 

Maybe a strike sounds good to you right about now. How then should you respond when all you want to do is strike?


Before we discuss how we should respond to the temptation to strike, let's first take a moment to talk about how we should not respond.

Being a wife and mother is hard work. 

It's beautiful work, it's rewarding work, but have no doubt, it is hard work.

As Christian women, it's tempting to grin and bear it. To show the world how #blessed we are to clean the permanent marker off the dining room walls, when all we really want to do is scream.

But God doesn't call us to false humility, friends. And he most definitely does not call us to pretend to have it all together. He's all about #keepinitreal.

How should we not respond to the temptation to strike?

By not responding.

God doesn't want us to act like we have it all together, and he also doesn't want us to suffer in silence. Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"
 (Matthew 11:28).


A strike can be tempting when you feel like your efforts are under-appreciated and largely unseen.

You're doing important work, and you want to feel important.

But sister, I implore you not to go down that road.

As followers of Christ, our motivation shouldn't be to earn the recognition of men--whether that's from our husbands, our children, or anyone else. 

Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

God sees every diaper you change, every meal you make, every runny nose you wipe, and he is pleased.

Consider the Proverbs 31 woman. God sees her late nights, her early mornings, and her hard work. He recognizes all that she does for her family and for him, and he calls for her to be praised in the gates (Proverbs 31:10-31).

God sees what you do as well, mama. And you know what else? He sees you! Your thoughts, your pain, your desires--he sees all of it (Psalm 139:1-3). And he wants to help.


If we shouldn't keep silent and we shouldn't strike, then what should our response be?

Here are what I believe to be three God-honoring responses when all you want to do is strike.

1) PRAY.

The Bible says that the "eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those who heart is completely His"(2 Chronicles 16:9).

God wants to support you. He wants to strengthen you. All you need to do is make your requests known to him and ask for his help (Philippians 4:6)!


When you feel like walking out and giving up, take a deep breath and preach the gospel to yourself.

What does that mean exactly?

First, think about all that Christ has done for you.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Then, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of these gospel truths and help you apply them to the situation at hand. 

Maybe you're feeling like you just don't have any more love to give. Preaching the gospel to yourself might look like this...

"I don't have to love in my own strength. I am able to love because Jesus first loved me." (1 John 4:19)

Or maybe you're feeling weak. Here's how you might preach the gospel to yourself...

"I don't have to be strong. God is strong for me. His grace is sufficient for me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Or maybe you're hurt and angry. Give this a try...

"I can forgive because Christ forgave me. I can find joy because my greatest need has been met. I am at peace with God." (Ephesians 4:32, Romans 5:1)

It's hard to walk out on the job when you're thinking upon the sacrifice Christ made for you.


If you are consistently being treated poorly by your husband or family, it's time to talk.

God's word says that you are to be honored and loved (Ephesians 5:25Ephesians 6:2).

You are not a doormat.

Instead of striking to make your point, though, ask your husband or family to sit down and have a conversation. Share with them how you feel, and humbly ask for help.

You might want to take this time to list every grievance, but try to focus in on one or two things your husband and/or kids can work on. 

Do you need more help around the house? 

Ask your family to do the laundry or to take over dinner one night a week.

Do you feel like you need some time away?

Tell your husband how you feel and figure out a way for you to get a much-needed break.

Do you feel unappreciated?

Share your feelings with your family and tell them how much a simple "thank you" means to you.

Whatever you do, don't suffer in silence. If there is sin that needs to be addressed, address it (Matthew 18:15). And if you need help, ask for it. Allow your family to be a means of grace in your life. 

An important note: If you are experiencing abuse, please seek help. Talk to your pastor, local law enforcement agency, and/or trusted friend. God does not want you to stay in an abusive situation.


Let's face it. There are going to be days you just wanna go on strike.

Resist the urge, mama. 

Two thousand years ago, a young carpenter also wanted to walk away from the bitter cup he had been given. "Nevertheless," he prayed, "Not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).

He laid down his rights--his life!--for you and me, so that we might experience God's amazing love in salvation. 

When you feel like walking off the job, remember that amazing love.  Your savior sees you, he loves you, and he wants to help.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Fool the World with Just Three Photos

We started "school" this week at the Stanley household, and I decided to document the occasion with three photos.

Honestly, I didn't think twice about posting them. I had worked hard to put together activities for our "A is for Apple" week, and I wanted to capture snapshots of my kids learning and enjoying God's creation.

But then a friend looked at me with weary eyes and a feeble smile and said, "I loved all your apple pictures. You are Super Mom!"

And my heart sank.

I was "that mom" this week.

You know, the "together" mom who makes the floundering mom feel like a failure.

Only in reality, I'm a far cry from together.

If only she could see behind the snapshots, I thought. Then she'd know the truth.



I had to hand draw all our worksheets because we have no cyan printer ink. Why not print in black and white, you ask? Because the stupid printer won't let you print at all if one color is low, that's why.

My three-year old refuses to be taught how to hold his pencil, and I lose my patience, resulting in three timeouts before we even begin our lesson and me having to ask for forgiveness.

Just as the older child simmers, my two-year old goes BERSERK over do-a-dot Paints. There are six colors to choose from and he always wants whatever color his big brother happens to be using. Obviously.

That night, I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy making an Instagram collage of our activities to be "fully present" with my kids.


We are picking pretend apples because after packing all three kids into the car to go to Bible study, the car wouldn't start.

While we were picking pretend apples, oatmeal was burning on the stove inside. I forgot to turn the burner off.

My child isn't wearing any sunscreen. And yes, he still uses a pacifier at two years old. Mother of the Year Award.

I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy trying to get the perfect pretend apple picking picture to be fully present with my kids...and I almost burned the house down.


I spent hours stressing over this bin. Seriously, what the heck is a sensory bin and why does my kid need one in order to have a full educational experience?

It's been five days since this picture was taken, and I still haven't swept up the excess oatmeal.

I go to bed feeling like a terrible mom because I was too busy trying to get the right angle for this photo to be fully present with my kids. Oh, and because I hate Pinterest and all those stupid moms for making me feel like I'm a terrible mom. And I hate myself for making other moms feel like they're terrible moms.


These photos are just snapshots, friends. Snapshots taken by a flawed mama just trying to capture a moment in time where she's not yelling at her kids or pulling her hair out or cleaning the umpteenth mess.

She's not a super mom. In fact, she is in great need of a hero.

She needs someone who will save her from the trap of comparison, someone who will remind her of her inherent value, someone who will give her strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

She needs Jesus.

Because God isn't impressed with sensory bins. And he's not disappointed in her disaster of a house or lack of presence.

He made her just the way she is--a disorganized dreamer--and he deemed her wonderfully made.

What's more, because she has put her trust in Jesus as her savior, God no longer sees her sin when he looks at her. Instead, he sees his precious daughter, bought and paid for by His Son's death on the cross, and clothed in robes of righteousness.

She can do nothing to lose his love and nothing to earn it.

And if there's one snapshot she wants you to see, it's the one of Him holding her firm in His hands.

No filter needed.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

To My (Biggest) Bundle of Joy

Sweet Baby Michael,

As we welcome you into this world today, our hearts are filled with joy.

From the moment we laid eyes on that sweet round face of yours, we were in love. And that red hair sure is a cherry on top!

Michael Jeffrey Stanley
Born July 13, 2016 at 11:46 a.m.
9 lbs. 15 oz. and 21 inches 
We are savoring each moment with you here in the hospital. I'm pretty sure you've been held more than your two big brothers combined...not out of necessity, but because we know just how fleeting these precious newborn moments are, and we want to soak them up with you.

Your life has already been such a gift to us, Michael. God has used it to bring about much healing and growth within us over the past nine months. We are now slower to fear and quicker to give thanks. We trust less in our own skills and capabilities and depend more fully on God's grace. We dwell less on our day-to-day trials and inconveniences and more on the eternal hope we have in Christ. 

You are an incredible reminder of God's goodness and covenant love towards us, son. And we hope that your name, Michael Jeffrey, will serve as a similar reminder to you of God's unchanging and unfailing character.

Your first name, Michael, means "Who is like God?"

The answer to that question is quite simple.

In Psalm 86, David writes, "There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God."

Michael, we pray that you will come to embrace this great truth...that you will look to God alone for your own hope and salvation and that you will one day stand in awe of Him and all His works. 

Your middle name, Jeffrey, is a tribute to the man God used to lead your daddy to Christ, your Uncle Jeff.

Uncle Jeff is a good brother, a faithful servant, and a godly man, and we pray that these same words would be used to describe you as you grow older.

Michael Jeffrey, you are loved beyond measure. We are honored to be your parents and are so excited to see what God has in store for you.

On this day, the day of your birth, we pray that you might one day be born again to a living hope in Christ Jesus and that you would love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

All my Love,

Your Mama 

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Letter to our Baby Born into Heaven

I have traditionally written a letter to each of my children on the day of their birth.  I wrote this letter the day I found out that our third child had been born into Heaven.  


To our dear baby born into Heaven,

Today, our hearts ache because we learned we will never hold you in our arms...
but we know that God is holding you in the palm of his hand.

Today, we are filled with sorrow because you only lived four short days in our hearts...
but we trust that God numbered your days according to his good will.

Today, we grieve the years we will not have with you on this earth...
but we rejoice in an eternity together with Jesus.

Today, we have no name to give you...
but we believe that the same God who knew you before you were in my womb already knows your name.

Today, we mourn over you, our lost child...
but we do not lose hope.

"For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you." - Psalm 71:5-6

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." - 1 Peter 1:3-5

We love you, little one.

Until we meet in glory,